Don’t Hope in Politicians, Bishop Kukah Warns Nigerians

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Segun James

With the general election barely three weeks away, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Rev. Mathew Hassan Kukah, has asked Nigerians not to put all their hopes in politicians, warning that “democracy dies when people hand over their fate to politicians.”

Kukah in a lecture he delivered at the 70th anniversary of the Nigerian Tribune Symposium at the Sheraton Hotels and Towers in Lagos titled: ‘Democracy, Political Parties, Electoral Integrity and Good Governance’, insisted that “this is dangerous because politics is the only game for which you require no qualification or prior training, experience or exposure to participate in.

“With the billionaires and the private sector actors in our midst, the intellectuals, the scientists, the retired and serving military generals, the bishops and all caliber of people we have, surely, it will be a mortal sin to entrust our hope to our politicians and simply stand by and watch as our lives and future are threatened. We would be most guilty of negligence.”

Kukah stressed that “these demagogues often hide their real ambitions under a veneer of populism; they whip supporters into frenzy, making different promises to different constituencies and speaking from both ends of their mouths.

“Thus, they will promise their kin, their tribesmen and women, co-religionists, regionalists, one thing and the rest of the country another thing. They will ride on a contrived narrative of popular fanatical nationalism or ideology and present themselves as heroes, liberators and messiahs.”

The clergyman said it is at this point that the people should be more vigilant and ready to protest in the face of tyranny if the need arises. “This is when prophecy becomes urgent. This is where the honest voice has to stand up and say No! This is when No to tyranny becomes Yes to freedom.

“Often, we all feel insignificant as individuals. We wonder, can I make a difference? But history says yes we can make a difference. We have had heroes and heroines who have made a difference like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, John Kennedy, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Malala, Leah Sharibu, Rosa Parks, Jim Acosta, De Klerk, Gorbachev, John Paul II, Mother Theresa, Colin Kerppernich, Bouzouzi among others.

“Protest is honourable. We must embrace the culture of protest. In 2011, TIME magazine made the Protester Man of the Year! So, creeping totalitarianism and tyranny, whether seen as assault on individual liberties, muzzling of the media or attack on the opposition, must be resisted,” Kukah said.

He accused the government of being tyrannical in handling some political situations in the country, saying the first signed of these is the continued disobedience of government to lawful orders of the court.

According to the cleric, “The face of tyranny is often hidden in innocence. There have been attacks on the media and disobedience of the courts as we can see in the cases of Sambo Dasuki and El Zakzaky whose detentions several courts have declared illegal.

“The government has continued to act in disobedience. Now, they have broken into and desecrated the Supreme Court to install their own Chief Justice. Who will be the next? That is the central question we must face before darkness envelopes us. The Rev. Martin Luther King had said a man cannot climb your back unless you bend it.

“So, as the elections approach, do yourself one favour. You have listened to all the promises that have been made, the ones kept, hurriedly or strategically. Do not get carried away. On election day, before heading for the polls, take a look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself.

“Am I looking better than I was last year? Do I look healthier? Do I feel more secure? What do I want for my family? Which candidate or Party offers the best opportunity for me to improve my conditions and become a better person, a better and proud citizen? These are the questions.”

Earlier, the Chairman of the African Newspapers of Nigeria, publishers of Tribune, Dr. Tokunboh Awolowo-Dosunmu, in her speech titled ‘The Nigerian Tribune: Mission to Renew and Transform’ said: “In the private sector, there is always innovation… There’s always improving productivity, and if you’re not leading that, you’ll be passed and ultimately go out of business. So there’s an urgency to constantly update and renew and to rethink your enterprise.”

Awolowo-Dosunmu insisted that the Tribune has a history of parading journalistic and literary ‘greats’ among our line-up of columnists. “Who can forget Chief Bisi Onabanjo’s‘Aiyekooto’, Justice Adewale Thompson’s ‘Megaforce’, Chief Bọla Ige’s ‘Uncle Bọla’s Column’, Dr Tai Șolarin’s ‘State of the Nation’, Chief Wunmi Adegbọnmire’s ‘Ọmọ Ẹkun’, Akọgun Tọla Adeniyi’s ‘Aba Saheed’, and Chief Ebenezer Babatọpẹ’s ‘Periscope’?