President Muhammadu Buhari should take heed of the recent homily by the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, the revered Father Mathew Hassan Kukah during the burial of an 18-year-old seminarian, Michael Nnadi, killed by members of the Boko Haram sect. Shola Oyeyipo writes
Among very respectable Nigerians whose contributions on national issues have been very instructive and assertive is Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, of the Diocese of Sokoto, in Northern Nigeria.
His Tuesday, February 11 homily at the burial of an 18-year-old seminarian, Michael Nnadi, held at the Good Shepherd Major Seminary, Kaukau, Chikun local government area, Kaduna State, provided another opportunity to draw the ears of the Nigerian leadership to the fact that Nigeria is on the precipice and that necessary actions must be taken to reverse this ugly trend. The 18-year-old Nnadi, was abducted and later killed by members of Boko Haram terrorists-Islamic sect and like others, his killing generated widespread condemnation from around the world, so much so are the points raised by the respected clergy.
Except some in the corridor of power benefiting from the continued insecurity facing Nigeria, no one who wishes Nigeria well is satisfied with its present state of affair particularly, in the aspects of insecurity and poverty.
Nigeria has been plagued with insecurity and evidence abounds to show that with poverty, insecurity will be difficult to curtail and vis-à-vis, when insecurity is unaddressed, poverty becomes rampant.
This is the pathetic story of Nigeria now and many people from different walks of life have spoken out to express disappointment in the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s inability to reverse the debilitating situation.
But as much as they do, those holding the levers of power easily politicise every criticism against the government or ignore them outright. Truth, however, is that the country is running fast on the reverse gear if these issues generating concern were not urgently addressed.
While he urged Christendom and Nnadi’s family to take solace in the fact that the young boy was glorified at death, Kukah made some salient points that required reflections. He noted that now is a defining moment for Christians and the government.
“This is a solemn moment for the body of Christ. This is for us the moment of decision. This is the moment that separates darkness from light; good from evil. Our nation is like a ship stranded on the high seas, rudderless and with broken navigational aids.
“Today, our years of hypocrisy, duplicity, fabricated integrity, false piety, empty morality, fraud and Pharisaism have caught up with us. Nigeria is on the crossroads and its future hangs precariously in a balance. This is a wakeup call for us. As St. Paul reminds us: The night is far spent, and the day is at hand. Therefore, let us cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light (Rom. 13:12). It is time to confront and dispel the clouds of evil that hover over us.
“Nigeria is at a point, where we must call for a verdict. There must be something that a man, nay, a nation should be ready to die for. Sadly, or even tragically, today, Nigeria does not possess that set of goals or values for which any sane citizen is prepared to die for her. Perhaps, I should correct myself and say that the average office holder is ready to die to protect his office but not for the nation that has given him or her that office. “The Yoruba say that if it takes you 25 years to practice madness, how much time would you have to put it into real life? We have practiced madness for too long.
“Our attempt to build a nation has become like the agony of Sisyphus, who angered the gods and had to endure the frustration of rolling a stone up the mountain. Each time he got near the top, the gods would tip the stone back and he would go back to start all over again. What has befallen our nation?
“Nigeria needs to pause for a moment and think. No one more than the President of Nigeria, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, who was voted for in 2015 on the grounds of his own promises to rout Boko Haram and place the country on an even keel,” he suggested.
The clergy drew inference from an address by President Muhammadu Buhari at the prestigious Policy Think Tank, Chatham House in London, before the 2015 elections, where he said: “I, as a retired General and a former Head of State, have always known about our soldiers. They are capable and they are well trained, patriotic, brave and always ready to do their duty.
“If am elected President, the world will have no reason to worry about Nigeria. Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa. We will pay sufficient attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service. We will develop adequate and modern arms and ammunition.
“We will improve intelligence gathering and border patrols to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels. We will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development and promoting infrastructure development… We will always act on time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester. And I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front.”
One is not sure President Buhari remembers this statement he made and if he does, in his evaluations, would he say he has brought this to bear and that such actions have yielded the expected results. The answer is capital NO!
According to Kukah, while no one doubted the president to walk his talks during campaigns, “No one could have imagined that in winning the presidency, General Buhari would bring nepotism and clannishness into the military and the ancillary security agencies, that his government would be marked by supremacist and divisive policies that would push our country to the brink.
“This president has displayed the greatest degree of insensitivity in managing our country’s rich diversity. He has subordinated the larger interests of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen and women. The impression created now is that, to hold a key and strategic position in Nigeria today, it is more important to be a northern Muslim than a Nigerian.”
This is no lie. Kukah did not say anything new. Every opinionated Nigerian has vehemently protested the palpable ‘northernisation’ of the Nigerian security architecture and the presidency has paid deaf ear to it. And out of distrust in the security agencies, sections of the country are opting to inaugurate their security outfits.
He noted that despite Buhari’s favourable disposition to his northern kinsmen above every other section of the country, the noble religion of Islam has convulsed because it has associated with some of worst fears among the people and that Muslim scholars, traditional rulers and intellectuals have continued to cry out helplessly, asking for their religion and region to be freed from the chokehold of terrorism, poverty and all other vices.
“This is because, in all of this, neither Islam nor the north can identify any real benefits from these years that have been consumed by the locusts that this government has unleashed on our country. The Fulani, his innocent kinsmen, have become the subject of opprobrium, ridicule, defamation, calumny and obloquy. His north has become one large graveyard, a valley of dry bones, the nastiest and the most brutish part of our dear country.
“Despite running the most nepotistic and narcissistic government in known history, there are no answers to the millions of young children on the streets in northern Nigeria, the north still has the worst indices of poverty, insecurity, stunting, squalor and destitution. His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, and the Emir of Kano are the two most powerful traditional and moral leaders in Islam today.
“None of them is happy and they have said so loud and clear. The Sultan recently lamented the tragic consequences of power being in the wrong hands. Every day, Muslim clerics are posting tales of lamentation about their fate. Now, the Northern elders, who in 2015 believed that General Buhari had come to redeem the north have now turned against the president.”
Referring to the unresolved abduction of Leah Sharibu and now Michael, all teenagers, who have become Christian martyrs, the Man of God pointed out that the persecution of Christians in northern Nigeria is as old as the modern Nigerian state.
This, he said is done by denying Christians lands for places of worship across most of the northern states, ignoring the systematic destruction of churches all these years, denying Christians adequate recruitment, representation and promotions in the state civil services.
He also alleged that their indigenous children were denied scholarships, marrying Christian women or converting Christians while threatening Muslim women and prospective converts with death, and by these he said, “they make building a harmonious community impossible.”
For people of his faith, Kukah stated that this is a defining moment for Christians and Christianity in Nigeria. He said the Christians must be honest enough to accept that they had taken so much for granted and made so much sacrifice in the name of nation building. “We accepted President Buhari, when he came with General Idiagbon, two Muslims and two northerners. We accepted Abiola and Kingibe, thinking that we had crossed the path of religion, but we were grossly mistaken. When Jonathan became President, and Senator David Mark remained Senate President, while Patricia Ette, was chosen by the Southwest, became a Speaker.
“The Muslim members revolted and forced her resignation with lies and forgery. The same House would shamelessly say that they had no records of her indictment. Today, we are living with a Senate whose entire leadership is in the hands of Muslims.
Christians have continued to support them. For how long shall we continue on this road with different ambitions?
“Christians must rise up and defend their faith with all the moral weapons they have. We must become more robust in presenting the values of Christianity especially, our message of love and non-violence to a violent society. Among the wolves of the world, we must become more politically alert, wise as the serpent and humble as the dove (Mt. 10:16).
“Every Religion has the seeds of its own redemption or destruction. It is a choice between Caesar and God. We cannot borrow the crown of Caesar without consequences. The boundaries between faith and reason are delicate but they are fundamental to how a society builds a moral code.
“Faith without reason breeds the fanatic, the demagogue, who genuinely but wrongly believes that he has heard the voice of a god ordering him to kill another. Reason without faith produces the ideologues, who will also kill, because the ideology of the state orders him to do so.
“Societies can only survive when a Constitutional basis has been established to create a balance between both extremes and to place our common humanity at the centre of every pursuit.
“There is hope, my dear friends. Are we angry? Yes, we are. Are we sad? Of course, we are. Are we tempted to vengeance? Indeed, we are. Do we feel betrayed? You bet. Do we know what to do? Definitely. Do we know when to do it? Why not? Do we know how? Absolutely. Are we in a war? Yes. But what would Christ have us do? The only way He has pointed out to us is the non-violent way. It is the road less travelled, but it is the only way.”
Those words by Kukah were strong, instructive and well embedded in the minds of many Nigerians and particularly, Christians, who have been victims of religious persecution.
Since according to Kukah, nation-building cannot happen without adequate representation and a deliberate effort at creating for all members a sense, a feeling, of belonging, and freedom to make their contributions, the absence which he said has been “the window that the killers of Boko Haram have exploited and turned into a door to death – it is why killing Christians and destroying Christianity is seen as one of their key missions.”
If President Buhari is cognisant of this kind of sermonaisation; if he considers the personality of a man of Kukah’s status and his contributions to national debate and also sees the implications of a situation, where the citizenry resorts to defending themselves against attacks, it is time the administration does something concrete to address insecurity and protect vulnerable Nigerians.