BISHOP HASSAN KUKAH – THE PROPHETIC VOICE PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN OUR NATION NIGERIA.
1.) The Catholic Action Nigeria has noted with sadness and dismay and has been shocked at the negative reactions from some quarters in the country to the erstwhile homily and Christmas message of His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah calling for his arrest with the specious allegation that he is fomenting discord and violence in the country. We also find appalling the call to have Bishop Kukah resign from the National Peace Committee. Those advocating for this forget that Bishop Kukah is the Convener/Initiator of the National Peace Committee. What could be more odious about these outcries in the face of the obvious truths that Bishop Kukah has the courage of a Prophet to speak about without fear or favour as a true Nigerian and Spiritual leader? No one in his right mind would deny that Nigeria is presently a nightmare and a moral question and has been so for a long time now. Can it be denied, as Bishop Kukah says against the backdrop of our endless woes, that ours has become a nation wrapped in desolation? In highlighting the gravity of the misery and woe in our nation Bishop Kukah has warned us, like many others have done, that our country’s inability to feed itself is one of the most dangerous signs of State failure and a trigger to violence. A hungry man is an angry man, the saying goes.
2.) The prospects of a failed state stare us in the face: endless bloodletting, a collapsing economy, social anomie, domestic and community violence, kidnappings, armed robberies etc. Ours has become a house of horror with fear stalking our homes, highways, cities, hamlets and entire communities. The nation has become like a boiling cauldron where everyone is fighting desperately to escape from. The Pope has wailed, Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Pastors have wailed, Emirs have wailed, Politicians have wailed, The Sultan has wailed. Is it that the obvious isn’t obvious to some of us in the country?
3.) As Ambassadors of Catholic Action Nigeria, we therefore refuse to be cowered by the outcry from some quarters that the good message of the Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah was an incitement to violence and disruption of peace. We find this a false accusation. On the contrary, and as the *Convener of the National Peace Committee,* his message was eminently a message of *peace* and a call to a change of mindset and hope in the life of our nation in these very trying times. Indeed, as the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria have shown in the past years by their words, actions and communiques, Bishop Kukah reminds us all that “the joys and hopes, the griefs and anguish of the people of our times are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anguish of the Church.” (Gaudium et Spes of the 2nd Vatican Council, Paragraph 1). This is also seen and is key in the Holy Book of the Muslims, the Quran where it is said that Allah is Merciful and will reward those that keep His rule. Indeed, it is the basic tenet in all religions that “righteousness exalts a nation and sin destroys a people.”
4.) The Catholic Bishops are our Fathers and any attempt to intimidate and silence them unduly will be fatal to our common good as a people and nation with a common destiny. The Church in her self-definition remains a Sentinel of hope and a Prophetic voice as well as the Conscience of our nation. *Let us not be mistaken. The unholy call to have Bishop Kukah arrested, or indeed any of our Catholic Bishops, for speaking truth to power is a call with grave consequences. Any attempt to arrest or do harm to any of these bishops due to a homily, Christmas message, or a lawful exercise of their rights as Catholic and Christian leaders will be an undue and dangerous provocation that is unacceptable to Christians and well-meaning Nigerians and a threat to peace and progress in Nigeria. They will not stop to “proclaim the message and be persistent whether it is welcome or unwelcome. Refute falsehood, correct error, give encouragement, but do all with patience and with care to instruct.” (2 Tim: 4:2). Nor will the Ambassadors of Catholic Action Nigeria recuse their responsibility to rise to the occasion for the betterment of this nation. Therefore, it will be unwise to test the waters and to unduly test further the patience of millions of patriotic Nigerians who have endured and tolerated so much contradictions and apparent abuse of power in the present administration. Nigeria belongs to ALL of us and no one group or person has more rights than the other to the different facets of our national life, especially to act and speak up in their best interest and the interest of the common good.*
5.) The cry of Nepotism and Islamization of our country by the Catholic Bishops cannot be denied or swept aside with a wave of the hand. Bishop Kukah couldn’t be more right in his remarks 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 appointments to key offices at our National Assembly and Security Parastatal betray a lopsided view of our National definition. And as the Catholic Bishops and well-meaning Nigerians have pointed out they betray an Islamic domination of the Nigerian State. By these appointments it would seem that the President is unwittingly making his religious constituency to believe that Nigeria is an Islamic State. Or else how would one explain why in the first paragraph of a letter of complaint to the Director General of the State Security Service about Bishop Godfrey Igwebuike Onah’s homilies as provocative of strife by Prof. Salisu Shehu, the deputy Secretary General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs would use Islamic dating. The said paragraph of the letter reads thus: “The Director General may recall our letter dated 6 Rabiul-Awwal, 1441 AH (23 October, 2020) wherein we implored the State Security Service to …..” *6 Rabiul-Awwal, 1441 AH* refers to a date in the Islamic Hijri Calendar. Does it now mean that the State Security Service is now an Islamic agency or that the Director General and all other personnel to treat such letter should be Muslim? Or do we take it that this might just be a hidden code covering something unholy using Islamic dating from the Islamic Hijri Calendar to the Head of a Security Agency in a Sovereign State whose official language is English? We see a similar pattern in the hitherto outcries over Bishop Kukah’s 2020 Christmas Message and Homily. This is totally unbecoming in a Secular State as Nigeria as defined in our Constitution.
6.) Dear Nigerians from the North and South, Catholic Action Nigeria once again calls on us all to join hands in rebuilding and protecting our nation from undue subversion of our national integrity by a section of our country. *At best we call for devolution of power to enable regional autonomy and governance as would befit a Nation with Federal Character.* We must know that journeys to greatness require more than just good people, more than just good will, more than just hope. Those journeys have to be led by men and women with vision and tested character prepared to mobilize their people towards the attainment of a goal for the common good. The prophetic messages of clergymen and clergywomen everywhere and in every place play an important role in building a better nation as desired and we must stand by them rather than disparage and calumnize them.
I wish you all a safe, peaceful, healthy and prosperous happy New Year.
God bless our beloved fatherland.
*Sir Peter I. Agbontaen, KSJI*
Governor, Board of Trustees
30 December 2020