Unbeknownst to those who are trying hard to crucify the reverend gentleman for his courage to speak truth to power, Nigerians cannot be deceived by the intellectual dishonesty of trying to lucidly misinterpret his message to the Muslim North of “do unto others what you want others do unto you” as the call for a coup.
Reactions from the northern intellectual community to the Christmas day homily delivered by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Reverend Mathew Hassan Kukah was fast and furious in denunciation of both the message and messenger. In his message, Bishop Kukah had once again drawn the attention of the nation to Nigeria’s deteriorating security and economic conditions; the same concerns the Sultan of Sokoto and other prominent Nigerians have raised in the recent past. The only difference between what the Sultan and Bishop of Sokoto said was Kukah’s attempt to dig deeper into root causes of the problems currently bedevilling Nigeria.
In doing this, Bishop Kukah, a priest-intellectual, who has dedicated five decades of his adult life to the pursuit of knowledge as the solution to Nigeria’s existential problems of ethno-geographic and religious dissonance of identities, situated the current complex web of complicated challenges in the country to the failure of political leadership at the highest level. And this failure of leadership is underscored by President Buhari’s sectional and nepotistic tendencies that have put a knife on the unity of an otherwise plural Nigeria; a situation, which has left Nigeria polarised, prostrate and unable to collectively overcome its common challenges of heightened insecurity, economic crisis and cancerous corruption.
For calling out the most powerful political figure of the Fourth Republic Muslim north of Nigeria, from a pulpit at the seat of the Caliphate, for his elevation of regional sectionalism to an unofficial state policy of his administration, Bishop Kukah inevitably stirred the hornets’ nest and the bees came ferociously after him, stinging hard. Accused by his antagonists of partisanship, religious bigotry and the subtle attempt to instigate the overthrow of the Buhari administration through a military coup, Bishop Kukah and his Christmas homily have become subjects of intense vilification and distortion. However, beyond casting aspersions on his person, none of the reactions from leading northern intellectuals so far has objectively, factually and truthfully repudiated the core issues raised by the Reverend gentleman in his Christmas day address.
Propelled to the highest office in the land by the forces of a powerful wave of religious, ethno-geographic populism in the Muslim north, President Muhammadu Buhari has installed the most sectional administration in the 60-year history of Nigeria.
Buhari’s staunch support for the Sharia movement in Nigeria in the early days of the Fourth Republic in 1999; passionate advocacy for the cultural and economic privileges of his nomadic ethnic Fulani; and his virulent opposition to the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian Southerner, resulted in his emergence as the most popular political figure in Northern Nigeria. And when he took a plunge into the murky waters of Nigerian politics in a determined but failed attempt to wrestle power from the South to North in the 2003 presidential election, President Buhari certified his credentials as a the undisputed champion of the northern agenda.
A poor manager of Nigeria’s plurality, President Buhari’s narrow, sectional, clannish and nepotistic tendencies have not only sharply polarised the nation along ethno-geographic and religious fault lines but are also inhibitors of the optimal performance of his role as commander-in-chief, whose duty it is to ensure the security of all Nigerians and their properties.
Aided greatly by a combination of the mass psycho-social conditioning of Islamist separatism, an entrenched culture of ethnic trans-nationalism and politics of regional exceptionalism that defines Northern Nigeria, President Buhari, who is seen as a figurative embodiment of these tendencies, was to earn for himself a cult-like following in the Muslim north and secure an undivided support base in Nigeria’s largest voting bloc. With his firm grip on the votes of Nigeria’s largest democratic demography, which is estimated to be over 12 million, Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General and former military head of state with a reputation for incorruptibility, was eventually elected president in 2015, after three previous attempt beginning from 2003. As no section alone, no matter how populated, can get a person elected as the president of Nigeria, Buhari’s eventual election into the highest office in the land was achieved by a broad national coalition of political forces.
Notwithstanding the coalition of forces that brought him to power in 2015, President Buhari went on to commit the “original sin” of elevating sectionalism and nepotism to a near state policy, in furtherance of the narrow interest of a “northern agenda”. On the allegations of sectionalism and nepotism, Buhari hardly needs anyone to defend him, as he is his own principal prosecution witness. In furtherance of his pledge to favour those who voted ’97 per cent’ for him against those who voted only ‘5 per cent’, President Buhari went on to match his words with action when he appointed a disproportional number of people from his northern part of the country, in relation to the other parts, into some of the most strategically powerful and influential positions of government, cutting across his kitchen cabinet, administrative cabinet and the security services.
In addition to the positions of chief of staff, secretary to the government of the federation, national security adviser and the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the heads of the army, air force, Police, Department of State Services (DSS), National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and all other internal security agencies are drawn from northern Nigeria. Of Nigeria’s six geo-political zones, President Buhari’s home region of the North-West has the highest number of federal cabinet members, with ten senior ministers, including himself as petroleum minister, and others in very strategic placements in the ministries of Defence, Police Affairs, Justice, Finance, Environment, Agriculture, Humanitarian Affairs and Aviation. In Buhari’s Nigeria, the heads of the executive, legislative and judiciary arms of government are all northerners by the President’s design. It is this unprecedented level of sectionalism, which created an apartheid-like country, where all Nigerians are equal but some are more equal than the others, that Bishop Kukah described as an attempt by President Buhari to foist a northern hegemony on the rest of Nigeria.
A poor manager of Nigeria’s plurality, President Buhari’s narrow, sectional, clannish and nepotistic tendencies have not only sharply polarised the nation along ethno-geographic and religious fault lines but are also inhibitors of the optimal performance of his role as commander-in-chief, whose duty it is to ensure the security of all Nigerians and their properties. Interestingly, those conducting the orchestra of Kukah’s denunciation in the theatre of intellectual absurdity are blinded by rage to sufficiently appreciate and understand the kernel of the message contained in the epistle of the Bishop of Sokoto to the Muslim north. This is that President Buhari’s sectionalism has failed the region and its people much more than it has marginalised the rest of Nigeria, to their hegemonic satisfaction.
The failure of leading northern intellectuals, who have called out President Buhari on his leadership failure as it affects their region, to re-echo Bishop Kukah’s concern about Buhari’s unproductive sectionalism, gives the impression to the rest of Nigeria that they want to eat their cake and still have it.
In the words of Bishop Kukah, President Buhari’s sectionalism has turned out a “counterfeit currency”, benefitting only a few of his family and friends to the detriment of the generality of the people of the region. In the five years of President Buhari’s northern dominated administration, none of the existential problems of northern Nigeria, including poverty, illiteracy, disease and insecurity has been solved. Despite having President Buhari as petroleum minister, the only refinery in northern Nigeria has not refined a litre of petrol for northern consumers so far. While the bulk of security chiefs being from northern Nigeria has also not saved the region from becoming the largest human slaughter slab in Africa. And despite appointing more northerners into “juicy” positions of government, the region remains the most impoverished part of Nigeria. Yes, because no region of country can be developed or secured along the lines of sectionalism and nepotism.
Unable to defend President Buhari’s sectionalism and nepotism, those baying for the blood of Bishop Kukah are now relying on his mention of the word “coup” in his statement to lynch him. Unbeknownst to those who are trying hard to crucify the reverend gentleman for his courage to speak truth to power, Nigerians cannot be deceived by the intellectual dishonesty of trying to lucidly misinterpret his message to the Muslim North of “do unto others what you want others do unto you” as the call for a coup. Bishop Kukah’s reference to a coup against any non-northern Muslim leader of Nigeria that attempts President Buhari’s level of sectionalism was not a call for a military takeover of power but simply a euphemism to illustrate that the North will not take what one of its own is giving to the rest of Nigeria presently.
And this analogy by Bishop is a fact of history. The July 1966 counter coup that was led by military of northern extraction was a bloody operation that toppled the sectional and nepotistic tendencies of the General Aguiyi Ironsi regime, whose appointments, policies, actions and inactions, including his promulgation of the controversial unification decree 34, was perceived in the North as a marginalisation of the region in furtherance of Ironsi’s Igbo ethnic agenda of dominating the Nigerian nation. Since the Ironsi “mistake of 1966”, every non-northern Muslim leader of Nigeria comes to the highest office in the land with this consciousness. Therefore, it is rather hypocritical and a naked attempt at living in denial of President Buhari’s debilitating sectionalism, for those who recently cried out against his ineptitude and leadership failure over the heightened state of insecurity and poverty in northern Nigeria, with some even boldly demanding his resignation, to be the first to denounce Bishop Kukah for unearthing the root causes of their agonising social condition.
Those who denounced Kukah as a partisan who didn’t hold the administrations of Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan to the same standard he is doing to the current administration of President Buhari, ‘cleverly’ omitted the government of former President Umar Musa Yar’Adua from their list of those who the Bishop didn’t speak out against their nepotism-induced bad governance. And those who consider the Bishop a bigot, conveniently gloss over the fact that Kukah is himself a northerner; the only difference being that whilst they are pre-occupied with the protection of their regional hegemonic privileges, Bishop Kukah is a patriotic Pan-Nigerian nationalist who is more concerned about equal rights for all Nigerians. The failure of leading northern intellectuals, who have called out President Buhari on his leadership failure as it affects their region, to re-echo Bishop Kukah’s concern about Buhari’s unproductive sectionalism, gives the impression to the rest of Nigeria that they want to eat their cake and still have it.