The Bishop of Zaria has denounced the Archbishop of Kaduna and the general secretary of the Anglican Consultative Council for placing loyalty to Muslim politicians over loyalty to the Church of Nigeria.
In a statement posted on its diocesan website, the Bishop of Zaria, the Rt Rev Abiodun Ogunyemi said the Most Rev. Ali Buba Lamido, Archbishop of Kaduna Province and Bishop of Wusasa “is known to always compromise christian standards and the truth.” He condemned Archbishop Lamido, and the former Archbishop of Kaduna and current ACC leader, Dr. Josiah Idowu-Fearon, for their intrigues with the government of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, a presumed candidate for election as president of Nigerian in 2023.
The dispute arose over the attempted seizure by the Kaduna State government of St George’s Cathedral in Zaria. On 20 Sept 2019 the Church of Nigeria’s Diocese of Zaria reported it had received a notice to vacate the 110 year old cathedral within seven days by order of Governor El-Rufai. The Kaduna State Urban Planning Development Agency (KASUPDA) said it would use the historic church land to expand the Sabo market.
However, following protests by the diocese and the Christian Association of Nigeria the state backed down from its plans. The Director-General of KASPUDA, Ismail Dikko, told the Punch newspaper the church would not be demolished and the open air market would be moved to another part of the city.
In September sources in Kaduna State said five years ago the governor attempted to seize the cathedral to expand the regional market, but backed down as it was an election year, and he risked alienating Christian voters. Political pressure to respect the rights of Christians appears to have lessened, ours sources explained, as the ruling party “think they control this country and all levels of power.”
However on 12 Nov 2019 the Nigerian Tribune reported Archbishop Lamido had apologized to Governor El-Rufai for the criticism of the diocese and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). It said the archbishop “has apologised to Governor Nasir El Rufai for the social media campaigns that tried to turn the issue of the redevelopment of Sabon-Garin Zaria market into a religious matter.”
Basing its report on a statement issued by Mr Muyiwa Adekeye, the governor’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication, the Tribune reported the archbishop and other Anglican bishops met with the governor to express their thanks for “his decision to preserve St. George’s Cathedral.”
The government spokesman said the Archbishop had told the governor the Church of Nigeria had distanced itself “from this campaign that has been whipping up baseless allegations of religious bigotry, explaining that the church sees itself and the government as partners.”
The governor’s spokesman quoted Archbishop Lamido as saying that ‘’the meeting has afforded us a welcome chance to clarify matters and recalibrate our relationship in a mutual commitment to the peace and progress of Kaduna State, and harmony in its diverse communities.”
The archbishop’s apology drew an immediate response from the Bishop of Zaria.
“The bishop and the people of Zaria diocese are not surprised about the views and apologies expressed by Archbishop Lamido at the Governor’s office yesterday … because Bishop Lamido is known to always compromise christian standards and the truth.”
The diocesan statement claimed the archbishop was corrupt. He had sold “sold three very precious landed properties of Wusasa diocese to some Muslims. These properties were acquired by missionaries in the late 1800s. These great legacies have been lost forever by the Wusasa community.”
The statement further claimed: “Bishop Lamido brought a Muslim governorship candidates with money to bribe the House of Bishops to vote for this man against Governor El Rufai. His antecedents when it comes to standing for the church speak volumes.”
The bishop of Zaria took exception to the assertion that by protecting their cathedral the diocese were “religious bigots” or “at war with the Governor”. He explained: “We are only fighting for our right. Nobody can stop us from fighting for our right. Besides, prophets do not apologize to kings but kings apologies to prophets. Nobody can propose to demolish our cathedral and we will keep quiet or apologise.”
The diocese disassociated itself from the archbishop’s “humiliating visit and the apologies therein. The governor should stop embarrassing himself with demolition of churches in any part of Kaduna State.”
Bishop Ogunyemi went on to say that what lay behind these “visits and apologies” was a plan by bishops Lamido and Idowu-Fearon “to score a political point for the Governor because he is being prepared for 2023 elections.”
The Bishop of Zaria went on to say: “The governor should know that he will never be president of Nigeria.
“I speak prophetically as a servant of the living God. Let fake Christians and religious spies placed in our church by a particular religion be aware of the consequences of their actions because heaven is watching. May the Lord expose these spies in our midst on Jesus Name. In fact their actions now show very clearly that they are working for an interest against the church. The Lord in His mercies will raise help to deliver His church from fake Christians, fake converts and novices,” the bishop said.