*Likens it to how teams select their players
Onuminya Innocent in Sokoto
In what may come off as a shock, even to the presidency, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Rev. Fr. Matthew Kukah, who has long been a thorn in the flesh of the government, threw his weight behind President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, on his decision to withhold assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
The withholding of assent to the bill had drawn the ire of many across the country, including civil society organisations and prominent individuals and groups. But Kukah, a fearless critic of the administration, said Buhari’s reason for declining assent, especially, regarding the contentious direct primaries, was right.
Kukah said he was not against the government of Buhari, as being speculated in some quarters, but was only not pleased with the way the president handled appointments and the issues of national security and unity.
The bishop, who made the disclosures while fielding questions from newsmen at St. Barkitha Catholic Secretariat, Sokoto State, further described his relationship with the president as cordial. He chided those he described as sycophants for misconstruing and exaggerating his views on the Buhari administration.
Buttressing his support for Buhari for withholding assent to the electoral bill, Kukah maintained that the president was right on his explanation that the issue of direct and indirect primaries should be left to the political parties to decide.
“For instance, if Manchester United are playing against Arsenal, it is left for them to choose who makes up their team. What they are interested in is winning. You can’t tell them the mode of selection,” the bishop said.
He advised the National Assembly to expunge the section on mode of primaries and return the electoral bill to the president to assent in time.
Kukah also addressed other critical national concerns, particularly, security, saying, “Ours has become a house of horror with fear stalking our homes, highways, cities, hamlets and communities, as bandits and insurgents maim lives at will.”
The cleric accused the president of lopsided appointments, stressing that such disposition has caused divisions and agitations in the country.
But he maintained that he was not bothered about which region or religion produced the president, but was only interested in good governance.
Kukah said he had a cordial relationship with Buhari. He accused sycophants of trying to sow a seed of discord between him and the current administration.
He stated, “If I pick my phone and call Mr. President now, he will pick. The other time he missed my calls, he called me back and we greeted, but you know some people cried more than the bereaved.”
The priest, who stressed that he would be 70 years old next year, said if he could not be cowed when he was younger, it was not now that he would be afraid of speaking the truth.
He stated, “In a developed country, when you speak the truth, you will be celebrated. Look at how people are celebrating late Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu. But here, people tag you as an enemy of government.”
Asked how he intended to accomplish his pet project of lifting 50,000 Nigerians out of poverty, the cleric explained that he had mapped out empowerment programmes that would soon commence.
Kukah explained, “I intended to buy tricycles to give to the transporters, who cannot afford it. When l give you, I will tell you to pay back the money so that we will give another person. It would be in a circular form.”
He also said he had an ongoing scholarship scheme.
Kukah said as a Reverend Father, he only had sisters and brothers as his immediate family, stressing that he is being fed, sheltered, and clothed by the church. He said any money he got from friends and individuals was for charity.
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