By Simon Reef Musa
My Lord Bishop,
I do not really know whether it was my initial intention to write a secret or an open letter on the occasion of your 68th birthday that is today, August 31, 2020. When last week I called Your Lordship to find out where you would be today, I was looking forward to the completion of your numerous missionary trips that would have afforded you an opportunity for a brief Passover in Abuja. With this hope now dashed, I am left with no any option than write you this letter.
Today, being your 68th birthday, is not like any other day. This is the first time you are observing such a day as an orphan. For some of us who were orphaned over 20 years ago, we have been accustomed to the fear of being thrown out without love of both parents. While our parents lived, we were completely oblivious of the gift of their presence, but when they breathed their last, we suddenly became vulnerable and expecting to be pounced upon by some monstrous forces that seemed to have suffered incapacitation by reason of their lives.
Let me congratulate you on the successful funeral obsequies for Mama who transited to glory to meet with the triumphant saints. Her funeral programme reminded me of my young years as an altar boy as I ruminated on the glorious passage of the Saint. Mama, no doubt, must have been proud and felt honoured by the presence of numerous Bishops, political leaders and the community that turned out to pay their last respect.
Sorry for digression, My Lord. The attainment of 68 years by anyone is not a mean feat in a nation where life expectancy is a little over 54 years. When last I saw you during the funeral of Mama, you looked 55+. However, I am always reminded that longevity resides in the DNA of the Kukahs. With Papa walking to his grave after nearly a century of active life, Mama’s transition on July 10, 2020 @86 is a clear pointer that the blessings of long life and prosperity by the Almighty God is an enduring blessing for the Kukah Family.
My Lord, there’s no denying the fact that 68 years of your life has been wonderfully blessed, and the astounding height you presently occupy has been attained through great personal sacrifices blessed by the Almighty God. Your sojourn in the Lord’s Vineyard has not only advanced the cause of the Church, but also gone too far beyond our imagination. I am constantly reminded by my media colleague and brother, Mr. Jacob Edi, that if eventually the Papacy comes to Africa, we the Bakulu Nation in Nigeria are in good stead to get the crown.
Looking down memory lane and the profile of dedication to causes embarked on absolute humility that Your Lordship has displayed, the ‘Mustard Seed’, having exposed the underlining of ‘Religion, Politics and Power in Northern Nigeria’, eventually turned into our nation’s ‘Witness For Justice.’ All through these years, you have held out the flame of light to illuminate the dark channels that have characterised our mutual suspicion and fears.
When we whisper in the dark that Your Lordship is not speaking enough for us, our tragedy is made worse by the failure of our political class to provide effective and quality representation. Like when military officers from our region failed to do the needful during their days when they held sway, our present political leaders whom I have always referred to as traders are now primarily preoccupied with epicurean life styles founded on the promotion of hedonistic ventures.
More worrisome, My Bishop, is the complete neglect of the youth by our present leadership to walk to the future. Our elders are still hungrier and still in love with the floodlights. When our society describes people of age 50+ as “these small boys”; it is not only anachronistic but also evil. The elderly that should be at the background providing wisdom are still enmeshed in seeking leadership positions to ease their crawl towards the grave.
There’s complete disconnect between the old and new generation. Our politics has been turned into money-chasing venture as only persons with deep pockets can buy their way through the electoral ballot. There is a great gulf between sincerity for success and gaming the system for success. Those who embrace the former can’t have enough handkerchiefs to wipe away their tears, while the later have their bank accounts growing in leaps and bounds.
Why do I bother My Lord with our present malaise? As a shepherd to our oppressive politicians and the voiceless, these political leaders thronged your scared abode to seek ecclesiastical blessings. Like the shepherd that you are, you know the sheep and the goats and those who are out to afflict the vulnerable. Your Lordship, you must never be tired of reminding them of their greed and the vanity of mortality. I know the quest for wealth has never been your intention. If money were your dreams, you would have deployed your intellectual prowess to make it. I request that My Lord continue to appeal to these oldies who have refused to quit the stage before the old altars are pulled down by same youths who are now victims of their greed.
I do not share the sentiments that Southern Kaduna has been marginalised. Nigeria has been fair to the Southern Kaduna people during both the military era and civil democracy. During the military regimes, we had no fewer than 10 military administrators. What did we get in return? Not even a signboard owned by the Federal Government! When Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai appealed to the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, to establish a Command Secondary School in Southern Kaduna, it was a subtle message that was clear to us on our missed opportunities. I won’t bore you with further fruitless narration of how our hopes were dashed in the struggle for creation of Southern Kaduna state and how many of military officers who thought today would never come played their cards.
The collapse of the military jackboots in May 1999 brought a refreshing hope and renewed our dream for a better future. We had all the juicy appointments, but what did we make out of it? Disappointingly nothing. We were in charge of the army for almost six years. We headed the Nigerian Navy for nearly three years. We called the shots for over four years at the Federal Ministry of Finance when it mattered the most. We had no fewer than five ministers. We even had a governor that never lived to complete his first tenure. When former President Goodluck Jonathan finally crowned one of our own as the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), what happened. Few months after his sack, he was so proud to tell us in a gathering that his daughter never got a job in NNPC while he served as GMD. What a waste, My Lord!
Now that we have become national and global attention of mass killings in Nigeria, some of us have been turned into hunters of misfortunes. With the present government of Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai living in shameless denial of mass killings ripping across our communities, we have been reduced to seekers of aids to assist thousands of our internally displaced persons (IDPs) scattered in various camps. With leaders of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), headed by Hon. Jonathan Asake, unveiling the spectre of genocide in our petrified communities, the lackadaisical disposition of the Kaduna State Government in tackling the monsters of bloodbaths spells grim days ahead for our people.
My Bishop, I am aware that you are involved in various efforts at bringing peace to our crisis-weary communities. Your Lordship should be wary of people who sees their participation in these peace efforts as an opportunity to earn a little trust and favour from a state government that has not demonstrated any commitment to peace. The road to peace in Southern Kaduna should be inclusive of all stakeholders. Without recourse to a peace strategy that is apolitical that cuts across ethnic and religious divide, our hope of realising peace will continue to be a mirage.
I am 51+ today, and I am convinced far beyond reasonable doubt that our problem lies in our wrong approach to politics made complex by the short-sightedness of our political leaders to work for the big picture that serves the interest of all. While the el-Rufai-led government has become the greatest impediment to peace in Southern Kaduna, only unbiased sons and daughters of our region can galvanise critical stakeholders that are within and outside of the state, and across ethnic, religious and political divide to create an enabling platform for peace in our region.
For now, whatever is being done to achieve peace should be away from the floodlights. Politics will always play out as the opposition would always wish the present rancour continues for advantage. Even when a balance of propaganda is achieved on the crisis as advocated by former Deputy Governor Bala Barnabas Bantex, as contained in his leaked telephone conversation, it would never ease off the intensity of our woes as those who benefit from our predicament are incapable of working for peace.
We have never been without any island of hope in the midst of the desert of our despair. The present efforts at establishing the NOK University Kachia remains an unprecedented feat by the indomitable spirit of determination. As you are involved in this venture, I pray you spared no effort to ensure the reality of this laudable project.
While I earnestly pray for God’s continued presence in your life, be re-assured that we shall never fail in thanking God for the gift of your life. Today as a people, we are graciously offering thanks to the Eternal Creator for your life and praying for many more decades of service in abundant health and prosperity in service to God and humanity.
Happy Birthday Our Bishop!
Simon Reef Can be reached via: email@example.com