The Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, has apologised to the Catholic bishops and Christians over his alleged comment that those who opposed President MuhammaduBuhari were corrupt Christian leaders who were unhappy because looters were no longer able to pay tithes to them.
Bello said he could never insult men of God as he had “tremendous respect for the Catholic Community.”
He said he would not do anything to disparage any religious organisation.
The governor was reacting to the criticism that greeted his comment in which he was quoted as carpeting the Catholic bishops who paid a visit to Buhari last week and expressed their misgivings about the President’s perceived nepotism and killings by Fulani herdsmen in parts of the country.
The governor said those criticising the President were those sympathetic to looters and that the bishops were angry because tithes were no longer coming from looters.
But Bello in statement signed on his behalf by his Director General of Media and Publicity, Kingsley Fanwo, said the reports that he disrespected the Catholic Community and its leaders was “another low by my detractors in their desperation to portray me as an irresponsible leader.”
He said, “My statements to the press were misconstrued and misrepresented but I take full responsibility for this as I tender my unreserved apology to the Catholic bishops and by extension my Christian brothers and sisters who are displeased with my statement on tithing.
“I recognise the enormous contributions of the Catholic Church to entrenching a social order which is devoid of corruption, oppression and in the promotion of socio-economic justice.”
Bello said he was confident that genuine religious leaders of all faith were united in Buhari’s fight against corruption, insisting that no good religion has a place for corruption and corrupt people.
He said, “The Catholic Church has done very well in promoting literacy and health care. I am quite familiar with a good number of Catholic priests and I know their stance on the issue of corruption. Every church and religion must fight corruption because corruption oppresses the poor and destroy justice and fairness.”
The Christian Association of Nigeria, prominent Catholic bishops, two Catholic groups among others have berated Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, for attacking Catholic leaders who visited President MuhammaduBuhari in Aso Rock last week.
According to The Punch, Prominent groups that lambasted Bello for taunting the clerics are the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership and the Progressives Peoples Alliance.
Others, who reacted to the governor’s statement, were the Archdiocese Emeritus, Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan, Alaba Job, and the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah.
The Catholic bishops had, during a visit to the Presidential Villa on Thursday, told the President that his goodwill had depleted by his glaring failures.
The bishops, under the aegis of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, had expressed their disappointment with the state of the nation and told the President that Nigerians were angry as a result of bad governance in the country.
But Bello, in an interview with the State House correspondents on Friday, told the bishops that only those who were no more getting stolen money to pay tithes were angry with Buhari.
“And of course, those who have looted the country dry and normally go to the church and mosque to pay tithe, are no longer doing so. Of course, these are the category of people that are angry,” the governor had stated.
Bello, a character who accidently found himself in power –Kukah
But in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Saturday, Kukah described Bello’s statement as “a tragedy of leadership in Nigeria.”
He said, “The statement of the governor is not worthy of my comment because I believe that the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria stands for something higher than that. I won’t even dignify him with a response.”
When prodded to speak further on the issue, Kukah added, “This is a character (Bello) that nobody heard anything from until he suddenly accidentally found himself in power. What does he (Bello) know about what the bishops have said? So, I don’t even want to dignify him with any response. I don’t think it’s worth giving him a story.
“Frankly, people of his calibre do not deserve our response. It is also a measure of the kind of people who have strayed into power. I am not going to go into any details. It is a tragedy of what we call leadership now in Nigeria. People who have come with no antecedents; they just come out of the woodworks and occupy an office. And so, I won’t dignify him (Bello) with any response.”
It’s a great pity if Bello made that statement — Job
In another reaction, the Archdiocese Emeritus, Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan, Alaba Job, described the statement made the governor as disappointing and out of context.
In an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday in Ibadan on the telephone, Job advised the Kogi governor to revisit the purpose of the meeting and what the President told the bishops and compare with his statement.
Job stated, “The governor will not say it if he read what we said to President Buhari at the meeting in Abuja. We told Buhari the truth about what is happening in the country. We told him about hunger, lots of atrocities being committed in the nation, lots of killings here and there and he was happy that we spoke to him. He also told us what he is doing and what he plans to do more.
“I am sorry that the governor made that statement. Who are the people stealing for us? What he said is different from what we discussed with Buhari. Killings, kidnappings, and other forms of evil (practices) are around us. Boko Haram has, to some extent, been suppressed but we now have so many atrocities.
“We did not discuss any issue about money to the church. It is a great pity if a governor made that statement. As far back as 1994, Catholic Church bishops constituted a prayer group that has been praying against corruption in Nigeria.
“The governor’s statement does not ‘belong’ to us, not to the Catholic Church bishops in Nigeria. He should read the statement issued at the meeting and compare it to his own statement. It is out of context.”
Workers committing suicide under Bello’s watch — CAN
Also, CAN and the CDHR, in separate interviews with SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday, advised the governor to address the rot, which he had allegedly brought upon Kogi State.
CAN urged Bello to focus on rescuing his state from the grip of kidnappers instead of “trying to be the President’s errand boy.”
The media aide to CAN President, Pastor BayoOladeji, noted that Bello had the rights to express himself, but insisted that what the bishops told the President was the truth about the situation in the country.
He added that the CAN leadership, led by Dr. Samson Ayokunle, had raised similar issues with Buhari during a visit in November last year, adding that what the President told the delegation was what he re-echoed during the Catholic Bishops’ visit.
Oladeji stressed that Nigerians had not experienced so much hardship like the prevailing one under the Buhari administration, adding that Bello should keep quiet if he had nothing sensible to say.
He added, “If he (Bello) says some people were looking for free money, he should keep quiet if he has nothing to say. Under his watch, people are committing suicide and he has refused to pay workers. If he is the one that would be running to Abuja to defend the President, then something is wrong somewhere.”
CAN explained that stakeholders had been harping on the terrible situation in the country, noting that only a few people, including Bello, were more interested in endorsing Buhari for another term in office rather than focusing on the welfare of their people.
“Go to his (Bello’s) state and see what is happening there; Okene is now the headquarters of kidnapping. If the welfare of his people is not his concern, he shouldn’t force the President to follow in his steps. If he wants to become the President’s errand boy, he should resign and relocate to Abuja,” he said.
He’s a disgrace to Not-too-Young-to-Run Campaign –Catholic groups
Also, the National Director, Caritas Nigeria and Justice Development and Peace Commission, Rev. Fr. EvaristusBassey, said Bello was a disgrace to the Not-too-Young-to-Run Campaign. The CN and JDPC are two agencies of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria.
Bassey said, “Governor Yahaya Bello does not dignify a response. However, he is a disgrace to the Not-too-Young-to-Run Campaign. I believe Bello thinks that by freezing when President Buhari coughs, he will be spared from the wrath of God through the Kogi people who are dying each day because of unpaid salaries and misgovernance.
Even if he escapes human judgment, he will not escape the eternal consequences unless he repents and be a true servant of the people.”
He’s not God-fearing, states PPA chairman
In his own reaction, the National Chairman of the PPA, Chief Peter Ameh, in a statement on Saturday, said Bello had shown he lacked God-fearing characteristics.
Ameh, who is also a Catholic, said, “Knowing the level of sacrifice it takes to become a priest in the Catholic Church, I’m really baffled by the unwarranted attack by the non-performing governor of Kogi.
“It is on record that he remains the governor with the highest number of months of unpaid salaries and non performance despite the huge amount of both internal and federally-generated revenues.
“It is obvious Bello is really looking up to the President for salvation because it is the opposite of the culture and respect Kogi people are known for that he will descend so low to attack the highly-respected position of the Catholic bishops for advice directed at the President.”
Bello is overzealous when defending Buhari — CDHR
Also, the President, CDHR, Malachi Ugwummadu, said Bello was being more Catholic than the Pope.
He said, “Governor Yahaya Bello’s overzealousness in defence of Buhari on every issue as a party faithful is understandable, but certainly he is sounding more Catholic than the Pope.
“You recall that he was the same person that declared a three-day holiday in Kogi State simply because Buhari came from a long medical holiday abroad.
“If he understands the composition of that body, he would devote more energy in interrogating the issues raised rather than the disservice of attempting a dismissal which cannot, in effect, dislodge the critical issues raised.”
His comments opportunistic, says CACOL
In a similar vein, CACOL warned that the submissions of the Catholic bishops should not be dismissed as some Nigerians were truly dissatisfied, saying Bello’s comments were opportunistic.
The CACOL Director, DeboAdeniran, said, “It is true that people are angry for different reasons; although the bishops didn’t carry out any scientific study, the social media is there with so many commentaries.
“A few people are still very germane in their observations, particularly in the aspect of the President’s skewed appointments to a particular region. If there is lacklustre from those security quarters, people can raise complaints.
“Some of the comments (from the Kogi Governor and the bishops) are just opportunistic.”
Melaye apologises for Kogigov’s ‘verbal diarrhoea’
Meanwhile, the Senator, representing Kogi West in the National Assembly, Dino Melaye, has apologised to the Catholics and Christians in general for Bello’s alleged attack on the clerics.
Melaye, in a statement on Saturday, described Bello’s comments against the bishops as “verbal diarrhoea.”
He said, “I apologise to the Catholic Church and the Christian community for the verbal diarrhoea of the Governor of Kogi State. It is more obvious than ever that he needs some ‘equational’ balances at his end. This affliction on Nigeria shall not arise a second time.”
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