Bishop Kukah hits back, accuses gov’t of inability to handle nation’s diversity
The Bishop of Sokoto Diocese of the Catholic Church, Matthew Kukah, has responded to a taunt by the presidency that he should join partisan politics.
The presidency had spoken in reaction to Mr Kukah’s Easter message, titled “To mend a broken nation: The Easter metaphor,” in which he said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has enthroned corruption and destroyed every aspect of life in Nigeria.
In a statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the presidency accused Mr Kukah of hatred of Mr Buhari and of playing politics in the most un-Christian way while millions of Christians commemorated Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.
But in an interview with Arise News on Tuesday, which was monitored by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Kukah doubled down on his criticism, stressing the dangers of nepotism and accusing the administration of inability to handle the nation’s diversity. He also challenged the president’s spokesperson to a debate on the situation of Nigeria.
“First of all, let me set the record straight. I delivered my sermon to my congregation in our cathedral, so the hearers or the bearers of the message were primarily the good people of the Diocese of Sokoto. And of course, I am not unaware of the state of mind of my two friends, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, when it comes to talking about Bishop Kukah. They seem to suspend reason unless, of course, Garba Shehu has plans to convert to Christianity, is a closest Christian or an anonymous Christian.
“I appreciate the fact that when it comes to talking, he has not quoted the holy Quran and all he does is end up with some convoluted interpretations of the Bible that are embarrassing in their contexts. And I am surprised that Femi Adesina, who I believe is a regular Christian in the FourSquare Gospel Church, I am surprised that he is unable to help his friend put the facts together.
“But let me simply say I have made an offer to them and I still make the offer that they choose the venue and choose the time and just let me know. I will like to sit down with the three of them, beginning with their honourable minister and both of them; let us sit down and talk about Nigeria.
“I am ready to pay my way. And I still repeat that offer to them. Dr Abati, you have been a spokesperson for the president and I am sure you know better than anybody else. In your time, as a spokesperson, I do not remember that I read messages written by you because the job of a spokesperson, which you did extremely well, was to highlight and elaborate, debate and put to the public government policies and what government intends to do, and use it as an opportunity to clarify government policies as it affects governance and the people.
“These are the only spokesmen that have spent a lot of time buying photocopy papers and simply typing away texts. They have been involved in all kinds of writing of the poorest quality; (they) never talk about the issues. The first thing is to show you their inefficiency, because they are used to writing statements as opposed to talking to Nigerians about policy. And all that this tells you is that 99.9 per cent of the things they write are simply second-guessing what’s in the president’s mind.
“They have no contact with the president, they have no contact with the government policy and all they are doing is writing on behalf of the president. There is nowhere in the world where the job of this nature is being done and has been done so poorly. If you may please indulge me, because I need to explain to you and to Nigerians where I am coming from. Let me cut it short by talking about the last 20 years.
“Dr Abati, we are no strangers to one another. We knew where we were in 1999 before democracy. I need to state where I am coming from so people can understand by context why I feel the way I feel. The first thing to say is that I have served three successive or even four presidents since 1999.
“I served in the Oputa panel, I served as a member of the electoral reform committee, and I was appointed secretary of the political reform conference. I spent about seven years, beginning from the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration right through to this government, going in between Abuja, Kaduna and Ogoni land to reconcile the people of Ogoni land with Shell. My book will be out before the year runs out.
“So I am saying, therefore, I was also crucial to the signing of the second peace accord between General Buhari and former Goodluck Jonathan. And if you excuse me, Dr Abati, I have never told you this and we have never spoken about this, but you played a very critical role that Nigerians do not know and you probably do not even remember. Because when you came to the signing of that accord, you were the one person at the time that ex-President Johnathan then, as we had planned a meeting with former President Jonathan and the meeting didn’t happen because General Buhari and John Oyegun and all their team had all moved to Lagos because Asiwaju Tinubu was celebrating his birthday, and given his status at the APC, his birthday was more or less like a public holiday for the APC.
“So General Buhari could not be at the meeting because the peace committee had decided that they wanted the two of them (Messrs Buhari and Jonathan) to sit down, based on the things we had heard and we were hearing, as you can remember, the General Buhari famous statement about the elections and the outcome, that if the election did not succeed it will be blood for the monkey and blood for the dog.
“All of us were aware of the tension that existed in the country at that time. I am responsible, led by General Abdulalami, in getting both men to sign the Peace Accord. As you know, the point I want to make is that on the morning of that day, just two days before the election when General Buhari had agreed, finally we were able to track him down and he agreed he was going to meet with us at 8 a.m.
“But we did not know how to meet with former President Jonathan who had told us he was flying to Asaba, Delta State at 9 a.m. If you remember (Dr Abati), I called you and I was able to reach you on the phone and I told you that we have a text of the Peace Accord that we wanted President Jonathan to please sign, can you help take the text to him. And I asked you if you have your Ipad with you and you responded yes. Then I sent you the mail. And you took it to former President Jonathan and he signed it
“And I was able to persuade former President Jonathan to shift his journey to Asaba and come sign the Peace Accord. And the rest is history. I am saying so because I am not a stranger to the process we are in. While we were sweating and doing all these things, Femi Adeshina was being paid a salary by Orji Kalu and he did a good job in The Sun newspapers as a journalist. Garba Shehu was working for former vice president Abubakar Atiku.
“And Lai Muhammed was working for Tinubu so I think everybody should be able to answer his father’s name. And I can say that the reason why I am emotional and passionate about the things of this country and where we are today is because I have paid my dues.
“Let each and every one of my critics tell me where they were at the most critical moments in Nigeria’s history. It is not that now that people’s bank accounts have swollen that they can probably try to preach the gospel to others that they themselves do not believe in.