Kukah Takes Presidential Spokesmen to the Cleaners, As he fires back over response to his Easter sermon

Reverend Father Matthew Hassan Kuka
Reverend Father Matthew Hassan Kuka

… Says President Buhari’s nepotism is killing democracy

Fiery and radical Priest of the Catholic Church, and Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Reverend Father Matthew Hassan Kukah, has descended heavily on spokespersons of President Muhammadu Buhari, over their scathing response to his Easter sermon on Sunday in which he carpeted the federal government over some of its policies. Kukah described the trio of minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, Femi Adeshina, special adviser, media and publicity, and Garba Shehu, senior special assistant, media and publicity to the president, as inefficient in their assignment, and have done a “terribly bad job”.

Kukah, an unrepentant critic of the Buhari administration over its gross incompetence, lamented that “With everything literally broken down, our country has become one big emergency national hospital with full occupancy”.

According to him, “Our individual hearts are broken. Our family dreams are broken. Homes are broken. Churches, Mosques, infrastructure are broken. Our educational system is broken. Our children’s lives and future are broken. Our politics is broken. Our economy is broken. Our energy system is broken. Our security system is broken. Our roads and rails are broken. Only corruption is alive and well”.

But in his caustic reaction to the cleric’s criticisms, Shehu, in a press statement titled “Kukah’s Virus of Hate”, accused him of playing politics.

Shehu said “From his pulpit, he devoted his Easter message not to Christ’s death and rebirth so Man might be saved – but to damning the government in the most un-Christian terms. Bishop Kukah neglects the Bible’s teachings in James 1:26: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless”.

He argued that “This is not a time for religious leaders to play politics, or politicians to play religion. It is a time, as in Titus 3:9 to “avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Yet Bishop Kukah used his sermon purposefully to make dissensions and quarrels about the law. His accusatory list against the government revealed only his hatred for them”.

But speaking on Arise News Morning Show anchored by former presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, on Tuesday, Kukah, known not to suffer fools gladly, is miffed that “a Moslem will be the one to try and tell me what an Easter message should contain”.

Reverend Father Matthew Hassan Kuka

Kukah said “Dr. Abati, you’ve been a spokesman to the president and I am sure you know better than anybody else. In your time, you are a writer of the finest quality, but I do not remember that I read messages written by you …The job of a spokesman which you did extremely well, was to highlight, elaborate, debate, and put to the public, government policies, and what government intends to do, and this is an opportunity to clarify public policy as it affects governance.

“These are the only spokesmen that have spent a lot of time buying photocopying paper and simply typing away texts. They have been involved in all kinds of writing of the poorest quality; never talking to the issues. So, the first thing to show you their inefficiency is that they are used to writing statements as opposed to talking to Nigerians about policy. And what this tells you is that 99.9 percent of the things they write are simply second-guessing what the president’s mind is. They have no contact with the president; they have no contact with government policy, and all they are doing is writing on behalf of the president. There is nowhere in the world where a job of this nature is being done, and has been done so poorly”.

While positing that he would not be the first person to disagree with President Buhari’s policies, Bishop Kukah recalled that “His own wife had done so. I live in Northern Nigeria and I can tell you the things that one is hearing every blessed day; you don’t even need to hear them. All you need to do is to be alert. So these guys should not be sitting in their air-conditioned offices drinking coffee and then just thinking that somehow, everything is honky-donkey. It’s just that we don’t seem to appreciate. Let them disagree with the text of my sermon or any of the things I’ve written”.

Going down memory lane to recall his contribution to governance especially since 1999, the vocal cleric said “I am not a stranger to the process we are in. While we were sweating and doing all these things, Femi Adesina was being paid a salary by Orji Kalu; he was doing a good job in The Sun as a journalist. Garba Shehu was working for Atiku (Abubakar), Lai Mohammed was working for (Bola) 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, 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’s not now that people’s bank accounts have swollen that they can probably try to preach gospels that they themselves don’t believe in”.

He said both Adesina and Shehu, whom he described as his “two friends”, were “desperate to be seen to be doing their job”, stressing that “Nigerians, one and all, including those who can barely read, know that they’ve done a terribly bad job in their assignment because as I said in the beginning, spokesmen, or spokeswomen to the president, all you have to do is to see what the spokesperson of the president of the United States of America is doing; to see what the spokesperson of the prime minister of the UK is doing. As I said, ask yourself, when last did you see a Femi Adesina, or a Garba Shehu sitting…Dr. Abati, the table is still there…addressing the Nigerian media and taking questions from them? I am saying President Buhari knows that I have the greatest respect for him and I believe he’s a gentle man”.

Again knocking President Buhari, Bishop Kukah insisted that “For me, as the President of Nigeria, he’s done a terribly bad job as president. Nothing I am saying is new. All the pastors who preached yesterday, (Easter Sunday) all the people that you people reported…Tell me one single thing in the message I delivered that they disagreed with, and we can talk about that. But for me, that a Moslem will be the one try and tell me what an Easter message should contain…

For me President Buhari knows himself that it is nothing personal.

“And I know that one thing the president said to me, and I was humbled was when I heard rumours – people were telling me that the president is angry with me because of the things I had said … which is please get on with the job of governance and the fighting of corruption can go on pari-passu – one shouldn’t cancel out the other. The Buhari apparatus all descended on me. Today, 99 percent of all those people are now the ones asking me what did I see that the rest of Nigeria couldn’t see? But one thing the president said to me, and I asked him how he felt, the president said to me – I can quote him verbatim – he said “Bishop Kukah, I know where you stand on any issue in Nigeria.”

“What connected me with President Buhari, and what has connected me with 99 percent of Nigerian Muslims is not the Catholic Church; it is my public position on a lot of things. And I am not saying things because I expect people to agree with me. And I’ve said it severally; Nigerians have been extraordinarily magnanimous because I have not heard that many people saying to me we disagree with you. And I have never spoken because I know the issue. The primary beneficiary of the things I’m saying is myself; and I speak my mind. If you agree with me, if you don’t agree with me, let’s clarify the issue. And so for me, all the people who are talking about attacking the president, where did I attack the president? I didn’t attack his person. Or is it about the nepotism that is a stranger to all?”

Kukah submitted that the two critical things he has fundamental disagreement with President Buhari “Is his inability to manage diversity effectively and efficiently. I have studied diversity as a subject, so I understand what I’m talking about. The second thing is that those who think that this thing is about President Buhari, I’ve never dealt with the issue of his character or lack of it. I believe he’s a gentle man. And as far as being the president of Nigeria is concerned, we’re talking about two different things”.

Bishop Kukah regretted that though we are in a democracy, “A good number of the operators of this system don’t understand the ingredients of democracy. They think democracy is about building roads; see the infrastructure we’re working on. No! The things that make democracy what it is are intangible; they are about freedom of expression. They are about expanding the frontiers of human imagination. So, any attempt to limit those ideas collapses, and it’s about managing diversity.

“So, if I tell you the way I feel about what this government has done, I know what I’m talking about. The facts bear me out; the records are there … Have we ever had a time in Nigeria that all the people holding security positions in Nigeria are all Christians, or all Moslems, or from one tribe? How do you run a country like that? … Nepotism is horrible; it is evil precisely because it denies you as a leader an opportunity to hear other voices. So, you just end up in an echo chamber; all of you are speaking the same language. All of you think the same, and so on and so forth.

“For me, when I speak like this, if my mother were president of Nigeria, or my father was president of Nigeria; they are not because both of them are dead, I would take the same position if there is any evidence in my mind that everybody is not being carried along. You can’t satisfy everybody, but at least give people the impression that they matter. You were not voted for by people of one religion; you were not voted for by people of your town. For me, what we are doing is killing democracy.

“And by allowing banditry to gain the kind of scope it has gained, we are actually trying to use democracy to kill democracy. Those are the things that I am passionate about, and that is why I am resistant to anything that tries to close those doors of opportunity”.

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