By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Nigeria is in dire straits, and the government of the day is burying its head in the sand like a woebegone ostrich. It takes tremendous courage to speak truth to power, especially at this time when a self-righteous government of prebendal impunity is riding roughshod and making a total mess of a multi-ethnic nation.
The irrepressible Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of the Sokoto Diocese rose up to the demands of the times by sending out a Christmas message to the President Muhammadu Buhari regime, to wit, that the country teeters on the edge of disaster.
What Bishop Kukah said were self-evident truths. No other Nigerian president has had the effrontery to toy with the destiny of the nation in the manner that nepotism has been put on the front burner now. All previous Nigerian leaders had the misfortune of being overthrown for far lesser failings. The imprimatur of priding the Northern Nigerian Muslims over other Nigerians grates the skin.
The hired guns of the government instead of coming up with a credible defense of the regime, if ever, have since come up with the infantile hokum that Bishop Kukah was plotting a coup! As they say, when you have no serious argument to make, shout out some noises! All makes of self-advertised defenders of the Northern Muslim enclave have come up with ill-conceived darts aimed at harming Bishop Kukah.
It is obvious that these government-backed goons who ought to have been arrested in saner climes are banking on the backing of the powers-that-be. If Bishop Kukah should come to any harm in the current toxic circumstances, Nigeria must definitely pay a terminal price. The auguries are terrible.
History is definitely on the side of Bishop Kukah who the respected Africanist, Richard Dowden, describes as “Nigeria’s spiritual guide and confessor”.
A prominent Northern Muslim once complained that Kukah should not just be addressed as the “Catholic” Bishop of Sokoto because that title excluded non-Catholics like him! Even as a Muslim, the man stressed that Kukah was his Bishop too!
Given our ethno-religious suspicions in Nigeria, the example of Bishop Kukah should be given pride of place in the country’s scheme of things instead of the twisted shenanigans of the backers of the government of the day.
Born on August 31, 1952, Bishop Kukah has since being ordained a priest on December 19, 1976 packed so much work into this life as though having many lifetimes jammed together such that no smear of this transient government can ever halt his lofty sail.
It is remarkable that after serving as a member of the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission of the Federal Government of Nigeria, otherwise known as the Oputa Panel, which looked into the many violations in the locust years of military rule, Bishop Kukah authored the epochal book Witness to Justice: An Insider’s Account of Nigeria’s Truth Commission. It is my prayer that Bishop Kukah would in a later time put out a book on the Buhari regime. It will surely make for sordid reading.
Given the way that Bishop Kukah has been crudely harassed for boldly speaking truth to power, the worst fears of many Nigerians are coming home to roost. It makes one to recall a message that the eminent scholar, Chinweizu, sent out back in 2015, to wit: “We need to know that the Caliphate is an incorrigible colonizer and anti-democracy feudalist; it is determined to colonize and perpetually enslave all the other Nigerians. You can’t defeat an enslaver until you recognize that his mission is to enslave you. It is only after gaining that precious insight that you can organize appropriately and do whatever is necessary to defeat him.”
Well before his Christmas message, Bishop Kukah had in the past said at a UK non-profit organization, Aid to the Church in Need, that the only difference between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Boko Haram is that Boko Haram is holding a bomb. Bishop Kukah had pointedly accused the General Muhammadu Buhari-led regime of creating the conditions for terror groups to flourish in Nigeria.
The interventions of Bishop Kukah at every point are crucial, especially as divisive designs are all the rage across the country today – and these are somewhat sadly aided and abetted by the government of the day.
It is incumbent on the government to pursue peace instead of the war-war tenor it has launched against the principled lot of Bishop Kukah.
Nigerian leaders need to emulate Bishop Kukah in striving after peace instead of the unnecessary display of raw power all the time. A regime emulating Boko Haram can only crash badly, as the Kukah mandate teaches. The government ought to imbibe the common touch of Kukah which comes with no airs whatsoever.
As I had written somewhere earlier, Bishop Kukah is a reason to believe on the workability of the pan-Nigerian project.
Uzoatu writes from Lagos