The Storm Priest: Anniversary Tribute to Kukah | The Guardian Nigeria News

Praises and tributes are pouring down like fresh rain on Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, as it should be. He turned 70 on August 31. At 70, the countdown begins for all men and women born of women. He can rightly stand on this three-twenty-ten-year-old promontory and review his wonderful but difficult journey over his 46 years of tending the flock and finding and guiding the lost sheep home.

Kukah is an exceptional Nigerian. He is an exceptional religious leader; an outstanding patriot and a man who sincerely believes that if religious leaders do not provide moral leadership, political leaders will be lost and the people with them. He has done titanic things as a Nigerian, as a priest, as a community leader, as a democrat, as a scholar, as a great advocate for unity and peace in our country and as one of the Guardians and Guardians of the Flickering Flames. of our democracy.

A brave man, Kukah has often put himself in danger by saying what does not please those who consider themselves entitled to saccharine-coated lies. He speaks the truth, the bitter truth, to power. His written words bite as much as his spoken words. But he speaks, writes and preaches without malice, canaille and hypocrisy. He wears his transparent honesty on his cassock. If his detractors were successful, they would padlock his lips and the only sound you’ll hear will be the muffled sounds of Kukah’s padlocked lips.

As a priest, Kukah takes seriously his priestly and moral responsibilities to his country and its citizens. He has chosen to occupy the solitary high moral level when men who have anointed themselves as men of God sup with the devil and, for political stew, are complicit in twisting the truth and misleading our leaders. policies. I believe it is feared as much as it is respected – and even hated, by those who hate to accept the bitterness of bitter kola.

When he drops the cane into the backs of our political leaders at the highest level, it is not out of hatred but for the sole purpose of trying to divert them from the broad path of political perdition and direct them towards the narrow path that leads to national peace, unity, progress and development. He is an ardent defender of fairness and justice in our country, even when these go against the tide in a country whose rulers and ruled have lost their way and their souls in the garbage of lucre; and where the many places of worship are attempts to deceive God, not to praise Him. He berates our political leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari, for their incompetent and indifferent leadership.

When the bishop declared that the president had destroyed the country, the president’s henchmen rose up in arms against him. They attribute his honest criticism to his alleged hatred of the president. Kukah doesn’t hate the president. He hates the fact that the man who presented himself as the only man capable of cleaning up what he called the mess the country was in, was remarkably successful in withdrawing his deposit from the public goodwill bank and made a bigger mess of the country. that he found it. Buhari watches as everything goes wrong in the country under his watch. Newspaper editorials highlighted that he was absent from duty.

When the Bishop said that Nigeria was the ninth most dangerous country in the world for Christians, he said so because it was the current widening of our religious fault line. Kukah does not speak to destroy; he speaks to build; he does not speak to disunite; he speaks to unite. His sin, for which I urge him to do penance, is that he is irrepressible. They don’t make priests like him anymore. The Christian religion has been transformed into a lucrative secular business in the mighty name of Jesus.

My first encounter with the then young Catholic Reverend Father dates back to the mid-eighties, a few years after the founding of the highly influential weekly news magazine Newswatch. Kukah was a student at Oxford University. He was working on his thesis and came to interview me on his topic dealing with the manipulation of religion in northern Nigeria. He saw that religion had been taken out of the closet and was in danger of poisoning religious and ethnic relations in our very diverse religious and ethnic nation. He, like the late Dr. Yusufu Bala Usman, knew where this would lead the ancient region and the country and sought to draw public attention to what he then saw as a looming national problem. Now it’s on us.

He was curious how a man with my kind of names became the editor of the New Nigerian in July 1982. I told him I was not sure how and who made the decision. I told him that I had been pressured into accepting the position and had resisted because I saw the paper rapidly degenerating from its Olympian height as a citadel of courage, fairness and journalistic excellence in which its first editor, the late Mallam Adamu Ciroma, led it to be repositioned as a newspaper serving vested Islamic religious interests.

Kukah later published his dissertation in book form with the gripping title of Religion, Politics and Power in Northern Nigeria in 1993. It was prescient. He predicted much of the current shameful manipulation of religion to serve vested political interests in the north in particular and the country in general. But those who should listen are too engrossed in their diabolical agenda to realize that those who stoke the fires of religious division are generally not warmed by it; they are marked by it.

Kukah is a troublesome priest. I can tell you that. Through his lack of skill in writing, he became one of my problems in the New Nigerian. He wrote a weekly Christian religious column, The Mustard Seed, for the newspaper before I became its editor. My predecessor, Mohammed Haruna, must have found out.
But when the Ulema Council took offense at my editorial on regional court judges which echoed the criticisms of Justice Obi Okoye (Okoye was Chief Justice of Plateau State), they cited Kukah as evidence that I relegated Islam to Christianity because I refused to find a Muslim. writer of erudition and genius equal to him. Umaru Sanda wrote the column on the Islamic religion. He had been a staple of the newspaper almost since its inception. I had nothing to do with the recruitment of the two men as religious columnists for the newspaper. It wasn’t my fault Kukah outplayed Sanda. However, I took the rap. Unfair, yes, but I could understand.

Kukah is a tireless man whose frenetic pace I greatly admire, but to whom I cannot aspire. His dedication to finding what is best for our country is total. Without compromising his priestly duties, he has his hands on every pie where his services are needed. He served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by President Obasanjo. And out of that commission came his seminal book, Witness to Justice, a brilliant and informed treatise, if you will, on why this giant of Africa continues to be content with feet of clay. I don’t think he witnessed justice; he witnessed a procession of men who spoke out of both sides of their mouths; he has witnessed cynical abuses of justice; he witnessed the failure of our political leaders to live up to their oath of office to do good for the people and the country.

The bishop is a member of the National Peace Committee chaired by the former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar. At each election, the committee persuaded politicians to commit to a peaceful election with a signed agreement. This has mitigated the tendency of politicians to view and treat elections as a war.

Our country is living a nightmare in its 62nd year of independence from British colonial rule. The worst enemies of our dear country could not have wished us to be where we are today. They expected this giant from Africa to have feet of steel, not clay. They expected that a Nigeria with the largest economy in Africa would not experience the contradiction of being the poorest nation on earth. They expected a country that had endured the killing, pain and trauma of a 30-month civil war to be tied to its own unity, promoted by a sense of fairness, fairness and of Justice. They hoped for a secure country in which the indomitable spirit of Nigerians would find full expression.

But here we are living the nightmare of insecurity, the embarrassing paradox of a rich but poor country more or less ruled by various criminals all under the shadow of centrifugal forces while our merry political leaders struggle to define our crucial national issues, only how to respond to them.

A country in this dungeon of a mess, to use Buhari’s word, needs men like Bishop Kukah to serve as its conscience; to speak out and force our political leaders to realize that governance is not about naked power, but the proper exercise of power in nation building. He is now the only voice crying out in the desert because the tribe of our social critics, once the thorn in the flesh of our leaders, has become thinner through a process of attrition. I’m sure Bishop Kukah expected to celebrate his twenties in an improved country that has found its soul and rhythm. Sorry.

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