A group, Concerned Catholics in Nigeria, has slammed Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State over a remark he made while defending his appointment as Director-General of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council.
Naija News reports that Lalong had in a chat with State House correspondents on Wednesday said that as a Catholic, the Pope had not told him it was wrong to take the appointment.
But in a statement on Friday, National Convener and President of the Catholic group, Dr. Ben Amodu, berated Lalong for disrespecting the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, with his remarks.
Amodu said the governor should not have dragged the Pope into the unhealthy debate over the APC Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket and should not have insinuated that he had the support of the Pope.
He said citing the Pope in a purely local political matter was to the detriment of the collective sensibilities of other Catholics in Nigeria and around the world.
Amodu, however, called for the immediate suspension of the governor from the Church for alleged blasphemy.
The statement reads: “We are alarmed that Governor Simon Bako Lalong would elect to throw caution into the wind by dragging the revered Catholic Church into local politics in Nigeria for whatever it is worth.
“The reference to the Pope in his statement for accepting to serve as the Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council was made in poor taste and a puerile attempt to drag the Catholic Church into a matter that has no bearing with the Pope.
“It remains a shame that politicians would stop at nothing to win elections, even to the detriment of selling their birthrights 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.”
Amodu slammed the ruling APC for attempting to force its Muslim-Muslim Ticket on Nigerians, adding that the ruling party is really desperate to win Christians over with Lalomng’s appointment.
He said: “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 Governor Simon 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 Simon Bako 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 does 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 condemn 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, Governor Simon Bako 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 Governor Simon Bako 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 Governor Simon Bako 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 Governor Simon Bako Lalong is made to atone for his blasphemous statement about the Pope and the Catholic Church in public.”