Archbishop Mathew Hassan Kukah has been under severe stress and strain these past weeks. His role, agenda as well as the motive of the peace group he empanelled have come under deep scrutiny. His view as a cleric who daily seeks forgiveness of sins, no matter how grave, that Jonathan’s act of conceding defeat must be appreciated even if he stole all the monies in the world has been described as ‘dishonest’ by thePunch newspapers because it ‘raises larger questions about our moral values’. Osita Okechukwu of CNPP has described Kukah’s argument as ‘subtle blackmail’.
A prominent member of his peace group, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar has distanced himself from Kukah’s call for remission of punishment. The Congregation of Catholic Bishops has pitched its tent with Buhari. His other platform that was expected to be more sympathetic has turned itself into an intellectual lynch mob. Yet the only weakness of this Nigerian patriot is his passion for the country. This he has abundantly demonstrated in the last few years by serving selflessly in various ad hoc committees set up to address the ‘Nigerian question’, starting with the Oputa Panel .
Kukah is a cleric greatly misunderstood. Having taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Kukah cannot be seen as supporting corrupt practices. For him, “We all must defeat the ogre of corruption which has consumed our past, destroyed our present and threatens our future.” He, however, believes ‘corruption is a symptom of our semi-primitive state of existence which can only be defeated by development and not by threats, moral exhortations or lachrymal denunciations but by adopting scientific skills; an understanding of the causative factors’. And here, he does not speak as a cleric. ”I consider myself a public intellectual”, he says, “My job is to stir the hornet’s nest, generating new ideas and pointing the way forward. I make mistakes; my views are not gospel and people are free and welcome to nourish me with new ideas.”
If he, therefore, says, “Nigerians must have heroes and heroines; people whose names will inspire some awe, not because they are saints but because of what they have done,” he is speaking as a stakeholder in the Nigeria project. And if for him, Jonathan, like all our surviving leaders who many have accused of betraying our nation, fits the bill, he is not asking anyone to swallow his prejudices which are likely going to be coloured by his accident of being a member of an oppressed minority ethnic group that has for years fought for self- actualization and membership of a persecuted minority religion. Above all, Kukah’s critics must be told he is protected by our federal system which as a social philosophy strives to liberate individual and groups from the tyranny of the state.
With the above clarification, we can go back to Kukah’s thesis. First he says ‘corruption is a factor of underdevelopment in Africa’. But so is leadership. We cannot separate leadership from crisis of underdevelopment which manifests in various forms. I am not sure if any of our leaders, including the incumbent President Buhari whose first policy statement is fighting corruption at the LGA when there is no known federation where the centre usurps the functions of states and local governments, has sincerely articulated our crisis of nationhood.
We must ask ourselves why our past leaders behaved like foreign conquerors with little faith in our nation. In four years, 1979-1983, Shagari’s NPN administration frittered away all the foreign reserve left behind by Obasanjo in 1979. The economy collapsed while his NPN wheelers and dealers became intoxicated with specially branded imported “Akinloye Champagne’ to wash down their profligate consumption.
Buhari came in on a rescue mission rejecting IMF liberalisation dose and insisted Nigerians will not eat grain until they produced their own grain. Babangida sent him to detention, embraced IMF liberalisation, paving the way for the collapse of our budding industries, today’s N1b daily importation of grains, and exchange rate of about N2 to $1 to today N212 to $1. And in an act of betrayal of our nation, he went on to annul the most credible election in our nation’s history. Abdulsalami Abubakar is tarred by the inexplicable death of MKO Abiola in his custody on the eve of his expected release after serving his expected four-year presidency in detention instead of presidential palace desecrated by Abacha. Shonekan who neither contested nor won an election was an impostor used by crafty Babangida to supplant MKO Abiola, his fellow Egba.
Obasanjo has publicly admitted tampering with the democratic process in 1979, imposition of Yar Adua in 2007 and Jonathan in 2011. He has been accused of presiding over the worst-conducted presidential election in our nation’s history in 2007. Statesmen are not leaders who exploit ethnic and religious fears of citizens for personal gains but those who demonstrated their faith in their nations through selfless service.
We similarly have no evidence to support Kukah’s unrestrained declaration that “Jonathan will be remembered as a great Nigerian statesman who put God and nation first”. Not many will see promoting religious intolerance by moving from church to synagogue in Nigeria, from Jerusalem to Nazareth and to Rome with indicted government officials and governors without character and using every opportunity to exploit our ethnic divisions for electoral victory, as evidence of putting the nation first.
Kukah also wants the nation to treat Jonathan well so as not to “give excuse to those African leaders who want to go to their grave from the throne bringing shame to Africa and diminishing their people, breeding hatred and war by their greed.” Here also, Kukah seems to suffer from selective perception. We find no evidence to show Jonathan conceded defeat out of altruism. What we know is that Jonathan who played Dr Okwelieze Nwodo against Vincent Ogbulafor to immorally secure the PDP ticket in 2010, outwitted the northern states’ governors as well as his godfather he later dismissed as ‘Motor Park tout’, is a very resourceful politician. He had undermined the credibility of the military by involving them in “Ekitigate’, Osun pacification and in shifting the date of the election to buy time. He had frittered away the goodwill of the people by allegedly funding TAM led by those EFCC had questioned over the N1.7t fuel subsidy scam to assault Nigerians with lies.
Besides pressure from the international community, Obasanjo, Jonathan’s estranged godfather has become his nemesis. With Elder Orubebe’s theatrics after he had lost the election in four of the nation’s six geo-political zones, he was smart enough to concede defeat without first consulting PDP wheelers and dealers that he claimed had caged him. He sensed if he had done otherwise and violence broke out, he would have ended up in The Hague just like Gbagbo.