Bishop Hassan Kukah’s recent comments after the visit of the National Peace Committee (NPC) to President Muhammadu Buhari have generated some controversies. These controversies, which have been given bite by those who saw the Bishop’s comments as a tacit advice to the president not to pursue his anti-corruption campaign was made worse by a group of critics who have taken the pleasure to jump on the bandwagon of criticism without even taking time to go through His Lordship’s comments. Some of these critics have, of course, found an easy target in the bishop and in him they have also found an opportunity to further express their loyalty to their political inclinations, even if at the expense of a meritorious stance. The most worrying aspect of this development is that even supposed seasoned columnists are not left out in this warped journey of registering presence by all means and catching the attention of the president for whatever purpose.
Bishop Kukah in that interview had eulogised former president Goodluck Jonathan for the peaceful way he conducted himself before, during and after the 2015 elections, and also for not only congratulating his opponent immediately the results were announced but also for handing over power to the incumbent without any hesitation or rancor against the expectations of many. These included some powerful forces within his political party and the then opposition party which, with the slow pace of governance today and the lack of any socio-economic blueprint, did not appear ready to lead but possibly only highly charged for a crisis in the event that Jonathan did not accept defeat or handover power, a situation which correctly or otherwise, was their only expectation and concern then. If not, having contested the presidential elections several times before 2015, one would have thought that President Buhari would hit the ground running once sworn in. One would have thought he would have had his economic blueprint ready for implementation.
One would have thought that he would have figured out those he hoped to work with in his cabinet as soon as he occupied Aso Rock so that our stock exchange would not lose its investments the way we are experiencing now as a result of the erosion of investors’ confidence in the economy owing to the non-availability of any policy thrust for national direction; and the naira would have been fixed rather than allowed the free fall it is currently experiencing. One would have thought, as promised, that the security situation would have improved appreciably by now but the reverse is the case as Boko Haram have intensified their attacks since May 29 despite having been routed out of their stronghold in Sambisa forest before then by the immediate past administration.
These are some of the stark realities that made the erudite Bishop sound a note of caution, warning, and rightly too, that in as much as the fight against corruption is highly desirable, it should not be done in the abandonment of other government responsibilities to its citizens. With the way government is currently going, it looks as if the fight against corruption is the only dividend of democracy Nigerians are condemned to enjoy. The fact of the matter is, if other areas of governance do not get the needed attention and all energies are focused on the anti-corruption fight, recovered looted funds would still not be judiciously used for the benefit of Nigerians. The recovered funds would be of little value since the naira has kept sliding into depths and the funds could end up being recycled among present day government officials.
This is the essence of Bishop Kukah’s admonition. This admonition is even more relevant given the needless rush to convict Nigerians on the pages of newspapers without any trial whatsoever. It is more worrisome that humongous figures are being bandied about as either having been looted or diverted without any evidence of such to show Nigerians. This has given room for accusations and counter-accusations among government and ex-government officials, thereby serving as unnecessary distractions to Nigerians who, by now, ought to be asking questions of our leaders as to their campaign promises. This is nothing but just a lazy man’s way of circumventing the people’s searchlight on other real and equally important issues bothering the nation.
The Bishop’s reasoning that we are no more in a military era where such matters as the fight against corruption are fought with unbridled brashness, harshness and harassment is succinct and poignant enough. This is actually one of the reasons why the fight against corruption might not go too far unless we, as Kukah advises, stick to the democratic rules and norms while engaging in the fight. In a democratic setting like ours, investigations are usually discreet, professional and devoid of bitterness or overzealousness, coupled with respect for the rights of those being investigated until proven guilty as stipulated in our laws, and it is not done just to engage in publicity stunts.
The fight against corruption is real and must be treated as such without playing to the gallery. It is the non-adherence to professionalism, rule of law and the desire of concerned agencies to impress the president in the discharge of their duties that usually cost us the conviction of suspected corrupt individuals as these agencies rush to the courts without copious evidence cogent enough to secure a conviction, all in a bid to quickly satisfy those they pay obeisance to. Justice Mohammed Yunusa said this much in a recent case reported in the Punch newspaper of Wednesday, August 19, 2015, on page 3, wherein he declared against the EFCC thus: “There is no evidence that there was preliminary investigation into allegations against him (suspect) before the arrest. No order of court authorising the arrest was exhibited before the court. The respondents (EFCC) acted irrationally without following due process.” We all know where this kind of shoddy job by concerned agencies usually leads the fight against corruption to. Need we say more? As a man who is so detailed himself having shown us an example of what that means in his service to the nation as Secretary to the popular, effective and successful Oputa Panel, Bishop Kukah knows his onions in this matter.
For all those who have been quick to remind Bishop Kukah that he should not dabble into politics but face his divine calling, that can only be the height of hypocrisy as these are the same set of people who hailed Rev. Fr Ejike Mbaka to the highest heavens when he launched into a tirade of attack against former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Then, and to these people, Fr. Mbaka was doing his duty of keeping an eye on the society as part of his calling as a man of God but these people will not say the same of Bishop Kukah simply because he would not speak what men want to hear but will only speak what is the truth without any rancour, dramatisation or razzmatazz unlike Fr Mbaka.
Need I remind these self-appointed homilists that keeping political leaders in check is one of the highest responsibilities given to any priest truly called by God. It is just that in doing this, they must be seen to be consistently truthful and not be swayed by the crumbs that fall from the political leaders’ tables. And if we must be brutally truthful, Bishop Kukah has lived up to this responsibility with distinction.
In all, what Bishop Kukah is simply saying is that governance must not stop because of the fight against corruption; the nation is in a dire need of serious measures to stem our looming collective decline into oblivion, and the earlier we take to Kukah’s advice, the better for all of us.