The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, last Christmas, told Nigerians that the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has continued failing to address the nation’s multifarious problems. He argued in his thesis that this administration’s policies have indeed worsened the country’s socio-economic and political challenges, which are gradually turning the country into a failed state. Today, I take a more expository analysis of Kukah’s historic message.
Bishop Bagobiri’s obsequies, on March 17, 2018, Kukah fired from his always revved cylinders (continues)
“On February 11, 2020, at his funeral homily of Michael Nnadi, a student of the Good Shepherd Catholic Seminary, Kaduna, who was abducted and gruesomely murdered, Bishop Kukah had lamented that our “nation is like a ship stranded on the high seas, rudderless and with broken navigational aids.”
“Today, our years of hypocrisy, duplicity, fabricated integrity, false piety, empty morality, fraud and Pharisaism have caught up with us…Nigeria is at the crossroads and its future hangs precariously in a balance.
“We have practised madness for too long. Our attempt to build a nation has become like the agony of Sisyphus who angered the gods and had to endure the frustration of rolling a stone up the mountain.
“No one could have imagined that, in winning the presidency, Buhari would bring nepotism and clannishness into the military and the ancillary security agencies.
“No one could have imagined that his government would be marked by supremacist and divisive policies that would push our country to the brink.
“This President has displayed the greatest degree of insensitivity in managing our country’s rich diversity. He has subordinated the larger interests of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen and women.
“The impression created now is that, to hold a key and strategic position in Nigeria today, it is more important to be a northern Muslim than a Nigerian.”
“Despite running the most nepotistic and narcissistic government in known history, there are no answers to the millions of young children on the streets in northern Nigeria. The North still has the worst indices of poverty, insecurity, stunting, squalor and destitution,” he pontificated.
The flaming clergyman bemoaned the nadir to which the military has sunk, losing its “allure and gravitas…” because the military has “gradually become trapped and ravaged by ethnic, regional, religious and class considerations.” Where did Kukah go wrong here? I cannot see it. Or, can you?
I had continued my piece thus: “On 23rd August, 2013, I was kidnapped (in the hot afternoon), along Benin-Auchi Expressway, near Ehor, by dangerously armed kidnappers. Four policemen who came for my rescue were gunned down in cold blood. I was in the dungeon of the terror group for 21 whole days. Days of mental agony, psychological depression, physical trauma, spiritual bruise, fear of death, fear of fear. All Nigerians rose up for my release in the print, electronic and social media. My kidnappers (always hooded, except at night), told me so. God had prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies (Psalm 23:5). Of the many reactions, there was one particular one that seared the hearts of my captors and continually flogged them with spiritual koboko and divine bulala.
“It was the 27th August, 2013, press release of my good friend, Kukah, titled “Release Ozekhome in the name of God.” I did not know what Kukah wrote that so tormented my tormentors, until God ordered my release; and I read it. Inter alia, the cassocked “conscience of the nation” pleaded with my abductors, in the following words:
“Sure, these are sad times for our country, but the kidnapping of Mr. Ozekhome carries a distinctive ironic ring to it. Here is a fine gentleman in every sense of the word, a hardworking professional who has worked assiduously with his bare hands right up to the top of his profession. His patriotism and deep commitment to justice saw him at the forefront of the fight against tyranny and dictatorship in the darkest days of our country. He sacrificed his life, family and career and was a victim of some of the ugliest phases of the brutality of those in power. He did all these to give our country in particular and a new generation of young Nigerians a better future. His humble beginnings and his hard work should be seen by the young generation as ideals to be emulated.
“His country, through the legal profession, recognized his contribution by elevating him to the enviable position of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN. The recognition only renewed his commitment to justice and the cause of the poor. It was early this year that he pleaded with me to join a foundation he was setting up for the cause of the poor. I was quite happy to oblige him because I have believed in his cause for the downtrodden. He has made all these sacrifices for the future of these same tragic youth who are now his captors.
“Coming at the dawn of the democracy and freedom he struggled for, this is at worst a second crucifixion for a great patriot. True, no citizen deserves to be denied of his freedom in a democracy except those who have broken the law. Nothing, therefore, could be more ironic than for this great son of our country to be forcefully snatched from the highway in a democracy. In the name of God and all that is noble, I call on his captors to release him unconditionally and immediately. I call on our young people to renounce this violent, ungodly and evil act.
“I believe the future of our youth does not depend on the blood money that comes from kidnapping, popular and commonplace as this ignoble cause has become. Our youth must embrace the future with hope, believing that tomorrow is theirs to build. I believe that this blood money can only erect a house of cards for now. They should renounce this criminality and turn to pursuing legacies they can proudly hand over to their children tomorrow. I beg for God’s mercies and peace for the souls of those gallant police officers who surrendered their lives and continue to pray for our security agencies. May Mike regain his freedom soon.” And I was released, to the glory of God.
Where did Kukah go wrong here? I cannot see it. Or, can you?
So, Kukah has been speaking. Mr. President sir, tell your attack dogs to leave this pan-Nigerian patriot alone. He is merely forewarning us all about the dangers ahead, except the Buhari government mends its ways.
Democracy and spectre of poor elections in Nigeria (2)
Sometime ago, I took a break from this vexed issue to discuss more urgent national issues. Today, I shall conclude same.
President Yar’Adua to the rescue
Following the conduct of the very flawed 2007 election, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, of blessed memory, emerged as Nigeria’s President. In a manner that remains most uncharacteristic of Nigerian politicians, he conceded that the election that brought him to power was tainted by fraud and illegality.
At his inauguration, Yar’Adua surprised the nation when he virtually outrightly condemned the 2007 elections. Though he liked his victory, he did not cherish the manner of its attainment.
In the second paragraph of his inaugural speech, he said: “We acknowledge that our elections have shortcomings. I also believe that our experiences represent an opportunity to learn from our mistakes.”
He, therefore, took decisive steps to pursue electoral reforms in Nigeria. August 28, 2007, he appointed a 22-member Electoral Reform Committee chaired by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais, with 12 months to submit its report. The committee submitted it report in December, 2008.
Some causes of electoral malpractices in Nigeria
Electoral malpractice simply means the illegal interference with the electoral process, either by increasing the votes of the favoured candidate, depressing the votes of the rival candidates, intimidation of voters, deployment of violence to force voters to vote against their will, snatching of ballot boxes, etc. Some of the causes of electoral malpractice in Nigeria include:
(a) Lack of a sustainable democratic culture: The practice of democracy requires the establishment and effective functioning of democratic institutions within the state and civil society. These include an independent judiciary, a vibrant legislature, law-abiding executive, vibrant political parties, efficient security agencies, public-spirited civil society organisations; the entrenchment of the rule of law and respect for citizens’ fundamental rights. The principle of checks and balances, which is central to the presidential system. It has been difficult to practise this in Nigeria, largely because the executive overshadows the legislature and the judiciary, a legacy of the long period of military rule. By 1999, on the return of civilian rule, Nigeria had been ruled by military regimes for 29 of its first 39 years of independence. The years of military rule impeded the cultivation of democratic institutions and leaders and hampered the emergence of a democratic culture. Corruption and an authoritarian culture resulted in weak political institutions, with decaying infrastructure, feeble and non-diversified economy and an impoverished populace.
Political parties lack internal democracy. They are very weak and unable to effectively carry out political mobilisation, political education and discipline.
(b) Negative political culture: These negative factors have led to the emergence of a weak political culture characterised by electoral violence, monetised politics, poor and low political accountability, abuse and personalisation of power, zero-sum approach to politics, general apathy towards elections and low participation of critical segments of the society such as women, the disabled and internally displaced persons. This negative political culture leads to electoral violence, election rigging and manipulation, and the entrenchment of do-or-die politics in Nigeria.
(c) Weak constitutional/legal framework: The prevalence of electoral malpractices can rightly be blamed on the absence of a strong legal framework to check the excesses of desperate and corrupt political actors. Numerous provisions of the 1999 Constitution as well as the Electoral Act, 2010, need to be amended or expunged for the legal framework to maintain a tough stance against electoral corruption.
I hereby call on political parties to stop the culture of impunity of enthroning “godfatherism”, imposition and endorsing candidates for an election. INEC should itself up its ante to give Nigeria free, fair and credible elections.
Thought for the week
“Regardless of who wins, an election should be a time for optimism and fresh approaches.” (Gary Johnson)