BY: LUKA BINNIYAT

The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukkah, yesterday berated governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state over an interview he granted Channels Television in 2016 in which he accused Southern Kaduna Christian clerics of using the mass murder of its natives and the destruction of their communities by armed herdsmen to get financial support from churches overseas.

Kukah took on el-Rufai at the funeral mass of Most Reverend Bishop Joseph Danlami Bagobiri, Catholic Bishop of Kafanchan diocese attended by a mammoth crowd, at the new Kafanchan Stadium in which former President Jonathan Ebele Goodluck, Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF) and an array of VIPs were in attendance.

In the homily, Kukah said, “today is a special day for Southern Kaduna people and the people of Kaduna state. It is a day of reckoning. It is as much a day of sowing as a day of reaping. It is day of promise and a day of hope. The mix of gathering suggest very clearly that this is not an ordinary funeral ceremony,” he said in his exhortation.

“Certain burial made certain demands. They set the records straight. They create urgency now,” he added, warning that, “no one should expect that the burial of someone like Bishop Joseph Danlami Bagobiri should be a simple ceremony of burying a Bishop.”

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He went on to speak about the violence that had engulfed Southern Kaduna since 1992 and decided that Southern Kaduna had experiences “Judicial terrorism.”

He praised the late Bishop Bagobiri for his “undiplomatic’ way of voicing out the violence and injustice that had engulfed Southern Kaduna, especially under the present government. He then took out a swipe at Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state.

He said: “In his television programme on channels Television during the crisis, the governor of Kaduna state, levelled two accusations against religious leaders whom he accused of selling a narrative of what he called ‘a policy of exclusion.’ According to him, in his own words, ‘this religious leaders wanted only a people of a particular indigenous or religious groups to live in parts of Southern Kaduna.’

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“Secondly, he said that some church leader had collected money from missionaries abroad to bury their deaths and to rebuild thousands of churches that had been destroyed.

“I am not sure which religious leaders he was talking of, but at least the two most prominent religious leaders in Southern Kaduna would be Bishop Bagobiri and the Emir of Jemaa. It is interesting that when the interviewer pressed the governor for evidence on the grave and damaging allegations he had made against these leaders, he seemed rattled and simply said, ‘the security agencies are gathering the information. And that people would soon be prosecuted. Elections are coming and still we have not commenced prosecution.

“As I have said, my encounter and experience with both the Emir Jemaa and Bishop Bagobiri led me to a totally different conclusion. The Emir of Jemaa called me a day after Bishop Bagobiri died. I was shocked by the fact that rather console with me, he spoke of the loss of our dear brother, a good man, father and so on. It was a common love for us. Southern Kaduna had been tense and volatile, but I do not know that both men had worked closely and were pained at the unnecessary loss of lives, violence and destruction. The deserve commendation, and not condemnation

“By his own admission, the governor says that a thousand churches have been destroyed in Southern Kaduna and that people had lost their lives. His one grouse was that these leaders were collecting money from good wishers from abroad to bury their people.

“This was a clear case of self indictment by the governor. First, did he expect that people of southern Kaduna will wait for him to come and supervise the mass burial of their people after burying the Shiite in mass graves? By casting aspersion on missionary assistance, the governor betrayed a troubling ignorance of the causes of the crisis we have faced.

“The work of the missionary maybe a problem for him today, but for the people of Southern Kaduna, the message of Christ is steeped in their blood. Without the missionaries, they would be no better than slaves; mere beasts of burden. Without the missionaries, the history of northern Nigeria would be pathetic and the region would still be in the dark ages. We in Southern Kaduna are proud of our Christian heritage. We will live by it, die for it if need be, but we are going nowhere. We are free citizens and not in bondage to anyone or institution.

“We are proud of the freedom they gave us. They gave us a message of liberation, voice, and the promise of a new life. The people of Southern Kaduna have embraced this gospel with its promise of a full life. There is neither retreat nor surrender, because it is the faith of our fathers. It is giving us the tools, the courage and the confidence we require to take our rightful place in our society,” he told the mourning crowd who braved the scorching sun to say bye to Bagobiri.

The deputy governor of Kaduna state, Arc Bala Barnabas Bantex, who did not state whether he was representing the state government or speaking as an indigene of Southern said, “Bishop Bagobiri has done his best and he has done his race. It is everyone’s hope that his work should be a proud reminder of his life,” he said.

“I have listened carefully what Bishop Kukha has said. I hope that one day we shall sit on a round table and proffer solutions,” he said in his tersely made response.

It could be recalled that Kaduna state government did not issue any condolence statement on the demise of the Bishop.

The President of Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), Barrister Musa Kaptain Solomon speaking on behalf of the 54 registered aboriginal tribes of Southern Kaduna spread in 12 LGAs of the state, said, “when our leaders where playing the ostrithch, trying to be politically correct, Bishop Bagori became the lone voice that stood with his people. He was brave and courageous and spoke truth to power on not only for Southern Kaduna, but the oppressed people of Nigeria.

As early as 5am on thursday, Kaduna Frontier News reporter said that people had started trooping to the venue of the funeral mass. By 9am, the place was jammed pack with a crowd estimated at over 100,000. By 9:20 when the procession started the large entrance gate of the stadium had to be flung open to allow the surging crowd inside the already filled playing ground of the stadium.

The mass ended around 2pm, and his body was taken and interred in a tomb at the St. Peters Clavers Cathedral, Kafachan.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan was represented by Kenedy Okpara, former Chairman of Nigeria Pilgrims Board. The Secretary to the Federal government was represented by an unidentified government official

At least 50 Catholic Bishops were in attendance or represented. Both the President and the Secretary General of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Prof. Supo Oyekunle and Dr. Musa Asake where in attendance.