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Nigeria’s Problems Result from “no clear understanding of who we are”: Catholic Bishop

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The challenges bedeviling the West African nation of Nigeria originate from a failure on the part of citizens to have a national conversation about their identity as members of one nation, a Catholic Bishop in the country has said.

In a Monday, August 9 interview with Arise News, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah highlighted insecurity and the infringement of the freedom of expression and democracy as some of the challenges the people of God in Nigeria are experiencing.

“The critical question this country has not resolved is who are we as Nigerians? This is why the country has become a pressure cooker,” Bishop Kukah said.

He added, “What has happened to us is that the contentious issues have never been debated. We have never had a situation where Nigerians have decided what kind of society we want. We now have a society of ethnic, religious and other forms of allegiance.”

As long as Nigerians do not have a “clear understanding” about their national identity, the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese said, “violence and tension will continue.”

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In the interview with Charles Aniagolu, the 68-year-old Bishop described Nigeria as a “chaotic society” and called on his compatriots to speak out about the challenges they are facing. 

“We have a chaotic society, survival for the fittest and where we are today in Nigeria is a period of gestation, all the terrible things that we have swallowed or left unattended to. I think it is right that we maintain this level of volatility because when we leave those in government to sleep, there will be problems,” Bishop Kukah said. 

He added, “It is not about the big people. We need to create an environment in which everybody is free to aspire to be what they want to be.”

In the interview, the Catholic Church leader also expressed concern about the violation of the freedom of speech and lack of democracy. 

“I worry because we are not at the tail end of democracy,” the Bishop of Sokoto said and added, “It is important that those who govern us know that freedom of speech is a human right and a human right is human, not an aspiration.”

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The Nigerian Bishop who recognized that the West African nation is “in a bad spot” added that the freedom of expression is a God-given right “and nobody can take it away.” 

“We do not need to have democracy to see road construction because that is not what democracy was meant to be,” he went on to say.

“As a Christian, you cannot help but be restless about the unjust society. Jesus said I have come so that you may have life in abundance,” he further said, adding, “I am a guardian of that commitment by virtue of being a Christian and more so, being a Priest.”

He encouraged Nigerians to be vocal saying, “I think it is right that we maintain this level of volatility because when we leave those in government to sleep, there will be problems.” 

“We need to create an environment in which everybody is free to aspire to be what they want to be,” the Local Ordinary of Sokoto who was recently accused of spreading wrong information with an aim of discrediting the Nigerian government further said.

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