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“Church must remain moral light, guide” amid Fractured African Politics: Nigerian Bishop

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Nigeria's Sokoto Diocese/ Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto in Nigeria has, at a webinar, emphasized the need for Church leaders in Africa, to be the “the moral compass”, guiding politicians on morality amid fractured politics. 

During the virtual session organized by the Sanneh Institute, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah observed that African politics is influenced by religion and ethnicity.  

“Tempting as it is, and fractured as African politics is, we as a Church must remain as a moral light and guide not because we are superior or have better credentials, but because our call is to serve faithfully,” Bishop Kukah said during the June 30 webinar on “The Church and the State in a Multi-party Democracy.”

He added, “The Church must possess the moral authority to ensure that the moral compass remains stable for politicians across generations and across parties.”

If Church leaders remain faithful to their moral duty, Bishop Kukah said, “Politics will become less cancerous in Africa, transparency and accountability will perhaps be more manageable.”  

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“No matter what role the Church plays in bringing people to power, directly or indirectly, it cannot let off its guard. We must remain relentless,” the Nigerian Bishop added. 

He further said that Church leaders can borrow from St. Pope John Paul II who did not stop his prophetic role of interrogating the agencies of state after he helped end communism. 

Bishop Kukah went on to caution Church leaders against engaging in partisan politics such as vying for political seats or endorsing political candidates. 

“A pastor going to seek election under the banner of a political party surrenders his religious authority to civil authority and what he will drive to are not the teachings of the Bible because he will be aligned to the manifesto of the political party,” Bishop Kukah said.  

In his presentation during the June 30 virtual session, the Bishop also noted the reluctance of many followers of Christ to participate in governance issues.  

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He said, “We tend to view politics from the point of party politics but politics is basically the process of distribution and management of human resources, ensuring the maximum good for the maximum number of people. Party politics is completely different from the day-to-day politics that has to do with the management of resources.”

“Whether or not we go into politics, it will come to us because it is about day-to-day issues,” Bishop Kukah said. 

He went on to fault leaders who vie for political seats for the purpose of benefitting members of their ethnic groups and religion. 

“If we work on the philosophical position that politics is purely an opportunity for us to create an advantage for our people, then it is not in line with the principles of Christianity,” Bishop Kukah said.

He added that a politician who aims to create an advantage for tribemates “is not better than an ethnic entrepreneur who is using ethnicity.”

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“That is not our call,” the Nigerian Bishop underscored, adding that “politics should be about the pursuit of the common good.”

He added, “As Christians, we are well placed precisely because if we follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, the teachings of the Gospel about forgiveness, the Christian commandments, private property, the family, we can take on politics and then politics will be better for Africa.”