At Kukah’s Birthday Celebration, Jonathan Urges Nigerians to Be Vigilant to Save Democracy

•You’re selfless, honest, courageous, northern governors tell Sokoto Bishop 

•Tinubu, Fayemi, Tambuwal, Dogara celebrate cleric

Seriki Adinoyi in Jos, Kuni Tyessi in Abuja, Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti and Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi

Former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has urged Nigerians not to lower their guard but use the forthcoming 2023 elections to save the country’s democracy.

He made the call as special guest of honor in his message on the occasion of Bishop Matthew Kukah’s 70th Birthday Celebration held in Abuja yesterday.

In the same vein, the Northern Governors Forum has described Kukah as a selfless, honest and courageous man of God that has remained devoted to his calling as a servant in the Lord’s vineyard and the society at large.

Speaking on the theme of the event, ‘Nigeria’s Unfinished Greatness: Next steps’, Jonathan urged Nigerians to remain vigilant and put all hands on the deck to choose leaders that would take the nation to the promised land

He said, “Obviously, many people, especially our youth are becoming increasingly disillusioned about our politics and our democracy.

“However, we must remain on the democratic path because it is the only practical way of effectively managing our diversity, developing sustainably and recording progress as a nation.

“The task before all of us is not to lower our guard, lest the democracy we cherish today, succumbs to threats and recedes into fascism tomorrow.

“Towards this goal, we are again faced with a good opportunity of choosing our leaders as the nation prepares to go to the polls next year. Let us choose those that will take us to the desired destination and the promised land.

“I am particularly thrilled that Nigerian youths are participating actively in the politics of 2023. According to the latest figures from INEC, youths constitute the majority of the 96.2 million registered voters, in the build-up to the next election. That is a good sign.”

He charged the youths that have registered ahead of the 2023 elections to endeavor to walk their talk by making sure they come out to vote on election day.

According to him, “They should, by all means, resist the machinations of unscrupulous politicians who would wish to exploit them by luring them to commit acts of violence or disrupt the process of free and fair elections.

“Our recent experience with the heightened youth interest in politics shows how desirous they are of participating directly in the governance process.  They now know better not to lend their youthful energy to unpatriotic acts, during elections.”

The former Nigerian president described Nigeria as a work in progress; adding that until that work was done, people like Bishop Kukah, who serve as the conscience of the nation would continue to be around to constantly hold the mirror of the nation’s progression to its face.

He explained, “In the course of the last few years since I left government, I have been involved in the work of promoting democracy, credible elections and peaceful transitions across Africa.

“From what I know and have seen, I can confidently say that the experience and struggle for development are similar in many parts of Africa.

“Nigeria may not be where we want it to and should be, but we should not give up or lose hope by focusing on only the negative.

“Judging from where we are coming from since independence in 1960, we may have been moving slowly in our journey of nationhood, but it is a journey of progress, all the same.

“Our greatness is still work in progress because we have not been able to adequately deploy the enviable human and natural resources that God gave us, to full advantage. It is a task we will continue to work on and improve.

“A nation is an organic being that sometimes suffers setbacks. Along the line, from 1960, the nation no doubt has had its own doses of setbacks. This cuts across civil and military rule. The worst was the three-year civil war.

“In every set back, there are always lessons to be learnt and positive takeaways from such painful experiences that should guide us to a more productive future.”

Dignitaries present at the occasion included: Governor of Ekiti, Kayode Fayemi; Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong; the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu; and his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima.

Others were Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Filippazi; Archbishop of Abuja, His Grace Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama; the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar; the President, Christian Association of Nigeria, Archbishop Daniel Okoh; former governor of Sokoto, Attahiru Bafarawa; former governor of Imo, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha; the National Chairman of the Labour Party (LP), Julius Abure; and the Director-General of Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, amongst others.

Also, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, described Kukah as a man with undying love for the country.

Tambuwal, who chaired Kukah’s ongoing 70th birthday celebration, reiterated the Bishop’s unalterable belief in the possibility of a new Nigeria.

According to him, though Kukah’s critique of the country’s governance have been controversial, he (Kukah) believes Nigeria could and would come out of the woods of failed political leadership.

Tambuwal who was represented by Ihedioha, said,           “Kukah’s writings over the years have become controversial and have drawn the ire of powers that be, but what is not in doubt is his undying love for Nigeria and Nigerians, and his belief in the possibility of a new Nigeria where justice and equity reigns.”

While speaking at the event, former governor of Lagos state and presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) made some derivation from the country’s old national anthem, saying, “though tongues and tribes may differ, in brotherhood we stand.”

He also read out the second stanza which he said was about service to the nation.

According to him, the country’s diversity was a promise for prosperity.

To Kukah, the former governor said, “We have been in tranches together. I can speak for you because of whom you are, a great man, a very resilient intellectual who has made quality contribution to our country.”

The chief host, who spoke about the Kukah Centre, said the Centre came into being out of the desire to help equip young people to stand on their own.

“We realised that the system is so greedy and that the best we can do now is to appreciate that government cannot do everything. 

“Let’s begin to equip young people because in the final analysis no government anywhere in world employs five percent of its people.

“So the rest us have to find something to do because sooner than later drivers will have no job. So we can see the world is going,” he said.

Kukah described the award segment of his 70th birthday event which focused on youths as the best savoured moment of the entire celebration.

You’re Selfless, Honest and Courageous, Northern Governors Tell Kukah

Meanwhile, the Northern Governors Forum has described Kukah as a selfless, honest and courageous man of God that has remained devoted to his calling as a servant in the Lord’s vineyard and the society at large.

Chairman of the Forum, Lalong, who was felicitating with the famous Bishop on the occasion of his 70th birthday, also described Kukah as a man who has always been driven by the passion to speak against injustice, oppression and other actions that negate principles of God and his love to humanity.

In a statement by Lalong’s media aid, Simon Macham, the Northern Governors said they acknowledged his sincere contributions to the efforts in addressing Nigeria’s challenges in education, justice administration, poverty eradication, peaceful coexistence, youth empowerment, and national unity through his consistent advocacy at various fora.

The governors specifically commended the role Bishop Kukah has played in advancing Nigeria’s democracy and promoting credible, violence-free and acceptable elections as Convener of the National Peace Committee headed by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, as well as steering national discourse and engagement through his foundation, The Kukah Centre.

The governors said the passion and determination of Bishop Kukah to reach out to the youths and speak to them about their role as future leaders of the country has inspired many of them to look beyond the current challenges and work towards building a better nation.

While wishing him many more years of God’s blessings, good health and protection, Lalong said the Northern governors and Nigeria at large shall continue to benefit from his wealth of knowledge, experience and wise counsel, urging him never to relent in speaking truth to power whenever the situation arises.

Fayemi, Dogara Celebrate Kukah

In a related development, Fayemi also congratulated Kukah on his 70th birthday, describing his contributions to national development as outstanding.

The governor in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary Yinka Oyebode, yesterday, described Kukah as a special breed and a gift to Nigeria and humanity.

The governor said Bishop Kukah has been a voice for the vulnerable and the less privileged; adding that the priest has an irrevocable commitment to fighting injustice and human right violations.

The chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), hailed Kukah for his patriotism which he said was evident in his contributions to national discourse; stressing that the priest cum scholar has never shy away from speaking truth to power.

Eulogising Kukah’s virtues of integrity, hard work, resilience and humility; Fayemi said the attributes endeared the priest to the people across tribes and faiths in Nigeria.

“Bishop Kukah embodies humility, courage, integrity and diligence. His passion for the masses, especially the vulnerable and less privileged is second to none. Such a man can best be described as a special gift of God to his generation.

“On this occasion of his 70th birthday, I wish him long life and good health so that he can continue his selfless service to humanity.

“On behalf of my wife, the government and the good people of Ekiti State, I congratulate Bishop Kukah and wish him many more years of celebrations,” Fayemi said.

In a related development, the immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, in a statement by his Media Aide, Turaki Hassan Adamu, made available to newsmen in Bauchi yesterday, described Bishop Kukah as a philanthropist, leader and man of courage and a crusader for justice.

“On behalf of my humble self and family, I join the global community of friends, colleagues, and  millions of  followers, admirers and supporters alike to rejoice with and celebrate our Leader and father in the faith, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah.

“I celebrate your life of service to God and humanity. I celebrate your numerous humanitarian and philanthropic endeavours over the years. I celebrate the courageous leadership you are providing both at the level of the church, the body of Christ and the global community at large.

“My Lord, Bishop; without any doubt, you are one of the finest and erudite scholars our generation is blessed with. Your passion for the gospel of liberation which you preach without equivocation, as James H. Cone noted – “is bad news to all oppressors because they have defined their ‘freedom’ in terms of slavery of others.

“You never wavered in your pursuit of a just, free, , inclusive, peaceful and egalitarian society as a crusader for justice who has never shied away from speaking the truth to power in love even when it makes some people uncomfortable.

“As you clock 70 glorious years today, I pray that your ink never runs dry. I pray for more divine wisdom. I pray for sound health and above all I pray for divine protection upon you.”

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