, 13 February, 2020 / 3:25 AM
At the burial ceremony of 18-year-old Michael Nnadi, the Nigerian seminarian abducted from the Good Shepherd Major Seminary and murdered last month, the Local Ordinary of his native diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto has decried insecurity situation in the West African country, faulted the country’s President, and expressed the hope that Michael’s death becomes a turning point for Christian persecution in Africa’s most populous nation.
“No one could have imagined that in winning the Presidency, General Buhari would bring nepotism and clannishness into the military and the ancillary Security Agencies, that his government would be marked by supremacist and divisive policies that would push our country to the brink,” Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah decried in his homily Tuesday, February 11 during Michael’s burial at Good Shepherd Major Seminary in Kaduna State, Northwest Nigeria.
Michael was among four seminarians kidnapped from Good Shepherd Major Seminary the night of January 8. On February 1, Bishop Bishop Kukah broke the sad news Michael’s murder by his abductors that had happened January 28.
The kidnapping of the seminarians and the eventual murder of Michael have reinforced the serious concerns about the security of Christians that Church leaders in Nigeria have continually expressed over the past several months, faulting the country’s administration for failing to prioritize the security of citizens, especially followers of Jesus Christ.
In an open February 4 letter, the retired Archbishop of Lagos, Anthony Olubunmi Cardinal Okogie warned President Buhari that he “will be answerable to God for every life that Boko Haram has destroyed.”
According to Bishop Kukah, President Buhari has not only “displayed the greatest degree of insensitivity in managing our country’s rich diversity” but has also “subordinated the larger interests of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen and women.”
Referencing President Buhari’s 2015 election when he promised to “improve intelligence gathering and border patrols to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels,” the 67-year-old Prelate told the mourners, “The Fulani, his (Buhari’s) innocent kinsmen, have become the subject of opprobrium, ridicule, defamation, calumny and obloquy. His north has become one large graveyard, a valley of dry bones, the nastiest and the most brutish part of our dear country.”
Despite President Buhari “running the most nepotistic and narcissistic government in known history, there are no answers to the millions of young children on the streets in northern Nigeria, the north still has the worst indices of poverty, insecurity, stunting, squalor and destitution,” the Nigerian Prelate bemoaned.
Terming the Sultan of Sokoto and the Emir of Kano “the two most powerful traditional and moral leaders in Islam today,” Bishop Kukah noted, “None of them is happy and they have said so loud and clear. The Sultan recently lamented the tragic consequences of power being in the wrong hands.”
The Bishop further lamented, “Every day, Muslim clerics are posting tales of lamentation about their fate. Now, the Northern Elders, who in 2015 believed that General Buhari had come to redeem the north have now turned against the President.”
“We are being told that this situation has nothing to do with Religion. Really?” the Bishop of Sokoto posed and responded, “It is what happens when politicians use religion to extend the frontiers of their ambition and power.”
He further probed, “Are we to believe that simply because Boko Haram kills Muslims too, they wear no religious garb? Are we to deny the evidence before us, of kidnappers separating Muslims from infidels or compelling Christians to convert or die? If your son steals from me, do you solve the problem by saying he also steals from you? Again, the Sultan got it right: let the northern political elite who have surrendered the space claim it back immediately.”
In the considered opinion of the West African Prelate, the impression created by Buhari’s government is that, “to hold a key and strategic position in Nigeria today, it is more important to be a northern Muslim than a Nigerian.”
“Nigeria is at a point where we must call for a verdict. There must be something that a man, nay, a nation should be ready to die for,” Bishop Kukah said and added, “Sadly, or even tragically, today, Nigeria, does not possess that set of goals or values for which any sane citizen is prepared to die for her.”
He went on in his homily during the funeral Mass of seminarian Michael, “We have practiced madness for too long. Our attempt to build a nation has become like the agony of Sisyphus who angered the gods and had to endure the frustration of rolling a stone up the mountain. Each time he got near the top, the gods would tip the stone back and he would go back to start all over again. What has befallen our nation?”
The Bishop also expressed the hope that the death of seminarian Michael, an orphan who wanted to serve God as a priest having been brought up by his grandmother, would be a turning point in a country that has witnessed abductions and killings targeting Christians.
“This is a solemn moment for the body of Christ,” the Nigerian Prelate said.
He added, “This is for us the moment of decision. This is the moment that separates darkness from light, good from evil. Our nation is like a ship stranded on the high seas, rudderless and with broken navigational aids. Today, our years of hypocrisy, duplicity, fabricated integrity, false piety, empty morality, fraud and Pharisaism have caught up with us. Nigeria is on the crossroads and its future hangs precariously in a balance. This is a wakeup call for us.”
Meanwhile, writing on behalf of the Catholic Bishops in the West Africa brought together under the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA), Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama expressed “profound condolences on the assassination of Mr. Michael Nnadi.”
“This heartless murder of the 18-year-old young man whose only fault was to have wished to serve God as a priest has thrown all of us into a big sorrow and has raised a lot of questions concerning the insecurity in our region as a whole and in Nigeria in particular,” Archbishop Kaigama who is the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Abuja Archdiocese in his February 11 message.
Bishop Kaigama who is at the helm of RECOWA stated in his message addressed to Bishop Kukah of Sokoto, “We, the Bishops of West Africa, are deeply touched by this sad event. We sincerely condole with the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto and its chief shepherd, our brother, Most Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah. We share your sorrow and with you we turn to God, praying for his consolation upon you and your flock.”
“We are equally touched by the pains of the family of late Mr. Michael Nnadi who must live with the sad memory of this horrible assassination. We ask the Lord to console them and grant them a lasting healing from the psychological injuries that this brutal murder has caused them,” the Nigerian Archbishop stated.
The 61-year-old Prelate continued, “Our fatherly thoughts also go to the Rector, Staff and seminarians of Good Shepherd Major Seminary, Kaduna, who must live with the painful memory of the invasion of their seminary and the subsequent kidnapping of four of their seminarians with the brutal assassination of one of them.”
“Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we raise our voices to God in lamentation and supplication, praying that the sacredness of life, especially innocent life be respected by all and that the perpetrators of this crime may find the road of conversion,” Archbishop Kaigama concluded.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa