There are three significant events or statements made or that happened within the last one week that typifies the character of most contemporary Nigerians. I mean Nigerians of significance who are in political or public offices.
I am writing about the dominant trait of a Nigerian as a political animal who is what he/she is for a different reason remotely detached from why most other members of the human race elsewhere, especially in the developed western societies, get involved in the governance of their respective political entities. By the way, every citizen of any given political space ought to be involved one way or the other in politics because as Plato said, if the educated and the wise destests politics because they perceive it as a dirty game, then they will be governed by the dirty people. Aristotle says man by nature is a political animal.
Back to the theme of our intervention and i make haste to assert once again that this dominant trait has to do with personal or selfish aggrandizement over and above the interests of the nation state or the collective.
In other climes, where there are institutional checks and balances that are effective and unencumbered, the most basic qualification for ever seeking elective or appointive position is first and foremost to render specialized service that is selfless and enduring. Ordinarily, in politics, as we are told by those who are schooled, the collective overrides the self.
These epochal statements or facts and/or events being referenced aforementioned, are in their order of pre-eminence and they are, the New Year Message of Pope Francis, the leader of the over two billion active Roman Catholic Church adherents.
Pope Francis who braved his personal health challenge associated with old age to admonish each of us to evolve a functional agenda of uplifting each and everyone around us, indeed provided the much needed panacea to the substantial problems that have occasioned mass poverty, poor governance, unemployment and high crime rate in Nigeria.
I will shortly return to relay the entire body of the Holy father’s speech which is fundamentally self explanatory.
The second Iconic statement was the Christmas Day 2020 message read out by the eminently regarded intellectual giant in Nigeria and the catholic bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Right reverend Mathew Hassan Kukah.
This straight forward essay from the pulpit of one of Nigeria’s best Known crusaders for constitutional democracy was still generating needless controversy amongst the presidential circles of Muhammedu Buhari when the first ever black Nobel Prize laureate in literature Professor Wole Soyinka made a brief remark signifying that President Muhammadu Buhari is an incompetent ruler and indeed that he is absent minded. We will read what the Holy Father told the World and we will on our own relate the import of that powerful statement to the issues that have generated developmental crises for Nigeria over the past many years.
Pope Francis warned on Sunday against the temptation to ignore the suffering of others during the coronavirus pandemic and said that things will get better in the new year to the extent to which the needs of the weakest and most disadvantaged are prioritized.
“We don’t know what 2021 has in store for us, but what each of us and all of us together can do is to commit ourselves a little more to take care of each other and of creation, our common home,” the pope said in his Angelus address Jan. 3.
In the live video broadcast from the Apostolic Palace, the pope said that “things will get better to the extent that, with God’s help, we work together for the common good, putting the weakest and most disadvantaged at the center.”
The pope said that there is a temptation to take care only of one’s own interests during the pandemic and “to live hedonistically, that is, seeking only to satisfy our own pleasure.”
He added: “I read something in the newspapers that saddened me greatly: in one country, I forget which, more than 40 aircraft left, to enable people to flee from the lockdown and to enjoy the holidays.”
“But those people, good people, did they not think about those who stayed at home, about the economic problems faced by many people who have been floored by the lockdown, about the sick? They thought only about taking a holiday for their own pleasure. This pained me greatly.”
Pope Francis addressed a special greeting to “those who begin the new year with greater difficulties,” mentioning the sick and the unemployed.
“I like to think that when the Lord prays to the Father for us, He does not merely speak: He makes Him see the wounds of the flesh, He makes Him see the wounds He suffered for us,” he said.
“This is Jesus: with His flesh He is the intercessor, he wanted to bear even the signs of suffering.”
In a reflection on the first chapter of the Gospel of John, Pope Francis said that God became man to love us in our human frailty.
“Dear brother, dear sister, God became flesh to tell us, to tell you that He loves us … in our frailty, in your frailty; right there, where we are most ashamed, where you are most ashamed. This is bold,” he said.
“Indeed, the Gospel says that He came to dwell among us. He did not come to visit us, and then leave; He came to dwell with us, to stay with us. What, then, does He desire from us? He desires a great intimacy. He wants us to share with Him our joys and sufferings, desires and fears, hopes and sorrows, people and situations. Let us do this, with confidence: let us open our hearts to Him, let us tell Him everything.”
Pope Francis encouraged everyone to pause in silence before the nativity to “savour the tenderness of God who became near, who became flesh.”
The pope also expressed his closeness to families with young children and to those who are expecting, adding “a birth is always a promise of hope.”
“May the Holy Mother of God, in whom the Word became flesh, help us to welcome Jesus, who knocks on the door of our hearts to dwell with us,” Pope Francis said.
“Without fear, let us invite Him among us, into our homes, into our families. And also … let us invite Him into our frailties. Let us invite Him, so that He may see our wounds. He will come and life will change.”
The message of the Pontiff is reflected on how the governors of almost the 36 states of Nigeria hoarded essential foods and commodities donated by CORPORATE bodies for poor Nigerians to be used during the 8 Months lockdown last year to cushion the consequences of the Covid-19 lockdown. These privileged few who are governors, were so selfish that they kept back what belongs to the poor. The poor citizens discovered that these relief materials and essential foods were diverted by governors and some of the desperately hungry Nigerians invaded the warehouses of these diverted palliatives to help themselves with these items to save them from death and starvation. So, as can be seen, the Holy Father’s message resonates amongst Nigerians. The next iconic lesson came on December 25th 2020 from the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese Right Reverend Doctor Mathew Hassan Kukah which speaks to the self inflicted political crisis inflicted on Nigeria by President Muhammadu Buhari and other political rulers.
Part of that message argued that 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).
Father Mathew Hassan Kukah stated however that 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.
He urges Nigerians that 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.
Waxing Poetic, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah said: “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).”
Writing on the sub-theme of Annus Mirabilis or Annus Horribilis?, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah says the following:
“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 annus horribilis.”
Further, Kukah affirmed with a reminder that 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 annus horribilis, 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 annus horribilis. At various levels, there have been grey areas of hope, flickers of light, achievement and so on. It 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 annus horribilis. When he pummelled Kubrat Pulev, 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.”
He, Bishop Kukah sounded profoundly philosophical when he asserted that we are in another Christmas but in a Cloud of Doom and then offered the explanation as follows:
“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.”
Mathew Hassan Kukah is forthright and a worshipper of the God of truth and this quality manifested when he asked the key question to ascertain if Government in Nigeria has gone into Suspended Animation?:
He provided the response logically: “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.” Kukah also adumbrated on the issues of the nepotistic appointment of the current administration and stated that because Muhammadu Buhari is from a seemingly privileged background who dominate the command and control structures of the Armed forces and that is why he is getting away with too many things just as he imagined that should the occupant of the office of President be a Christian for instance and he implement half of the divisive policies as done by Muhammadu Buhari, there could have been military change of power. These are hard core facts. Sycophants and supporters of evil criticised Mathew Hassan Kukah and misinterpreted his message to mean a call for violent overthrow of the government. Lai Mohammed was the arrow head of this falsehood. Then enters the Literary icon Prof. Wole Soyinka who says he may no longer want to comment on the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He told an on-line TV in a chat that went viral yesterday that “for the sake of sanity, one must imagine that the regime of the President Muhammadu Buhari does not exist”.
The Nobel laureate, who was seen being interviewed onboard a train, described the new Lagos-Abeokuta-Ibadan standard gauge train, as marvellous and long overdue.
He told the Kaftan TV reporter that he would not like to talk about the Buhari administration because he imagined the regime doesn’t exist.
When asked whether the new train was a plus to Buhari’s regime, he said: “I don’t want to talk about Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. I think it is best for my sanity just to avoid that overall question. I can take bits and pieces of Nigeria’s present predicament but I think for one’s sense of balance, one must forget the existence of the Buhari administration.
These three messages from these prominent theologians and intellectuals, have a unified message for each and every Nigerian and this message is that The best way out of the Nigerian quagmire and the self-inflicted underdevelopment , is for each of us to grow balls and evolve the Mathew Hassan Kukah’s courage to speak out against political oppression and poor governance.
The other diametrically opposed message from this is that we as a people and a nation, do not have the luxury of time not to speak out against political vices irrespective of our impression that President Muhammadu Buhari is not in control of his administration.
The above demand to speak out always is one way of setting the Papal agenda of helping each other to overcome our National malaise.
Another salient lesson in all of the above episodes , especially for politicians, is that we need not venture into the political arena if all that we want to manifest is the Muhammadu Buhari’s disappointing political character of the self over and above the collective interests.
The least demand that Nigerians should ask from those who seek to be elected and appointed into public offices is merit, competence and commitment to render selfless services geared towards the emancipation of the silent majority of Nigerians who have been pushed into absolute poverty due to the poor political and economic policies of the Muhammadu Buhari’s government.
The suffocating social issues of nepotism, favouritism, corruption which are tearing down the fabrics of a united Nigeria are the key challenges which the trinity of the righteous made up of Pope Francis, Bishop Kukah and Professor Soyinka exemplified with their recent oral outings.
Nigerians whether big or small needs to take away these lessons and apply them in our everyday affairs both in Private and public so we can extinguish the ‘Buhari’s tendencies’ and inculcate the bold Mathew Kukah’s power of personal example and the courageous attribute to say it as it is. Christ Jesus told his disciples, let your Yes be Yes and Your NO be NO. I think Philosophers had stated it clearly that “Nothing can be and not be at the same time”.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria [email protected];www.emmanuelonwubikocom;www.thenigerianinsidernews.com;[email protected]
Emmanuel Onwubiko: The Mathew Kukah we need to be and the Muhammadu Buhari in all of us