Reactions from the northern intellectual community to the Christmas day homily delivered by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Rev Mathew Hassan Kukah was fast and furious in denunciation of both the message and messenger. In his Christmas day message, Bishop Kukah, had once again drawn the attention of the nation to Nigeria’s deteriorating security and economic conditions; the same concerns the Sultan of Sokoto and other prominent Nigerians have raised in the recent past. The only difference between what the Sultan and Bishop of Sokoto said was Kukah’s attempt to dig deeper into root causes of the problems currently bedevilling Nigeria.
In doing this, Bishop Kukah, a priestly intellectual, who has dedicated five decades of his adult life in pursuit of knowledge as solutions to Nigeria’s existential problems ethno-geographic and religious identity dissonance, had situated the current complex web of complicated challenges on the failure of political leadership at the highest level. And this leadership failure is underscored by President Buhari’s sectional and nepotistic tendencies that have put a knife on the unity of an otherwise plural Nigeria; a situation, which has left Nigeria polarised, prostrate and unable to collectively overcome its common challenges of heightened insecurity, economic crisis and cancerous corruption.
For calling out the most powerful political figure of the 4th republic Muslim north of Nigeria, from a pulpit at the seat of the Caliphate, for his elevation of regional sectionalism to an unofficial state policy of his administration, Bishop Kukah inevitably stirred the hornets’ nest and the bees came ferociously after him, stinging hard. Accused by his accusers of partisanship, religious bigotry and subtle attempt to instigate the overthrow of the Buhari administration through a military coup, Bishop Kukah and his Christmas Homily have become subjects of intense character vilification and content distortion. However, beyond casting aspersions on his person, none of the reactions from leading northern intellectuals so far has objectively, factually and truthfully repudiated the core issues raised by the Reverend gentleman in his Christmas day homily
Propelled to the highest office in the land by the forces of a powerful wave religious ethno-geographic populism in the Muslim north, President Muhammadu Buhari has installed the most sectional administration in the 60 years history of Nigeria. President Buhari’s staunch support for the Sharia movement in Nigeria in the early days of the beginning of the fourth republic in 1999, passionate advocacy for the cultural economic privileges of his nomadic ethnic Fulani and his virulent opposition to the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian Southerner, resulted in his emergence as the most popular political figure in Northern Nigeria. And when he took a plunge into the murky waters of Nigerian politics in a determined but failed attempt to wrestle power from the South to North in the 2003 presidential election, President Buhari certified his credentials as a the undisputed champion of northern agenda.
Aided greatly by a combination of mass psycho-social conditioning of Islamist separatism, entrenched culture of ethnic trans-nationalism and politics of regional exceptionalism that defines Northern Nigeria, President Buhari who is seen as a figurative embodiment of these tendencies will earn for himself a cult like following in the Muslim north and secure for him an undivided support base in Nigeria’s largest voting bloc. With his firm grip of the votes of Nigeria’s largest democratic demography, which is estimated to be over 12 million, Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General and former military head of state with a reputation for incorruptibility, was eventually elected President in 2015 after three previous attempt beginning from 2003. As no section alone, no matter how populated can get a person elected as the President of Nigeria, President Buhari’s eventual election into the highest office in the land was achieved by abroad national coalition of political forces across the country.
Notwithstanding the broad based coalition of political forces that brought him to power in 2015, President Buhari will go on to commit the ‘’original sin’’ when he elevated regional sectionalism and nepotism to a near state policy in furtherance of the narrow interest of ‘’northern agenda’’. On allegations of sectionalism nepotism President Buhari hardly needs anybody to defend him as he is his own principal prosecution witness. In furtherance of his pledge to favour those who voted 97% for him against those who voted 5%, President Buhari will match his words with action when he appointed a inequitably proportionate number of people from his northern half of the country into some of the most strategically powerful and influential positions of government that cuts across his kitchen cabinet, administrative cabinet and security services.
In addition to the positions of Chief of Staff, Secretary to the government of the federation and National Security Adviser and GMD of NNPC, the heads of the army, air force, police, DSS, NIA and all other internal security agencies are drawn from northern Nigeria. Of Nigeria’s six geo-political zones, President Buhari’s home region of the northwest has the highest number of cabinet ministers with ten senior ministers including himself as petroleum minister and others like defence, police affairs, justice, finance, environment, agriculture, humanitarian affairs and aviation. In Buhari’s Nigeria, the heads of the executive, legislative and judiciary arms of government are all northerners by the President’s design. It is this unprecedented level of sectionalism, which created an apartheid-like country where all Nigerians are equal but some are more equal than the others that Bishop Kukah described as an attempt by President Buhari to foist a northern hegemony on the rest of Nigeria.
A poor manager of Nigeria’s plurality, President Buhari’s narrow, sectional, clannish and nepotistic tendencies have not only sharply polarised the Nigerian nation along ethno-geographic and religious fault lines but are also inhibitors of the optimal performance of his role as commander in chief, whose duty it is to ensure national for Nigerians and their properties. Interestingly, those conducting the orchestra of Kukah’s denunciation in the theatre of intellectual absurdity are blinded by rage to sufficiently appreciate and understand the kernel of the message contained in the epistle of the Bishop of Sokoto to the Muslim north; President Buhari’s sectionalism has failed the region and its people much more than it has marginalized the rest of Nigeria to their hegemonic satisfaction.
In the words of Bishop Kukah, President Buhari’s sectionalism turned out to be a ‘’counterfeit currency’’ as it has only benefited a few of his family and friends to the detriment of the generality of the people of the region. In the five years of President Buhari’s northern dominated administration, none of the existential problems of northern Nigeria, which includes, poverty, illiteracy, disease and insecurity have been solved. Despite having President Buhari as petroleum minister, the only refinery in northern Nigeria has not refined a litre of petrol for northern consumers. With the bulk of security chiefs from northern Nigeria has not saved the region from becoming the largest human slaughter slab in Africa. And despite appointing more northerners into ‘’juicy’’ positions of government, the region remains the most impoverished part of Nigeria. Yes, because no region of Nigeria can be developed or secured along the lines of sectionalism and nepotism.
Unable, to defend President Buhari’s sectionalism and nepotism, those baying for the blood of Bishop Kukah are now relying on his mention of the word ‘’coup’’ to lynch him. Unbeknownst, to those who are trying hard to crucify the reverend gentleman for his courage to speak truth to power, Nigerians cannot be deceived by the intellectual dishonesty of trying to lucidly misinterpret his message to the Muslim north of ‘’do unto others what you want others do unto you’’ as a call for a coup. Bishop Kukah’s reference to a coup against any non-northern Muslim leader of Nigeria that attempts President Buhari’s level of sectionalism was not a call for a military takeover of power but simply a euphemism to illustrate that the North will not take what one of its own is giving to the rest of Nigeria presently.
And this analogy by Bishop is a fact of history. The July 1966 counter coup that was led by military of northern extraction was a bloody military operation that toppled the sectional and nepotistic tendencies of the Gen Aguiyi Ironsi regime, whose appointments, policies, actions and inactions including his promulgation of the controversial unification decree 34 was perceived in the north as marginalisation of their region in furtherance of his ethnic Igbo agenda of dominating the Nigerian nation. Since the Ironsi ‘’mistake of 1966’’ every non northern Muslim leader of Nigeria comes to the highest office in the land with this consciousness. Therefore, it is rather hypocritical and a naked attempt at living in denial of President Buhari’s debilitating sectionalism for those who recently cried out against president Buhari’s ineptitude and leadership failure over the heightened state of insecurity and poverty in northern Nigeria, with some even boldly demanding his resignation to be the first to denounce Bishop Kukah for unearthing the root causes of their agonising social condition.
For those who denounced Kukah as a partisan who didn’t hold the administrations of Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck with the same standard he doing the current administration of President Buhari, cleverly omitted former President Umar Musa Yar’Adua from their list of former leaders the Bishop didn’t speak out against their nepotism induced bad governance. And for those who consider the Bishop a bigot, conveniently gloss over the fact that Kukah is himself a northerner; the only difference being that whilst they are pre-occupied with the protection of their regional hegemonic privileges, Bishop Kukah is a patriotic Pan-Nigerian nationalist who is more concerned about equal rights for all Nigerians. The failure of leading northern intellectuals that have called out President Buhari on his leadership failure as it affects their region to re-echo Bishop Kukah’s concern about Buhari’s unproductive sectionalism gives the impression to the rest of Nigeria that they want to eat their cake and still have it.