Bishop Kukah, Fatwa and Religion as Opium of the Masses

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TALKING CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY BY MIKE OZEKHOME, SAN

“Fatwa” is an Islamic religious Decree, issued by the Ulama. A death fatwa calls for the head of a person. The “Ulama” is a body of Muslim scholars, who are recognised as possessing specialist knowledge of Islamic laws and theology. I am compelled today to make a second outing on Bishop Mathew Kukah’s Christmas homily, and call for those beating the drums of war to immediately STOP.

God-Given Freedom

The last time I checked, the secularity of Nigeria has been guaranteed by Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution. What is Bishop Kukah’s offence, that some rabidly misguided, intolerant and ethno-religiously bigoted individuals styling themselves as Muslims are calling for Kukah’s head? When did almighty, omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent God tell religionists He needs their help or defence? Let these ‘defenders’ of God read the Quran, Al- Baqara 256 (“there is no compulsion in religion”). Let them read the Quran, Al – Kafirun, 109:1 (“I worship not that which you worship, nor do you worship that which I worship…to you be your religion, and to me my religion”). For Christians, read Galatians 5:1 (“it was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery”). Let them read Acts 5:29 (“But Peter and the Apostles answered ,’we must obey God rather than men’ “. The meaning of these biblical and quranic verses, shredded of aesthetics, is freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Section 38(1) 1999 Constitution).

Do we uphold this God-given freedom? No wonder, Karl Marx (1818-1883), in his works, “Die Religion…ist das Opium des Volkes” , once described religion as “…..the opium of the people”. When did criticising President Buhari or government become treason, such as to provoke some people taking the laws into their hands in the name of religion? When, why, how and where did we lose our humanity, brotherhood, friendship, mutual respect and tolerance?

Buhari’s Election

When Nigerians, in a hotly disputed election (which was all but free, fair, transparent and credible) re-elected President Buhari in February, 2019, I didn’t recall it was only Northerners or Muslims who voted for him. They did not, could not have, and were never able to enthrone Buhari alone. It took Southern Nigeria’s Intervention (especially the Christianly-dominated Southwest) to make Buhari President, after his serial and dismal failures in 2003, 2007 and 2011. He actually wept publicly in 2011, vowing never to contest again. Only the Southern Nigeria’s life line, breathed oxygen into his vanquished political machine.

Annul the Fatwa

So, why are a particular religion and a section of the country suddenly appropriating (or better still, misappropriating) the President to themselves, as a sectional, ethno-religious warlord that is immune from criticism by the very people he governs? Is this not the same government that periodically welcomes, embraces and cuddles Rev. Father Mbaka (of the same Kukah’s Catholic Christian faith) as a friend, brother, idol, prayer warrior, religious mentor and spiritual guide, simply because he preaches in favour of the same Buhari government on his Adoration Ministry grounds in Enugu? Do these fatwa-wielding people not always embrace Mbaka, for being on the side of Buhari and his inept colourless regime? What kind of government and cult-deity-worshippers of double standards, duplicity, intolerance, tribalism, ethno-centrism, nepotism, prebendalism, impunity, favouritism, insecurity, upgraded corruption, decimation of citizens’ rights, subjugation of rule of law, liberties and court orders, vindictiveness, brutality, insensitivity, tears, sorrow, blood, pains and pangs, are these?

Make no mistake about this: CANCEL, ABROGATE AND ANNUL THAT FATWA ON KUKAH’S HEAD, IMMEDIATELY. When did criticising Buhari and his non-performing government of opaqueness, non-inclusiveness, serial borrowings and second recession become an attack on Islam or Muslims? Do these people credit Nigerians with brains, and a sense of history at all?

That the fatwa and quit notice to Kukah by the Muslim Solidarity Forum was authored by one Isa Muhammad Maishanu, a Professor, makes the threat more damaging, odious, disgusting, highly unexpected and unacceptable.

Bishop Kukah’s Christmas Message: Speaking the Truth to Authority

What did Kukah say in his Christmas message, that these government bootlickers and fawners masquerading under religion have found difficult to catch any sleep over since then? They said he called for a coup. How? Kukah merely accused the President of nepotism and other governance infractions, in his Christmas message. He said if Buhari had been a Southerner and a non-Muslim, and such a ruler had done a quarter of what Buhari had done as President, there would have been a coup. True or false?

For speaking truth to authority (conscience is an open wound; only the truth can heal it – Uthman Dan Fodio), Kukah was accused by Lai Muhammed (Minister of Information) of attempting to stoke the “embers of hatred, sectarian strife and national disunity”. The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) joined the fray, by terming Kukah’s honest and refreshingly invigorating Christmas message as “reckless, inflammatory and unguarded”. Was it really? NO! Except for those with thin skin for criticism. Kukah had earlier told Dr Khalid Aliyu, Secretary-General of the Jama’atu Islam (JNI), the umbrella body led by the Sultan of Sokoto, that he would be “more than happy to apologise ” if they could show, ‘as a matter of honour ‘, where he attacked Islam or Muslims. To date, mum is the word. And is forever, because Kukah never did.

It later became the turn of the Muslim Solidarity Forum (MSF) to take the threats a notch higher, by declaring, “We wonder how Kukah, who lives peacefully and comfortably in the heart of the Sokoto Caliphate, can make such a callous and senseless statement”. Not done, he (Professor Isa Maishanu), who signed the statement, ordered “Kukah to immediately stop his malicious vituperations against Islam and Muslims and tender unreserved apology to the Muslim Ummah or else, quickly and quietly leave the seat of the Caliphate”. Hear! Hear!! Hear!!! Even the very indigenes of Sokoto State who are minority Christians, were termed “Christian guests”. Has Professor Isa Maishanu cared to also know that all Muslim minorities are allowed to live peacefully and carry out their legitimate endeavours in the largely and predominantly Christian-dominated parts of Nigeria, such as the entire South-East, South-West, South-South, Middle-Belt, and most or many parts of Taraba, Adamawa, Borno, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Nassarawa, Kogi, Kwara, Niger and the Zulus? What happens if the said Christians were to declare their own Fatwa? Will there be any country called Nigeria left?

Why did Prof Isa strain Kukah’s phrase of “a pool of violence to draw from” to mean “reference to those he has always characterised with violence – the Muslims”? Why? How did that term refer to Muslims, whether directly or by way of innuendo, which Isa regarded as “a serious provocation”?

Did Isa ever read, or care to read and digest Bishop Kukah’s earlier clarification of his statement, to the effect that he NEVER called for a coup? Kukah, dripping as ever, with his intellectual fecundity and lucidity, had clarified: “If you call for a coup, it means it is something that is not here. It is something that will happen in the future. So, it is grammar”. Was this tutorial not clear enough, especially since no Nigerian, Muslim, Christian, journalist, or those at the corridors of power, has ever challenged this Kukah’s clarified position? By the way, are these Muslim bodies, JNI, MURIC, and others ceaselessly baying for Kukah’s holy and spiritual blood no longer led by the temperate, suave, urbane, exposed, cerebral, accommodating and pan-Nigerian Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar CFR? Is Bishop Kukah no longer a Northerner, simply because he is a Christian? Or is the Northern space is no longer available for non-Muslim Northerners and non-Northern Christians?

When has it become a crime to criticise and critique government, or speak truth to power and interrogate authority? When did Nigerians ever agree to suspend our inalienable, civil and constitutional rights, liberties and freedoms, simply because President Buhari is in power? When did Nigerians agree to elect into office a Loius XIV of France, who, in his inebriation with the liquor of power and absolute despotism, once proudly stood in front of Parliament (on April 13, 1865) and declared imperiously, “L’etat c’est moi” (“I am the State”)?

Are these bootlickers, fawners, ego-masseurs, and corridors-of-power- crawlers and grovellers really helping President Buhari at all to find rhythm, compass and synergy? Didn’t they hear that even white pigeons stubbornly refused to obey Buhari and fly out of their cages, days ago, at the commemoration of the Armed Forces Remembrance Day? Was this not enough ominous sign that it is not only Nigerians, but even the animal kingdom that is fed up with Buhari’s chaotic, vacuous, incompetent, clueless, abrasive and iron-grip rule of impoverishment and adjective penury.

LEAVE KUKAH ALONE. LET KUKAH BE. TOUCH NEITHER A LIMB, NOR A HAIR OF HIS. Kukah is Psalm 105:15 and Chronicles 16:22 (“touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm”). It was the Holy Sea, the Papacy in Rome (the only country within a country), that posted Bishop Kukah to serve in Sokoto. No man, woman or group in Nigeria, has the capacity, authority or right to send him packing, or threaten him to leave Sokoto.

About Bishop Matthew Kukah

Fiery 69-year-old Bishop Hassan Mathew Kukah, has been working in the Lord’s vineyard for 45 years as a Priest. The no-nonsense pulpit terror of bad governments and dictators, was ordained a Catholic Priest on December 19, 1976. He attended the University of Ibadan for a Diploma in Religious Studies; Pontifical Urban University, Rome in 1976, for a Bachelor of Divinity; University of Bradford, United Kingdom in 1980, for a Master’s degree in Peace Studies; and the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 1990, for a Ph.D. It was during his doctoral studies that he produced his first book, “Religion and Politics in Northern Nigeria”. The former Secretary of the Oputa Truth Commission was a consultant to the Vatican for 5 years, and has remained a powerful resonating voice in Nigeria’s polluted socio-economic and political firmament.

So frustrated have I also personally been with President Buhari’s nepotic and sectionalistic government, that I once asked rhetorically in exasperation (in an earlier write-up): “Are we not fast sliding into the “Northern Republic of Nigeria”, or “Federal Republic of the North”, or “Northern Nigerian Republic”, or “Republic of Northern Nigeria”, or “Federal Republic of Northern Nigeria” or “Republic of Northern Nigeria and others”.

Bishop Kukah is a pan-Nigerian, non-sectional, non-ethno-religious cleric. LEAVE KUKAH ALONE.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“It is the desire of the good people of the whole country that sectionalism as a factor in our politics should disappear…”- Rutherford B. Hayes.