Kukah’s Christmas message not an attack on Islam – Soyinka

Wole Soyinka

Nobel laureate Prof Wole Soyinka has said that although he does not see anything wrong with the Christmas message delivered by the Catholic bishop of Sokoto Diocese Matthew Kukah, calls for him to vacate Sokoto was “unacceptable”.

The Muslim Solidarity Forum had on January 12 called on Kukah to “quickly and quietly” leave Sokoto or stop attacking Islam and apologise to the Muslim Ummah.

Kukah had in his Christmas message accused President Muhammadu Buhari of nepotism, adding that there would have been a coup or war if a non-northern Christian had done same.

Comparing the reactions that have trailed Kukah’s message to the United States’ Capitol riot, Soyinka, in a statement sent to Qed.ng on Monday, said religionists twisted the cleric’s message.

“It should not come as a surprise that a section of our Islamic community, not only claims to have found offence in Bishop Kukah’s New Year address, what is bothersome, even unwholesome, is the embedded threat to storm his ‘Capitol’ and eject him, simply for ‘speaking in tongues,’” he said.

“Any pluralistic society must emphatically declare such a response unacceptable. On a personal note, I have studied the transcript as reported in the media and found nothing in it that denigrates Islam but then, I must confess, I am not among the most religion besotted inhabitants of the globe. That, I have been told, disqualifies me from even commenting on the subject and, quite frankly, I wish that were indeed the case. Life would far less complicated. However, the reverse position does not seem to be adopted by such religionists in a spirit of equity. They do not hesitate to intervene; indeed, some consider themselves divinely empowered to intervene, even dictate in secular life.”

The renowned playwright also made reference to a statement made some time ago by Nasir El-Rufai who is now Kaduna State governor.

He said: “Was it all that long ago when el Rufai – now governor of Kaduna state – came under blistering attack by the Christian community for allegedly insulting the divine persona of Jesus Christ? What did el Rufai say exactly?  Nothing new or startling. All he did was deploy a common, everyday figure of speech to describe an overwhelming challenge. Both the circumstances and his exact phrasing elude me right now, but all it amounted to was that even Jesus Christ would find a particular problem intractable. Or perhaps it was simply that even Jesus Christ, were to return to earth, would be subjected to the Nigerian national culture of calumny? One or the other but, it hardly matters. 

“What does matter was that instantly, there were demands from the ever-ready Onward Christian Soldiers – led by CAN leadership – for a withdrawal and apology. To my intense dis-appointment – as I declared at the time — el Rufai obliged. A huge mistake. Again, and again, we have warned against succumbing to irrational demands of religionists, yet even the brutal lessons of past surrenders appear to exercise no traction on society’s faculty of cause and effect, especially in that religious propensity for incremental demands. Surrender one inch, they demand a mile!”