Holy Father, Matthew Hassan Kukah, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, may be cooking a profane broth that may well smudge his frock.When that broth is done, we may witness the merriest push at self-demystification in the history of global Catholicism!
That is hyperbole, of course. But not a few have wondered why the goodly priest was so cavalier at leveraging his integrity on Jonathan-era opacity, the unconscionable sleaze from which has near-emptied the public till, and caused nationwide anguish.
Yet, all the holy priest could volunteer, from his August 13 bully pulpit on television, was harangue President Muhammadu Buhari to forget the alleged humongous graft and “move on”, because of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s “spectacular” deed of losing election and stepping down! Pray, was Jonathan supposed to veto voters’ will?
Father Kukah was so imperious on behalf of his do-gooding National Peace Committee (NPC), now self-transformed into National Peace Council. That body, of eminent Nigerians, midwifed the testy peace before, during and after the general elections; and closely guided the peaceful transfer of power from the defeated President Jonathan to opposition candidate, Gen. Buhari, for the first time in Nigerian history — kudos! Indeed, every Nigerian should salute NPC’s patriotism.
Still, securing peace anchored on justice is one thing. Pushing for peace founded on fraud is another.
If the Jonathan-era NPC earned due praise for pushing for peace founded on justice (an election loser should surrender power, shouldn’t he?), the Buhari-era NPC risks ringing condemnation for pushing for peace of the graveyard. Or how does one situate Father Kukah’s rather quaint crusade to gloss over serious regime fraud, simply because the regime head quit power after sound electoral rejection?
Might the holy father then be Nigeria’s 21st century equivalent of the Pardoner, in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, whose pouch bustled with papal indulgences, hot, fresh and smoking from Rome? And by that, he already secured, for the Jonathan regime looting gang, some celestial pardon, mass cry for justice and national anguish be damned?
In his holy rail against a sacred presidential duty to retrieve allegedly stolen funds, Father Kukah somewhat betrayed the Catholic Church’s historical nemesis of suspect fidelity to the state, no matter how profane its cause.
When Fidel Castro made his famous prediction — a virtual impossibility that nevertheless just came to pass — that the United States would re-open relations with Cuba only when America had a Black president and the Catholic Church had a Latino pope, he probably had in mind the stinging rebuke of Liberation Theology to Catholic orthodoxy’s secular failings.
An intra-Catholic protest movement had, in the 1950s, started in South America. But it was not until 1971 that the Peruvian priest, Gustavo Gutierrez, coined it a name, via his 1971 work, A Theology of Liberation. Liberation Theology accused the Church of siding with the mighty and powerful, against the poor, meek and gentle, the Biblical beloved of the Christ Jesus. Other proponents of this thinking included Spain’s Jon Sobrino, Uruguay’s Juan Luis Segundo and Brazil’s Leonardo Boff — all Latinos from continental Europe and South America.
Such near-heretical soil hardly nurtures a pope? Yet, today Pope Francis from Argentina (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio) is sovereign of Vatican City; and Barack Obama is US president — a tribute to the inevitability of truth and justice, no matter how secular overlords of orthodoxy — and political bosses — play the game. From Father Kukah’s rather arrogant intervention in a suspect cause, there appears but a thin line between the two!
The bitter irony though is that Nigerian Catholicism, since the dawn of the 4th Republic in 1999 and indeed throughout the jungle of military rule, had been nearest to telling truth to power — and resonating with a longsuffering public — on a consistent basis (witness Anthony Cardinal Okogie, retired Archbishop of Lagos). That much cannot be said of the bulk of the Pentecostals, with their prosperity preaching and equal opportunity influence peddling; and the resultant ultra-closeness to any government in power.
‘President Buhari must take his historic duty of cleansing Nigeria directly to the people, whose shoes painfully pinch; and not some manipulative elite, whose comfort zones are assured’
Which leads to the next point: had Father Kukah carefully x-rayed his NPC membership, he would perhaps have been more nuanced, strutting his holy violin with reckless abandon, for the “stop-the-probe-of-looters” orchestra. Take Pastor Ayo Oristejafor, sitting Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) president, also in the NPC delegation to Aso Villa.
With all due respect to the good clergy, Pastor Oritsejafor somewhat reminds the historical-minded of the Russian priest, Gregori Rasputin. Indeed, what Rasputin was to the doomed Nicholas II, the last czar that ended the Romanovs’ over 300-year reign in imperial Russia, Oritsejafor is to President Jonathan, who ended PDP’s 16-year political hegemony in Nigeria’s federal democratic republic.
Now, down in history, Rasputin appears a penumbra. To many, he was the very devil. To others, he was a court saint, undone by peer envy. To yet others, he was the dialectical grey, between the fierce pull of black and white. But the historical consensus: his spiritual influence, particularly on the Empress, aided the doom of the Russian monarchy, though he would be murdered before the Romanovs and their monarchy joined him in the grave.
Pastor Oritsejafor has outlived the Jonathan Presidency — praise the Lord! Ripples wishes him many more years yet in the Lord’s vineyard.
Yet, not even the most fanatical of Oritsejafor adherents would deny his influence in the Jonathan presidential court; the arms purchase scandal that involved the pastor’s private jet, and CAN’s orchestrated campaign, under Oritsejafor’s presidency, to turn the presidential election into a Christian Vs Muslim plebiscite.
After all of these, the pastor would coolly stroll into Aso Villa, with other NPC members, and the Father would have us believe the lobby is altogether selfless? Excuse me!
Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar too! No doubt, the former head of state has done well for his country. Quite sensibly, he hurriedly ended military rule.
But the Army Arrangement (apologies to Fela) they put in place since 1999, with President Olusegun Obasanjo at the helm, had so alarmingly decayed that President Jonathan was only a fall guy, even if he, through his fecklessness, more than contributed his own quota to the crash.
Indeed, in his sacred passion to save Jonathan’s neck (hardly a crime), Father Kukah conveniently forgot the NPC election-time derring-do was as much do-gooding to save the polity, as it was an establishment rally to forestall sinking with Jonathan. For all his famed polemics and brilliance, Father Kukah is no iconoclast but only an elite purifier and stabilizer. But again, that is no crime.
NPC is welcome to its self-defined historic role of stabilising the Nigerian polity. But it must guide against morphing into a historic nuisance: a bastion against draining off the dross of roguery and robbery, that put Nigeria in this sorry pass.
In the final analysis, President Buhari must take his historic duty of cleansing Nigeria directly to the people, whose shoes painfully pinch; and not some manipulative elite, whose comfort zones are assured.
From the Kukah holy show on TV, it is all but clear that even the cleanest of this regnant establishment might just be too filthy for a new Nigeria where everything works. Yet, Buhari must strive to save this elite from itself.