Bishop Matthew Kukah, Diocese of Sokoto, has attacked President Muhammadu Buhari again, saying his government has slid into hibernation mode and polarised Nigeria into ethnic and religious line.
Kukah, in his Easter Message on Sunday lamented that Nigeria still tottered and wobbled as the nation screeched towards a dangerous and avoidable canyon of dry bones.
He said Nigeria could no longer recognise their country which had been battered and buffeted by men and women from the dark womb of time.
“The real challenge is how to find the slippery rungs on the ladder of ascent so we can climb out. Yet, we ask, ascend to where? For us as Christians, ascent is to the loving embrace of the resurrected Christ who is Lord of history.
“The government has slid into hibernation mode. It is hard to know whether the problem is that those in power do not hear, see, feel, know, or just don’t care. Either way, from this crossroad, we must make a choice, to go forward, turn left or right or return home. None of these choices are easy, yet, guided by the light of the risen Christ, we can reclaim our country from its impending slide to anarchy,” he stated.
Kukah said the greatest challenge now is how to begin a process of reconstructing the nation hoping that it could hang on and survive the 2023 elections, adding that the real challenge before the nation now was to look beyond politics and face the challenge of forming character and faith in our country.
He added that leaders of religion, Christianity and Islam, needed to truthfully face the role of religion in the survival of the country.
According to him, the greatest challenge for Nigeria was not even the 2023 elections, but the prospects for the reconciliation of the people.
“Here, the Buhari administration sadly has divided our people on the basis of ethnicity, religion, and region, in a way that we have never witnessed in our history. This carefully choreographed agenda has made Nigerians vulnerable and ignited the most divisive form of identity consciousness among our people.
“Years of friendships, cultural exchange, and collaboration built over time have now come under serious pressure from stereotyping. Notwithstanding these challenges, religious leaders must recover and deploy their moral authority and avoid falling victim to the schemes of politicians and their material enticements.
“Today, the values of Interfaith dialogue have come under severe strain and pressure with extremists from both sides of our faiths denigrating the idea of dialogue with their counterparts of other faiths. Ignorance and miseducation have combined with prejudice to create the falsehood that somehow, one religion is superior to the others. With so many ill equipped fraudsters posing as religious leaders, there is an obsession with defaming the others and widening our differences.
“Religious leaders must face the reality that here in Nigeria and elsewhere around the world, millions of people are leaving Christianity and Islam. While we are busy building walls of division with the blocks of prejudice, our members are becoming atheists but we prefer to pretend that we do not see this. We cannot pretend not to hear the footsteps of our faithful who are marching away into atheism and secularism. No threats can stop this, but dialogue can open our hearts,” he added.
Kukah said there was the need to start thinking of a Nigeria beyond banditry and kidnapping and the endless circles of violence that had engulfed the communities and nation.
He added: “We cannot continue to pretend that there are no religious undertones to the violence in the name of God that has given our religions a bad name. The way out is for the state to enforce the secular status of the Nigerian state so as to give citizens the necessary freedoms from the shackles of semi-feudal confusion over the status of religion and the state in a plural Democracy.
“We must be ready to embrace modernity and work out how to preserve our religions and cultures without turning religion into a tool for tyranny, exclusion, and oppression.
“In finding our way forward, the President must concede that it is within his powers to decide how we are going to end the war that has engulfed and is tearing down our nation. It seems that the federal government has shown far greater commitment to integrating so called repentant terrorists than getting our children back from kidnappers or keeping our universities open.
“Earlier last month, Operation Safe Corridor announced that it had graduated 599 members of various terrorist groups who have acquired new skills and are now ready to be integrated into society. The total comes to over a thousand now. It is plausible to note that the programme involves pyscho-social support, rehabilitation, vocational training, skill acquisition and start-ups.
“Despite all this, the larger issue is that their various communities have expressed their reluctance to receive their erring sons back. Nigerians have no access to the transcripts of the texts of the confessions of these terrorists not to talk of evidence of their commitment to not sin again.
“We have only the words of the terrorists and the same military that they have been fighting a war with. It speaks volumes when the President and his military hierarchy choose to believe these young men who took up arms and for years waged war against their country, killed, maimed and wasted thousands of lives, destroyed entire communities and now, they are being housed, fed, clothed with public funds. All this while their victims have been forced to make the various IDP camps their new homes! Where is the justice for the victims and the rest of the country they have destroyed?”
Kukah argued that the challenge of fixing this broken nation was enormous and required joint efforts, adding that the 2023 beckoned and the stage is set.
“The challenge is whether we have learnt any lessons from the tragedy that has afflicted us in the last few years. The Presidency of Nigeria is not a human right based on ethnic, religious or regional sentiments. The next President of Nigeria must be a man or woman with a heart, a sense of empathy and a soul on fire that can set limits to what human indignities visited on citizens that he or she can tolerate.
“We have no need for any further empty messianic rhetoric laced with deceitful and grandiose religiosity. We need someone who can fix our broken nation, rid our people of the looming dangers of hunger and destitution. Our Presidential aspirants must show evidence from their legacies and antecedents that they know the country well enough and its severe wounds.
“Whoever wants to govern us must illustrate that he or she understands what has turned our nation into a national hospital and show us plans for our discharge from this horror. Support for INEC and its infrastructure is fundamental to a free and fair election and we condemn in very strong terms all those criminals who continue to threaten the society with violence. They should meet the full force of the law,” he said.