The Nigerian Catholic Diocesan Priests Association, Kaduna State chapter, has strongly criticized the inflammatory religious remarks attributed to the former governor of the state, Malam Nasir El-Rufai. The Catholic priests, representing the Kaduna Archdiocese, Kafanchan Diocese, and Zaria Diocese, have condemned his comments and expressed concern about the potential for religious unrest.
In an open letter addressed to Governor Bola Tinubu and Senator Uba Sani, the priests urged them to take action and rein in the former governor, warning that his words could ignite a religious crisis in the country. They expected that the current governor, who has been in office for eight years, would utilize his position to rectify the misconceptions and divisive narratives propagated by El-Rufai during his tenure.
The open letter, titled “On the Public Declaration of Islamic Political Supremacism by Ex-Governor Nasiru El-Rufai, Implications on Dialogue and Peace, Call for Your Public Stance,” was made public in Kaduna and shared with journalists. Copies were also sent to the Presidency at Aso Rock Villa, as well as the three Catholic Bishops of Kaduna, Kafanchan, and Zaria: Archbishop Matthew Man’oso Ndagoso, Bishop Julius Yakubu Kundi, and Very Rev. Fr. Michael Kagarko, respectively.
The joint signatories of the open letter were Rev. Fr. Joseph Gandu, representing the NCDPA chairman of Kaduna Archdiocese, Very Rev. Fr. Douglas Rock, representing Kafanchan Diocese, and Very Rev. Fr. Samuel Ameh, representing Zaria Diocese.
The priests emphasized that the governor was present at the event where El-Rufai made his provocative statements, implying that the governor’s official stance on the matter was already known. In a video widely circulated on social media, El-Rufai, speaking in Hausa shortly before his departure from office, claimed that most Christians in Kaduna did not support his party (the APC), which was why he excluded them from holding the Deputy Governor’s position.
El-Rufai further stated that the APC could win elections without Christian support and intentionally prevented them from occupying high-ranking positions in the state government, including the governor, deputy governor, secretary to the state government, chief of staff to the governor, and commissioner of finance, among others.
However, the open letter partly read, “With consternation and utter disillusionment, we watched the now viral video clip in which the former governor, Nasiru El-Rufai, while addressing a group of Islamic clerics with you sitting by his side, made comments that objectively amount to a divisive, bigoted, hateful and completely unstatesmanlike declaration of Islamic political supremacism in Kaduna State and Nigeria.
“Three chapters of the Nigerian Catholic Diocesan Priests Association, domiciled within the boundaries of Kaduna State; having soberly considered the contents and implications of such communication by a former State Governor who is known to be your close ally, we feel compelled to write you, to know where you stand with regards to the commotions Mallam El-Rufai intends to propagate and perpetuate in our state; we congratulate you on your emergence as Governor.
“We wish you well and sincerely pray for you to succeed in accordance with the objectives of government and governance run with good intentions.
“It is, however, necessary to note that the success of a leader does not occur when he does his own will but when he fulfils the desires and yearnings of the people he governs.
“In Kaduna State, the establishment of long-lost peace and harmony amongst the people due to insecurity and injustice, must be paramount. May your success know no bounds, should you mean well, as you strive to uphold the tenets of fairness, justice for the masses, and the fear of God. We write you today because we are responsible stakeholders in the affairs of our beloved state with our own congregations and followers.
“We cannot fold our hands and watch unpatriotic persons, who neither live in the state nor care about it, come and set it ablaze at will. Moreso, we and our congregations have prominently been at the receiving end of the terrors of ineffective governance, especially in the last eight years.
It added, “The ex-governor kept referring to the Christians as “them” and the Muslims as “us,” to emphasise that the Christian does not belong, yet will still contradict himself by saying that his government is fair to all; Mr. Governor, this, to every decerning mind, is not only the evidence of discrimination and the provocation that most Christian communities and individuals have endured in our state, especially during the reign of former Governor Nasiru El-rufai.
“It is also an explanation for the many unjust policies of his administration, the uneven distribution of state resources, the wanton killings and kidnappings that afflicted the Christian dominated areas, and the nonchalance and sometimes scornful response of government to the distress calls of victims. It is important to call your attention to the fact (which we believe you already have details of), that during the pendency of the last administration, our association almost lost count of our members who were steadily being targeted, kidnapped, and killed! In most cases, priests were executed after paying huge sums as ransom.
“This is apart from the several other pastors of other Christian denominations and countless whole Christian communities that are being steadily raided, ransacked, burnt down and their inhabitants either taken for ransom or slaughtered without any of the perpetrators brought to book, nor any support for the survivors from the State Emergency Management Agency, or the National Emergency management Agency, nor from any other government agency.
“The only response that would usually come their way from government has been bizarre and inhumane accusations that they provoked their killers, tagging the atrocities as justified revenge killings, with punitive curfews and proscription of socio-cultural and developmental associations of some socio-cultural communities. We are fully aware that, as guaranteed both by Natural Law and the Nigerian Constitution, Kaduna State and its resources are our common patrimony irrespective of ethnic, cultural, or religious diversity and disparity. “As such, elements who are notoriously seen to be despotic, divisive, inciting and eminent failures in building peace should be hiding their faces in shame, rather than be publicly seen standing by you and using your religion or party to promote extremist exclusion and anarchy without consequences, because ours’ is certainly not in a lawless society. Mr. Governor, our disappointment and shock did not stem only from the utterances of the former governor, but more from the endorsement he received from the audience, made-up of Muslim clerics who excitedly cheered him on.
“It was more shocking because these are the same clerics with whom we have been in constant dialogue and discussion on how to help entrench harmony, peace and mutual respect for our different faith-persuasions. They are the same clerics we have called friends and partners in inter-religious dialogue, and now they seem to stab their friends in the back;
“Mr. Governor, we do not intend to conclude that you are in agreement with all the content of the former Governor’s utterances, as you have given no explicit reason to suggest so (yet), even though you were present at the occasion! We therefore earnestly expect your direct official reaction to the utterances of your predecessor in office, the former governor.
“This non-negotiable expectation will go a long way to re-affirm the populace that the Constitution is respected by you, and thus bring some measure of the now deeply-battered (if not decimated) calm, quiet and confidence needed. This is the expectation among both Christians and Muslims for assurance that you intend to be a leader for all.”