By Femi Adesina
Under the camouflage of ‘speaking truth to power,’ it has become a regular thing for the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, to take potshots at President Muhammadu Buhari, and the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).
When I saw the media reportage of his Christmas homily for 2022, I observed that it was in two distinct directions. The larger percentage took it from the negative: ‘Kukah blasts Buhari again; accuses him of failure to fight corruption, nepotism, and making Nigeria vulnerable.’
And there was the other perspective, which was positive but less popular and commonplace: ‘Kukah commends Buhari on infrastructural development.’ It emanated from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
On reading the varying reports, I went searching for the full text of the homily, which I fortunately got online. I read it. Not as bilious and hateful as previous ones, but only laced with some inexactitude, which should be corrected for the sake of posterity.
This piece is, therefore, not an excoriation or flagellation of Kukah, but just a setting straight of the records. Kukah the cook came with a meal that didn’t quite satisfy the palate. Too little or too much salt? Too little or too much pepper? Over-spiced or under-spiced? Overdone or underdone? But something was not quite right with the cooking, and that was responsible for the negative media reportage.
Recall that the Bishop was particularly acerbic and virulent in his Christmas homily last year. And those of us that speak for the President did not suffer the poor cook gladly. My colleague, Mallam Garba Shehu and myself, as laymen, did the needful, and pointed out the holes in the homily. The Bishop went on a shooting spree, opening fire at us on TV and newspapers. He even challenged us to duels, employing language which I said an altar boy should not use, not to talk of a 70-year-old Bishop. But we had had our say, so we ignored him after the first fusillades.
This year’s homily, on reading the full text, was less toxic. But this was the portion the media feasted on. Speaking directly to President Buhari, the cleric said:
“It is sad that despite your lofty promises, you are leaving us far more vulnerable than when you came, that the corruption we thought would be fought has become a leviathan and sadly, a consequence of a government marked by nepotism. In my Christmas Message last year, I pointed out the fact that you had breached the Constitution by your failure to honour and adhere to the federal character provisions of our Constitution. The evidence is all before us all.
“I want to commend you, however, for the efforts you have made in the area of infrastructure. There has been a measurable improvement in the landscape especially in the area of roads. I commend you for the efforts and honesty of seeking to end malfeasance in the electoral processes and your courageous support for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Am I to believe that you knew and could do nothing about the Muslim-Muslim ticket within your Party? Still, we pray for a free, fair and credible election. Since this is your last dance, I do wish you a merry Christmas. Next year, as your Bishop, I will endeavour to visit you in Daura to catch up on outstanding Tithes and other duties you owe your Diocese.”
“To all the Members of the political class, a happy Christmas. You are seeking power at a time that the nation is in severe distress. You must demonstrate that you grasp the length and breathe (sic) of the problems that our country faces…”
Let’s look at the allegations. “You are leaving us far more vulnerable than when you came.” How? In what way? Where was the Bishop in 2015, when the polity had been completely shot to ribbons, and you couldn’t exactly say this was where Nigeria stood? Was there even a Nigeria, with insurgents running riot across the length and breadth of the country, bombing the land to kingdom come? The Bishop forgets, or is too filled with amnesia to remember. If Nigeria was vulnerable to death, destruction, destabilization, it was the situation before Buhari came, more than now. To a great deal, he has stabilized the land, crushed vermin, and is cleaning the polity. The job is not fully done, but is being done. Daily.
Bishop Kukah has been accused many times of being a political priest, with propensity for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and great antipathy for the APC. That was possibly the prism from which he saw things, and, therefore, his erroneous conclusion of “more vulnerable.”
Again, he alleged that corruption was not fought, and had become a leviathan. Yes, when corruption creeps under the robes and cassocks of even priests, they would never see it being fought. Just a fortnight ago, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa, was guest at the weekly State House press briefing. Facts he unveiled were enough to show the yeoman’s work being done. But people like Bishop Kukah listen only to themselves, and have no time for alternative reality. So, when the monster is being assailed and being badly wounded, all they still see is the leviathan.
And by the way, if corruption is rife in a country, is it necessarily just the fault of a President? No. It is the fault of everyone, including the people, the institutions, the family, religious leaders, political leaders, everyone. If the Bishop was succeeding in his duty as a priest, then his adherents should be less prone to corruption, and the leviathan should have been slain, or badly wounded. So, if corruption is still the monster the Bishop claims it is, then he, too, is failing as a moral authority and guide.
Another allegation. Nepotism, which the priest did not justify. But he spoke of Federal Character, and I challenge him to bring instances of breach. The mistake he makes is to think that all appointments in the land are subject to that constitutional provision. No. There are positions that must be filled according to the principles of balance and equity, and those that are subject to presidential prerogatives. President Buhari is a scrupulous one when it comes to obeying the Constitution, and the allegation of nepotism is always a rife one in the country. It has trailed every President, and it will most likely always be there. But we expect our priests to be more informed, particularly the highly educated ones. However, some people never see good in other segments of the country, particularly the much vilified Fulani. Pity.
Bishop Kukah seeks to posture as a friend of the President, whenever he visits the Presidential Villa. And that justifies his jocular future visits to Daura, to collect ‘tithes,’ after the President retires. Well, President Buhari has no enemy. As I wrote recently, he has no malicious bone in his body, and will always cheerfully welcome Kukah.
But then, we know those who are working for the good of the country, and those who are sowing hate and discord. As William Shakespeare wrote, “Deep malice makes too deep incision.” That was why Fela Anikulapo-Kuti sang; Teacher, don’t teach me nonsense.
And we also ask the cook not to cook us nonsense.
Femi Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity