The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Revd Matthew Hassan Kukah, has said that the desperation by politicians for public office is the reason they are turning the country into a killing field ahead of the 2019 polls.
said: “Politicians in Africa want power at all cost and they will go over oceans of blood and corpses to place ballot boxes to steal votes. Dead people have had appointments in Nigeria. This is a strange country and unless we get to a point where human life is at the centre and defines everything, every blood can only serve as sacrificial offering for the ambitions of those who want power at all cost. But as I have said and I repeat, who knows who will be here in 2019?.” Kukah spoke on this and other sundry issues, including the 2019 general elections in the emailed responses to questions sent to him by AIDOGHIE PAULINUS.
is your thought on the nationwide protest by Catholic faithful over the killings in the country, particularly, in Benue State?
We the Catholic Bishops organised it, I was there, so what thoughts again can I say other than to thank the huge Catholics, Christians and even Muslims who joined? The use of the word protest sounds negative, but this was the highest moral duty for every human being. Nothing more.
Does this signify a rejection of this administration by Catholics?
There is no human being anywhere in the world for whom this should not be of interest. It has nothing to do with the politics of the day. The Catholic Church has stood shoulder to shoulder with every victim of any process that devalues life. I am surprised you ask this question because we as Catholics are what we are, a universal body of believers whose platform cuts across every artificial division in our human life. In the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, we raised funds from our own Churches in the four states and visited the people of Kizara way back in 2014 before anyone thought of the horrendous human crimes. When we visited the community, the village head, obviously shocked by our visit with foodstuffs, clothing and money, said to me: ‘We hear your name on the radio. We have no single Christian here, so why did you take all this trouble?’ I explained to him that we heard that huge human lives have been lost and we came because we are all God’s children. The only way to blunt the cutting edge of these criminals is for us to stand together.
Would you interpret that to mean a red card for President Buhari in 2019?
We cannot play games with human lives. Only the living have cards and 2019 is only for the living plus who knows which of us will be here in 2019 not to talk of our ambitions?
How do you think the killing of priests in Benue and other killings across the country can be stopped?
Ask those into whose hands our safety lies. The Church has no army or any security agencies. The only way we can defend life is to do what we did in Benue, generate enough sense of moral revulsion, especially given that those who govern us seem to have other interests. It is a tragic cancer of African leadership, this criminal lack of care for human beings whom the politicians promise to protect. If they cannot make comfortable as they themselves are, they can at least let our people live in peace. Many years ago, just before the civil war, during the Tiv riots, the Tor Tiv at the time said: ‘politics has spoilt our land.’ This is where we are now. Politics has become a killing game.
Do you see the government doing enough to stop them?
You are a citizen and better informed because you are Abuja people.
As someone with vast experience in issues of conflict and resolution, what do you think is responsible for the killings, particularly, in Benue state?
This is a subject for many Ph.D theses.
Similar killings took place in Kaduna. Is there any correlation in the killings in Benue state, Kaduna, Taraba and other parts of the country?
People do not die by geography, so it is not so much the spread. They are dying everywhere and in Nigeria, everywhere, anywhere is a place to die. Elsewhere, people go to the hospital to get well and return home, but in Nigeria as my priest friend once said, when his brother went for a routine medical check up and did not get up from the table, Bishop, if not in Nigeria, have you heard of anyone dying from medical check up? So, here, we are on a wing on a prayer. If you survive the herdsmen, the marauders, the armed robbers, the terrible highways are lying in wait. It is a sad commentary.
Do you subscribe to what General Theophilus Danjuma alluded to when he said the killings were orchestrated plan aimed at ethnic cleansing?
I cannot interpret General Danjuma’s mind. I was to have delivered the Convocation Lecture at that event, but I could not make it. So, if you want to know the real story and basis, seek clarification from him directly. He is from Taraba and he knows what he is talking about.
In all this, are you foreseeing a state of anarchy or a mass revolution?
This is hysterical.
If killings continue, do you think the 2019 elections will hold?
This is Nigeria. The killings did not stop the 2015 elections. Politicians in Africa want power at all cost and they will go over oceans of blood and corpses to place ballot boxes to steal votes. Dead people have had appointments in Nigeria. This is a strange country and unless we get to a point where human life is at the centre and defines everything, every blood can only serve as sacrificial offering for the ambitions of those who want power at all cost. But as I have said and I repeat, who knows who will be here in 2019?