Bishop Matthew Kukah
Bishop Kukah

Current developments in Nigeria are reminiscent of the dark days of military rule when criticism of government was almost criminalized, and opposition of any kind a death sentence. Today, under a democratic regime Nigerians are increasingly being constrained from self expression about the operation of government for fear of official reprimand, rebuke and demonization, or even arrest and harassment.
Several opposition figures have been compromised, intimidated and cowered to create a false semblance of public acceptance and growing support for the government and party in power. Criticism of government has become a hazardous and dangerous endeavour under a democratic government in Nigeria. Such is the present ordeal of repressible Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah, for simply expressing an opinion about the situation in the country and the affairs of governance.
That Kukah can still openly challenge the outrageous policies and governance structure of this administration is essentially because of his impeccable integrity and strength of character. But this has not insulated him from the caustic umbrage and reckless censure by government spokespeople, who for want of reasonable excuse to either attack him or defend government position, simply, deliberately twisted and distorted the message to malign him.
In our opinion, such actions by government officials are selfish, ill-motivated and devious. It is expected of government to defend itself against unwarranted political attacks and falsehoods, but such defence should be factual, objective and civil. In any democracy, the people remain the sovereign, whether in theory or practice, and have right to call their leaders to order; the alternative is to resort to violence.
Bishop Kukah is neither a politician nor a rabble rouser. He is a responsible Nigerian and leader in his own right, and well respected across the nation. Although he is a religious leader, he spoke as a patriotic Nigerian, who is troubled and concerned about the events in the country, not on the basis of his belief or faith. It is absolutely wicked and unconscionable to insinuate and impute political and religious motives into what should have been a reminder of the moral and political failings of the government.
We are now living in a society where falsehood is being preferred to truth, and cowardice to courage; a situation where government romanticize people of questionable integrity and reputation; while men and women of honour, dignity and character are ridiculed, derided and demonized to ensure that concerned people remain silent about the ugly events being perpetrated by this leadership.
As a newspaper, we agree with the views expressed and facts presented by Bishop Kukah in the Christmas message – a position we had also held in the past and still hold. His position is a true reflection of present reality in the country and the facts are accurate. It was a mark of courage and patriotism for him to canvass his deepest concerns for the political health and future of the nation.
Those who have criticized his action and questioned his motive are only being mischievous, insensitive, selfish and callous to the interest of the generality of Nigerians who are bearing the brunt and burden of the chaotic governance of the administration. It is often said that what it takes for evil to prevail is for a few good people to keep quiet.
By speaking out, Bishop Kukah was only reminding us of the responsibility of leadership, the promises of government and where it has come short. It is a democratic right to exercise. Those criticizing him deliberately misread, misunderstood and misinterpreted his message to distract from the message, simply for self serving, bigoted, and sadistic interests.
The future of Nigeria is at stake because democracy can never thrive in such conditions of intolerance and insensitivity, where leaders are above public censure and freedom of personal expression is curtailed for any reason outside the law. Democracy is the future of the nation and any attack on it is a renunciation of the present contraption of a nation. Nigerians cannot be willing slaves in their own country under any guise.
Nigeria is not governed by Islam or Christianity; we have a secular democratic constitution that determines all political and social relations. A government that is not willing to submit to the constitution and follow its tenets has abintio forsaken the basis of its own legitimacy. Falsehood and intimidation can only prevail for a time, but truth will always overcome.
Our present challenges have been entrenched and sustained by the pervading atmosphere of angst and foreboding perpetuated by a culture of political falsehood and propaganda. No society can survive and progress on such selfish and irresponsible approach to governance.
Every well meaning Nigerian has at one time or the other faulted the nepotic disposition of this government by favouring his people, contrary to established legal framework for political appointments and ethnic relations. For a government to blatantly ignore the law in its appointments is clear abuse of office.
In the view of this newspaper, we are gratified by the courage shown by Bishop Kukah by again, drawing public attention to the failings of this government and pointing the way forward. However, we are also deeply disappointed by government antagonistic reaction to it which has become characteristic; and perturbed by the misleading and devilish colorations being given to a simple and clear message by government supporters and religious bigots, who mean no good for the country – a response that is worsening the already widened the social and political gulf created by this government.