Bishop Hassan Kukah may for all you know be a great priest. We have seen him severally playing the Christian sage over issues of national importance. And apparently he is so good at it he keeps turning up every now and then. If perhaps he was not something of a catholic priest, sworn to poverty, it is not impossible Bishop Kukah would have made a Dangote style fortune just talking and writing. Yet the man’s influence on Nigeria might for all one cared be really pernicious. This is especially in the philosophies he expresses. As a philosopher or thinker, perhaps tinkerer, Bishop Kukah is a man to be to be embraced with tact and care. He is always dabbling into ideas he won’t seat still to take questions on and or even digest fully. He gives broad strokes and avoids details like a good Christian will polygamy.
And in a sense he reminds one of Professor Chinua Achebe. He has an uncommon gift and command of phrases. And to this he adds a padded budget, full of concepts and categories, sometimes self-manufactured. And of course he is a priest. And if we recall that Professor Wole Soyinka taught us that religion is poetry charged to the highest degrees, perhaps the very heavens themselves, we may begin to understand Kukah better. That is to say like most priests, Bishop Kukah is so persuasive he could have been Saint Paul in a modern incarnation, and lo with a black skin. But the key to the genius of the persuasiveness of the religions and their priests is a play on words, poetry and rhythm. All religions come with as little as can be, in matters of logic and substance. They, especially the Abrahamic religions, have a history of opposing and hamstringing science and thus data.
Just the other day Bishop Kukah was out in a widely circulated report, repeating his naïve if exotic claims that President Muhammad Buhari and ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo’s tendencies and body languages in civil democratic order, which he implied are dictatorial, are literally enforced on them by their military careers. For Kukah it is axiomatic that once a general, forever a general, whatever else the context. That much is exotic we repeat.
But the matter got more interesting when a professor of management chose to second Bishop Kukah’s historically invalid assertion. In a report: Restructuring: Nigeria must devolve power or die – Prof. Adamolekun On August 7, 2016, it was stated:
“Professor Ladipo Adamolekun, 74, an Awoist, erudite scholar and administrator, is not happy with the state of affairs in Nigeria and has urged urgent solutions.
The military is a unitary institution; centralism is a major characteristics of the military. Others are uniformity and arbitrariness. You can see that in less than 16 months, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has visited Buhari more than six times. There is cultural relationship, their military culture is strong, now they are operating under democratic umbrella but that cannot change their mind set and it significantly affects what they do. Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah said recently that Buhari should be the last military president that will rule Nigeria. I agree. A military mind set operating in a democratic domain will have huge challenges. So, as long as Buhari is there we have to bear that in mind.’’
There are difficulties with the professor’s claims or the implications thereof. First, Obasanjo is not the only military retiree that is well and alive. His visits it must be stated has nothing to do with his military background, since the fact of it is specific to him. At least there are no records that generals Ukiwe, Kanu, Nwachukwu, Babangida, etc have made the frequent visitor’s list in Aso Rock. So if the others are not doing it, that Obasanjo does it means it is unique to him and not a class or pan-career distinction.
Before we go a line further these caveats. The conjecture that Buhari and Obasanjo, all former dictators turned democratic leaders, had unitary command tendencies over democratic order is of no interest to us. More important to us is establishing it is a proclivity of the actors at play and nothing in-born in military careers.
Now the facts. Both Buhari and Obasanjo it can be said are not inherently or by training strong personality types over all circumstances. All they have done is use up the powers and privileges that are sewn in into the forged and fraudulent decree that is called Nigerian constitution. Jonathan gave a hint of it, when he reminded us that he was yet to utilized 13% of the powers granted him by the constitution. That Jonathan did not use it is not because of alleged weakness of character. Jonathan being a minority couldn’t. His political power timidity is explained more by his being brace factor politician, his not understanding and thus exploiting that fact. One can only be as strong as the circumstances grant him, perhaps less but no more.
To debunk the myth of Buhari-Obasanjo as strong willed soldiers in civilian agbada, let’s ask ourselves one question. Why is it that when they attended international conferences in which their fellow conferees are idle civilians like Obama, etc., why were they being supplicants and not bullies? So if their strong political characters are military willed why is it Nigeria specific, why is it not a trait without borders?
Additionally, Buhari and Obasanjo are not the only soldiers who came to preside over democratic orders. As generals go, Ike Eisenhower, an American general, is certainly more world famous than either Buhari and Obasanjo or even the two pulled together. Yet there are no records he exercised more powers than was granted him by the American constitution. In fact, when Americans speak of imperial presidency they look towards a Ronald Reagan than an Eisenhower. So where is this boneless myth of militarized cross-border political rambunctiousness coming from?
Again it is on record that when the political upstart Douglas MacArthur, universally America’s greatest general, took himself too seriously as a political arbiter, it was the willy president Woodrow Wilson who defanged him and taught him that you don’t gather votes by wearing epaulets. Arthur, old soldier, next faded away as was prophesied in the ancient scrolls of war.
Back home, we may all recall that David Mark was as a mere major was a ‘no nonsense’ strongman, dictating on matters ala abandoned property. Yet when he was elected senate president, now as a retiree general, Mark was as humble as a dove, a mere first amongst equals. So what stopped him? It was just that at the senate he met his equals and sometimes his superiors in matters that counted. Yet if you elected the same retiree general David Mark into the presidency tomorrow, a new dictator will germinate in him. The point is that it is driven by the powers inherent in the office. Buhari is only exercising the powers conferred on him by a forged decree ala constitution, no more no less. And any civilian, especially a majority bloc or region idle civilian, can do that much and more. If we may also remember the same Obasanjo during Jonathan’s regime cried out for his life, strongman that he allegedly was. So, let us not make myths of what is explained by logic. To summarize, Buhari’s excessive or dictatorial powers are a gift to him or just any other president whether idle civilian or retiree general, by general Abdulsalami Abubarkar’s decree aka constitution.