The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Reverend Matthew Hassan Kukah, and the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, yesterday engaged in a public shouting match; trading pointed jabs over the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to publicly declare his assets.
The unsavory exchange occurred at the formal launch of the book: “Farida Waziri: One Step Ahead – Life as a Spy, Detective and anti-graft Czar,” written by a former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri.
Speaking on the topic: “Is corruption A Biological Necessity or A political Invention?” Kukah, who was represented as guest speaker of the occasion by Fr. Patrick Alumuku of the Catholic Archdiocese, Abuja, while concluding his speech, fired the first salvo with three rhetorical questions. He queried: “On a final note, let me ask two or three questions that I have heard being asked. First, is it in the law that the chairman of EFCC must be from the police force and a Muslim from Northern Nigeria? Two, people have asked, how is it that the president used Justice Onnoghen’s asset declaration form to prove his corruption and proceeded to sack him, yet the president himself has not publicly declared his own assets as he promised during his campaigns? Thirdly, why has Mr. Magu not been confirmed as EFCC chairman and what is the state of the trial of those who attempted to kill him in December 2017?”
In reaction, a visibly irritated Adesina retorted that Buhari never promised to declare his assets publicly, adding that the president had not broken any law by not doing so. The presidential spokesman then challenged Kukah to produce evidence of where the president promised to publicly declare his assets if elected. Hear Adesina in his own words: “I remember I was appointed on May 31, 2015, and when I resumed work on June 1 2015, in a private meeting with the president, one of the first questions I asked him was: this promise about the public declaration of assets, when are you doing it? And then he asked me: can you please show me where that promise was ever made? And behold, we searched everywhere, there was no place where the president ever said he would do a public declaration and he asked me what the law required. And he said: ‘The law requires you to declare your assets and that is what I will do.’ Yet, since that year, they keep repeating that he promised a public declaration.”
Continuing, Adesina said: “In 2015, he [Buhari] made his assets public, in 2019, he had declared, he has chosen not to go public, he has not broken any law. So, please let’s not continue to repeat what is untrue. Sir, can you tell Bishop Kukah that I challenge him to produce that promise by the president because the president stands by it till tomorrow that he never promised a public declaration,” Adesina said derisively. Huhuonline.com gathered that the altercation at the book launch came in the wake of a blistering attack on Buhari by Kukah in his homily at the funeral mass of Seminarian Michael Nnadi from Sokoto Diocese, who was killed by kidnappers about three weeks ago. At the funeral which held at Good Shepherd Seminary, Kaduna, Bishop Kukah unloaded at the president.
In very strongly-worded comments ornamented with harmful grandiloquence, Kukah berated President Buhari for failing to address the security challenges afflicting the country; accusing the President of clannishness, divisiveness, saying no sane citizen is ready to sacrifice, let alone die for rudderless Nigeria.
According to Kukah, those things that entice citizens to die for the nation have been taken away and replaced with abject poverty, insecurity and failed promises by the Buhari administration. The Bishop noted that Nigerians would rather safeguard their offices than to suffer for the country.
In his view, Christians in Nigeria have been tolerant since the coming of democracy in 1999 by accepting whoever assumed the position of leadership irrespective of religion and ethnicity. “Our nation is like a ship stranded on the high seas, rudderless and with broken navigational aids. Today, our years of hypocrisy, duplicity, fabricated integrity, false piety, empty morality, fraud, and Pharisaism have caught up with us. Nigeria is on the crossroads and its future hangs precariously in a balance. It is time to confront and dispel the clouds of evil that hover over us. Nigeria is at a point where we must call for a verdict. There must be something that a man, nay, a nation should be ready to die for. Sadly, or even tragically, today, Nigeria does not possess that set of goals or values for which any sane citizen is prepared to die for her. Perhaps, I should correct myself and say that the average officeholder is ready to die to protect his office but not for the nation that has given him or her that office. The Yorubas say that if it takes you 25 years to practise madness, how much time would you have to put it into real life? We have practised madness for too long. Our attempt to build a nation has become like the agony of Sisyphus who angered the gods and had to endure the frustration of rolling a stone up the mountain. Each time he got near the top, the gods would tip the stone back and he would go back to start all over again. What has befallen our nation?
“Nigeria needs to pause for a moment and think. No one is more than the President of Nigeria, Major General Muhammadu Buhari who was voted for in 2015 on the grounds of his own promises to rout Boko Haram and place the country on an even keel. In an address at the prestigious Policy Think Tank, Chatham House in London, just before the elections, Major General Buhari told his audience: ‘I as a retired general and a former Head of State have always known about our soldiers. They are capable and they are well trained, patriotic, brave and always ready to do their duty. If I am elected president, the world will have no reason to worry about Nigeria. Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa. We will pay sufficient attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service. We will develop adequate and modern arms and ammunition. We will improve intelligence gathering and border patrols to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels. We will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development and promoting infrastructural development…we will always act on time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester. And I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front.’
“There is no need to make any further comments on this claim. No one in that hall or anywhere in Nigeria doubted the president who ran his campaign on a tank supposedly full of the fuel of integrity and moral probity. No one could have imagined that in winning the presidency, General Buhari would bring nepotism and clannishness into the military and the ancillary security agencies, that his government would be marked by supremacist and divisive policies that would push our country to the brink. This president has displayed the greatest degree of insensitivity in managing our country’s rich diversity. He has subordinated the larger interests of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen and women. The impression created now is that to hold a key and strategic position in Nigeria today, it is more important to be a northern Muslim than a Nigerian.
“Today, in Nigeria, the noble religion of Islam has convulsed. It has become associated with some of the worst fears among our people. Muslim scholars, traditional rulers, and intellectuals have continued to cry out helplessly, asking for their religion and region to be freed from this chokehold. This is because, in all of this, neither Islam nor the north can identify any real benefits from these years that have been consumed by the locusts that this government has unleashed on our country. The Fulani, his innocent kinsmen, have become the subject of opprobrium, ridicule, defamation, calumny, and obloquy. His north has become one large graveyard, a valley of dry bones, the nastiest and the most brutish part of our dear country.
“Why have the gods rejected this offering? Despite running the most nepotistic and narcissistic government in known history, there are no answers to the millions of young children on the streets in northern Nigeria, the north still has the worst indices of poverty, insecurity, stunting, squalor, and destitution. His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, and the Emir of Kano are the two most powerful traditional and moral leaders in Islam today. None of them is happy and they have said so loud and clear. The Sultan recently lamented the tragic consequences of power being in the wrong hands. Every day, Muslim clerics are posting tales of lamentation about their fate. Now, the Northern Elders, who in 2015 believed that General Buhari had come to redeem the north have now turned against the president.
“We are being told that this situation has nothing to do with Religion. Really? It is what happens when politicians use religion to extend the frontiers of their ambition and power. Are we to believe that simply because Boko Haram kills Muslims too, they wear no religious garb? Are we to deny the evidence before us, of kidnappers separating Muslims from infidels or compelling Christians to convert or die? If your son steals from me, do you solve the problem by saying he also steals from you? Again, the Sultan got it right: let the northern political elite who have surrendered the space claim it back immediately.
“On our part, I believe that this is a defining moment for Christians and Christianity in Nigeria. We Christians must be honest enough to accept that we have taken so much for granted and made so much sacrifice in the name of nation-building. We accepted President Buhari when he came with General Idiagbon, two Muslims and two northerners. We accepted Abiola and Kingibe, thinking that we had crossed the path of religion, but we were grossly mistaken. When Jonathan became President, and Senator David Mark remained Senate President while Patricia Ette was chosen by the South West as the Speaker, the Muslim members revolted and forced her resignation with lies and forgery. The same House would shamelessly say that they had no records of her indictment. Today, we are living with a Senate whose entire leadership is in the hands of Muslims. Christians have continued to support them. For how long shall we continue on this road with different ambitions? Christians must rise up and defend their faith with all the moral weapons they have. We must become more robust in presenting the values of Christianity especially our message of love and non-violence to a violent society. Among the wolves of the world, we must become more politically alert, wise as the serpent and humble as the dove.
“The persecution of Christians in northern Nigeria is as old as the modern Nigerian state. Their experiences and fears of northern, Islamic domination are documented in the Willinks Commission Report way back in 1956. It was also the reason why they formed a political platform called, the Non-Muslim League. All of us must confess in all honesty that in the years that have passed, the northern Muslim elite has not developed a moral basis for adequate power-sharing with their Christian co-regionalists. We deny at our own expense,” Bishop Kukah noted.
Earlier, at the book launch, Mrs. Waziri revealed that she escaped several assassination attempts as the head of the country’s anti-graft agency. She explained that she wrote the book due to fabrications from malicious quarters that had created a distorted perception of her person. “Along the way, there were assassination attempts, face-offs with cranks and officials in foreign lands, thrust and parry with criminals and personal tragedies of losing loved ones, particularly husband and daughter, within one year for which my predecessors did not express their condolence.
“It is the story of a young girl’s journey through life, from being a Catholic girl to a Muslim; from being born of a Tiv family in Benue State to becoming a matriarch in Tangale family from Gombe; from a police officer who was the best recruit in 1967 to becoming an assistant inspector general of police, who also became a lawyer,” she said.