The Insight by Lateef Adewole
First, let me wish my readers and all, a happy new year. As we entered another Gregorian calendar year, I pray that all the misfortunes of last year would have gone with it and any evil hanging in the new year shall be averted by the Almighty. 2021 shall be a year of recompense, revival and revitalisation for all that we might have lost in 2020. It will be a year of progress, greatness and more positive achievements. May our dreams and aspirations come true.
Against my usual tradition of writing only inspirational messages in my first article of every new year, I had to respond to multiple yearnings of readers who have asked for my opinion on the raging controversy about the “bombshell” released by the Bishop of Catholic Diosece of Sokoto, Mathew Hassan Kukah, in his Christmas annual homily message. It has generated a raging storm.
Ordinarily, given the religious colouration that the arguments and debates on it have taken, I would not have been part of it. As much as possible, I avoid dabbling into serious religious issues, given how emotional, sentimental and “dogmatic” Nigerians can be when religious issues are raised.
I deliberately used “dogmatic” because, I have seen highly respected intellectuals and sensible people who suddenly turned to something completely opposite when their faith is touched, refusing to accept any objective engagement. They act as if their brains have been removed and could not think properly anymore. They act in the most unexpected, irrational ways. It is usually unbelievable.
Although, that has not stopped my interventions every now and then, writing about religious issues as they affect the people and our society, damning all the consequences and not minding whose horse is gored. I did receive backaches as I often anticipated, but that meant nothing to me. That’s the price to pay for speaking up and standing for truth.
So, when some organisations, especially muslims and Northern ones started responding to Bishop Kukah, a very good friend and an ardent reader of my articles “threw a stone” on a social media platform we both belong. He commented on a post of the Network for Democracy and Development’s (NDD) reaction. He said: “Unfortunately, a lot of muslims who write articles regularly do not see any need to write this kind of rejoinder in defence of Islam and Muslims”. I knew he targeted me even without mentioning my name. I just laughed. I only asked him to also write his own in the defence.
Since the coming of this administration in 2015, two words have been given prominence in the Nigerian political lexicon. The words are “wailer” and “zombie”. Apart from the legendary Fela Anikulapo who popularised “zombie” in the 70’s and 80’s through one of his album in 1977, it was not commonly used anymore. It is the people in this government that popularised “wailer”. Most people know what these words mean but let me explain briefly in the context of this article.
“Wailer” is the derogatory label which the members of the current administration, their supporters and loyalists to President Buhari gave to anyone, I mean anyone, who disagrees with them on anything done by the president or his government, no matter how correct the person is. They don’t want to reason with any objection to their position or conceed to any superior argument. They simply dismiss it as “wailing” and the person as a “wailer”. Truly, there are “wailers” who never see anything good in this government. That’s wrong too.
On the flip side is the word; “zombie”, as also used by opposition and critics. They use it to describe the supporters of the president and his government who hardly see any wrong done by the president no matter how bad. They can defend anything, anywhere, anyhow, irrespective of whether they are right or wrong, so long it is Mr. President who does it.
Now to the crux of this article, which is the speech of Bishop Kukah. In the past one week, diverse reactions have trailed that speech with commentators divided majorly across religious and tribal lines, as religious and ethnic interpretations were given to it. Unfortunately, these overshadowed the numerous issues raised in the message. While many christains, christain bodies and organisations threw their weight behind him, many muslims, muslim organisations and Northern groups have not spared him from their caustic chastisement too.
There is a particular paragraph in the whole Kukah’s speech which seems to enjoy most attention. It is as follows:
“A nation in search of vindication: Every honest Nigerian knows that there is no way any non-Northern Muslim President could have done a fraction of what President Buhari has done by his nepotism and gotten away with it. There would have been a military coup a long time ago or we would have been at war. The President may have concluded that Christians will do nothing and will live with these actions. He may be right and we Christians cannot feel sorry that we have no pool of violence to draw from or threaten our country. However, God does not sleep. We can see from the inexplicable dilemma of his North.”
The parts of the speech that stirred the hornets’ nest were the accusation of nepotism against the president; the insinuation that the northern muslims would not have accepted such from a non-northern muslim president, which could have resulted in a coup or war; and the statement that christains are non-violent, interpreted to insinuate that muslims are violent. These are deductions made from the speech by his critics.
NDD accused him of attacking Islam. Professor Isiaq Akintola of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) called it “tramadolised religiosity”. Shettima Yerima of AYCF, called for his arrest and prosecution for treasonable felony. NEF claimed he is insincere in his speech. Alhaji Lai Muhammed said his “wailing” could destabilise the country. And so many from other organisations and individuals.
The Catholic Church threw their weight behind Kukah. Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 northern states said he spoke the truth. Many christain leaders agreed with him. Shehu Sani, in response to AYCF said; “My Dear Northern Youths; leave the Kukah in Sokoto and fight the Bandits in your shokoto”. Afenifere, Ohanese Ndigbo, Middle belt assembly, PANDEF, are in support of Kukah.
The dichotomy in the reactions is obvious. The import of the critical issues raised was lost to either the “wailing or hailing”.
Let me now state my opinion by x-raying the speech. It is interesting that some of the antagonists acknowledged many things he said, like the worsened insecurities and the economic downturn. If in the actual sense, that religious slant was his intention, I completely disagree with that aspect.
The worst democracy is better than the best military regime. I will never be party to calling for a forceful change of government by military coup. In fact, in many of my writings which examined Nigeria’s problems, I often put a large chunk of the causes at the feet of military due to their coups and regimes. If the first republic had been allowed to continue to grow, we would have eventually outgrown all the shenanigans that characterised it. But no! Military had to come and derail our democratic journey.
Consequent upon their incursion, a 30-month war broke out. Millions died. Properties worth billions of naira in today’s value were destroyed. Nigeria was set back. No country survives two civil wars. So, as being insinuated that Bishop Kukah called for a coup or war, I can never be part of such call. He however came out again to clarify these issues claiming he never meant all that he was being accused of.
Another issue is the allegation of nepotism of President Buhari. This has remained a sore point of this administration. It is something many people have used to characterise him. Are they right or wrong? I will look at it from two perspectives from which the defenders of the president used to tackle Kukah.
Some category of people claimed the nepotism which Kukah is complaining about was also practised during former President Jonathan. They question why anyone should complain about Buhari doing the same now. Let us assume without conceding that this is true, if Jonathan did something “wrong”, and he was castigated, denigrated, abused and hounded out of office, would it be wrong for any other president who does the same or similar thing to be treated the same way Jonathan was treated? This is a moral question. What is good for the goose, is good for the gander.
Another perspective canvassed was that the south actually has more political appointments than south. I have seen statistics reeled out to back up that claim. Only that the statistics did not mention the actual offices/ positions occupied by the very appointees being touted. This would have shed more light on it.
When I was confronted with that claim, I likened it to a business organisation where there are 50 positions (15 top management and 35 lower cadre positions). When a group A gets 13 top management and 7 lower cadre positions and the other group B gets 2 top management and 22 lower cadre positions. In summary, group A gets only 20 positions, which is far less than group B with 30 positions. But only a foolish person will say he or she does not know which group actually controls the organisation.
I had to do more clinical study of the appointments before I came up with this analogy stated above, which reflects exactly what the appointments under President Buhari have been since he came to power. I will cite just few examples. The case of the security architecture is too obvious for the blind to see. Of about 16 people who will sit to discuss the security situation in Nigeria, 13 are from the north while 3 are from the south.
North (13): president, Minister of Defence, Minister of Police Affairs, Army chief, Airforce chief, IGP, heads of; DSS, NSA, NIA, Civil Defence, NDLEA, Immigration, and Custom.
South (3): vice president, Chief of Defence Staff, Navy chief.
Let me summarise the situation with the ministerial appointments, which the president is compelled to pick across the 36 states and FCT, what do we have? One, there are senior and junior ministers. Two, we all know how “critical and powerful” each ministry is, except we want to lie to ourselves. Without demeaning any ministry or the person in charge, I will highlight a few issues in that.
There are 43 ministers: North 24, South 19.
NW10, NE/NC/SW/SS 7 each and SE 5.
There are 29 Senior ministers: NW10, NE/SW 5 each, NC/SS/SE 3 each.
There are 14 junior ministers: NW-0, NE/SW/SE 2 each, NC/SS 4 each.
Senior Ministers from North (18): Petroleum, Finance, Power, Justice, Defence, Police, Aviation, Communication, Education, Agriculture, FCT, Environment, Water, Women Affairs, Humanitarian, and Special Duties.
Senior Ministers from South (11): Works, Transport, Information, Health, Foreign Affairs, Labour, Trade, Science and Technology, Minerals, Sport and Niger Delta.
Let everyone be the judge of the level of importance of each ministry.
Let us not begin with the heads of “critical and powerful” departments and agencies. They will break peoples’ hearts the more.
So, when people claim that the president is not nepotistic and that the south have more political appointments than the north, I just laughed. It smacked either complete ignorance of political power play or deliberate mischief. But, I wouldn’t blame such persons. Such narative suits their mindsets. Unfortunately, that’s a divisive mindset that does not augur well for a country that seeks urgent cohesion and unity. Nigeria has never been this divided. Not even during the civil war.
There are too many issues raised in that Kukah’s speech that time and space will not permit me to address. But just like me, when the religious slant is taken out of the speech, many critics of it know that what he wrote is the truth, because the people of the north bear the most brunt of insecurities, poverty, illiteracy, deprivation, backwardness, and many other ills. I know because I lived there for many years. And all these have nothing to do with Islam. They are due to bad governance at the federal, respective state and local government levels.
Bishop Kukah must know, given his vast knowledge, that Islam as stated in the Qur’an and practised and exemplified by the holy prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), is a religion of peace. Many things that people who claim to be muslims do are not part of Islam. Or how can we reconcile Allah saying in the Qur’an that if you kill a human being, it is like killing all mankind (Q5:32) and the boko haram terrorists, who claim to be muslims and fighting for Allah but continued to kill innocent people in thousands for the past 10 years? Is that Islam? So, many people do not represent Islam in their sayings, manners and actions. They are self-serving.
And this is not exclusive to Islam. There are too many things that Christians and Christain leaders do, which are completely at variance with the ways of Jesus Christ they claim to believe in, follow and even worship. Can their acts be used as representing what Christainity stands for? Religions themselves are never the problems but the ways their adherents practise them, especially here in Africa, and particularly in Nigeria. Let me not go further on this.
Therefore, like the Yorubas will say, “ti aba y’opin loju, oju la fiihan” (when dirt is removed from the eyes, it’s still shown to the eyes). When political leaders are doing things wrong, people of good conscience, without being mischievous, must always speak up and call their attentions to them. Every leader, whether religious, community, traditional, or social, must speak up for the sake of posterity. History will not be kind to them if they remained silent in the face of all these frightening challenges facing the country. Nigeria is at the precipice.
However, they should be circumspect when delivering such messages not to aggravate already bad situation.
May God continue to guide and protect us.
Happy New Year.
God Bless Nigeria.