The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Rev. Dr. Matthew Kukah, has debunked the news that his presence at the meeting with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, was to endorse Atiku.
Kukah said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Sokoto on Monday, in reaction to concerns from some members of the public that his meeting with Atiku and Obasanjo was for political reasons.
The Catholic bishop said that it was strictly to support and witness their reconciliation, which he has been trying to broker for some years.
Kukah said that he had, for several years, made efforts to reconcile both leaders without success until recently when they both agreed to meet and make peace.
He said that on Thursday, October 11, they had agreed to meet in former President Obasanjo’s home in Abeokuta, along with other religious leaders such as Islamic preacher Sheikh Ahmed Gumi and Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Outreach (aka Winners’ Chapel).
Kukah said that on getting to Obasanjo’s home, he saw that more and more people were trooping in and the meeting gradually assumed political undertone.
He said that to ensure that he did not get involved with anything relating to politics, he quickly advised ex-president Obasanjo to carry out the reconciliation behind closed-doors, rather than in public.
Kukah said, “I proposed to the former president that he should sit down with Alhaji Abubakar behind closed doors, sort out their issues, after which I and Sheikh Gumi will join them, as Bishop Oyedepo was yet to arrive at the time.
“After their closed door meeting, I advised that the religious leaders, myself inclusive, join them so we can listen to them, serve as witnesses to the reconciliation, advice them and pray for them.
“Former President Obasanjo agreed to follow my advice; and this was how we carried out the reconciliation.
“After the closed door meeting between the two leaders, I and Sheikh Gumi went and sat down with them. My advice to them was that it was imperative for them to maintain the peace.
“I told them that I am a Catholic priest and bishop and the Catholic church preaches against divorce or separation, so there should be no room for that again.
“After our discussion, which was done behind closed doors, we prayed and we took photographs and I left afterwards to attend to other spiritual duties.
“I was earlier offered a seat in their aircraft and although it was the most convenient offer at the time, I declined the offer because I saw it as necessary to ensure that I take no favours from any of the two parties.
“I was not in Abeokuta to endorse Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party.
“I fully understand the feeling of some persons who believe that I traveled with Alhaji Abubakar to witness his endorsement by former President Obasanjo, but this was not the case at all.
“I am a strong believer in a peaceful and united Nigeria and these ideals I strive to achieve as a priest. My instincts to always initiate reconciliation and peace were sharpened during my involvement and experience with the Oputa Panel.”
Kukah said that it was imperative for him to react to the event of October 11, not only to allay the concerns of the public who may have seen the event in a different light, but to also set the records straight.
He added, “Many minds would remain set on the matter, even after I have clarified and explained the actual reason for the meeting; but this is to be expected, as one cannot please everyone.”