Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State has tendered apology to Catholic faithful over a remark he made while defending his appointment as Director-General of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council.
Addressing reporters at Aso Rock on Tuesday, Lalong had said as a born, baptised and confirmed Catholic, who has the highest award from the papacy, Knight of Saint Gregory the Great, the Pope has not told him there was anything wrong being the lead campaigner of the ruling party, especially over the Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“For those who are talking about Muslim-Muslim ticket, I don’t even know where they are. I Hold a Papal Night and as a Catholic, everything we do, we do it and we send the advice to the Pope. The Pope has not told me that what I’m doing is bad as Director-General,” he had said.
His comment had attracted widespread condemnation, especially from Catholic faithful who blamed him for dragging the Holy Father into the murky politics.
They had called for his immediate suspension from the Church for alleged blasphemy.
But in a letter to the Catholic Church through the Bishops’ Conference, Lalong said he accepted that he erroneously linked the Catholic Pontiff with Nigeria’s politics.
While promising to be of good conduct, the governor sought the forgiveness and understanding of the church.
“I have followed with some shock and deep regret, the reactions that have trailed my appointment as the Director-General of the Campaign Council for the presidential candidate of our party, the APC, Ahmed Tinubu, and his running mate, Ibrahim Shettima.
“The appointment, understandably was received with mixed reactions across the Christian community, who genuinely feel aggrieved by the decision of our party to settle for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“While many people commended me for the appointment and saw it as a way of remaining within the system to fight for our own interests, others cast aspersions on it on the grounds that our faith had been insulted and denigrated.
“In the course of this, many of my opponents turned the issue into a political weapon with some spreading rumours and questioning the integrity of my credentials as a Catholic and a Papal Knight.
“In trying to make my case, I have granted interviews to justify why I believe that the appointment did not in any way undermine my commitment to the Catholic Church.
“During the week, in the course of defending myself, I had cause to make reference to my credentials as a Catholic and a Papal Knight. In the process, I made reference to the Holy Father. I now realise that this was an error on my part and has caused some level of concern and even embarrassment to many, especially the Members of the family of Papal Knights to which I belong.
“I now understand that I may have overreached myself in the course of trying to defend my personal decision in accepting this appointment and thus, the reference to the holy father was not intended as an act of disrespect to his exalted and revered office.
“Your Grace, by this written letter, I wish to tender my unreserved apologies and ask for their understanding and forgiveness from my brothers in the Catholic faith and, through you, the entire members of the Bishops’ Conference, our Fathers and our leaders.
“My commitment to the Catholic faith, to which I belong, remains unreserved and undiluted. I will continue to uphold the banner of my faith in public life as I have done over the years.
“You may recall, Your Grace, that in the last five or thereabout years, I have been at the forefront of facilitating our dialogue as politicians with you our fathers in the faith. I remain committed to this and pray that you will continue to encourage us as we ascend the slippery slope of politics,” the letter read.