Nigeria: Bishop Paints Graphic Picture of Country in a Shambles, Buhari Spokesman Fires Back Unconvincingly

“Nigeria: Before Our Glory Departs”. That was the topic of the Easter message from the Bishop of Sokoto, Mgr. Mathew Hassan Kukah in which he berated the Nigerian government for standing by as the country faced the likelihood of falling apart.

“Taunted by Boko Haram, ravaged by bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, and other merchants of death across the nation, there is the collective fear as to whether Nigeria’s glory is about to depart,” Kukah said.

He said Nigeria had become “a massive killing field, as both government and the governed look on helplessly. A thick and suffocating cloud of desperation, despondency, desolation, gloom, and misery hangs in the hot air.”

Bishop of Sokoto, Mgr. Mathew Hassan Kukah rattles the Nigerian government over perceived failures to guarantee the security of the population and foster national unity (C) ACI Africa

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, some 37,500 people have been killed in Nigeria since May 2011, an estimated 2.5 million displaced in the Lake Chad Basin and over 244,000 Nigerians forced to seek refugee status in neighbouring countries like Cameroon.

“We have no message and have no idea how long this will last. Our people seek solace and protection, but frustration and darkness threaten to drown them,” the cleric said.

Kukah said politicians typically use religion to win votes during elections but fail to use religion to govern.

He castigated the authorities for always resorting to propaganda, half-truths and lie-telling when faced with “legitimacy crises.”

“They manufacture consent by creating imaginary enemies, setting citizens against one another by deploying religion, ethnicity, region, and other platforms while appealing to the base emotions of patriotism.

“We forget the reality that without truth, the throne of power often turns into a cage, and the occupant is turned into a prisoner. In reality, the truth needs neither a judge nor a witness. The truth is its own judge and witness. Without the truth, as the old song says, all else is sinking sand,” he noted.

He accused the authorities of feet-dragging in the face of rising corruption and described Nigeria as “the poverty capital of the world.”

According to a report on the impact of corruption on the Nigerian economy by the PricewaterhouseCoopers, corruption could cost Nigeria up to 37% of GDP by 2030, or around $1,000 per person, if not addressed immediately.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has identified corruption as “the single greatest obstacle preventing Nigeria from achieving its enormous potential. It drains billions of dollars a year from the country’s economy, stymies development, and weakens the social contract between the government and its people.”

In Nigeria, about 86.9 million people live in severe poverty, which is about 50% of its entire population.

“…being the poverty capital of the world comes with its rewards such as banditry, violence, death, sorrow, blood, poverty, misery, and tears. Our cup of sorrow is permanently full; hence the exponential rise in the frustration curve across the country,” Kukah said.

In the face of the deteriorating situation in Nigeria, Kukah said it was understandable why Nigeria ranks very poorly in the World Happiness report. The 2021 report puts the country at 116 out of the 120 countries ranked.

And yet, the authorities show little empathy towards the suffering population.

“Mysteriously, the government is investing billions of naira in rehabilitating so-called Boko Haram repentant members and their other partners in crime in the belief that they want to turn a new leaf.

“These criminals have waged war against their country, murdered thousands of citizens, destroyed infrastructure and rendered entire families permanently displaced and dislocated. Why should rehabilitating the perpetrator be more important than bringing succour to the victims?

The devastation left behind by Fulani Herdsmen on Christian Communities in Nigeria (C) Open Doors USA

“When kidnapped or killed, victims and their families are left to their wits. They cry alone, bury their loved ones alone. And our government expects us to be patriotic? The victims of violence need empathy, which the dictionary defines as the ability to understand and share the feelings of the other.

“A critical deficit of empathy on the side of the government makes healing almost impossible for the victims. We have not heard anything about a rehabilitation programme for the thousands of school children who have been victims of abduction.

“We seem to assume that their return to their schools is sufficient. Left unaddressed, the traumatic effect of their horrors will haunt them for a long time.

“Tomorrow’s parents, military generals, top security men and women, governors, senators, and ministers will come from today’s pool of traumatized children. The security quandary is the greatest indictment of this government,” the Man of God warned.

Spokesman Garba Shehu fires back but fails to convince (C) TheNigeriaLawyer

But the Nigerian Presidency is not buying into the cleric’s indictments. In a strongly-worded statement, the Spokesman for the President, Garba Shehu accused the prelate of “playing partisan politics by dragging the President into it”.

“An administration that has created a whole Ministry, for the first time in the country’s history, appropriating enormous resources to it, to deal with issues of internally displaced persons cannot, in all rightfulness be accused of not caring for them.

“Some of the comments are no more than a sample of the unrestrained rhetoric Fr. Kukah trades in, which he often does in the guise of a homily.,” Garba said.

But in an interview with Timescape Magazine, Paul Townsend, Country Representative, Catholic Relief Services in Nigeria agrees with the Bishop that “the security situation remains fragile in certain parts of Nigeria,” and noted that it is being fueled by climate change, extreme poverty, food insecurity, unemployment, and clashes between security forces and armed groups.

“Civilians are paying the ultimate price, with hundreds of thousands displaced without proper access to clean water or education. Many have been and stripped of their means to make a living,” he said.

CRS Overseas Leadership with Paul Townsend in the Middle (C) CRS Annual Report

Townsend, however, believes peace can be restored to Nigeria, but it will depend “on the leaders at all levels of government coming together to resolve the root causes of poverty and the drivers of conflict.”

He said CRS was committed to working collaboratively toward building a more stable and prosperous future for civilians in troubled regions. 

“CRS provides humanitarian aid such as temporary homes, cooking utensils, and food to thousands of people directly affected by the violence. To address longer-term needs, CRS implements programs that help farmers grow crops and programs that improve access to health services. This work is carried out in partnership with the Church and other faith groups with a shared vision toward lasting peace in Nigeria,” he concluded.