Letter to Bishop Kukah

Dear Bishop,

WHEN I met you in Calabar three years ago at Southern Senators Retreat, you were still as fresh as the very Father Kukah I met in Lagos in the dangerous days of Sani Abacha when fear reigned over the land. Those were the years the Catholic church whose secretariat you headed led us to pray for Nigeria in distress. Those lines were so powerful and we joined in recitation anytime we visited and joined for mass at the Catholic secretariat:

Prayer for Nigeria in distress

All powerful and merciful Father

You are a God of justice love and peace.

You rule over all the nations of the earth.

Power and might are in your hands and no one can withstand you.

We present our country Nigeria before you.

We praise and thank you for you are the source of all we have and are.

We are sorry for all the sins we have committed and for the good deeds we have failed to do.

In your loving forgiveness, keep us safe from the punishment we deserve.

Lord we are weighed down not only by uncertainties but also by moral, economic and political problems. Listen to the cries of Your people who confidently turn to You.

God of infinite goodness, our strength in adversity, our health in weakness, our comfort in sorrow, be merciful to us your people; spare this nation Nigeria from chaos, anarchy and doom.

Bless us with your kingdom of justice, love and peace.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord”.

Ultimately, evil could not withstand our God and we survived that evil regime though we are still under its structure and the constitution, Prof Yadudu drafted for its failed self-succession.

Those of us who understand these projections are not fully surprised that a man who bears the mark of Christ like you has been at the receiving end of the regime and its agents’ daggers as the terrible year 2020 came to end for speaking truth to power in the very order of true teachers of the word who make authorities uncomfortable when they utter words of liberation and not soothing balms to dictators.

The very plain truth you said to our hearing are being twisted by liars to give our Bishop of righteousness a very bad name.

We know that but for the mercies of God men like you for both region and religion should not have a voice in their own idea of a country.

Ladan-Baki (2015: pp.174-196) has done extensive work on Zango Kataf crisis, your area of birth, to give enough idea on why your word hurts.

Kaduna is one of the volatile states in Northern Nigeria. It has experienced occasionally violent complex conflicts, and mostly with ethnic and religious character. Amongst such conflicts includes: Kasuwar Magani, 1980; ZangoKataf, 1984; Kafanchan, 1987; Zangon Kataf and its spill-over to Kaduna and Zaria, 1992; Kafanchan 1999; Kaduna and Kachia, 2000, (Gwantu, 2001:99). The conflicts are always between the Hausa-Fulani Muslims and the Christian Southern Kaduna ethnic minorities. Although there have been long time historical animosities between these two communities arising from pre-colonial political structure of Hausaland and the character of the colonial and post-colonial Nigerian state, recent resurgence of these crises show clear cases of manipulation and state culpability.

These crises have been reinforced by the economic imbalance between the two communities right from the colonial time. The Southern Kaduna people argued that the underdevelopment of their communities is the result of deliberate and persistent neglect by the emirate officials who until 1976 local government reform also dominated the system of native administration (Suberu, 1996:50).

However, official explanations attribute the underdevelopment to the sparse population of the areas, and their lack of viable internal sources of revenue. Others have argued that the underdevelopment of the areas is almost the same as that of Zaria. That Zaria compared to other pre-colonial Hausa cities, like Kano, Sokoto, etc., is less developed. These socio cultural and economic differences have often escalated into violence since the colonial period. Whitaker (1970:54), argued that at different times during the 1946-66 period, riots were staged by the ―Kataf and other related peoples in Southern Zaria province over certain oppressive features of the emirate system, particularly the hardship of Fulani ruling families over predominantly non Fulani districts. In 1942 Kaje ethnic group of ZangoKataf district protested over perceived domination and discrimination by Native Authority administration. Similar protest also took place in 1948, this time by the Kataf ethnic group. These protests, according to Yahaya, were the beginning of what was to become a continuous demand for political recognition and participation by the Southern Zaria ethnic minorities (Suberu, 1996:51).

Since the 1980s, conflicts in Kaduna State have assumed the additional dimension of a Muslim versus Christian dichotomy (Toure, 1999:133). The first was the Kafanchan crisis in 1987. The crisis started as a result of theological disagreement between Christian and Muslim students of the Kafanchan Teachers  College, Kafanchan in Southern Kaduna (Suberu, 1996). At first, on the 5th of  March 1987, there was a quarrel between the Fellowship of Christian Students  (FCS) and the Muslim Students Society (MSS) over evangelical campaign  organised by the former tagged ―Mission 87. The MSS group protested over the banner hoisted on the college gates with an inscription ―Mission 87 in Jesus Campus, it took the intervention of the school authority for that to be settled (Jibrin, 1987:4).

On the second day, a Christian convert, and a leading member of the activist  ―Born again Abubakar Bako, was accused by the MSS of deliberately  misinterpreting the Holy Qur’an) Abubakar was first accosted by a Muslim woman  Aisha Garba. The next day, the MSS organised a protest march around Kafanchan town. This protest later transformed into religious violence. The situation ignited existing tension between the Hausa-Fulani settlers‘ community and the indigenes predominantly Christian ethnic minority groups. The crisis later spread to Zaria, Funtua, Kankia, Daura, etc. in which Muslims communities carried out reprisals on Christian settlers.  At the end of the day, 19 people were killed and 61 injured.

There is a clash of civilization which  is due to the realization of the fact that these aspects of other people‘s lives do not in any way fall under his jurisdiction. This belief nourished with education will make it impossible for a Christian to attempt to take over power of the state to sanction deviant behavior, or would a Christian attempt to abate certain conduct that offends Christian doctrine. This is clearly within the regulatory purview of temporal authority. This virtue of compliance to temporal authority makes it possible for Christianity to endorse and comply with economic, political and social order as sanctioned by temporal authority as far as these do not interfere with its worship.

Islam, on the other hand, is different. It is not just a religion but also a way of  life that encompasses the whole gamut of economic, judicial, political and cultural lives of its Umma (faithful or adherent), and as such it is viewed as ―total submission to the will of Allah (God) as revealed through the prophetic message of  Muhammed (Danjibo, 1991:33). The totality of Islamic regulation of the lives of Muslims is graphically captured by (Olayiwola, 1988:227), when he writes:-Islam does not admit a narrow view of religions by restricting it within the limits of worship, specific rituals and spiritual beliefs. In its precise meaning, Islam is not only a religion; it is also a way of life that regulates all the aspects of life on the scale of the individual and the nation. Islam is a social order, philosophy of life, a system of economic rules and government. Islam clearly establishes man‘s duties and rights in all relationship- a clear system of worship, civil rights, laws of marriage and divorce, inheritance, code of behavior, laws of economy, laws of governance, laws of war and peace, of buying and selling and laws of relations and  co-existence with one another, parents, children, relatives neighbours, guests, Muslims, non- Muslims and brethren. This explanation tilts Islam towards intolerance, fundamentalism and extremism. It paints a picture of rigidity of Islam as a comprehensive tool for the regulation of the entire lifestyle of its faithful, where there exists no room for any separation between spiritual and temporal affairs.

These backgrounds  by Baki may be boring but those who don’t understand them would not know why Garba Shehu would be giving reasons for killing in southern Kaduna or why Bishop Kukah would be accused of calling for a coup for saying what those in that business would have done if it is not one of them putting the country through this.

I have reproduced your entire speech so the senior Almajiris can show the whole world where you called for a coup or they shut it up.

 

1: Search for vindication

Let me paraphrase the holy prophet Isaiah who said: “For Jerusalem (Nigeria’s sake), I will not be silent until her vindication shines forth like the dawn…..No more shall people call you forsaken, or your land desolate, but you shall be called my delight and your land espoused.” (Is. 62:1,4).

Against the backdrop of our endless woes, ours has become a nation wrapped in desolation. 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 middle grounds of optimism have continued to shift and many genuinely ask, what have we done to the gods? Does Nigeria have a future? Where can we find hope? Like the Psalmist, we ask; from where shall come our help? (Ps. 121:1).

Whatever the temptations to despair, we cannot to give up. When the Psalmist asked where help shall come from, he answered that it will come from the Lord. Therefore, like Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, we Priests must stand before the mercy seat of God and plead the cause of our great country (Lk. 1:8). Like Abraham, we must plead for the Lord to save our nation because we have more than ten righteous men (Gen. 18: 16ff). Like Moses, we believe that as long as our hands are held up in prayer, the Lord will be on our side ( Ex. 17:11). These are trying but life changing moments in the history of our nation. Politics and Economics alone will not resolve our problems. There is enough hate and bitterness to go around. We need to pause, reflect, pray, be honest and courageous in facing tomorrow.

Yes, our dreams have been aborted. Yes, our commonwealth has been stolen. Yes, our cancer of corruption has metastasized. Yes, we have been guilty of patricide, fratricide and attempted even suicide. Yes, we are hungry, angry, thirsty and starving. Yet, we stand firmly with the unshaken belief that no matter the temptations, the world has known worst times. These may be the worst of times, but for men and women of faith, they could be the best of times. We must stand firm and resolute because, our redeemer liveth (Job 19:25).

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2: Annus Mirabilis or AnnusHorribilis?

The roads to the graveyards are busier than those to the farms. Amidst the wails and laments, I hear the congregants saying; the world is coming to an end, it has never been so bad. Yes, people are dying, but they are not dying more now than they did in recent years. It is the social media and its connectivity that has given us a sense of greater urgency and added to our seeming despair with the way things are. The social media is value neutral. It depends on what we make of it. Its instantaneous impact is often times dizzyingly traumatic, but the other benefits more than compensate. In a way, the choices we make will help us decide whether this year is our annus mirabilis or annushorribilis.

When Isaac Newton, at the age of 23, made the spectacular discoveries in the areas of Calculus, Motion, Optics, and Gravitation, the year of those discoveries, 1666, was referred to as, annus mirabilis, the year of joy. On the other hand, in 1992, when the marriages of three of her children collapsed, Queen Elizabeth in her Christmas address referred to that year as her annushorribilis, the year of horror. As such, notwithstanding all the earth shaking impact of the Covid-19,  our own individual, communal and national tragedies, it is not just a choice between annus mirabilis and annushorribilis. At various levels, there have been grey areas of hope, flickers of light, achievement and so on. It is to these flickers of hope that we must cling tenaciously.

For our son, Anthony Joshua, the loss of his title to Andy Ruis on June 1, 2019 after 25 fights without a loss, that year was his annushorribilis. When he pummeled KubratPulev, this year became his annus mirabilis. Things change and, joy or sorrow, we must know that nothing lasts forever. What matters is how we handle failure.

 

3: Another Christmas in Cloud of Doom

Not unexpectedly, this Christmas is again coming against a backdrop of so much pain, sorrow and uncertainty in our land. We all seem to have become sedated and inured to pain. Tragedy has been standing as our gate keeper. For over ten years now, at almost each Christmas, a dark pall of horror, sorrow and death has consistently hung in our horizon threatening to eclipse the promises of the joy of Christmas. Recall the bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla on Christmas day in 2011. In the wake of the Christmas day bombing, I issued a statement titled, An Appeal to Nigerians. In the statement which enjoyed a wide circulation, I stated: All of this should cause us to pause and ponder about the nature of the force of evil that is in our midst and appreciate the fact that contrary to popular thinking, we are not faced with a crisis or conflict between Christians and Muslims. Rather, like the friends of Job, we need to humbly appreciate the limits of our human understanding. Terror is a product of hate, but while hate tries to divide us, terror and death should pull us together.

 

4: Is Government in Suspended Animation?

As our country drifts almost rudderless, we seem like people travelling without maps, without destination and with neither Captain nor Crew. Citizens have nowhere to turn to. After he assumed power, a delegation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference had audience with President Buhari. In the course of our discussion, the President shared with us his frustration over the state of decay and rut that he had met. In frustration, I vividly recalled him saying that, from the decay and neglect, it seemed as if preceding governments had been doing nothing but just eating and going to the toilet! Looking back, one might conclude that those were happy times because at least there was food to eat and people could go to the toilet. Now, a journey to the toilet is considered by the poor an extra luxury. Our country’s inability to feed itself is one of the most dangerous signs of state failure and a trigger to violence.

 

5: Breaking the Ice: From Chibok through Dapchi to Kankara:

The sleepy town of Kankara, just 130 kilometers outside Katsina, like Chibok and Dapchi before it, has leapt into prominence not because they now have potable water, electricity or any dramatic improvement in the quality of their lives. Rather, it is because of large footprints of the evil men who have passed through their terrain. As always, we were unsure of how many children were missing: 80, 820, 800, 500, 520, 333, 320,no one knew. The numbers kept changing between the government and Boko Haram. The story of Chibok and Dapchi was for some time, a metaphor that exposed the vulnerability of the girl child. Kankara has added to the mix and now we have to face the mortal dangers of the Nigerian child in northern Nigeria. The Almajiri is the poster child of the horrible and inhuman conditions of the northern child. It is a best kept secret that the region refuses to confront but it has now exposed its underbelly. Now, what next for the children of the north? In another ten or twenty years, these children will be leaders in their communities. What will they remember and how will they remember? Their fate and future are a dream deferred, a nightmare that will be ignited by the fire next time.

We thank God that the children have been returned safely. This is the easy part. The challenge now is how to deal with the scars inflicted by a derelict nation which is still unable or unwilling to protect its citizens. Yes, we commend the federal and state governments for the rescue operation. The larger issues now are whether the federal government understands the evil web of intrigues into which Boko Haram has tied it. Will the federal government continue to reward and fund Boko Haram by playing its game? How long can this circle of deceit last for given that every kidnap merely strengthens their arsenal? The men of darkness have shown far greater capacity to shock and awe a forlorn nation by constantly blindsiding us all. When will it all end?

 

6: A Nation in search of vindication

This government owes the nation an explanation as to where it is headed as we seem to journey into darkness. The spilling of this blood must be related to a more sinister plot that is beyond our comprehension. Are we going to remain hogtied by these evil men or are they gradually becoming part of a larger plot to seal the fate of our country?

President Buhari deliberately sacrificed the dreams of those who voted for him to what seemed like a programme to stratify and institutionalise northern hegemony by reducing others in public life to second class status. He has pursued this self-defeating and alienating policy at the expense of greater national cohesion. 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.

 

7: Nepotism and the Worship of False Gods:

It is curious that President Buhari’s partisanship and commitment to reinforcing the foundations of northern hegemony have had the opposite consequences. For a long time, beyond the pall of politics, very prominent northerners with a conscience have raised the red flag, pointing out the consequences of President Buhari’s nepotism on national cohesion and trust. With time, as hunger, poverty, insecurity engulfed the north, the President’s own supporters began to despair and lament about the state of their collective degradation. Was this not supposed to be their song? The north that the President sought to privilege has become a cauldron of pain and a valley of dry bones. Today, the north itself is crying the most and why not? No one has suffered as much as they have and continue to. The helplessness is palpable and the logic is incomprehensible.

One Northern Imam after the other have posted videos of lamentation on the social media asking why, with all the cards of power in the hands of northern Muslims, everything is bursting in the seams. How come our region has become a cesspool of blood and death? Why did President Buhari hand over a majority of the plum jobs to Northern Muslims? Was it for efficacy and efficiency? What was the logic? President Buhari must pause and turn around because his policy of nepotism has been rejected by the gods.

During the Endsars Protests, the north pretended that it was ensconced from the pain that was driving the protests and that they had nothing to complain about. The northern elites claimed that the protests were part of a plot by Christians to overthrow a northern, Muslim government. Their sentiments are false, but understandable. However, it turned out to be the lull before the storm. The dam soon broke as the bandits tightened their grip on the region as the spiral of kidnappings, abductions and killings of innocent citizens intensified.

The North spurn into denouement: the idea of a united north seems to have ended. The  northern Governors’ Forum has split into the three zones. With the killings, kidnappings and abductions of Emirs and other traditional rulers in the north, the signals have gone out that no one is safe and nothing is sacred. In the wake of the EndSARS protests, the traditional rulers across the country assembled to express solidarity with the President. Then it all changed. The Emir of Katsina, the President’s home state, only recently said; We cannot continue to live like animals. I have not seen this type of country. His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, AlhajiSa’adAbubakar said that the north has now become the worst part of the entire country. The Senate whose leadership is almost totally dominated by Northern Muslims has raised alarm. The Northern Elders’ Forum has called on the President to resign. Has the politics of nepotism run its course? Perhaps, the spirit of Christmas should offer us an answer.

 

8: A people that walked in darkness have seen a great light

The rut and decay in our country today is evidence of a people who have not yet seen the light. The experience of northern Nigeria is evidence that nepotism is a counterfeit currency. The nation must therefore now pull together. It is not enough to blame the military. After all, they neither run the economy or the bureaucracy. It is not enough to blame even the political class or even the President alone. We found our way here by the choices we have made as a nation over time.

Indeed, the colonialists claimed that they were bringing light to a dark continent. In a way, despite the cost, we could see ingredients of their light; good education, running water, relatively good roads, security, among others.  We finally accepted Democracy as the platform for actualizing these. However, today, there is evidence that we have literally returned to the cave, those times when life was brutish, nasty and short. Each and every one of us has contributed to the darkness of our nation. The light of Christ which we all received at baptism calls on us to act in the mind of Christ. To be a follower of Christ is to be in his footsteps. This moment calls on us as Christians to celebrate the simplicity of Christ represented in Christmas. Joy to the world, the Lord has come, the song says. Jesus has offered us a roadmap. We are challenged to bring light into the darkness of our society.

Darkness has its own logic. St Paul reminds us without Chris, our lives are characterised by; immorality, filthy and indecent actions, worship of idols and witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight, they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups, they are envious, get drunk and have orgies (Gal. 5: 19-21). When it is dark, we cannot see our way and we stumble. Nigeria has stumbled so much. It is time to for us to turn on the light of the torch. Each of us can make a change.

 

9: Wailers and Redeemers

Finally, today, amidst the pains and the trials, we can say with the Psalmist: Our tears have become our bread (Ps. 43:2). We have no reason to doubt that at the fulfilment of time, in His own time, the Lord will dispense justice to our nation. It will come as day follows light.

Our brother Femi Adesina, a Pastor of the Four Square Gospel Church was right when he referred to those who were calling attention to our situation as Wailers. The wailing started quite early in the day. To the herdsmen across Nigeria whose cattle have been lost to rustlers, bandits, or lightening, the Prophet Zechariah said: There is a sound of a shepherd’s wail for their glory has been ruined (Zech 11:3). To the thousands of widows left to mourn their husbands or children across our country, the Prophet Jeremiah is saying; Send for the wailing women, that they may come! Let them make haste and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may shed tears and our eyelids flow with water (Jer. 9: 17). For our hapless nation overrun by bandits? Prophet Jeremiah still says; A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more (Jer. 31:15).

So, Pastor Adesina was right. On the sad situation in Nigeria, the United Nations has wailed. The Pope has wailed. Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Pastors have wailed. Emirs have wailed. Politicians have wailed. The Sultan has wailed. Surely, it is time for the Lord to hear the wailer as they have sung their redemption songs. With St. Paul, I say: The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over the day is almost here, so let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Rom. 13:11-12). Let us unite and seek the Lord in sincerity because the Lord will vindicate the righteous.

Happy Christmas to you all.

And since all around us is death, let me remind our friend, Father Uba John Ofei, a good friend of my wife and me, who worked with you at the secretariat but died of some brain ill-health. May he rest in peace.

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