Even You, Father Kukah? by Hassan Gimba



Most Reverend Mathew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, is a catholic priest that burst onto the public domain as a reverend father. Reverend Father thus stuck to him like a second skin. Whatever official progression he achieved in his calling, he has remained a reverend father in the minds of many, including yours truly.

I had two favourite writers in the New Nigeria Newspapers of the 1980s whom I regarded very highly. They were Malam Ibrahim Sulaiman who wrote on Fridays and Kukah who wrote on Sundays. I even had to be cutting their pages and filing them away for future references.

They were intellectual giants even then, and one did not even have to profess the same religion with any of them to understand them. You marvel at their writings whose fluidity entranced, and you came out more educated – irrespective of the degree of your religiosity or leanings. They wrote for the emancipation of man, body and soul. They were tremendous and patriotic with the oneness of humanity oozing out of their words. Their works were the works of patriots.

I have an irredeemable belief in the catchphrase “once a patriot, always a patriot”. But patriots have a short fuse, and they suffer no fools. They are generally not satisfied with happenings in government and around them. But that is the way of the world; humankind is never satisfied with its now. And this is why the world keeps developing. Positive minds recreate the world positively, and evil minds evilly.

Sometimes, in frustration, a patriot, like any other patriot, says things he may not mean or what people may construe wrongly. But sometimes, herd mentality takes over a patriot’s thinking and the vagaries of time diminish his shepherding qualities, and he becomes the shepherded. Victimhood mentality sets in. He becomes paranoid, seeing him and his “people” as being at the receiving end due to a conspiracy of authority or a people.

In his later years, when he should be a voice for all, Bishop Mathew Kukah kept diminishing the quality and quantity of those he speaks for. And once one opts into talking for a segment of society, even if a religious one, one risks becoming an emotional pedagogue. The danger of standing on the pulpit of emotional demagoguery is that one views everything from a subjective perspective. One will no longer be objective or assume the universality of humanity as sacrosanct.

Such is the position my respected Kukah finds himself in. Many people are bashing him for “calling for a coup”. But did he? No, he didn’t. Some believe that by inference that was where he was pointing towards. However, since I am not in the business of lip reading, I want to hold that it was not what he meant. He just said that were a Southern Christian the president, and not Muhammadu Buhari, there would have been a coup with the myriad of problems we are experiencing now. But again, is that so? That could be a speculative exercise.

He was among those who played significant roles in legitimising Buhari’s 2015 coming by being one of those who advised the incumbent to concede. Surely, winning the election was enough to legitimise his coming to power. However, despite popular votes, every incoming government wants specific sectors and individuals to stamp its approval on its emergence. If this is so of even the most autocratic regimes, how much more of a democratic one seeking universal acceptance?

That notwithstanding, by saying there would have been a coup were the president somebody else, he betrayed an emotion that should not have been there. Would there have been a coup against the Goodluck Jonathan government if it was headed by a northerner? You may recall that the service chiefs were virtually all Christians. And we had security problems as well.

Well, you may say, but the problems weren’t as dominating as they are now. And this is because you are speaking from the benefit of hindsight. After all, you saw yesterday and know today. During Jonathan’s era, the thing to understand is that the cry was also “we never had it so bad” just as today’s cry. Yet we were hopeful that tomorrow would be better, and that was why we rejected Jonathan and opted for Buhari. But so had it been throughout human history. Most of the time, it is “we never had it so bad” and hope for better days ahead.

I recently listened to an audio clip of the sermons of the late Kalarawi, who was an Islamic scholar loved for his jocularity in his teachings. From the clip, one could deduce it was around 1992. He was lamenting that a litre of fuel was “now four naira and radio battery (a pair) 80 kobo!” he cried that the world was coming to an end! To Malam Kalarawi and people of the era, that was as bad as it could get because they had never had it that bad up to that time. The argument whether there would have been a coup now with a Southern Christian as president remains academic. It is the same as inferring that there could have been one were a president of Northern Muslim extraction been in charge during Jonathan’s era. And Kukah, of all people, should have known better.

I want to believe that the respected cleric has taken to the mentality of those bitten by the victimhood bug. It is the way of those who for mischief purposes play the ethnic or religious card. The separatist Igbo movement, IPOB, played the ethnic card without success earlier. It did its best to drum up support among gullible Igbos, telling them that insurgents’ killings and those by the bandits were targeted at them. As long as the perpetrator is at large, any imaginable crime in the South is attributed to Fulani herdsmen. It is as if all the tribes are made up of saints and have never had criminals. All this is sentiment whipping meant to pit one or more tribes against one or more others.

Having seen that tribal sentiments aren’t paying dividends, they have now shifted full force to religion. And, unfortunately, with people like Kukah at the wheels. Any Christian who tells the world that Boko Haram and bandits target only Christians is coming from the pit of hell and just competing to be Lucifer’s mouthpiece.

Agreed the monsters execute people in the guise of doing so because they are Christians. They purposely do so to give ammunition to those who want Nigeria to burn in the name of religion. And these fake warriors who get their ammunition from the monsters’ shenanigans use such to attract local and international sympathy. And dollars to their pockets.

But contrary to what they want the world, especially their western paymasters, to believe, the reality belies their words. We should not forget Zabarmari or Auno, Baga, Gwoza or Konduga. Those slaughtered or burnt alive there were Muslims. The five aide workers slain by Boko Haram were Muslims just as Hauwa Liman and Saifura Ahmed, two nurses with the International Committee of the Red cross, abducted by them in Rann, Borno State. The Nigerian government in a press release just said it is “shocked” and “saddened” by the killings.

We should know that for every Christian so killed by them, a hundred Muslims have been killed. For every Leah Sharibu held by them, a hundred Muslim women are in their accursed custody.

However, Mathew Kukah started as a unifier. He was speaking for the fodder everywhere. Perhaps that was one reason some Northern Muslims opened many doors for him, including the privilege of being a columnist for the respected NNN. I know of at least the late Liman Ciroma who facilitated his becoming a writer for the northern mouthpiece.

Many of us who found wisdom in his earlier writings expected him to continue educating us on those marginalised and those not marginalised but “eat” with that term. You see, across the tribes and religions, you find Nigerians who eke out a living through hard work. As unfulfilling as the pay from their work is, these Nigerians provide themselves with everything they need. Well, almost. They secure their environment and provide their electricity and water. They buy their food, pay their bills and see to the education of their children. From the little they make, they also pay their taxes.

Among the cream of society, the top five per cent are people from all the country’s religions and tribes. You can meet even members of the clergy of all the faiths among them. These are people in, or with access to, the corridors of power. The government does for them what the marginalised do for themselves. And they are the ones that benefit from the cry of “marginalisation”, not the oppressed who fight and die for it.

No tribe in Nigeria is marginalised. Indeed, no religion is. All have their fair show of those who suck freely from our commonwealth. And, conversely, all have their ample shares of the downtrodden.

The day the truly marginalised Nigerians from all the tribes and faiths realise this and come together, that will be the day they will get emancipated. Their new self-awareness will give birth to a new Nigeria of peace, justice and fairness. A country that will protect and serve its people that they, in return, will die for her.

We expect the Most Reverend Mathew Hassan Kukah to be with those at the forefront of this enlightenment and march towards building a nation, united as a people, irrespective of where one comes from or turns in prayer.