By Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Sokoto Diocese, Catholic Church
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity…WB Yeats(1865-1939)
This is no ordinary Easter, Mr. President because these are no ordinary times for our country, Nigeria, over which you preside.
I know that in your Easter Messages, you, the Senate President, the Speaker and our Governors, will all exhort Nigerians with the usual moral platitudes encouraging us to live by the teachings of Jesus Christ, to love one another, to embrace peace and live in unity. Good talk, but, as you must know very well, most ordinary citizens will say that love, tolerance and a sense of community seem to be in exile or in suspended animation in Nigeria.
Mr. President, I have decided to speak to a cross section of Nigerians, beginning with you and going right down to the many nameless men and women who do not even qualify to be classified as the ordinary man in the street because they live on water and have no streets on which to walk. I believe that this country is so split both vertically and horizontally today that all of us must honestly identify our many sins of omission and commission so that we can honestly seek a solution. This is a time for us to genuinely face what looks to me like an impending calamity. The gathering clouds are clear for us to see and even those who cannot see can hear the rumbling and rolling sound of thunder. We ignore them at our own risk. I therefore state as follows:
To President Muhammadu Buhari:
You know Sir, that you rode into town like a knight in shining armour, carrying the joys, pains, anxieties and fears of a people whose broken dreams had littered and turned the landscape into a kaleidoscopic scenery of desolation and despair. In your campaigns, you had promised to restore a sense of national pride in us by slaying the dragon of corruption, banishing the retrogressive scourge of Boko Haram, bringing back our daughters from Chibok and making our country and citizens truly safe.
We waited in hope right to the end of the first year, but somehow, amidst some hazy weather, all we heard was the sound of screeching tyres with the plane carrying our hopes seemingly unable to take off. It finally did but we had barely gained altitude when sickness struck and you spent the better part of a year seeking healing. The nation prayed for you and miraculously, you recovered. Evidently, you had been saved for a purpose. Our prayer is that this realization will help you understand that you have a date with history and divine judgment.
For now, before your eyes and in your hands, our country, our communities, our people are all in a state of stupor. We have never felt so alienated from one another. The bogeyman of religion, region and ethnicity, which we thought we had overcome by the sheer nature of your support base, have come back with a vengeance to haunt and threaten the very foundation of our existence. Mr. President, you are too distant from your people. There is a sad feeling that you do not share in the pain and suffering of your people. You must very quickly find a way of connecting with your people before the devil takes over the space. For taking on this challenge and connecting with Nigerians, happy Easter.
To the Political Class:
To Governors, Legislators, Senators, and all who are actively engaged in Politics: Please recall that Nigerians have over the years struggled for the building of a democratic, free and egalitarian society. You who are in politics today are beneficiaries of the sacrifices of those who have gone before you.
The nation has not been able to develop a political culture due to the disruptive nature of the political process marred by corruption and violence. Years of military rule have diminished our appreciation of Democracy.
The average age of Governors and Legislators across the country is 50. These are the years of dreams, maturity, sacrifice, patriotism and self-giving. But, sadly, you do not seem to be ready to depart from the culture of cronyism, prebendalism and primitive accumulation. The result has been ruination and decay.
I appeal to you to please abandon the spirit of selfish accumulation and embrace the principles of integrity and genuine service of our country. Do not let this country collapse in your hands. For accepting to make some sacrifice, respect and listen to our people, a happy Easter.
To the Political Parties:
Political parties ought to provide the vital foundation stones and building blocks for institutions through which political actors must graduate. It is here that new entrants learn the fine moral principles and ideologies that underpin the Parties. Sadly, there are no Parties in Nigeria. We have only rickety and disposable contraptions put together for state capture. No sooner does this happen that the actors go their way and the circles of frustration return. This explains the debilitating culture of political incoherence and dissonance in our country.
The Parties have become notorious conveyor belts and incubators of hatred, intolerance and corruption of the worst kind, even against their own members. For now, the political parties seem determined to rely on both Federal and State Government and Institutions to serve as their ATM machines. Tragically, this is why politics is toxic and totally unattractive to people of honour.
I want to call on Parties and their leaders to become true to their political claims as expressed in their Manifestoes, reduce the culture of godfatherism, and focus on building the foundation of a strong political culture. Political parties must reduce their adversarial proclivities and focus on patriotic bipartisan areas of co-operation so as to hold our country together. Our people are dying daily across party lines. For agreeing to make Political parties more respectable, a happy Easter.
To the Religious Leaders:
We are all custodians of the faith and trust of our people. Sadly, we have proved to be as divided as the people we are supposed to lead. We have been seduced by powerful politicians and have allowed politics to corrupt the sacred spaces of religion. Thus we have lost our voices and no longer seem to have the capacity to interrogate power, as we are called to do.
Religious leaders have fallen to the temptation to present their Churches and Mosques as platforms for partisanship. No divinely inspired religion can pretend that there is no distinction between religion and politics. Unless we are in a theocracy, no Church or Mosque can have its entire people with the same political affiliations.
Religious leaders must avoid the temptation of being seduced by filthy lucre and power for personal or any other gain. We must seek the collective welfare of our people and develop a culture of neutrality that can inspire the confidence in our people in the power of religion to change society so that the common good is always sought and promoted. For seriously rethinking our role in moulding our society, a happy Easter.
To the Ordinary people of Nigeria:
The men and women in power who pretend to represent you, call you the masses. The politicians, the business men/women, the religious leaders, all claim to act on your behalf.
But you yourself ,no matter how rich or poor, how educated or otherwise you are, have a duty to understand that God has plans for you and for every individual and you have a duty to both yourself and your neighbour. You have to defend your personal dignity and seek the enforcement of your rights to have property and to raise a family as opposed to waiting for the crumbs from our greedy leaders.
Defend your dignity as human beings and children of God. Do not allow the rich and powerful, who are rich because you are poor, to divide you. They have light and water in their high fenced houses not because they are Muslims or Christians or that they are from this or that or the other tribe but simply because they are rich. You are poor, homeless, have no road, no water, and your children are sick and illiterate, not because you are Christian or Muslim or from this tribe or the other, but simply because you are poor. You and your children vote, but their children do not vote because they are abroad. Your children beg and die on the streets while their children are abroad fraternizing with those they call infidels. They give you a fake religion that enslaves you while they give their own children the religion of education that will liberate them and make them rule over you.
Rise and defend your right to food and shelter because poverty is not a divine inheritance. Easter teaches us the message of love and of gentleness and of true strength. It tells us that to defend oneself does not mean to turn to violence or to any other misdeed or evil. But it means to recognize one’s dignity as a child of God and remember that each one is created and called to enjoy the fullness of life. Easter means to recognise one’s right to be considered and respected, it means being determined to stand up for what is right and just, it means being strong and steadfast, full of hope and full of love, both for oneself and for others. For deciding today to shake off the shackles of bondage and free yourselves so as to secure your future and your family, a happy Easter.
To God the creator and maker of the world:
God our Father, creator of Heaven and earth, we thank you for our dear country Nigeria. You have given us so much, but like selfish animals in a pool of water, our leaders drink and mess up the water for those coming behind them. We thank you for the gift of Easter and other religious feasts. These feasts have been emptied of their moral content because our people only see them as dates on their social calendars. Please forgive us and let us turn to you.
Lord God of Heaven and earth, so many of our children and our parents have died senseless deaths. Rather than worry that they are burying their children, our elders are busy with other ideas, denying sins that they themselves have committed against you and our dear country. We beg you to overlook their excesses and grant them forgiveness. But, please heal our country.
The forces of evil cannot have the last say. Please protect our country because no human army can do this. No power on earth can protect us except you. We are sorry for destroying our country through our collective greed. We stand before you in sorrow and ask for your mercy and forgiveness. The ship of our state is being tossed in the winds, but we know you will save us. Please save our dear country from the grip of evil forces.
Finally Lord, we commit all our children into your hands. Save them from the hands of marauders who continue to prey on them. Help, guide and protect our children, especially our daughters, who, even in their innocence carry the seeds of the promise of tomorrow. Our daughters in Chibok are still in your hands as well as our dear daughter Leah. Bring them back home, O God. Leah has defied the forces of evil and her innocent courage is a sure sign that our dream for a new dawn is not empty. Raise up more Leahs for us so that our future can be guaranteed. Thank you, Father, and please forgive us our sins. Show our leaders the way, convert them to yourself. For a united Nigeria, happy Easter.
By Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Sokoto Diocese, Catholic Church