The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah, has disclosed that he paid almost N30m as ransom to secure the release of the priests of his diocese from their captors.
Kukah made this known in Abuja on Monday at a one-day “high-level forum on political communication and issue-based campaign in the 2023 general elections,” while speaking on the subject that politicians must engage in as the official campaign dates draw closer.
The event was organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies in partnership with The Kukah Centre to set the tone ahead of the election campaigns.
Kukah noted that campaigns henceforth must be identity-based; that is getting the right identity for the country and not reiterating irrelevant matters.
He said, “When we talk about the forthcoming 2023 elections, we need to talk about how we will get ourselves out of all of these.
“The questions that Nigerians are asking are legitimate and it is the responsibility of those who govern to deal frontally with the issues. We need to re-image and re-imagine Nigeria because the Nigeria that we have today is not the Nigeria that many of us can recognise.
“Right now, as we speak, my nephew and the driver of the vehicle are currently with the kidnappers, and I don’t know how it’s going to end. They first said they wanted N50m, later N20m, now they are staying on N30m.”
He added, “I am the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese. I have spent about N30m; the money I don’t have because my priests were kidnapped and I have nowhere to turn to.
“I am not ashamed to say it because these are essential realities. Anyone who wants to become President of Nigeria cannot pretend to stand before me without giving me empirical evidence from his or her record about how they intend to deal with these issues because there is a collective feeling of alienation.’’
Also speaking at the forum, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, urged political parties and their candidates to focus on issue-based campaigns.
“I wish to passionately implore all stakeholders to be conscious of their messaging and focus on an issue-based campaign that shuns violence and hates speech,” Lawan said.
Gbajabiamila called on INEC to strictly apply relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 to curb negative political campaigns in the country.
“Election campaigns should centre on robust debates about the competency and programmes of candidates,” he said.