The Kogi state governor, Yahaya Bello, has apologised to Catholic bishops and Christians over his alleged comment that those opposed to President Muhammadu Buhari were corrupt Christian leaders who were not happy because looters were no longer able to pay tithes to them.
Catholic bishops had last Thursday visited President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja during which they told the president that his goodwill is being depleted by “glaring failures”. The religious leaders expressed misgivings about the President’s perceived nepotism and killings by Fulani herdsmen in parts of the country.
Speaking a day after during an interaction with State House correspondents, the governor stated that since the Buhari administration had blocked avenues through which funds were looted, the corrupt can no longer pay tithe.
His words, “the category of Nigerians that are angry are those who used a private jet to cart away Nigeria’s money, in dollars, out of the country to South Africa (in reference to the case of alleged money laundering involving a former president of Christian Association of Nigeria).
“I’m sure you are away that our money is still locked down there, such money if you bring it into the economy, a lot of youth who are unemployed will surely be employed.
“And of course those that have looted the country dry and normally go to the church and mosque to pay tithe are no longing doing so. Of course, this is the category of people who are angry.”
The Catholic bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev’d. Paulinus Ezeokafor, has reacted, stating that the Catholic church does not rely on tithes from members for its existence and advised Governor Yahya Bello of Kogi state not to delve into areas he he is ignorant of.
He said, “We see the statement of Governor Yahaya Bello as just trying to distract the people, the church has told the president the truth, if he likes let him listen.
“Let them address the issues that were presented during the visit; need for equitable appointment, need for equal security for all Nigerians, the need to protect both the farmers and the herdsmen.
“Nobody should talk about tithe here, how much is the person paying? The Governor in question is not even a Christian so he is not even competent to discuss it.
But reacting in a statement signed on his behalf by his Director General of Media and Publicity, Kingsley Fanwo, the governor 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 stated that he could never insult men of God as he had “tremendous respect for the Catholic Community”, and would not do anything to disparage any religious organisation.
“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,” the governor said.
He however expressed confidence 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