The Kukah Offence And Ongoing Offensives By Wole Soyinka

 

The timing of Bishop Matthew Kukah’s Christmas message, and the ensuing offensives could not be more fortuitous, seeing that it comes at a time when a world powerful nation, still reeling from an unprecedented assault on her corporate definition, is now poised to set, at the very least, a symbolic seal on her commitment to the democratic ideal.

Let no one be in any doubt that some of the most extreme of the violent forces that recently assaulted her governance citadel are sprung from religious and quasi-religious affirmations, a condition that still enables many of them to be brainwashed into accepting literally, and uncritically, indeed as gospel truth, any pronouncement, however outrageous and improbable, that emerges from their leadership.

As usual, we have not lacked, within our own distanced environment, advocates who, even till recently, claimed to have seen in their vision, the triumph of God’s own anointed in the electoral contest of that same United States.

They have been specific in their prophesy that what was denied at the ballot box would be restored in the law courts. And to set a divine seal on the matter, were not our streets in a part of this nation actually inundated by religious processions in support of the candidacy of their supposed Messiah, named Donald Trump?

They had conferred on him the mantle of upholder of Christian values, endangered by satanic practices in, of all places, a nation designated as – God’s own Country!

Of course, not all such tendencies represent the true face of any professed religion, we need only remark that all religions are plagued by a lunatic fringe.

In this nation, we have learnt the painful way what such inbred loonies are capable of. Thus, extreme care, and historic awareness, should be taken in imputing any act or pronouncement as an attack on faith. At base, competitors for recognition as first-line defenders of the ramparts of religiosity are often motivated by non-religious agenda, which is yet another reason for the exercise of restraint and collective responsibility.

It should not come as a surprise that a section of our Islamic community, not only claims to have found offence in Bishop Kukah’s New Year address, what is bothersome, even unwholesome, is the embedded threat to storm his ‘Capitol’ and eject him, simply for ‘speaking in tongues’.

Any pluralistic society must emphatically declare such a response unacceptable. On a personal note, I have studied the transcript as reported in the media and found nothing in it that denigrates Islam but then, I must confess, I am not among the most religion besotted inhabitants of the globe. That, I have been told, disqualifies me from even commenting on the subject and, quite frankly, I wish that were indeed the case. Life would far less be complicated. However, the reverse position does not seem to be adopted by such religionists in a spirit of equity. They do not hesitate to intervene; indeed, some consider themselves divinely empowered to intervene, even dictate in secular life.

With the foregoing out of the way, we are compelled to remind ourselves that religion is upheld, and practised, not by robots, not by creatures from outer space, not by abstract precepts, but by human beings, full of quirks, frailties and conceits, filled with their own individual and collective worth, and operate in the here and now of this very earth.

That makes religion the business of everyone, especially when it is manipulated to instill fear, discord and separatism in social consciousness. The furore over Bishop Kukah’s statement offers us another instance of that domineering tendency, one whose consequences are guaranteed to spill over into the world of both believers and non-believers, unless checked and firmly contained. In this nation of religious opportunism of the most destructive kind especially, fuelled again and again by failure to learn from past experience, we must at least learn to nip extremist instigations in the bud.

One of the ironic features of religionists is, one is forced to conclude, a need to be offended. It is as if religion cannot exist unless it is nourished with the broth of offence. This may be due to an inbuilt insecurity, a fear that even the ascribed absolutes of faith may be founded on nothing more than idealistic human projections, not grounded in anything durable or immutable.

Hence the over prickliness, aggressiveness, sometimes even bullying tendencies and imperious posturing. This leads to finding enemies where there are none. In certain social climates, it degenerates into inventing enmities in order to entrench theocratic power. In its own peculiar way, this is actually a rational proceeding. A perceived threat to a collectivity tends to rally even waverers round the flag. The core mission of faith custodians then becomes presenting religion as being constantly under siege. It all contributes to interpreting even utterances of no hostile intent as “enemy action”.

Was it all that long ago when el Rufai – now governor of Kaduna state – came under blistering attack by the Christian community for allegedly insulting the divine persona of Jesus Christ?

What did el Rufai say exactly? Nothing new or startling. All he did was deploy a common, everyday figure of speech to describe an overwhelming challenge. Both the circumstances and his exact phrasing elude me right now, but all it amounted to was that even Jesus Christ would find a particular problem intractable. Or perhaps it was simply that even Jesus Christ, were to return to earth, would be subjected to the Nigerian national culture of calumny?

One or the other but, it hardly matters. What does matter was that instantly, there were demands from the ever-ready Onward Christian Soldiers – led by CAN leadership – for a withdrawal and apology. To my intense disappointment – as I declared at the time — el Rufai obliged.

A huge mistake. Again, and again, we have warned against succumbing to irrational demands of religionists, yet even the brutal lessons of past surrenders appear to exercise no traction on society’s faculty of cause and effect, especially in that religious propensity for incremental demands. Surrender one inch, they demand a mile!

And how near impossible it is to come to grips with an even more recent and egregious bill of offence that took place over this very last Christmas of the year 2020! The now universal sales pitch of BLACK FRIDAY to lure seasonal shopping addicts to Sale bonanzas drew solemn, sanctimonious flak from some religionists from the other side, this time the Islamic. A formal statement was issued, declaring these commonplace sale tactics an assault on the Islamic religion, since Friday happens to be its day of worship.

These are the depths of absurdity into which society is dragged by the coils of spurious purism. Until now, we have yet to learn of Boko Haram, ISWAP, al-Shabbab and other rabid Islamists declaring a cessation from killings in honour of Holy Friday. Again, one station that carried the broadcasts tamely withdrew its promotional campaign. Another piece of secular – that is, neutral – territory ignominiously surrendered. The tail continues to wag the dog.

Lest the point be missed or watered down, the escalation of such irrationality is very simply outlined. Christians, not to be outdone, will seize the next opportunity to remind the rest of the world how their own Holy Day, Sunday, must and must not be used in mundane transactions in the future. Next, the Seventh-Day Adventists will demand no-go areas for Saturdays. After that, the Hindus, the Sikhs, plus the thousand and one religions of the world cornering their own Holy Day, then week, then month until we are moved to reconstruct the present calendar entirely, abandon solar principles and rebuild temporal notation around some newly discovered power planet. Did that broadcasting station consider, for a moment, the preposterous dimensions of that sectarian demand before yielding ground to a ridiculous minority of extremists?

Of far weightier substance than any vaporous religiosity, however, is the early mentioned civic condition of all occupiers of the same demarcated slab of earth, called nation, and their material and non-material entitlement as guaranteed by their enabling constitution.

When any individual or group, however lofty and privileged in its own self-regard, orders a citizen to quit his or her chosen place of habitation, then the very concept of nation being is nullified. This is not the first time this fundamental principle of co-existence has been challenged. Still fresh in one’s mind was the mode of response by the Inspector-General of Police to a similar violation by a northern Youth organization a few years ago when that group pronounced a deadline for the Igbo to quit their abode throughout the northern territory of Nigeria.

It was a dangerous, provocative act, incendiary under any condition. That worthy maintainer of law and order was asked – and I recall this distinctly – why he failed to take action against this incitement to mayhem, such as even inviting the self-acknowledged leaders “for a chat”.

That question was, of course, posed in the context of the starkly contrasting ‘rapid response’ agility by state security agencies, when a similar inciting proclamation was made by an Igbo group ‘expelling’ northern citizens from their territory.

His answer was: such action would have security implications. By contrast, the Igbo group was proscribed as a terrorist organization. It should be chastening to any government that its proclamation remains ignored internationally.

What is Bishop Kukah saying? Simply what observant and concerned citizens of United States society recently remarked. The conduct of the US security forces, when confronted by peaceful protesters during the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement, was vastly different from that of the same security agencies when a predominantly white mob invaded its seat of government, thrashed it and hunted down a people’s elected representatives, rampaging for hours before they were finally “escorted out”.

Such a contrast goes to the heart of the nation being and poses a real and urgent danger. That accusation has been voiced by both sides of the colour divide and across class divisions. Again and again, the warning was loudly voiced, it was unheeded. We remain fools if we fail to learn from the costly complacencies of others.

The obvious issue, to summarize, is – double standards. Lack of equitable dealing. Agreement or disagreement with Bishop Kukah’s position is demonstration of a nation’s badge of maturity, and should be read, quite obviously, as a continuation of that nagging, provocative discourse.

One fails to understand why religion is being sprung centre stage as a legitimate extract from that New Year address. There is a deliberate, emotive displacement of a central concern. It is calculated avoidance, diversionary, and thus, nationally unhealthy. Humans should not attempt to play ostrich.

Presidency Faults Group Asking Bishop Kukah To Leave Sokoto

In his Christmas message, Bishop Matthew Kukah accused President Muhammadu Buhari of nepotism.

 

The presidency has faulted a group, the Muslim Solidarity Forum, over a threat it issued to the bishop of Sokoto diocese, Most Rev Matthew Hassan Kukah, to tender an apology over a recent comment credited to him or leave the state.

In a statement signed on Wednesday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President, (Media & Publicity), Garba Shehu, the presidency described the situation as an assault on the cleric’s freedom.

The presidency also declared that Bishop Kukah must be allowed to practice his faith and politics, describing the stance by the Muslim solidarity forum as wrong and not in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

READ ALSO: Kukah’s Christmas Message: Ortom Asks FG Not To Muzzle Nigerians

Bishop Kukah in his Christmas message had lamented the state of the polity, condemning the president’s leadership style and ascribing the prevailing national condition to his decisions, a comment the Muslim Solidarity Forum says was an insult to the entire Muslim Ummah and “malicious comments” against Islam.

But in its statement, the presidency explained that “under our constitution, every citizen has the right to, among others, freedom of speech and expression, the right to own property and reside in any part of the country, and the right to move freely without any inhibitions.

“Nigeria’s strength lies in its diversity,” the statement read in part.

“The right for all religions to co-exist is enshrined in this country’s constitution. The duty of the government, more so, this democratic government, is to ensure that the constitution is respected. But all must respect the rights and sensitivities of their fellow Nigerians”.

While admitting that Bishop Kukah offended many with his controversial remarks against the government and the person of the president, the presidency called for restraint, warning that groups or factions such as the Muslim Solidarity Forum must not give quit notices, neither should they unilaterally sanction any perceived breaches.

Another Traditional Ruler Kidnapped By Gunmen In Kaduna

Another Traditional Ruler Kidnapped By Gunmen In Kaduna

 

Gunmen have kidnapped the paramount ruler of Ikulu Chiefdom in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, His Royal Highness, Yohanna Kukah.

Kukah was abducted on Tuesday, coming barely 24 hours after another traditional ruler and his wife were killed by yet to be identified gunmen at a village in Sanga Local Government Area of the state.

Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Mukhtar Aliyu, confirmed the kidnap of the traditional ruler to Channels Television.

He said the gunmen stormed the palace of the monarch at about 9:00 pm on Tuesday and forcefully took him away along with his palace guard.

Aliyu, however, said a team of police operatives from the Command and soldiers attached to the Operation Safe Haven has been deployed to the area.

He asked the people of the community not to panic and was hopeful that the team would track down the kidnappers as well as rescue the monarch and his aide.

The traditional ruler is said to be a younger brother of the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Most Reverend Mathew Kukah.

Civil Societies Crucial In Widening Democracy – Kukah

Bishop Kukah of Sokoto Catholic Diocese

The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Kukah has said that the civil societies play a great role in widening democracy.

He stated this on Thursday when he appeared on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily where he threw his weight behind the Non-Governmental Organisation’s bill.

Although the controversial bill has passed the second reading before the National Assembly, it has however come under heavy criticisms in some quarters.

One of such groups is the Amnesty International which called on all Nigerians to oppose its passage by the lawmakers as it seeks to “take away the freedoms of Nigerian people.”

In reaction, Bishop Kukah explained that America’s democracy was being driven by associational life and that Nigerian politicians are obsessed with deepening democracy rather than widening it.

“We should be talking about widening democracy (in Nigeria). No other institution exists so far to operationalize this than civil society,” he said.

The cleric further explained that the Berlin wall of Germany collapsed without a single gunshot because the civil societies were the driving forces and that America and the Soviet Union spent billions of dollars building up arsenals.

He added, “In 1989, the Berlin wall collapsed, it was as a result. The war had spent 50 years dealing with the whole questions of what options were best. Is it communism, is it liberal democracy?

“Communism collapsed in 1989 because civil society groups were the driving forces and it is an irony that America and the Soviet Union that spend billions of dollars building up arsenals that this system collapsed without a single gunshot.”

The cleric also hinted that his presence at NASS on Wednesday became imperative because he needed to throw his weight behind the civil societies who are the drivers of democracy.

If passed into law by the federal lawmakers, it will give birth to the NGO Regulatory Commission to regulate activities of NGO’s and civil society organisations, CSOs, across Nigeria.

The hearing had in attendance Civil society organisations, religious leaders among others.

Speaker Yakubu Dogara was represented by the chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Honourable Babangida Ibrahim.

Restructuring: President, Public Officers’ Opinion Shouldn’t Matter – Bishop Kukah

Public Officers Have No Opinion On Restructuring – Kukah
Matthew Kukah

Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Most Reverend Matthew Kukah, believes the opinion of the president and other public office holders should not determine Nigeria’s restructuring.

As Nigerians call for the restructuring of the country, Bishop Kukah, however, said the leaders have the responsibility to process the demands of the people who he said were displeased with some of the happenings in the country.

“Neither the president, nor the National Assembly, nor any public officer should have an opinion about this,” he said on Monday while addressing a gathering at this year’s edition of the Platform, an annual event organised by the Covenant Christian Centre, to discuss pressing issues in the country.

“We are the ones expressing our dissatisfaction but at least, wait to accept and process them. Whereas some people think that restructuring should be about mathematics, there are those who see restructuring as economics.

“That’s what you are hearing from the National Assembly that they said ‘no, we will not accept devolution (of power)’. My word is that the National Assembly ought not to have an opinion about this,” he pointed out.

The clergyman also stressed the need for Nigerians to live in peace with one another, as well as realise that they are fighting for the same cause.

He said, “If the governing elites bother to know about the nature of this country called Nigeria, and how and why people are hurting, then we must come to terms with the fact that we all want the same things in the final analysis.”

“We have every reason to be angry but please let us remember for the sake of this country, a lot of our citizens have given their lives to defend this country.

“As soldiers, they have died and are still dying; it is a reason why we must take very seriously, the issue of building a new country together – that challenge is before all of us, our love for Nigeria will never die,” he added.

Bishop Kukah also emphasised the need for people to understand that contesting elections must not be a do or die affair.

He wondered why getting into office becomes violent, saying “If you are genuinely struggling to serve, why should it just be at all cost?

“Nigerians are mistaking the thing that being in office is the same as being in power, or that being in power is the same as being in office; the two things are conceptually different.

“Of course, being in office might help but to be in power, you must have something that people can buy into and this for me as Christians, it’s something that we must take very seriously,” he said.

Military Might Alone Can’t End Boko Haram Insurgency – Bishop Kukah

Mattew Kukah, Politicians

The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Mathew Kukah, has said military solution alone would not end the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East.

Bishop Kukah said this in Maiduguri while speaking to Channels TV in Maiduguri after a three-day long engagement involving community leaders drawn from Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, organised by The Kukah Center.

He said, “For me, as an intellectual, military solution is never the best way to resolve a conflict. Most conflicts have never been resolved on the war front. The final issues of human survival, the building blocks of a better society are laid by those who listen to the ordinary stories of people and how they survived.

“We will defeat Boko Haram militarily. But Boko Haram is an idea; it is not about guns and weapons. The guns are important. But beyond that is constructing a befitting edifice that can ensure an inclusion that will figure out how to manage the massive diversity that constitutes Nigeria. That is at the heart of the tragedy of Boko Haram.

“So, I think we must renew our commitment, first, to the fact that education is the antidote, but, most importantly, is the need for us to centre every policy around the development of the human person.”

The focus of the meeting is on de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders (VEOs).

The plan is to start conversations at the community level aimed at tackling the challenges of integrating repentant insurgents.

During the discussions, it was agreed that radicalisation is one of the factors that have to be addressed. It was also agreed that there is the need to regulate religious preaching, bad governance, endemic poverty, social security and justice among others.

Participants are embracing the bitter pill of forgiveness as a key antidote for ending the insurgency problem.

In recent times Boko haram insurgents have continued to launch deadly attacks on the civilian populace even after negotiations with the Federal Government led to the release of some of the abducted Chibok girls.

Nigerians Should Appreciate Jonathan’s Deeds – Bishop Kukah

Bishop KukahThe Bishop of Sokoto Diocese and member of the National Peace Committee, Rev. Fr. Mathew Kukah, has asked Nigerians to be appreciative of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

He said that Dr. Jonathan’s act of conceding defeat in the 2015 presidential election is one that has kept the country together and so “Nigerians should be appreciative of what he did”.

Speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Thursday, Bishop Kukah further stated that the committee has not been sent to beg on anyone’s behalf to avoid probe. He noted that the former “President Jonathan eloquently said he was not afraid of probe.”

He commended President Buhari for the work he has so far done but stated that his party (APC) was voted to govern and they should go ahead to govern because Nigerians are eager for a new nation.

He stated that the government needs to develop a communication strategy that would enable citizens understand the government’s direction as he believes there has been an air of uncertainty among Nigerians who want to know where the country is heading.

Speaking on the activities of the National Peace Committee, Bishop Kukah noted that the purpose of the committee was for “moral authority” and not to replace the National Assembly, Court or Police. He refereed to them as “non-state actors who are very busy”.

“The business of our committee is not to solve the problems of Nigeria but the business of the government in power, led by the APC, to resolve the problems of Nigeria.”

He then urged the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to start addressing the country’s challenges because the world is focusing on Nigeria, especially the international community because of the issue of Boko Haram.