A group, Concerned Catholics in Nigeria has cautioned Plateau State governor, and Director-General of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Organisation, Simon Lalong against dragging Pope Francis and the Catholic Church into local politics in Nigeria.
The organisation was reacting to the comment made by Lalong on Wednesday, where the governor had said he was yet to receive any directive from the Pope to reject his recent appointment to lead the campaign for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Addressing journalists in Abuja on Thursday, the National Convener of the group, Ben Amodu, said the reference to the pope by Lalong was made in poor taste and a puerile attempt to drag the Catholic Church into a matter that has no bearing with the Pope.
According to Amodu, the governor’s utterance was also an attempt to cause a crisis of unimaginable proportion in the country and also distract and divide the Christian community that has been vehement in rejecting the same faith ticket of the APC.
The group therefore called for the suspension of the governor from the Catholic Church “for bringing the Church into disrepute and maligning the name of the Pope for his advantage and that of his party.”
He said: “It remains a shame that politicians would stop at nothing to win elections, even to the detriment of selling their birthright for a plate of porridge, as in the case of Governor Simon Bako Lalong, who, after accepting to serve as the DG of the Presidential Campaign Council, elected to justify his actions using the name of the Pope.
“We find it hard to believe that Governor Lalong would find it morally convenient to drag the Pope and the entire catholic community into the APC politics of the Muslim-Muslim Ticket.
“It is an act of aberrance in desperation to serve his paymasters hence the despicable statement by Governor Simon Bako Lalong in seeking the justification for his actions, which falls within his rights, but not to the detriment of the collective sensibilities of other Catholics in Nigeria and around the world.
“We are tempted to believe that Governor Simon Bako Lalong wants to incite religious tension in the country to pitch the Catholic and Protestant communities against each other in an unhealthy debate over the Muslim-Muslim Ticket of the APC.
“The desperation of the APC in forcing its Muslim-Muslim Ticket down the throats of Nigerians is alarming, and more curious is the fact that Governor Simon Bako Lalong, a practising Catholic who supposedly knows that the Catholic Church is not involved in partisan politics but still went ahead to insinuate that the Pope is in support of his decision smacks a mockery of the revered Catholic Church in Nigeria and around the world.
“The Concerned Catholics in Nigeria find the statement of the governor Bako Lalong distrustful and capable of causing a crisis of unimaginable proportion in the country in the attempt to distract and divide the Christian community that has been vehement in rejecting whatever narrative the APC wants to push forward in justification of its Muslim-Muslim Ticket.
“Governor Lalong has displayed a tendency that he does not identify with the religious sensitivity in the country. He has carried on like the typical politician who thinks only about himself and his immediate family and not minding the consequences of his actions on the overall psyche of others, as in this case.
“It remains baffling for the Catholic Community that a supposed Knight would condescend so low to throwing everything he has held dearly over several decades because he wants to remain politically relevant after his tenure as governor of Plateau State.
“The Concerned Catholics in Nigeria condemns such despicable conduct as it is not reflective of the stance of the Pope and the Catholic Church in Nigeria and around the world concerning the political permutations in Nigeria.
“Therefore, Lalong must consequently tender an unreserved apology to the Catholic Community in Nigeria for dragging the Pope into the murky waters of Nigerian politics. It remains unjustifiable and as much condemnable.
“The Concerned Catholics in Nigeria wish to state unequivocally that Lalong does not represent the Catholic Community in Nigeria, as his membership in the Catholic Church remains suspect and a subject for further investigation.
“We are also using this medium to call for the suspension of Lalong from the Catholic Church for bringing the Church into disrepute and maligning the name of the Pope for his advantage and that of his party, the All Progressive Congress.
“The leadership of the Catholic Community in Nigeria must ensure that Lalong is made to atone for his blasphemous statement about the Pope and the Catholic Church in public.”