Last night, while browsing the Internet, I came across a post by one Dr Idris Ahmed, who claims to be writing on behalf of a shadowy outfit, Citizens United for Peace and Stability (CUPS), on the alleged corrupt character of Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese. The piece could be summarised by this paragraph of the lousy and insipid vituperation: “…Unknown to the Catholic Church and millions of Nigerians, we can reveal that Bishop Kukah is currently building two new mansions in a large compound at Bodinga Road, Behind Usman Danfodio University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto.
The property is also adjacent to Sidi Mamman farm, just behind the General Post Office. The CUPS organisation has obtained exclusive photos of the double mansions being built. Our investigators discovered that the mansions are hurriedly being built within a span of just three months, and are very near to completion. It is estimated that the total cost of the land and building the two mansions is well over one billion Naira…” Most politically aware adult Nigerians are conversant with the recent events that brought the prominent Catholic prelate to the eye of the storm, which necessitated such inanities from someone who lays claims to a doctorate degree but who lacks the faintest knowledge about the operations of the Catholic Church.
Because if he knew that such a thing is not possible for a Catholic bishop which he perhaps mistakes for that of the ubiquitous churches which have mushroomed all over the country, he would have looked for better ways of smearing a man with impeccable character records. Last week, the Peace Committee, made up of very prominent Nigerians with unquestionable integrity, and who were largely responsible for the diffusion of the tension during the campaigns, and therefore, for the peaceful resolution of the last elections. The Peace Committee which was formed at the boiling stage of the electioneering campaigns early this year counts among in its membership prominent statesmen and women, apex leaders of the two main religions in Nigeria, foremost business people and other Nigerians with clout and integrity which are acclaimed beyond the borders of Nigeria.
It was the character and composition of this group that assured it the respect and acceptance of the political class to the extent that the key candidates of the two jousting parties dutifully submitted to its decisions and signed a peace agreement as well as the guiding principles for the campaigns/ the election. Nigeria has never had any group of such eminence and in personal standing. The culmination and the crowning glory of the Committee’s efforts was the prompt acceptance of defeat by President Jonathan, who called to congratulate the victorious General Buhari, even before INEC had officially announced the results.
With that, peace and calm had descended on the fragile nation like gentle dew. Thereafter, the duties of the non-partisan and non-sectarian Committee that is headed by a former head of state, Adbulsalam Abubakar, have been cut out for the members who are an extremely busy people, but who are making huge sacrifices for the sake of national peace and stability. They have undertaken to intervene when issues in the polity, capable of rocking the peace and stability of the country crop-up. That was why, last week, the Committee, scanning the complexion of the political landscape, decided to meet with some key leaders of the country which included President Buhari, President Jonathan, the senate president and the Speaker, House of Representatives.
After their meeting with the president last week, the members were accosted by the members of the media who confronted them with a rumour that had been making the rounds, to the effect that President Jonathan had sent them on an errand to the president, to beg him to spare him from the on-going and very popular probe against corruption under his administration. In response, on behalf of the Committee, Bishop Hassan Kukah denied any such insinuation, wondering how any member of the eminent Committee could be used for such an alleged mission. That triggered his mention of the fact that amongst the things they had discussed with the president was what they had seen as a deficit in the speed of governance in the country, as well as their impression that the probe against corrupt officials of the Jonathan administration had tended to be taken by the Buhari government as a substitution for governance. He further amplified those impressions in a live television interview at the Channels TV later during the middle of last week.
In all that, Bishop Kukah never railed against the fight against corruption by the present government in itself, nor did he ever ask that anybody who had ever been corrupt should be spared or excused from investigation and punishment. Instead, the crux of his contention – a view that is widely shared at home and abroad – is that the over-concentration on the anti-corruption probe seems to be distracting that government from carrying out its other key functions, to the extent that almost 100 days into its life, it is yet to appoint its key functionaries. According to Kukah, the government should enable and adequately equip the law enforcement institutions to do their jobs of fishing out, investigating and prosecuting the culprits instead, of the current situation where the polity is being heated unnecessarily.
He indicated that the Peace Committee expected a better application of due process. Since then, all manners of busybody defenders of the Buhari administration have jumped into their fray, in their mostly unsolicited condemnation and pouring of invectives on the bishop and members of the committee. The story of the purported mansion that Kukah is said to be erecting in Sokoto is part of those efforts to destroy the messenger when they found the message unpalatable. To make matters, among those involved in this shameful act are such people as Dr. Idris Ahmed who claims to have good education but who act in the most pedestrian of ways.
After reading this and other vile vituperations against the eminent man of God, I laid back and tried to think hard to see if I could remember many other Nigerians with the pedigree, clout or patriotic zeal of the Zangon-Kataf born priest, who has left his imprints on almost all the spheres of the nation’s life. It has been really difficult for me to find such a person whose integrity and character stand out clearly for all to see. Ordinarily, the standing and fame of Bishop Kukah should go ahead of him, and at his age and position, no material thing is of much consequence to him. Moreover, he belongs to an organization – the best prestigious and most organized on earth – from which certain things are not possible, like a bishop without a family and relatives till death, erecting personal mansions in a city.
The intention of the likes of Dr. Ahmed is, among other foolish things, to create an impression that Dr. Kukah was a beneficiary of the huge bazaar of corruption that is said to have taken place under President Jonathan, and in his illusion and ignorance believes that a mansion of one billion naira could mean much to a Catholic diocese, while an ordinary parish, like mine, can easily erect bigger mansions that cost much more. That is, if any link exists between the said mansions and the Sokoto diocese in the tendentious story.
Besides, any averagely intelligent person would immediately wonder why such a cerebral person as Kukah would go to the ridiculous pains of erecting mansions in Sokoto, when he could have done so more profitably at Abuja or Kaduna, his home state. Bishop Hassan Kukah is a gift to Nigeria and it is people like him who give this nation and its successive leaders their conscience and direction. The Sokoto bishop might have been born somewhere in Kaduna State, but his life and undertakings, both as a priest and a patriotic Nigerian activist and intellectual, have made him a complete Nigerian hybrid.
The futility of trying to insult or berate people like Kukah because of their views is obvious, President Buhari, like other leaders in the country are intimately aware of the man and how objectively he had intervened in issues that were dear and near to their lives when they mattered. In that way, President Buhari, knows in his heart of heart, that the likes of Kukah and his group are pushed by the most genuine of patriotic intentions and hardly speak in vain – just as they can be nobody’s lackey.
The fact remains that President Buhari would have taken note of the worthy observations of the committee members who are foremost patriots that have no interest in partisan politics or in its spoils, and who can, therefore, look anybody in the face and say it the way it is. Jokers and wannabes, like Dr Ahmed, who are obviously looking for relevance, could go about in their wasted efforts. Yes, wasted efforts, because trying to smear the towering image of the likes of Bishop Kukah and other members of the Peace Committee is akin to a pack of dogs chasing after a Range Rover jeep…a pure waste of their race.