, 03 September, 2020 / 9:25 PM
Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese has criticized the government’s tactics in fighting religious extremism, toxic politics, corruption and other vices that threaten to bring the west African country on its knees, saying that the country could do more in asserting its leadership role on the continent.
Bishop Kukah who spoke to Crux ahead of the country’s 60th Independence Day on October 1 said the government’s best has not been “good enough”.
“I think this government has honestly done its best,” the Prelate said when he was asked to assess the way the Nigerian government has been handling the crisis in the country.
He added, “This is all it can do and this is the hand that fate has dealt us. If you challenge Mike Tyson and you are knocked out in the first few seconds, you may have done your best because that is all the strength you have. This is why we said if your best is not good enough, please step aside.”
Describing the situation in Nigeria where reports have indicated increasing religious intolerance in what Bishop Kukah has equated to a genocide, the Church leader said the country’s conflict is “a Molotov cocktail of anger, frustration, religious extremism, toxic politics, corruption and deep rut.”
“The bishops have called for an end to the killings and several other Nigerians have made the same call, including the leadership of the Muslims who have, rather strangely been even more hard hit,” Bishop Kukah said.
He added that the Catholic Bishops in Africa’s most populous nation have advised the President to resign if he thinks he is not capable of governing and securing the country.
“That has not happened. But we only have a moral voice which we have used very well. Stalin mocked the Pope, wondering how many divisions the Pope had. Today, we know better,” the Nigerian Bishop said.
He recounted how the country’s President has been quoted telling the Service Chiefs that their best was not good enough.
“But as you know, it has all become a joke. That is why, prayer is the best option we have because we are really and truly in a dangerous place,” he said.
The Local Ordinary of Sokoto Diocese said that Nigeria is “literally caught in a vortex of violence” and that every segment and section of the country is feeling the violence in different ways.
He further said that it was significant to note that the theatre of war was in northern Nigeria and that the key actors and most destructive forces were those who were fighting for an Islamic caliphate.
“A northerner is in power, northerners are in charge of the security apparatus, and so on. So, this is where we are,” the Bishop resignedly noted.
In his view, every Independence Day brings a sense of foreboding for Nigeria and Nigerians owing to the ills that were being witnessed in the country.
“You look everywhere for a sign of something to smile about, something to hope for, something to find encouraging, and something to cling to and you are looking for a needle in a haystack,” he said, and added, “The frustrations mount, the criminal political and bureaucratic classes get more daring in their exploits, stealing the country blind and leaving an entire nation bleeding.”
The Prelate bemoaned the fact that in an attempt to fight corruption, a commission had been set up to investigate cases of graft but that nothing had come out of it.
Highlighting some of the failure in the government’s attempt to fight corruption, he said, “The current Ag Chairman whom the Presidency has continued to build a moral world around is now facing massive corruption charges. A case of what happens when the hunter becomes the hunted.”
“Yes, our anniversary is here, but Ali Baba and his 40 friends are still in charge,” the Bishop asserted of the country’s projected 60th Independence Day celebrations.
He lamented the fact that in a country that was considered Africa’s largest economy, there were also the continent’s poorest people.
“You sow corruption, you reap poverty, no two ways about it,” the Prelate cautioned, and added, “The day the political elite decide to play by the rules of politics and try to manage pluralism better, we will see its impact on poverty and safety in Nigeria. There is a correlation between economic conditions and people’s predisposition to violence.”
To assert its position as a leader in Africa, the Prelate advised that Nigeria takes “itself seriously and cure itself of the ineptitude and corruption that has reduced its prestige and capacity to assert itself.”
“You cannot be a leader merely because of your population. Population helps, but if you are stealing from your people and making them poor, then you become a liability to everyone,” Bishop Kukah said.
He added, “When Nigeria is ready to lead, everyone will know. But leading Africa raises other questions as to the quality of governance across the continent itself, else it will be a case of one-eyed man as leader. The quality must improve across the board.”
The Church leader explained that Catholic Bishops in Nigeria have called for a 40-day period of prayer ahead of Independence Day because prayer is the only weapon the people of God possess in fighting the ills that the country is grappling with.
“The walls of Jericho fell not by gun fire but by prayer. The walls of Communism crumbled not by nuclear power but by, among other things, prayer,” Bishop Kukah said, and added, “We in Nigeria are quite at home with what prayers can do and have done for us. For us as Christians, we have no standing army, but it is the most powerful weapon we have.”
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