Catholic Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah’s claim that Nigeria has turned into a “massive killing field” while the government and the governed look on, got him a swipe from the Presidency Sunday night.
In his Easter message, the Bishop likened Nigeria’s predicament to the Biblical situation with Israel that led to the death of High Priest Eli.
He said the country is “taunted by Boko Haram, ravaged by bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers and other merchants of death”, adding that “there is collective fear as to whether Nigeria’s glory is about to depart”.
Rev. Kukah described the government’s fight on corruption as “clay-footed”.
The government, the Bishop said, “manufactures consent by creating imaginary enemies, ethnicity, religion and other platforms while appealing to the base emotions of patriotism”.
Bishop Kukah also faulted the government’s rehabilitation of Boko Haram repentants, while “victims are left to their wits to cry along and bury their loved ones alone.”
But the Presidency, in a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu, said some of the things the Bishop said are “unexplainable”.
The Presidency accused the Bishop of “not speaking like a man of God,” and for turning the pulpit to a platform to advance “partisan politics”.
It is not the first time that they will disagree. Twice in December 2020, the Presidency faulted Bishop Kukah’s criticism as unfair.
Bishop Kukah’s message added: “The two sons of the 98-year-old priest, Hophni and Phinehas, died in battle. Eli’s two sons had foolishly carried the Ark of the Lord into the battlefield for protection, only for it to become a trophy for the victorious Philistines.
“The high priest, Eli, collapsed and died after hearing this horrible news. Elsewhere, on hearing about the death of her husband, her father- in-law, and the loss of the Ark, Eli’s daughter-in-law went into premature labour. She was delivered of a baby boy–a call for great celebration in Israel! Strangely, she responded by naming her newborn son “Ichabod,” meaning, The glory has departed!”
“Taunted by Boko Haram, ravaged by bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, and other merchants of death across the nation, there is collective fear as to whether Nigeria’s glory is about to depart! Retired military and intelligence officers lament over what has become of their glorious profession as they watch the humiliation of our military personnel. Traumatised citizens are tortured daily by bandits.”
“A thick and suffocating cloud of desperation, despondency, desolation, gloom, and misery hangs in the hot air. We have no message and have no idea how long this will last. Our people seek solace and protection, but frustration and darkness threaten to drown them. Is their government on AWOL?”
The very survival of the nation is at stake. The nation is pulling apart. Widespread serious insecurity for long unaddressed has left the sad and dangerous impressions that those who have assumed the duty and authority to secure the nation are either unable, or worse, unwilling to take up the responsibilities to their office. Patience is running out. Sadly, all of these warnings are still falling on deaf ears.”
Citing some episodes from the trial of Jesus by Pilate, he said when governments face legitimacy crises, they fall back on serving the populace propaganda, half-truths, and outright lies.
“We forget the reality that without truth, the throne of power often turns into a cage, and the occupant is turned into a prisoner. In reality, the truth needs neither a judge nor a witness. The truth is its own judge and witness. Without the truth, as the old song says, all else is sinking sand!
“Recently, according to the World Happiness Report, we are one of the unhappiest nations in the world. This is unacceptable but understandable. Our clay-footed fight against corruption has not moved the needle of transparency forward. Of course, being the poverty capital of the world comes with its rewards such as banditry, violence, death, sorrow, blood, poverty, misery, and tears. Our cup of sorrow is permanently full; hence the exponential rise in the frustration curve across the country.”
“Mysteriously, the government is investing billions of naira in rehabilitating so-called Boko Haram repentant members and their other partners in crime in the belief that they want to turn a new leaf. These criminals have waged war against their country, murdered thousands of citizens, destroyed infrastructure and rendered entire families permanently displaced and dislocated. Why should rehabilitating the perpetrator be more important than bringing succour to the victims?
“When kidnapped or killed, victims and their families are left to their wits. They cry alone, bury their loved ones alone. And our government expects us to be patriotic? The victims of violence need empathy, which the dictionary defines as the ability to understand and share the feelings of the other. A critical deficit of empathy on the side of the government makes healing almost impossible for the victims. We have not heard anything about a rehabilitation programme for the thousands of schoolchildren who have been victims of abduction.
“We seem to assume that their return to their schools is sufficient. Left unaddressed, the traumatic effect of their horrors will haunt them for a long time. Tomorrow’s parents, military generals, top security men and women, governors, senators, and ministers will come from today’s pool of traumatised children. The security quandary is the greatest indictment of this government,” he stated.
He also recalled Buhari’s statement at his swearing-in on May 29, 2015, highlighting the failure to meet up with expectations.
“President Muhammadu Buhari, at his swearing-in as President of Nigeria, said: Boko Haram is a typical case of small fires causing large fires.
“Now, before his watch, the fires are consuming the nation, and in many instances, they indeed start small. The rumblings over the wearing of a hijab in Kwara State suggest that we have not seen the end of individuals sacrificing national cohesion to feed their personal ambitions by starting small fires. Most politicians hardly think through the long-term effects of these pyrrhic victories of using religion. What started as a small fire with adoption of Sharia in Zamfara in 1999, spread across the northern states. Ordinary people broke into ecstatic joy. Today, what has become of the north? What are the lessons?”
Kukah said Nigeria’s troubles are growing by the day, the citizens should intensify their prayers.