Matthew Kukah: Nigeria’s Authentic Voice

Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah

Kene Obiezu wants the government to pay attention to Kukah because the administration is losing more and more of its power.

In Nigeria, there are men and women who have walked with the country on some of its bumpiest roads, offering shoulders to lean on, helping hands with the banana peels that line the country’s roads, and raising a rebuke each time the enemies of the country sing a bit too loudly.

These men and women who have witnessed it all, embracing Nigeria’s nakedness, numbness, and nausea in its most difficult moments, have a right to be heard first and the right of first refusal to speak in Nigeria’s commentariat of nationhood.

These men and women, silent witnesses to the unfolding of the Nigerian drama and melodrama in the theatre of national trauma and tragedy, have today earned the right to hold the hands of an ailing country as it gasps for air on its sickbed. This right inheres in these men not by appointment but as one of the blessings of a bond forged in the fire of adversity.

Such men also reserve the right to be consulted first on issues that strike at the heart of Nigeria. Because they know too much to leave Nigeria in knots, there is a level to the Nigerian conversation where they live and to which the lounge of lizards that litter the corridors of power cannot ascend, no matter how skilled as climbers or how well they try.

The Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, is one of the men who has seen Nigeria in her pangs as well as in her pulchritude. Between 1999 and 2001, he served as a member of the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission of Nigeria, set up by the government of Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo and also known as the Oputa panel. In 2005, he served as the Secretary of the National Political Reform Conference (2005) and, from 2005 onwards, as the Chairman of the Ogoni-Shell Reconciliation. Between 2007 and 2009, he served on the Nigerian government’s electoral reform committee.

The celebrated priest is one of the most authentic voices in the Nigerian predicament. To hear him speak is to hear an authentic account of that which ails the Giant of Africa, warts and all. Whenever he speaks about Nigeria, it is from a place of reason and reflection, with the coruscating clarity of his words always giving him away as both an intellectual and moral giant.

In 2015, frothing at the mouth from 16 years of misrule by the Peoples Democratic Party and its congregation of crocodiles, Nigerians stood at the ballot box to rescue the country from the ruthless colony of weasels that had taken over the corridors of power. In historic votes that stunned hubris and hoisted Nigeria onto the hills of history, the Peoples Democratic Party was resoundingly rejected at the polls, as for the first time in the history of the country, Nigerians shunned the advances of an incumbent president to pitch their tents with an opposition candidate. That opposition candidate was Mr. Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress.

His forceful promises had easily bought over a tired country whose citizens were horrified by the degree of nonchalance with which their mandate was being treated in the corridors of power. When President Buhari pledged to make fighting corruption, Nigeria’s cankerworm of great notoriety, one of his administration’s planks, Nigerian minds were made up.

However, it is written in the stars of the affairs of men that sometimes reality can differ so much from reason as to attract rueful recriminations. This is how Nigerians who had a presidency and a president have turned into a group of charlatans and clowns who make their members pointless and make their every sound so jarring that they don’t make any sense.

Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah has a gift for measuring time and words, and whenever he chooses or is led to choose, the clergyman picks his spot perfectly, and unerringly spears a reactionary presidency into stunned reaction.

This stunning response, like the one that followed Rev. Kukah’s Easter Sunday message on April 23, 2022, has always come from either Mr. Femi Adesina, the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, or Mr. Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity.

Adesina and Shehu, two of Nigeria’s best-known journalists, are in a bad situation in a government that does nothing. They have lost all of the credibility that they had built up over seven years of defending an unjust government.

If Nigeria is where it is today, it is because many of those who should speak up have instead chosen to recoil into the shell of silence. The more crooked have made themselves into emergency defenders of a government that appears irredeemably lost with the passing of each day. These people take up the cudgels against whoever raises concerns about the direction the country is heading in and are quick to take potshots at whoever it is that draws their ire.

How Nigerians wish that the presidential spokesmen, usually so eager to defend the indefensible, would take Bishop Kukah up on his offer of a debate so that one of Nigeria’s foremost orators would use the opportunity to cut them and their bedecked illusions to ribbons.

May that day speedily come when reason and reflection will rule the roost in Nigeria.

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