Lalong had told journalists on Wednesday, after meeting President Muhammadu Buhari, that as a Catholic, the Pope had not told him it was wrong to take the APC campaign director general job.
In a swift reaction, the National Convener and President of the Catholic group, Ben Amodu, who described the statement as “maligning the name of the Pope for his advantage and that of his party” expressed shock that Lalong would elect to throw caution to the wind by insinuating he had the support of the Pope.
He averred the Plateau governor has no justification mentioning the name of the Catholic pontiff as reasons for accepting to serve as DG of the Muslim-Muslim APC presidential ticket of Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima, knowing the controversy the issue was generating in the country.
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.”
“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
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..
“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 Lalong, a practising Catholic who supposedly knows that the Catholic Church is not only 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.
According to the group, “Governor 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.”
However, Governor Lalong has clarified that his reference to the Pope was a mark of reverence and high esteem and not disregard for the Catholic pontiff, the church or christianity.
In a statement by his Director of Press and Public Affairs, Makut Macham, the governor said he was misunderstood and misrepresented by many.“My reference to the Holy Father, the Pope was to emphasise that as a Christian born and raised in the Catholic faith, accepting the assignment given to me by my party the APC of which I am a founding member, does not in any way remove my faith in Jesus Christ or my commitment to the Church in Nigeria and universally.
“Those who know me can attest to my respect for the church, christianity and spiritual fathers of all denominations. They know my modest contribution to the growth of the Church in Plateau State, Northern Nigeria and Nigeria at large and can testify to it,” he said.
Neverthelss, Presidential Support Council of the All Progressive Congress (APC), yesterday, said Governor Lalong would not resign as DG of Tinubu/Shettima campaign organisation.
Its National Coordinator, Kassim Muhammad, former member Nasarawa State House of Assembly stated this in Lafia.He said Lalong had no reason to resign his appointment because he did not violate any known law having supported a Christian presidential aspirant during the APC primary.