Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Nigeria.
Comrade Owei Lakemfa.
By Owei Lakemfa
Easter is a season of peace. But what peace can there be when evil struts the land in the garb of bandits and terrorists maiming and killing? What peace can be proclaimed over a land in which even state governors with full security complement are being attacked?
It was, therefore, logical for the reflective Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah, in his 2021 Easter Homily to address these issues and those of deficit governance that engender them. He lamented that the country has become a massive killing field with people seeking solace and protection, but that frustration and darkness threaten to drown them. So he asked the pertinent question: Is the government on AWOL?
Kukah regretted that: “When governments face legitimacy crises, they fall back on serving the sour broth of propaganda, half-truths and outright lies. They manufacture consent by creating imaginary enemies, setting citizens against one another by deploying religion, ethnicity, region and other platforms while appealing to the base emotions of patriotism.”
He noted that the Buhari government’s war against corruption “has not moved the needle of transparency forward.” Kukah, believing that we shall know the truth, and the truth shall set us free, said: “We forget the reality that without truth, the throne of power often turns into a cage, and the occupant is turned into a prisoner. In reality, the truth needs neither a judge nor a witness. The truth is its own judge and witness. Without the truth, as the old song says, all else is sinking sand!” His conclusion is that the marked rise in the frustration curve across the country, is that Nigerians’ cup of sorrow is permanently full.
The Bishop who does not oppose the call of sinners to righteousness, argues that it is reprehensible for this government to invest billions of naira rehabilitating so-called repentant bandits and terrorists in the belief that they would change while refusing succour to their victims. He lamented that thousands of these victims are left to cry alone and bury their loved ones alone, yet government expects them to be patriotic. He added: “A critical deficit of empathy on the side of government makes healing almost impossible for the victims. We have not heard anything about a rehabilitation programme for the thousands of schoolchildren who have been victims of abduction. We seem to assume that their return to their schools is sufficient. Left unaddressed, the traumatic effect of their horrors will haunt them for a long time. Tomorrow’s parents, military generals, top security men and women, governors, senators, and ministers will come from today’s pool of traumatised children. The security quandary is the greatest indictment of this government.”
But the Buhari Presidency which is allergic to criticism says the Bishop’s comments are ungodly. Its Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, declared that Bishop Kukah “… did not speak like a man of God”.
I chuckled when specifically, on the issue of lack of empathy for the victims of terrorism, the Buhari spokesman said: “An administration that has created a whole Ministry, for the first time in the country’s history, appropriating enormous resources to it, to deal with issues of internally displaced persons cannot, in all rightfulness be accused of not caring for them.” Do we need to remind these Buhari people once again, that Nigerians are no morons? It was General Idi Amin, the infamous human butcher of Uganda who set up his country’s human rights commission. Under his leadership, Uganda was a member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights from 1977-79. Did these facts mean he respected human rights? In Nigeria, General Sani Abacha, the most infamous violator of human rights in our country who set up killer squads which murdered innocent citizens like Mrs. Kudirat Abiola, was the same person who established the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria in 1995. Did that fact mean he respected human rights?
The Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Ministry the Buhari government says it set up for victims, is the same agency that claims to have fed school children during the COVID-19 lockdown. Until today, it has been unable to explain to Nigerians how it was able to spend billions of naira feeding school children who were on lockdown at home. Just as setting up the Niger Delta Development Commission in 2000 and a whole Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs in 2008 has not meant Nigerian leaders are interested in the development of the Niger Delta, so does the establishment of the Disaster Ministry not mean the government has empathy for victims. In fact, it is better to prevent the minting of Internally Displaced Persons than establishing a Ministry to display empathy.
Bishop Kukah reminds me of Elijah, the furious prophet who spoke truth to power. When accused of being ungodly like the Buhari government has accused Kukah, Elijah challenged the false prophets to a contest and then courageously told the powerful King Ahab that his actions will not go unpunished.
Breaking the mirror Kukah has placed before the Presidency does not matter. Even if the Presidency breaks all the mirrors in the country or declares owning a mirror of treasonable felony, that would not change the true image of the Buhari government. What the mirror does is to reflect reality; so it is not true when Buhari’s spokespersons talk about versions of the truth. It is a disingenuous way of plagiarising Trump.
It is not just the Presidency that deliberately misrepresents Kukah’s messages, including claiming that he is inviting an unconstitutional change of power. It is not only government that is threatening the Bishop, there are legions of its minions doing the same. In fact, one group demanded that Kukah be forced out of Sokoto. But I have known Kukah since the mid-1980s after he had planted his ‘Mustard Seed’ in our country’s soil; he was a patriotic and courageous soldier of the masses who has risen to become a full general of the people and the truth. It will, therefore, be foolhardy for tired non- commissioned soldiers like Garba Shehu to think they can intimidate or frighten him.
We need to ignore such jobbers and face the real issues in the country. The fact is that there are leaks in the Nigerian ship and we are taking in water, but the Buhari government insist we listen to the discordant tunes being played by its band on the deck, and claims that Nigerians like Kukah who cannot appreciate the cacophony it calls music, are enemies of the Federal Republic. But like Uthman Dan Fodio is quoted to have said: “Conscience is an open wound, only truth can cure it.”