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Thursday, December 31, 2020

Bishop Kukah and whose Ox is gored? - ITREALMS

Commentary@ITREALMS ... making leadership SENSE with digital news!

I recall with fond nostalgia that while growing up, after torrential rains, we will gather outside in the community and play gleefully. One play I enjoyed so much at that time was pelting stones into bodies of water which would have gathered still looking for exit routes. The ripple effect of that stone landing in the water would form rings in that body of water. I was later to learn that the rings formed is known as water viscosity.

In recent times, it has come to note that when some personalities make public statements, it sends shockwaves throughout the world like the stone does in still water. These personalities unfortunately are helpless when they occupy positions of public trust. In Nigeria, this kind of personalities abound. The usual reaction to statements made by those in the aforementioned category is usually a dismissal with many viewed as mere political jobbers who are either playing scripts of their pay masters or even seeking cheap relevance. Some others on the other hand enjoy some level of notoriety as such even the slightest jokes about national issues from them are regarded as ‘German jokes’. 

The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah is one of those persons who fortunately or unfortunately has attained that level of prominence who dares not speak publicly without drawing attention to himself. From his work in the National Truth and Reconciliation Committee popularly known as the ‘Oputa Panel’ the fiery cleric became a household name. His loquacious outlook towards the nation’s public affairs has always kept him in public glare whether rightly or wrongly. 

His elevation to the seat of Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto has also not helped his lot. It keeps him in a dire strait with Sokoto being the seat of the Caliphate and his Diocese spanning the North Western states of Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and Katsina.

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In his characteristic manner, the revered Bishop in his Christmas Homily on 25th December, 2020 ventured into addressing the state of the nation and as always, it has attracted public scrutiny with various groups led by the Presidency screaming blue murder. Why has an innocent sermon generated public outcry even from the inner sanctum of the Nigerian seat of power? Well, one will be quick to allude to the fact that each sermon just as in the days of Jesus Christ is supposed to prick the conscience of the people no matter how highly placed. However, knowing the political terrain of Nigeria, one must be circumspect of arriving at such naïve conclusion. Gleaning from the flurry of reactions generated by the sermon, it is foolhardy to assume that the sermon has pricked the conscience of its audience and all that is left is to celebrate a Mass of reparation begging God for forgiveness just as the people of Nineveh did after Jonah’s reluctant prophecy.

Interestingly, in many of the salvos launched at Bishop Kukah in the wake of the ‘infamous’ sermon, he has been accused of spreading hate and calling for a coup d’état to dethrone a democratically elected government. This to my mind is most uncharitable and a coordinated attempt to twist the narrative by those who feel attacked by the sermon. While Kukah’s traducers display unbridled political correctness or even desperation to save face, the realities on ground give credence to all that was said. Bishop Kukah in times past has alluded to the fact that religious leaders are merchants of hope and it is this hope that he continues to preach. In the opening paragraphs of his homily he encouraged Christians to remain a people of hope despite the tumult that dominated the year 2020. He gives an analogy using the famed Heavyweight Boxing champion Anthony Joshua. Joshua in 2019 lost his title to an overweight and an unknown challenger, Andy Ruiz. According to Bishop Kukah, for Joshua, 2019 would be an ‘Annus Horribilis’ (a horrible year) while 2020 will be an ‘Annus Mirabilis’ when he not only regained his title but went ahead to defeat Kubrat Pulev to retain the title. Thereafter, he encouraged Christians to celebrate what in common parlance are termed “small wins”.

Thereafter, while his traducers accuse him of preaching hate, he called on all Nigerians regardless of tribe, region and religion to unite for the common good. He preached that while there is a desperate attempt at promoting a culture of hate, Nigerians must see the present horrors as a uniting force since no one is save. In his words, “…while hate tries to divide us, terror and death should pull us together.”

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What is now considered a diatribe against the ruling government starts from paragraph four (4) where he chides the government for the economic woes of the country. Maybe what may be seen as tacit support for the opposition can be found when he narrated the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria’s visit to President Buhari in 2015 upon his assumption of office and how the President decried the state of the nation while accusing past governments of doing nothing but “eating and going to the toilet”. 

Kukah’s offence in that was when he concluded that paragraph by saying thank God there was food to eat and go to the toilet then but now “going to the toilet is luxury”. I ask, where is the lie? Is it not true that the level of hardship in the country has grown over the roof? Is it not true that food security now looks like a mirage? Was it not the spokesman to the President who told us that farmers needed clearance from the army to go to the farm? Let us not even talk about the ungodly cost of fuel and electricity tariff.

Subsequently, in paragraph five (5) Kukah discusses the plight of children in Northern Nigeria in view of the Kankara, Dapchi and Chibok abductions. Statistics abound to the fact that enrolment of children into primary schools in the North is one of the lowest in West Africa. Governments across the country now and in the past have been laboring to improve on these figures. This has led to declaration of free basic education in some states in the north, incentives for teachers and parents and the creation of the almajiri school system. However, with recent spate of abduction of school children, any gains that might have been recorded will be lost as even parents who are willing to send their kids to school will not to do so because schools are not save. The multiplier effect of this is that illiteracy levels will be at an all time high, uneducated children can be easily radicalized, insurgency will fester and the fate of the North will hang in the balance. Will Bishop Kukah be wrong to speak up against these ills? Your guess is as good as mine.

Furthermore, in paragraph six (6) which is most controversial, Bishop Kukah attempts to sing an elegy bemoaning the fact that the present government has created a northern hegemony from which the North does not benefit. His lamentation leads him into imagining a situation where a non-Northern President concedes to his region the offices currently occupied by the North. His conclusion which to my mind is mild, is a possible coup. With the benefit of hindsight, I imagine worse if President Goodluck Jonathan had allotted to the South all the senior positions in that nation’s security apparatchik. I imagine how the North would have gone into a frenzy raining curses on Jonathan if he had retired the Comptroller-General of Customs and appointed a retired army colonel from Rivers State to be the Customs Supremo. The Bishop goes ahead to lament our journey to nowhere. With numerous policy summersault in all facets of our national life, all it points to is that we are a nation lacking in direction.

Paragraph seven (7) speaks about the wailing in the North which for all intents and purposes is true of the situation in the North. From the kidnapping and brigandage on the Abuja-Kaduna Express way, the Banditry in Zamfara and Katsina and the Insurgency permeating in the North-East, the North is soaked in blood. This is a huge betrayal of the loyalty the North has shown to President Buhari. The North especially the ordinary people from 2003 continued to support President Buhari with the hope that his ascendancy to the throne will free them from the stranglehold of poverty. However, this is not the case. His reign instead has immersed them in poverty and led thousands to their deaths. 

While all this is happening, the ‘Messiah’ seems to be faraway in the wilderness. This was more evident when while the President retired home to Daura to take a rest, daredevil bandits or Boko Haram abducted 343 students in his home state. This was a message which was heard loud and clear. 

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For these reasons, the cult followership enjoyed by the President in the North has turned into musings of disgruntlement. Those who are courageous enough to speak have been termed wailers. No wonder just after the #ENDSARS protest, #SECURENORTH also trended on social media. Leaders of thought and religion such as Dr. Junaid Muhammad, the Sultan of Sokoto and Sheikh Gumi have all called out the Presidency on the events in the North. None of these persons have suffered backlash as Bishop Kukah. Did Bishop Kukah say anything different from what these people have said?

In concluding his homily, Bishop Kukah took to individual responsibility when he blamed each and everyone of us for the woes of the nation. He admonished us all to be better people and urged Christians to “bring light into the darkness of our society”.

Therefore, as Jesus asked the Roman Soldier, “If there is anything wrong in what I have said, point it out, if not, why do you strike me” John 18:23.

So if there is any falsehood in Kukah’s homily, point it out, if not who is afraid of the truth”


*Contributed by E.R. Goler, Esq. golereric90@gmail.com

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