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Kukah: Travails Of A Witness To Crisis, Confusion


KUKAH-CARTOONThe burden which Reverend Father Hassan Matthew Kukah, the Bishop of Sokoto; carries revolves around the admixture of his idealist and realist posture about Nigeria.

Top on that, social commentator and analyst from Kaduna State also carries the cross of the Christian faith as a priest within the Catholic fold. As a Catholic, Father knows the import of the Vatican Council position that social communication must come into play to ginger the laity into responsible activity in evangelizing the world! He must have also read the 1972 encyclical of the Pope, where it was stated that through the tiny crack, the smoke of Satan enters the Church.

Yet in his symbolic white cassock, the priest shows that he operates in the power of the light of Christ to dispel the clouds of darkness. Like all priests of the Catholic Church, Father Kukah knows that he has been called to serve, not only as a harbinger of justice and peace, but also as the messenger of reconciliation.

As such, having put on the whole armour of the Lord with his waist girded with truth, the Priest goes about doing good to all manner of men. But recently, after a visit to the seat of Nigeria’s federal government, alongside other members of the Peace Committee; Bishop Kukah was anointed to speak to journalists on the crux of their meeting with the converted democrat, President Muhammadu Buhari.

By the time he was done and the journalists did justice to the report, nobody had time to enquire whether the Catholic prelate remembered to take his shield of faith to quench the violent darts of the wicked and sentimental apologists.

Though he did not solicit for the impromptu appointment as the spokesperson of the Peace Committee, (PC) by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar; Bishop Kukah gave his best shot to it.

Keeping nothing back or employing the trade mark double speak of those usually called to give account of such closet meeting, the Bishop believed he was doing the cause of national development much good and told exactly what message the wise men delivered to the throne.

As it were, the details of what transpired between PMB and the PC members behind closed doors happened to be the operation of the much vaunted anti-corruption crusade of the president and criticality of peace in the country.

Having denied suggestions in some quarters that former President Goodluck Jonathan sought the intervention of the Committee against President Buhari in the probe of the former administration, Bishop Kukah told the journalists: “We need to affirm that this is our country and the only thing we can collectively be opposed to is injustice, iniquity, corruption and in that regard we all had one single conversation.”

But the side of the conversation which did not go down well with the holier-than-thou mob nurtured by a particular political interest group, is the attempt to remind the All Progressives Congress, (APC) electoral mascot that Nigeria is no longer under a military rule.

As one well trained in the art of social and mass communication, Bishop Kukah further rebuffed attempt to interpret the Peace Committee’s observations on the methodology of the anti-corruption fight as a ploy to heat up the polity. “It is not heating up the polity.

In our conversation with President Jonathan and members of the parties, I don’t think any Nigerian is in favour of corruption or is against the President’s commitment to ensuring that we turn a new leaf.

I think what we are concerned about is process, it is no longer a military regime and under our existing laws everybody is innocent until proven guilty,” the Bishop declared.

Perhaps suspecting that the issue of process and its centrality to democratic governance may ruffle some feathers, the emergency spokesman added: “Our commitment is not intimidate or fight anybody, the former president’s commitment and what he did still remains spectacular and I think that President Buhari himself appreciates that.

So our effort really is to make sure that the right thing is done.”    But despite the innocuous nature the Peace Committee message, no sooner had Bishop Kukah’s briefing appeared on major national news media than all the wasps and bees descended on him.

The holier-than-thou mob aimed their fiery darts the Catholic Bishop such that the immediate impression created was that the Bishop was evangelizing for corruption and interceding for captains of corruption.

What Bishop failed to recognize was that those who favour the rule of mob still felt at home with the divisive nature of the country. And perhaps as they could not be pacified with blood of dogs and baboon during or after the election, they craved a continuation of hate.

If their masters and mascot could not provide answers for the myriad of economic hardship, they decided to show their contentment with the placebo of anti-corruption battle! But unlike Pilate who washed his hands to shirk responsibility, Bishop Kukah told his truth quietly and got his head bloodied with insults, innuendoes and imprecations! Never before has a priest been in so much trouble for speaking truth to power.

Yet those who know him would remember that Bishop Hassan Kukah from the valiant Zango Kataf region of Southern Zaria; is not new to controversies.

Around February 2014, Bishop sent jitters down the spines of impoverished Nigerians when he described the N7 billion budget planned for the National Conference, saying that the money was but a chicken feed by Nigerian standard.

The prelate explained that going by the quantum of money looted by politicians and their cronies from the nation’s treasury, the N7 billion earmarked for the three-month long national conservation, appears insignificant. “The N7bn is just pocket money that is chicken feed by Nigerian standard.

That is if you consider how much money is being stolen from this country. So, even if they are going to commit N10bn for people to stay in hotels in Nigeria it probably may not be enough…,” the Bishop stated.

Before then, in 2010 shortly after President Jonathan mounted the saddle as substantive President, Kukah, as a true-public analyst contributed his thoughts in the argument of whether, in view of the zoning arrangement with the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) it is ideal for the President to contest the 2011 presidential election.

The Bishop said: “Jonathan cannot run without severe implications for Nigeria. There are a lot of issues that I think we need to address were he to decide to run.

They include the agreement, the zoning provision, which is purely a political issue. He will have to find a way of pacifying other segments of Nigeria within the PDP who are taking that policy as a given with all these structural deficiencies.

I also think that we haven’t gotten to a point where we can pretend that region, religion, ethnicity and community don’t matter; tragically they do matter.”

The Bishop explained that Nigeria “cannot create a vibrant democracy without creating an environment where everybody feels that their voices matter and everybody feels that they are part and parcel of that process.”

So the Bishop’s insistence on process is not a recent precept.  Bishop Kukah caught national attention as a mediator and public commentators during his stay in Kaduna Diocese of the Catholic Church.

He is always sought for when membership of critical committees is being considered. After serving in the Ogoni-Shell Mediation Initiative, he was a member of the National Electoral Reform Commission and visible subset of civil societies.

Apart from delivering keynote speeches and public lectures, Bishop Kukah demonstrates his patriotism and keen understanding of Nigeria’s socio-economic challenges at different fora.

However, it was his membership of the Nigeria Human Rights Investigation Committee, otherwise known as the Oputa Panel that the multilingual priest became renown. Clutching his mini-laptop during virtually all the Committee’s sittings, most Nigerians actually saw Reverend Dr. Kukah as the Secretary of the panel.

He recognized this fact in his account of the proceedings of that panel which he recorded in his Book, Witness to Justice.   If anything, though his path and that of General Muhammadu Buhari could not cross during the penal sittings, he recollected the implication of GMB’s decision to shorn the panel in his book stressing that such arrogance did not conduce to national reconciliation.

It was not only GMB but all the former military rulers that shunned the panel including Ibrahim Babangida that Kukah demonstrated his righteous anger against.

He could not even spare the man who set up the Committee, the then President Obasanjo, who he accused of not releasing the report of the panel and thus rendering the committee’s work an exercise in futility not minding the humongous amount of resources especially money and man hours put into the exercise.

Tracing his background, Bishop Kukah’s desire for a better Nigeria is not in doubt. But his recent outing in a period of great national crisis of confidence and confusion opened him up to an evil tradition of impugning on the integrity of those who oppose the emerging power club.

It is however gladdening that Bishop Kukah’s white Sutan is not embroidered with ethnic, political or ideological coloration. It is perhaps the discovery that the man’s cassock is without wrinkle, blemish or any such thing that the powers that he invited him for a private audience with the president.

But even at that, what is written, Father Kukah has sounded the necessary alarm bell against an onset of draconian tendencies. Born on August 31, 1952, Reverend Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah was ordained a priest of the Catholic Church on December 19, 1976 and he celebrated his first mass on December 20, 1976 at Gidan Bako Catholic Mission, Zangon Kataf local government council of Kaduna State.

Who knows, having begun the priestly office during a time of military rule in Nigeria, the antics of military men in politics are not lost on him.

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