Looters: Kukah vs Buhari and the rest of us By Moses Akinola Makinde

Bishop-Matthew-Kukah

Not a few Nigerians have reacted to the comment of fiery cleric Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, on President Muhammadu Buhari’s resolve to bring to justice those who plundered the nation’s wealth. In the article below, Moses Akinola Makinde, a professor of Philosophy and Fellow, Nigerian Academy of Letters (FNAL), feels such remark shouldn’t have come from a respected Nigerian in the mould of the former Secretary-General of Catholic Secreatriat. 

No case of corruption against Jonathan–Kukah” (Punch August 17, 2015, p.19). Concerning a probe that is yet to take off, the above statement was not a hypothetical, but most certainly a categorical assertion (of sureness and certainty) by Bishop Hassan Matthew Kukah, the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto. It was Bishop Kukah’s definitive – though imaginary- judgment before a possible judgment on Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and others, whose involvement in the looting of Nigeria’s treasury is common knowledge. Either a probe or an investigation? The one shares the same connotation with the other. Talking of any difference between both, as Kukah might think, is a terminological howler.

Our Roman Catholic cleric spoke eloquently on the Channels Television’s evening and morning programmes respectively on August 12 and 13. I was baffled at the palpably incoherent presentation of what the Peace Committee, headed by Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalami (rtd), had asked Kukah to disseminate to the general public. After introducing him, in glee, as the spokesperson for the Committee, Kukah began to speak as if he was afraid of something. He kept on repeating himself, saying one thing and then another, changing or correcting his previous statement up and down like yoyo, thus getting trapped in what is known in logical parlance, as contradictory supposition. The reason for this was obvious. He wanted to hoodwink the public that the committee was in support of Buhari’s anti-graft campaign that will enable his administration to recover every public fund  looted from the treasury and, if found guilty as charged, prosecute them according to the laws of the land.

On the other hand, and from the other side of the mouth, he spoke as if he was denying his feigned support against corruption but then said, that a probe was unnecessary and that President Buhari should not waste his time on his anti-corruption agenda “at the expense of providing good governance for the country”.

Despite the identified $11 trillion allegedly stolen from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) alone (see Punch, & Nation 17 August, 2015, front pages 1 & 2) and many trillions from others yet-to-be named government agencies under former President Jonathan’s administration, Kukah spoke as if he was “charged” or under a spell, in favour of the looters. He was almost pleading that Jonathan and his disciples should be left alone or given soft landings. In fact, he said that President Buhari, who got into power through his vigorous campaigns against corruption should stop his anti-graft crusade and put aside probes (which he prefers to call investigation) and, instead, face the business of governance, as if fighting greed, lawlessness, corruption, impunity and all other vices that characterised Jonathan’s administration which brought Nigeria to this sorry mess are not, indeed, the beginning of good governance, or that the woeful economy handed over by Jonathan to Buhari is something that we should hail and  not deal with decisively once and for all, if the present administration is to ever start off on a reasonably strong footing. Or, he meant that Buhari should go on with the kind of crude governance that consisted mainly of looting, dishing out of oil money in hard currency to selected Nigerians, including clerics and rented protesters while the Jonathan “governance” lasted. Even right now, there are rumours that a lot of stolen money are kept in huge, “golden” vaults underground of some of the looters’ mansions (see Chukwudi Emekwedu, “The alleged hiding of stolen funds in private homes” (Daily Sun, August 20, p19).

Now, people have said that the Peace Committee was fronting for Jonathan when they visited Buhari in Aso Rock Villa on August 11, following Jonatan’s previous meeting with the President also at the Presidential Villa on August 6.

At the Peace Committee meeting with Buhari, Kukah had defended Jonathan and his ministers against Buhari’s intended probe by making his second categorical assertion that, after all, “there are no charges against President Jonathan or anybody for that matter”.

Yes, there have not been charges. But, trillions of dollars had been identified as stolen under Jonathan’s watch as president, and this is why a probe or investigation is absolutely necessary. And this is why Kukah, as a man of God, should have praised Buhari to high heavens over his intended probe. But then, Kukah would not have any of what he called “lynching” of Jonathan. Rather, he wanted everybody to just go to sleep and forget everything about the ugly past and let the sleeping dogs lie after many Nigerians had lost their lives as a result of Jonathan’s mismanagement of the nation’s economy. Yet, Kukah wanted the looters to be left to enjoy their stolen wealth, irrespective of who had died, are dying and will die as a result of the looting of the people’s money. Kukah is even predicting that it might be Buhari’s fate of looting the nation’s treasury “tomorrow”, which means he does not trust Buhari’s avowed discipline, incorruptibility and transparency for one second, but harping on the over beaten “spectacular benefit” of a spectacularly defeated President, handing over power, as if that is not the normal thing to do in a civilised democracy unless of course, our own is a morbid democracy in a primitive society.

He (Kukah) said: “What everybody should focus on is that it might be Jonathan today, and we don’t have a case against Jonathan on the table. Even if we do, this public lynching is not going to help anybody. Nobody knows whether when Buhari steps aside, he might face the same thing. What we are talking about is that we are not in a military regime, we are in a democracy. Even if we are going to go into probe, it is not a substitute for governance, and we are interested in the fact that every sane Nigerian must be conscious of the fact that it might be another person today and might be you tomorrow.

“And I think that we should not become so preoccupied with Jonathan to the extent that we forget the spectacular benefit that we gained under his presidency. Politics has ended and now is the time for governance.”

If I may add to Kukah’s statements, “not the time for probe and recovery of trillions of dollars of people’s money looted by Jonathan and members of his infamous administration.” But, this is precisely what the electorate who had voted Buhari into power, wanted him to do with all the ammunition at his disposal – to recover every kobo stolen, without remainder, and bring the looters to the book of punishments.

I believe the All Progressives Congress (APC’s) publication of more than $11 trillion stolen by the Jonathan administration from just one of the many agencies is mind-boggling enough. Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s revelation (The Punch & The Nation, August 17, 2015, front & p2) was an appropriate response to Matthew Kukah’s  gesture as supported by his rremarks. It is for the same reason that the highly revered Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, told Buhari to “go after the looters, prosecute and send them to jail” (Punch, August 18, front page) and quickly followed by The Nation’s editorial titled: “Sultan’s Salvo” (The Nation, August 20, p.19). It is also in response to Kukah’s attempt to find a soft landing for Jonathan and his followers that Buhari, in anger, vowed to “resist pressure on the anti-graft war” (The Punch, August 18, front page) and to “seek fearless judges to try looters” (The Punch, August 17, 2015) for which he is to “set up special courts in each state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for looters” (The Nation, Sunday, August 22, front page & p3). It is also in a response to Kukah that Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and others “urged Kukah not to obstruct loot recovery” (The Nation, August 18, pp 14 & 58). Even Malam Nuhu Ribadu, the former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chief, backed Buhari on the recovery of looted funds, claiming that by punishing those looters, “Buhari would have solved the problems of Nigeria”. (New Telegraph, August 20, pages 5 & 11). For Gen Oladipo Diya (rtd), “the only opportunity, which must not be lost, to salvage Nigeria of corruption is through President Buhari’s administration” (Silverbird T.V, 10pm, August 23) while for former President Olusegun Obasanjo, “there is no alternative to Buhari or his leadership style at this peculiar period of the country’s life” (The Nation, August 23, p4).

Right now, some people are already thinking of probing those kicking against the probing of looters. For those crying about selective probes, it is important to let them know that the present probes affect mainly the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its corrupt administration under President Jonathan. I do not see how anybody, who was not in Jonathan’s government or its beneficiaries, could be a candidate for the ongoing probes, and certainly not the APC, Labour Party (LP) or All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), whose members had no access to the nation’s treasury, let alone looting it.

And it is known to the ordinary man on the street that the Buhari’s fight against corruption is economic and not political. Perhaps the probe should be extended to the National Assembly which consists of different political parties.

Now, it appears the die is cast and looters, small or big, no matter how highly placed in the Jonathan’s administration, must face the music and realise that they cannot escape justice, hoping that some commercial clerics will not be caught in the looting bazaar.

After all, some of them had prayed and boasted that God would not allow Buhari to become President. But God did not answer their prayers. Instead, He installed Buhari as a divinely ordained popular President in a grand style!

Right now, Buhari does not need the hypocritical advices and prayers of clerics, who preach morality in the morning and break it at noon!

When everything is considered, we believe that Bishop Kukah spoke for members of the Peace Committee, which means he was not acting alone. After introducing Kukah as the person to speak on behalf of the Peace Committee by Gen Abdulsalami, we may now ask a legitimate question: was Kukah on his own while he was delivering the cruel message, supposedly for the Peace Committee, to the public on Channels Television on August 12 and 13, and which has been repeated several times since then? This question is in need of an answer, just in case Kukah turned out to be a mere scapegoat, but nevertheless a scapegoat that deserves serious bashing. When all is said, we believe that the duties of the so-called Peace Committee should have ended after the inauguration of President Buhari on May 29, and should not have been extended to the aftermath of “war” to the extent that the committee took undue advantage of its continued existence to canvass a soft landing for Jonathan and his ministers over a serious matter that had gone beyond the shores of Nigeria – yes, serious matters, like looting of the treasury that belongs to all Nigerians, young and old, majority of whom had given Buhari the strong and irreversible mandate to rule and with the high expectation that he would fight corruption to a standstill or in his own words, kill corruption before it kills Nigeria!

Prof Makinde is the Director General/Chief Executive Officer,

Awolowo Centre for Philosophy, Ideology and Good Governance, Osogbo in Osun State.

Kukah’s comment that stirred the hornet’s nest 

After the meeting of the Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalami-led Peace Committee parley with President Muhammadu Buhari, spokesman of the committee, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, briefed State House reporters on the mission of the group to the seat of power.

He said the committee was not at the State House to plead for former President Goodluck Jonathan, even as he confirmed that the committee had earlier met the the immediate past leader.

According to him, the committee also met with Senate President Bukola Saraki and had plans to seek audience with House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara.

He described the sessions as ‘a hearing-out process.’

“We gave a bit of update about the relevance of the Peace Committee itself and how we can help to nurture what God has given to us. Anybody is free to come to our committee but President Jonathan never by telephone or another means talked to the committee. We went to see him, but that was after we had already seen members of the political party, members of the civil society; we plan to see the Speaker because we couldn’t see him yesterday.

“This is a very planned series of interventions essentially just to hear out everybody and I think the good news is that Nigerians are committed to a new nation. They are committed to ensuring that the gains and blessings God has given us come to fruition.

“This is not an intervention. It is a hearing out process. When we had election, it was like a wedding, now the reality of government is the marriage and people need to be encouraged. We need to reaffirm that this is our country and the only thing we can collectively be opposed to is injustice, inequity, corruption and in that regard we all had one single conversation.

“The President has also reaffirmed the need for this committee to continue and the international committee has very much welcomed the contributions of the committee. Essentially we are not policing, but when the need arises, we will help to build confidence in the process.

“It is not heating up the polity. In our conversation with former President Jonathan and members of the parties, I don’t think any Nigerian is in favour of corruption or is against the President’s commitment to ensuring that we turn a new leaf. I think what we are concerned about is the process. It is no longer a military regime and under our existing laws, everybody is innocent until proven guilty.

“Again, our own commitment is not to intimidate or fight anybody. The former President’s commitment and what he did still remains spectacular and I think that President Buhari himself appreciates that. So, our effort really is to make sure that the right thing is done,” Kukah said.

NATION