Daily Trust (Abuja)

19 January 2013

Nigeria: On Kukah's Homily and Gimba's Response

opinion

Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese Matthew Hassan Kukah delivered a well-targeted homily at the burial mass of late Kaduna State Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa at Fadan Kagoma, Kaduna State on December 20, 2012. A few days later, renowned author, commentator and past president of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Mallam Abubakar Gimba posted a well-articulated response he titled ET TU, MONSIGNOR KUKAH? Following are excerpts of the interventions from the two respected gentlemen:

KUKAH: At times like this, we all wish things were different, that we knew more, that we could be a bit more certain, even if tentatively and haltingly...Mr. Yakowa's ascent to the exalted position of Governor of Kaduna State was the climax of a most fascinating and exceptional career. He stood out as God's favourite son among the entire people of Southern Kaduna State...He was the first person from Southern Kaduna to become a Federal Minister, a Federal Permanent Secretary and the first to be Secretary to the Government of Kaduna State. He holds the special record of perhaps being the only Nigerian to have served two Governors as Deputy and to further ascend to the position of Governor all with no break...

I was at his historic swearing in ceremony as the Governor of Kaduna state. The event was historic because it temporarily closed the door to what has been one of the worst shows of selfishness by an unproductive and selfish cabal who have deployed religion to hide their greed. From the creation of Kaduna State in 1987, the Northern ruling class, by policy, seemed to have erected an invisible sign that read: No Christians Need Apply, to enter what would later be called Kashim Ibrahim House or represent the State at the highest levels. Despite the fact that all states were opened to Christian military officers, it was only Kaduna and perhaps Sokoto states that were never governed by non-Muslims...

This policy of exclusion against non-Muslims turned Kaduna State into a political mecca and laid the foundation for the unnecessary and sad religious tensions that have continued to dog the state. This is why, a routine change like a Deputy Governor taking over from a Governor would generate such ripples across the country. It also has created the climate for the anxiety, fear and suspicion that destroyed the foundations of Christian-Muslims relations...

To the people of Southern Kaduna, despite the clouds of fear, anxiety and uncertainty, we must not give in to self-doubt and prejudice. We have lost a dear son, but we have not lost our future. Indeed, the future that lies ahead is far brighter now than at any time. Our confidence as a people has grown. Mr. Yakowa came, he saw, he conquered...

Those who have projected Islam as the basis for power have created the condition that now threatens the foundation of our society today. Those who used religion have left the north and its people poorer than any other part of the country. Mr. Yakowa in just about one year has managed to build up a people who have come to believe in themselves as brothers and sisters. He was relentless in his quest for peace. The result is that he has blunted the cutting edge of religion in our public life...

Indeed, for you the entire people of Southern Kaduna especially the Youth, rise up, fear is dead and it will never rise again. Before Yakowa, you were afraid, you were poor and felt defeated. Now, After Yakowa, the world is yours to conquer. Rise up, get ready to light your candles because we have seen the light of a star in Kaduna. Go forward and meet up with other young men and women like yourselves. Free yourselves from religious prisons, dream big and beautiful dreams...

We shall arrive our destination quicker because we have the likes of our dear Governor Yakowa praying for us. May God bless our dear country. Amen.

GIMBA: ...[T]he eulogy delivered by Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah [caused a] great deal of concern. He is 60, with a name of repute among the Nigerian elite. I have great respect for both his ecclesiastical position on the ladder of the church hierarchy, and his forays into secular discourse on our nation's cascading social condition which we have found ourselves in. I share quite a lot of his views on the latter which are not, I believe, incompatible with his pastoral calling. Indeed, they are complementary...

I do not begrudge the Bishop his dreams to stardom , but I cannot understand the grounds of his grouse that so much propelled him to pour such vituperations on Muslims. Yes, someone who wants to defend him (and I would wish to do so myself in some different situations, such as in his stance on the plane-possessing pastors) would argue that he never meant to target the majority of Muslims: only a minority is culpable.

However, atmospherics of his speech at Yakowa's burial sounded differently. The many references to "religious bigots", "dubious religious manipulations"...and "those who have projected Islam as a basis for power..." [etc], are all tailored for, and directly targeted at Muslims, to make them (us) fit for the gallows of culpability, and painting them as unquestionable candidates for the hangman's noose...

Painfully, Bishop Kukah's stature seemed to have allowed itself some indulgence in some inexplicable, perhaps unconscious, dance to the drumbeats of dual heroism, a seductive heroism that is of spiritual and temporal nature in his speech at the burial mass of Yakowa. I respect his guts, no doubt. But his staunch followers would term his performance at Yakowa's funeral as an act of bravado...

A non-Muslim may know a great deal about Islam, but would not understand it. This is because Islam is not only in a set of books: it is found in its complete form only in the heart. Many a non-Muslim confuses a Muslim (especially his outwardness) with Islam, and hence a deficiency in a Muslim is projected as a part of Islam, and would then proceed to pour all manner of venom and odious aspersions on both. This, in the main, is the problem with the Bishop of Sokoto.

Another problem: the Yakowa's burial speech was misappropriated by the Bishop who, as a clergyman should have concerned himself with, yes...eulogizing the dead, but drawing the attention of the living to reflect on the candlelight-like brevity of life and the need to follow the Light of Eesah, Jesus Christ (may Allaah's peace be upon him) to attain righteousness, and not get carried away to launch himself into political issues with the passion of a politician...

Bishop Kukah's faux pas is to mount the rostrum with one leg on the priest's pulpit and the other on the politician's podium, and proceeded with unhidden bias to, rather ungraciously, give the total monopoly of imperfections or wrong-doings to Muslims, and laid all the problems of social dislocations in the North at their doorsteps, against the canons of truth. His few references to "good Muslims" did not fail to unveil the Bishop's deep-seated angst, if not a (surprising) long held prejudice...

No, Monsignor Kukah! You have a responsibility to God, your faith and the community you find yourself in...In your speech, you exhorted your people of Southern Kaduna and challenged the youth to "Rise up!.. Fear is dead!..." Given the trajectory of your mood, the exhortation would have worried me...May God guide [our] footsteps in the interest of more robust Muslim- Christian coexistence and harmony.

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