Keep Nigerians “alive, feel whole again”: Catholic Bishop to President-elect at Easter

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Nigeria's Sokoto Diocese. Credit: Sokoto Diocese

The priority of Nigeria’s President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, should be keeping citizens of the West African nation alive, and making them “feel whole again”, the Catholic Bishop of the country’s Sokoto Diocese has said.

In his Easter 2023 Message shared with ACI Africa Sunday, April 9, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah also highlights other priorities for the next President of Africa’s most populous nation, including creating “a large tent of opportunity and hope” for Nigerians, and “exorcising the ghost of nepotism and religious bigotry”.

“I am hopeful that you will appreciate that the most urgent task facing our nation is not infrastructure or the usual cheap talk about dividends of democracy. These are important but first, keep us alive because only the living can enjoy infrastructure,” Bishop Kukah says.

He adds that the “most urgent mission is to start a psychological journey of making Nigerians feel whole again, of creating a large tent of opportunity and hope for us all, of expanding the frontiers of our collective freedom, of cutting off the chains of ethnicity and religious bigotry, of helping us recover from the feeling of collective rape by those who imported the men of darkness that destroyed our country, of recovering our country and placing us on the path to our greatness, of exorcising the ghost of nepotism and religious bigotry.”

Addressing himself to the outgoing President, Muhammadu Buhari, Bishop Kukah wonders if he feels “fulfilled or met the tall dreams and goals such as: ending banditry, defeating corruption, bringing back our girls, belonging to everybody and belonging to nobody, selling off our presidential fleet and traveling with us etc.”


The vocal Nigerian Catholic Bishop whose Christmas 2020 message sparked controversies and condemnation in the West African nation, some quarters accusing the Bishop of “very serious crimes like treason and incitement for a coup” adds in reference to Mr. Buhari, “You may have followed my engagement with you through these Messages over the years. You publicly referred to me during one of our visits as your number one public critic with a huge smile.”

“I commend you for the fact that you have known that none of this was done out of malice but that we want the best for our country,” Bishop Kukah tells the 80-year-old outgoing President who was elected in 2015, and implores, “May God guide you in retirement while we all embark on the challenge of reclaiming the country we knew before you came.”

On March 1, Nigeria’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declared the ruling party candidate, Mr. Tinubu, winner of the presidential election, BBC News reported.

INEC leadership announced that Mr. Tinubu garnered 8.8 million votes against 6.9 million garnered by Mr. Abubakar and Mr. Obi’s 6.1 million votes.

Nigeria’s main opposition parties, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP) disputed the results, accusing the INEC of not uploading the presidential results from the polling stations. A petition against the Presidential election was later filed with the Court of Appeal in Nigeria.

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In his Easter 2023 Message, Bishop Kukah urges the Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court to live up to expectations of Nigerians.

“You face difficult challenges ahead and you are mortals. The future of our country hangs on your deliberations. I will not judge you,” Bishop Kukah says, and continues, “I can only pray that God gives you grace. It will be up to you to decide how you use that gift which no amount of influence or power can buy.”

The Catholic Bishop who has been known for good governance advocacy goes on to fault Nigeria’s judiciary for allowing politicians to ruin its reputation, saying, “Nigerians are saddened that your sacred temples have been invaded by the political class leaving the toxic fumes that now threaten your reputation as the last hope for all citizens.”

“It is sad that your hard-earned reputation is undergoing very severe stress and pressure from those who want justice on their own terms. Nigerians are looking up to you to reclaim their trust in you as the interpreters of the spirit of our laws,” the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese says.

He further says, “The future of our country is in your hands. You have only your conscience and your God to answer to when you listen to the claims and counterclaims of Nigerian lawyers and you have to decide the future of our country.”


He implores, “We pray that God gives you the wisdom to see what is right and the strength of character and conscience to stand by the truth. You have no obligation to please anyone. Our future depends on how you arrive at your much awaited judgment.”

In his April 9 message, the Nigerian Catholic Bishop who has been at the helm of Sokoto Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in September 2011 looks back at the February 25 General elections saying, they “generated so much enthusiasm and excitement among our citizens who believed they would be a defining moment for our country.”

“Nigerians now look back with utter shock as they survey the debris and litter of mangled bodies, destroyed ballot boxes, stolen or torn ballot papers. Yesterday’s dreams turned into a nightmare,” he laments.

The Catholic Church leader who was appointed to the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in January 2021 notes that “every election brings more frustration and anger and the victims all turn on themselves.”

“While citizens seek outlets to express their grievances, they often find that the doors of opportunity to express their dreams are blocked. Misuse of power by the political class creates the conditions for violence,” he says, adding, “Our politics is therefore a clash between right and wrong, justice and injustice, love and pain. Violence is often the last gasp of victims who can’t breathe.”

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He adds, “Nigerians are so collectively frustrated that it is almost impossible to convince them that they can find justice. Everywhere you turn today, Nigerians look forlorn, disconsolate, lugubrious, and despondent.”

Unpleasant as this may sound, Bishop Kukah says, “This blood that they have shed could be seen as blood of the birth of a new Nigeria. It can become the blood of our new birth, our redemption. However, we cannot accept that violence and bloodshed are the normal route to power.”

“The resurrection is a promise that despite the seeming hopelessness, God’s plans cannot be frustrated,” he says, and adds, “Those who position themselves at night with stones to guard the entrance of the tomb will find themselves confounded at dawn by an empty tomb. A new Nigeria will emerge from the tombs of our seeming helplessness.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.