….Says He should prepare to live with consequences of his actions
It was vintage Hassan Kukah, the fiery Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto Thursday night as he x-rayed the socio-political situation in Nigeria and lamented that we ought not to be where we are today, noting that Nigerians are angry, and justifiably so. He said he is “sick and tired of being sick and tired of telling people to wait, things are going to get better”. Bemoaning how the trajectory of the 2023 general elections, Kukah regretted that the recommendation by the electoral committee to the effect that nobody should be sworn in until all the processes had been concluded was jettisoned. In a no-holds-barred interview on Arise Television’s Prime Time programme anchored by Charles Aniagolu, Kukah asserted that “The processes didn’t go well. We ought not to be where we are. I served as a member of the electoral reform committee, and had the government then taken seriously the recommendations we made, we wouldn’t have been where we are. But you know Nigerian politicians like the dark spots where you can operate under cover. LThey want the opportunities to do the wrong thing. So, they refused to take the recommendations that we made which was eloquently that let us conclude all of these processes before you swear anybody in because we know, every Nigerian knows that once you are sworn in, the resources of state are available to you. “But notwithstanding that, we shouldn’t be ahead of ourselves. I just think that President Bola Tinubu has seen it all. He probably, and I believe he understands, that he must move away from the mistakes that his predecessor made, mainly to treat this country as if it was a country between the defeated and the conqueror. That is why I am expecting that in the next few days, we should be able to hear appointments that send a signal that we want; that people can be calm, and that everybody is going to have a seat at the table”. Saddened by the backlash of the fuel subsidy removal announced by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in his inaugural address, Bishop Kukah, very much in his elements, stated that the decisions the president takes in the next few days would show the way the country is headed. According to him, “For me, the challenge for us in Nigeria now, as the scripture says, is to be calm and know that God is on His throne. I am very pleased with the body language of some of the principal actors. I am speaking about my friend, Peter Obi, Atiku, (Atiku Abubakar) and other contestants, and I think their body language suggests that the ball is now in the court of those who are now sworn in as president and vice president… This is not a time for triumphalism. Usually, the difficulty, or the challenges are how to keep some of the hawks in government in check. “And the decisions that the president takes in the next few days, those decisions are going to be very crucial; they will be pointers to where this country is going. For instance, I give you a very simple example. Again, people have been thinking of the names that I have been called. We don’t know how long it’s going to be. But when we get a sense of déjà vu; we’ve been here before. This is what Buhari did to us. “And I think that the vice president also took a symbolic gesture which I think the president must borrow from; that no matter how long this lasts, because we are literally on a tentative…it’s not a good place to be because until the Supreme Court has had a final decision, everything you are holding is waiting for the final decision. But for now, we can gain speed. One, by appreciating the degree of injury that Nigerians have suffered, and this is not something that anybody can take lightly; Nigerians are very angry. There are a lot of people who are really, really genuinely, and they earn a right to be angry. While stating that he wouldn’t know if the president’s announcement of fuel subsidy removal was made off the curve, or perhaps it was a bullet he had hidden, Bishop Kukah contended that “But whatever it is, he’s the president, and he’s going to live with the consequences of the decision he has made. You know when the Catholic Church says that the Pope is infallible, it’s not because the Pope can say who is going to win the Premier League, or it’s not because the Pope has an opinion. No, it is that whatever the Holy Father says, at the end, it would have taken years and years, and it is an aggregation of what the Catholic Church feels strongly about. “And to, some extent, a president cannot make a mistake; let me put it that way. What I mean is, and that is one of the sad things about Buhari’s administration, I am sorry to say that; it’s not possible that you have people for eight years, sitting on the same seat, doing the same things; nobody shifts on his seat. Nothing happened even though things were not working; nobody changed a jersey. It says a lot. “The point is that whatever decisions you may have taken, whether you decided to put it in the speech or it wasn’t in the speech, or that somebody didn’t want it in the speech, and he wanted it in the speech, he has to live with the consequences. At another level, maybe history may judge him wisely that he decided to bite the bullet now because I’ve listened to a few people; my name is Matthew, not Rotus, because these are the guys who have the expertise. This is an area I don’t know anything about. All I am interested in is the sufferings of ordinary people who are already in pain, and how the president is going to walk through by taking the mistakes that were made by the last administration, this assumption that you can alleviate poverty by just going around and distributing pennies to people, is not going to work. And many critics are saying shouldn’t we have created a frame for how this is going to operate. “But I would like to think that perhaps Bola Asiwaju Tinubu has been on the block long enough to know where the corpses are hidden. In that way, whether this is an element of surprise, we just have to wait and see what happens next. But my concern is a serious appreciation of the amount of sufferings that Nigerians have gone through and I think we must do everything possible because the social consequences could be tremendous”. “And finally, you are a journalist. If you are following a story and you have to keep correcting and trying to say what it was you meant to say, there is a problem. A government has to then develop a strategic means of communicating with the ordinary Nigerians about why we are where we are, where we hope to get to, and why we are doing the things we are doing. And I think an effective communication strategy is fundamental to how we progress despite the difficulties that seem to loom in the horizon”. On measures expected to be taken to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal, Bishop Kukah waxed philosophical. “You know what they say; you don’t have to make the perfect the enemy of the good. We don’t know yet what is going to happen, and what the president is going to roll out in the next few days. But I am saying, and this is perhaps where my problem is; that perhaps a greater clarity was expected. This is not something that you are expecting your aides to try and begin to patch up what you meant to say and so on and so forth. I think what happens in the next few days will tell us. “First of all, the meeting with the NNPC people; the meeting with the Central Bank governor, a meeting with all the people that matter. But critical to all of these is the fact that we’ve been running a very fraudulent State, and I have argued severally that governance in Nigeria had been, still is, a criminal enterprise. I mean there is very little in the structure of governance in Nigeria that suggests that those who have designed policies have clarity of where they want the country to go to. “You have a National Assembly; the gory stories you hear. You have people who found themselves in the National Assembly; they don’t have the faintest idea. People who can’t sign their signature; humongous sums of money going in different directions. “We’ve been told that this whole thing has been a scam; even if it’s a scam, it’s not a scam by spirits. I’ll like to see the names of all those who have been benefitting from this whole thing in the first place. And unless, and until, as they say when you are fighting corruption, if you don’t make examples, then you are going to be in trouble because the terrible thing that can happen to any government is when criminals recycle themselves, change their jerseys, and enter into politics, either directly, or they become sponsors of political actors who act on their behalf, not on behalf of the citizens and the State. And this has been our story in Nigeria for a very, very long time. “And that is why Nigerians have been extraordinarily patient. People like myself; I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of telling people to wait, things are going to get better. But we must be grateful to ordinary Nigerians that we’ve remained resilient, in spite of all this, not because of the things government has done. But I think that government must put something very urgently on the table that goes beyond the grandstanding of activists in different segments of the society; whether it’s labour, because the issues are much more complicated than that. At the end of the day, ordinary people need to be told how are we going to move forward; where is your seat at the table because like they say, if you don’t have a seat at the table, then you are the menu. And I think that ordinary Nigerians have paid enough price in terms of sacrifice. So, I think that the legitimacy of this government, like any other government, will depend on the kind of signals it sends out there”.