Alas! The more preachers in today’s Nigeria thrust themselves into the limelight of public exposure and perception, the more reason they provide doubters to question the existence of God and the holiness of religion.
In a society that is faced with the enormous moral challenge of recognizing the value of life, particularly human life, one would ordinarily assume that religious establishments already have their duties carved out for them.
Today, seeing the dismembered body of a human being on the street for days if not weeks unending, is as common a sight as seeing a dead rat in the corner of a blind alley. These days, scores between young men in cultist associations are settled using the barrels and the cannon. Simple disputes over girlfriends, cash or rank in cultist associations are met with death to the ringing sound of a short gun. When then, will the value of life emerge when young ones at their tender age have no sense of awe and reverence for the human lives they take without care or at the sight of lifeless bodies that they spit upon?
So what is this obsession that Nigeria’s self-styled “Men of God” have with dabbling into politics or what constituency does religion seek to address in politics to the detriment of more urgent moral and ethical issues in society?
Most notorious these days is Bishop Matthew Kukah of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto. Prominence and guidance are attributes that make the rank of a Bishop in the Catholic faith a big deal indeed. For several reasons, Mr. Kukah has played several roles on the moral wing of the Nigerian political scene since the start of the new dispensation. From human rights investigations to the Ogoni reconciliation efforts, he has had reasons to contribute his quota to the building of a political moral standard in the country.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) seems to see itself, first and foremost as a political body. The Catholic Church has not been consumed by prosperity evangelism. In a setting of several fraudulent new generation churches performing fake miracles and exploiting parishioners, the Catholic Church stands out as one that does not conduct cheap rallies and deceptive rhetoric.
Yet, the Catholic Church embodied by Matthew Hassan Kukah is fast turning out to be a far cry from the role that society expects of the Church. To underscore his relevance these days, Bishop Kukah seems to find compulsion in making political statements on how best to govern (but) there is hardly any evidence that reposes expertise in governance on a Bishop with theological education at various levels.
Not for once has any headline captured a call from Bishop Kukah laying out an action plan to realign the mindset of our youths from 419, cultism, robbery and kidnapping. Not for once have I heard Bishop Kukah speak out against the generous donation of blood money to churches after plundering the public chest and robbing at gun point. Not for once has Bishop Kukah taught the nation about the wrath of God at taking another man’s life.
When Bishop Kukah speaks out, he speaks to condemn the government’s approach to fighting corruption. At the start of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, Bishop Kukah spoke against the fight against corruption and urged the government to focus more on the central issue of governance than fighting the “symptoms of corruption” as he put it.
Not for once has any headline captured Kukah condemning the brazen mentality of greed in the looting of public property. With names exposed and figures poured out in public domain, not once has any word of encouragement been heard from the mouth of the Bishop urging the government to carry on in its quest to sanitize the system. Not a word of support.
All that comes from the Bishop’s mouth, is to express doubt as to the government’s ability to solve Nigeria’s problems. In one very brazen utterance, one media outlet quoted the Bishop as saying: “I will advise that rather than chasing the ‘thieves’, the president-elect should address the issues of the misery and squalor that have become Nigeria’s lot, as development will raise the best army to fight corruption.” In other words, the Bishop had counseled the then President-elect to leave looters to God and simply go on governing as if nothing had happened.
It was at this point, in my humble opinion, that Buhari missed the golden opportunity to read the riot act to this errant Bishop and place him where belongs. A respectful church leader speaks out once and retreats and does not make activism out of his views like a politician. Check Father Mbaka.
Not for once has Kukah called on God to forgive those who stored billions in a private house. Not for once, has Kukah appealed to the conscience of the people who disbursed military budget amongst themselves while Boko Haram was killing innocent souls.
(Some folks have been asking: Could Kukah) have been a beneficiary of corruption under the immediate past dispensation? This insinuation alone would have been sufficient for an intelligent and honest adviser to retrace his steps. Not Kukah. Instead, he doubles down and complains about the commando and propagandist-style attack on corruption as if he was more pained by the sufferings of the apprehended than the sufferings of the masses at the receiving end.
Aside from having no expertise and scientific authority to tutor anyone on good governance, Mr. Kukah does not even find the need to attempt a delicate balancing act when audaciously dabbling into a field that is naturally not his home domain. The need to condemn the crime, praise efforts to heal the malaise before suggesting steps to perfect the process of combating the affliction, does not appeal to Kukah as a well-meaning diplomatic approach.
Thus Kukah ends up as being the nominal mouthpiece of people who society seeks to hold accountable for crimes against the populace. This seems totally lost on him. Worse still, is the fact that he commits all these moral atrocities wearing and abusing the robe and moral authority of the Catholic Church. Will he be surprised if skeptics begin to wonder what God he serves and what church he represents, where this God exists and what this church stands for?
Frisky Larr is the author of “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism,” “Africa’s Diabolical Entrapment” and “Lost In Democracy.”