Kukah clarifies involvement in Obasanjo, Atiku reconciliation

Mathew Hassan Kukah

Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, has said that after Sheikh Gumi told his own side of the story concerning the involvement of clerics in the reconciliation between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, he felt “obliged to state my own side so that Nigerians can have a clearer picture of my own involvement.”

While disclosing that he did not read President Obasanjo’s statement until two days later on the Internet because he was not physically in the hall, Bishop Kukah said that trying to reconcile Obasanjo and Atiku was something he had been working on intermittently in the last few years.

He declared: “Nothing could have prepared me for the way things finally shaped up. My focus all along had been with President Obasanjo and I had never brought Alhaji Abubakar into what I was doing. Quite fortuitously, a chance meeting changed the tide in favour of reconciliation.

“Understandably, the pictures of the four of us (President Obasanjo, Alhaji Abubakar, Shaikh Gumi and I) literally lit up the social media and elicited divergent reactions from the general public. Although over 99 per cent of the reactions that have come to me have been largely those of commendation, with people focusing, rightly, on the reconciliation, there have been others whose focus has been on an isolated development that had absolutely nothing to do with what I had in mind all these years, namely, the endorsement.”

The Bishop contended that as a priest of the Catholic Church and a Bishop, “I have more than a passing knowledge of our discipline and doctrine in matters relating to the role of a Catholic priest in political engagement.”

He disclosed that since his doctoral thesis was on Religion and Politics in Nigeria, he was therefore very clear about the boundaries, the slippery slopes and the contexts.”

Bishop Kukah recalled that as the Convener of the National Peace Committee, that position alone is enough to place a moral boundary, which he was bound to respect, adding that the NPC was able to accomplish much because of trust.

He said: “When it became clear that both President Obasanjo and Abubakar were on the verge of making peace, I alerted the Chairman of the NPC, General Abdusalam. Since I happen to be in Lagos, I drove to the Ikoyi home of Chief Emeka Anyaoku and alerted him. I spoke to my Metropolitan, the Archbishop of Kaduna, Archbishop Matthew Ndagoso. All in all, everyone believed this was a very good move if we could achieve it. None of us imagined the third phase of this meeting.”

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