By Simon Reef Musa
Last Thursday, August 31, 2023 marked the 71st birthday of the Bishop of the Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Dr Matthew Hassan Kukah. What is there left to be told of a man whose footprints have ignited public consciousness on the raging injustice and discrimination, thereby forcing national leadership to quake anytime he speaks or writes?
After three scores and a half, plus a year, still counting and growing stronger, this noble cleric, robed in astounding cerebral power, remains a conscience irritant devoted for interrogating our gloomy present and frightening future, using the past as the starting point in determining source of our dilemma. Presently, he is more seen, and rightly so, as a consummate intellectual of national and global reputation, than a religious leader engaged in bringing the gospel of Christ and denouncing the manipulation of ethnicity and religion for political power.
Coming from nowhere!
His emergence on the national and world scene is far less important than the miracle of someone coming from nowhere and arriving at the mountain top of his calling. Armed with knowledge that attests to his scholarly excellence, His Lordship has continued to offer irrefutable truths on how to survive the many curves of Nigeria’s numerous challenges, thereby demonstrating the quintessence of his status as an unquestionable cerebral power house.
His village, Anchuna, in the southern part of Kaduna state, would still have remained an invisible dot somewhere in the middle of nowhere, if not for his footprints on the sands of both religion and intellectualism that have refused to be diminished.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had, during one of his visits to Kaduna State, I was told but yet to verify, requested then Governor Mohammed Ahmed Makarfi, to pass through the Bishop’s village. The governor, according to the story, told his guest that the road to Anchuna was not motorable and getting there could affect the official schedule of the then president.
Shocked at the response of his host, Obasanjo asked: “Then, what are you doing about it?”
That probably was one of the reasons why Makarfi embarked on massive construction of roads all across the southern part of the state. Sadly, after the Makarfi-led administration, no major construction of such magnitude has been witnessed. Nearly 20 years after, one needs to drive a truck to survive the suffocating ordeal involved in traveling through southern Kaduna bad roads.
If Bishop Kukah’s prominence came as a gift; his commitment to academic excellence and projecting the cause of humanity enabled him to become one of our nation’s greatest public intellectual. As a truly God-called cleric of an outstanding status, the Bishop continues to hold the Bible firmly in the quest for a better country where all are equal partners in nation-building. The cerebral excellence that is possessed by the Founder of The Kukah Centre has turned him into an anvil against forces promoting injustice and corruption unleashed on poor citizens.
Unafraid of criticisms
Despite his relentless advocacy for an equitable nation, some of his critics, overwhelmed by his ceaseless calls for transparent leaderships at all level, have challenged him to quit the pulpit and join politics. Sadly, those close to him know that he is neither a politician. His lordship knows where he is coming from, and is irreversibly resolved to make his nation warmer for the voiceless and powerless of our society.
Without wealth and political power, this religious leader of national and global standing, has deployed his brain power in galvanising the populace and tasking the conscience of leaders to install a fair society.
Former editors of media, who once mounted pressure on reporters to get interviews with the Bishop, now ask: “Who listens to him again?”. It is strange that men and women of the pen profession, who are supposed to serve as comforters of the afflicted, wrote their ways to power and became comfortable with men and women of power, after becoming turncoats and armour bearers of oppressive leaders. Indeed, many, if not all critics and writers, have their price tags. Little wonder, most of the times, our country has been left to the mercy of the preying leaders, while the task of demanding leaders to be accountable relegated.
It is the yawning gap caused by the failure of those mandated to demand accountability from leadership that has paved the way for the rise of Bishop Kukah. Anyone with a conscience, and the Reverend Father from Anchuna has it in bags, must be in a state of shock at the incredible speed our nation has decayed and cascading down the slippery slope of frightening uncertainties.
Always in the public interest
Blessed with an unquestionable capacity for both written and oral delivery, the erudite priest has traversed our nation’s inquest laboratory in exploring challenges confronting our country. Those endowed with incomparable academic prowess rarely laugh at the inanities and follies of people involved in the promotion grotesque injustice. It is an astonishing fact that Bishop Kukah, though not a stranger to the tribulations of his nation, is still excitedly hopeful that the sun of prosperity will still rise over Nigeria.
Though misunderstood by many and admired by millions of his countrymen and women who believed in the worthiness of his cause, Bishop Kukah’s commitment for the common good sets him apart as a priest, devoted humanist and public intellectual who is never afraid of the debating the blustery entity called Nigeria.
Notwithstanding the many troubles shredding our country, the Bishop has continued to stand tall in the midst of raging storms and providing illumination on issues unsettling Nigeria’s quest for unity and development. He is always up in arms against those opposed to the emergence of an egalitarian society devoid of injustice for all groups. As our Bishop walked past 71 years, the Bishop must not lower his guard against those who are benefiting from our debauched and depraved systems. I join my faith with his in the hope that someday, and not in the distant future, Bishop Kukah’s dream for an equitable country he loves so much shall come to pass in his life time.