Easter: Nigeria has become ‘massive’ killing field –Kukah
The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Reverend Mathew Hassan Kukah, has said Nigeria has become a massive killing field, noting that a thick and suffocating cloud of desperation, despondency, desolation, gloom hangs in the hot air.
The revered cleric said this in his Easter Message, titled, ‘Before our glory departs’
Kukah said it is clear that those at the helm have no solution to the myriads of challenges bedeviling the country as “both government and the governed look on helplessly.”
He noted that Nigeria is at a critical stage adding that it’s foolhardy to think the solution to our predicament is sitting on our hands or praying our crisis away.
“Taunted by Boko Haram, ravaged by bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, and other merchants of death across the nation, there is collective fear as to whether Nigeria’s glory is about to depart! Retired military and intelligence officers lament over what has become of their glorious profession, as they watch the humiliation of our military personnel.
“Traumatised citizens are tortured daily by bandits. The nation has since 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.
“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. Has their government gone AWOL?”
Waxing Biblical, the cleric said the country’s current predicament is reminiscent of Israel in the time of the prophets and high priests, particularly the time of Eli, the spiritual father of Prophet Samuel.
Kukah cited how the Ark of God was carted away from Isreal at the battlefield by the Philistines and attendant death of Eli and birth of Ichabod, meaning “the glory has departed from Israel” to buttress his stance.
“Nigeria’s current predicament reminds me of Israel’s situation that led to the death of Eli, the great High Priest of Israel. Israel’s defeat in the hands of the Philistines led to the death of 30,000 soldiers. The two sons of the 98-year-old priest – Hophni and Phinehas – died in the battle. Eli’s two sons had foolishly carried the Ark of the Lord into the battlefield for protection, only for it to become a trophy for the victorious Philistines. The high priest, Eli, collapsed and died after hearing this horrible news. Elsewhere, on hearing about the death of her husband, her father- in-law, and the loss of the Ark, Eli’s daughter-in-law went into premature labour. She was delivered of a baby boy – a call for great celebration in Israel! Strangely, she responded by naming her newborn son “Ichabod,” meaning, The glory has departed!” Kukah said.
The bishop stressed that politicians can use religion to mobilise for elections, but they cannot use it to govern.
“Two weeks ago, I came across a video in which a very frustrated Muslim cleric, addressing a Muslim audience, lamented: “If you killed 200 chickens in the farm of any of the big farmers, you will be dealt with. But today, we are being killed. It is your fault. On the day of elections, you say, it is Jihad! Christians will take over Nigeria! Ok, the Christians did not take Nigeria. It has been left in the hands of those who sit and see us being killed. If we are killed, the head says, God forbid! He was not elected to say God forbid.” This imaginary jihad won the elections, now where are the jihadists? The lesson here is that politicians will use religion to mobilise for elections, but they cannot use it to govern.
“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria weighed in with a strong statement on February 23, titled, “We Must Pull Back from the Brink of Collapse.” Part of the statement read: The very survival of the nation is at stake. The nation is pulling apart. Widespread serious insecurity for long unaddressed has left the sad and dangerous impressions that those who have assumed the duty and authority to secure the nation are either unable, or worse, unwilling, to take up the responsibilities to their office. Patience is running out. Sadly, all of these warnings are still falling on deaf ears.
“It may sound strange, but for us Christians, the celebration of the resurrection of Christ is the greatest assurance that all these will pass away. This is not a call for us to simply sit on our hands or believe we can pray our crises away. As pointed out above, the sufferings of Jesus and His Cross provide us with the perfect mirror of our hope. St. Paul reminds us: We are hard pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body (2 Corinthians 4:9). These are the hallmarks of our faith. We must remain steadfast.”
He appealed to Christians to keep upholding the Gospel which simply means good news and truth which is epitomised by Christ.
The bishop said, “I appeal to Christians to continue in the spirit of the Gospel, the teachings of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. St. Paul says: Though He was God, he humbled himself, became man and remained obedient up till death (Philippians. 2:6ff). Following in His steps, we Christians have lived through the life of martyrdom.
“Jesus taught us how to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Although His teachings are hard (John 6:60), it was not the guns of a powerful army that brought down the walls of Jericho. The prayers of the priests did (Joshua 6:20).
” Jesus defied the temptations of coming down from the Cross. He knew there was a higher truth deferred. It was fulfilled on Easter day. No matter the provocation, we must arm ourselves with the weapons of truth, the Word, the Spirit, and love. At the heart of Christianity is the Truth and Love.
“Today, many of us erroneously speak about the trial of Jesus by Pilate on Good Friday. In reality, it was Pilate who stood trial, not Jesus. Pilate sat on a throne to judge what he himself was ignorant of – the truth.
“Chained by ignorance, the powerful often grope around a twilight zone between truth and lies. At the mention of the word “Truth” by Jesus, Pilate was jolted from his chair. In trepidation and apprehension, the mighty man says, Truth, what is that? (John 18:38).
” Pilate was looking for the Truth but did not recognise it when it stood right before him. In every age, the seduction of raw power tends to blind the Pilates of this world to the truth.”
Kukah said it is a sign of failure for government to resort to propaganda, half-truths and outright lies in the course of discharging its legitimate duties.
“When governments face legitimacy crises, they fall back on serving the sour broth of propaganda, half-truths, and outright lies. 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 said.
The cleric also noted that the World Happiness report recently released could not be faulted because it showed the true picture of the situation in the country.
He said the report was unacceptable but understandable.
“Recently, according to the World Happiness Report, we are one of the unhappiest nations in the world. This is unacceptable but understandable. Our clay-footed fight against corruption has not moved the needle of transparency forward. Of course, 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.
Sadly, human life is hemorrhaging so badly in Nigeria, but the greatest tragedy is the death of empathy from those in power. 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?
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 schoolchildren 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 traumatised children. The security quandary is the greatest indictment of this government.”
He added, “There is a time for everything under the sun (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Perhaps, we can paraphrase this by saying there is a time for war and a time for peace. There is a time for poverty and a time for wealth. There is a time for stealing and a time for returning what has been stolen. There is a time for politics and a time for governance. There is a time for tethering to the brink of chaos and a time for recovering the soul of a nation.
There is a time for the collapse of morality and a time for moral recovery. There is a time for leadership and a time for statesmanship. There is a time for losing greatness and a time for achieving greatness. Nigeria must now ask itself: What is left of our glory? Where are the values that held us together?”
Kukah continued, “On our national Coat of Arms, we profess our motto to be: Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress. But let us ask ourselves: Is Nigeria united today? Do citizens still have faith in the country? Where are the signs of peace or progress?
“Today, before our very eyes, these words have been emptied of their flavour and have lost their resonance and capacity to summon our citizens to patriotism. St. Augustine once said: Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a large scale? He further said that: A gang is a group of men (and women) under the command of a leader, bound by a compact of association, in which the plunder is divided according to an agreed convention. This is the fate of our nation today. Day by day”