The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Dr. Mathew Hassan Kukah, for much of last week trended in the subconscious of Nigerians. He was the most talked about subject in blogosphere. On Twitter, Facebook and everywhere on cyberspace, Kukah split the nation. Kukah’s ‘sin’ was his Christmas message in which he criticized President Muhammadu Buhari.
For daring to criticize the king, he got a tongue-lashing from the king’s men and courtiers. I have had to read, all over again, the message of Kukah. It was not different from the lamentation of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar lll, a man who has earned the respect of many Nigerians of diverse socio-political divides with his proclivity to verities and open disdain for deceit. The Sultan who is also the President-General of the Jamaatu Nasril Islam, bemoaned the rising insecurity in Nigeria. This was as recent as June 2020.
Short of calling the Buhari government an irresponsible one in the manner it has handled matters of security particularly in the north, the Sultan said: “By now, an instantaneous pronouncement followed by robust actions should have been made by the government of the day, not verbal warnings and condemnations dished out to the perpetrators of the murderous acts.
“Isn’t the government of the day a popular government? Is it not a participatory government? Why doesn’t public opinion(s) matter to it? Or isn’t public opinion(s) considered an ingredient to the government of the day?”
Before the Sultan’s public-spirited message, a coalition of Northern youths had given President Buhari a 14-day ultimatum to end insecurity in the region. The group even vowed to take over government if Buhari failed to end insecurity in the region within the period of the ultimatum.
Let’s rewind a wee bit: September 19, 2019. Popular Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, described the 2019 general elections as the worst which produced an “incompetent government presided over by Muhammadu Buhari.” Note that these same persons – Sultan, Kukah and Gumi – never spared Goodluck Jonathan especially in the twilight of his administration when Boko Haram insurgents were using Nigerians as guinea pigs to test the potency of their bombs. A defined consistency rings through their messages irrespective of the government in power. Plus, you could never fault the veracity of their argument or the sincerity of their message.
Kukah has been a consistent straight-shooter who never flinches at or grovels to authorities. In the past, he has raised his voice against misgovernance, electoral malpractices and other plagues that ever afflicted the nation. Check this out: May 11, 2011, the same Kukah hit out at Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan (sitting president at that time).
The event was an induction symposium for governors-elect organized by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). He did not mince words when he openly accused Tinubu and Obasanjo of playing god with their variants of politics that places godfatherism above known democratic ideals.
He accused Obasanjo and Tinubu of conspiring to impose the late Nigerian president, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, on the nation “via a fraudulent election in 2007.” It did not matter to Kukah that both Jonathan and Tinubu were right inside the hall when he made the accusation. Jonathan was Yar’Adua’s running-mate and would later succeed him when Yar’Adua was formally pronounced dead.
Kukah has a history of speaking truth to authorities. He’s not a hireling. He is a priest of the episcopal order, never a job man. Not one to genuflect to political power mandarins. He’s the conscience of the nation. A stentorian voice of the people. Calling for his scalp is a waste of energy and a show of arcane inanity. Those who call out Kukah for voicing the obvious sentiments of Nigerians are the real enemies of the people.
Kukah drew the attention of President Buhari to the same issues several highly-placed Nigerians have expressed concern about: poor economy (with more Nigerians sliding into the nadir of poverty), rising insecurity, nepotism which Buhari government wears as a badge, and the president’s obvious incompetence and lack of capacity to manage the nation’s diversity. Nigeria has never been without these challenges. They have been here. That’s why Buhari was elected to fix them. But, alas, he’s magnified the problems. And the reason is not COVID-19 pandemic. The global viral terror only added to the decibel of the sound of Buhari incompetence.
By the way, Buhari has not been all failure. He has expanded the frontier of agriculture, scoring high in local rice production especially. He has managed the oil and gas sector in a manner that put an end (I hope permanently) to fuel scarcity. Obviously, Buhari has good intentions for the nation. The Buhari that gave an inaugural speech on May 29, 2015 is not the Buhari that now marks his time at Aso Rock. A coalition of factors has eroded his zeal, lustre and capacity to deliver. Chief of these factors is ill-health. Nobody desires ill-health. But it’s part of human existence. The president’s ill-health contributed to his missteps in leadership. But that’s why he has ministers and advisers. They should be support props for the president, not wild foxes ready and willing to attack critics. Supporters of Buhari whose fancy and fantasy is to act as attack dogs against critics are doing damage to the president. Rather than address and fix the issues raised by critics, they are barking incoherently like hungry chihuahua. Trying to muzzle dissent in a democracy is injurious to the Buhari government. It destroys its fabric as a democratic government.
Kukah never called for a change of government or coup in his Christmas message. Those who project such theory are glaringly mischievous. He did not criticize only the Buhari government. He included governments spanning over the last 10 years. Hear him: “We all seem to have become sedated and inured to pain. Tragedy has been standing as our gatekeeper. For over 10 years now, at almost each Christmas, a dark pall of horror, sorrow and death has consistently hung in our horizon threatening to eclipse the promises of the joy of Christmas.”
Buhari was not in power 10 years ago. So, why are Buharists swarming in a frenzy of flagellation like doped matadors? Kukah has raised very fundamental issues. There is insufferable anxiety across the nation. Insecurity, the type never before witnessed, stalks the nation. High cost of goods and services made worse by a battered naira define the marketplace. These are the thoughts of Kukah. They are not different from the sentiments of the Sultan and the Sheik or other highly esteemed persons in the society including the globally respected Nigerian cleric, Pastor Enoch Adeboye.
Kukah spoke hope, not hate when he said: “Whatever the temptations to despair, we cannot give up. Therefore, like Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, we priests must stand before the mercy seat of God and plead the cause of our great country. Like Abraham, we must plead for the Lord to save our nation, because we have more than 10 righteous men.” That was the conclusion of Kukah’s message. It’s a message of hope, not hate or a call for “violent change of government.”