Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah, has lambasted northern Muslim elite for using religion to hold on to power at the detriment of the region and the country as a whole. He said despite political power being in the hands of northern leaders for long, the region remained one of the poorest in the country with 15 million youths on the streets begging without any hope for the future.
The Catholic Bishop spoke in Kafanchan at the weekend during the burial of Joseph Bagobiri, the late Catholic Bishop of Kafanchan Diocese. Kukah said: “Our country is in very serious crisis, the type of which we have never seen before. Death, destruction and destitution have become our lot and nowhere is this more expressed than in northern Nigeria.
Today, Boko Haram and the herdsmen and farmers’ clashes are phenomena that are peculiar to the North and Islam. We cannot run away from this. “It is sad that the northern Muslim elite has used religion to hold on to power to the detriment of even their own people and the larger society. For despite holding power for all these years, the North is still the poorest part of the country. Nearly 15 million Muslim children are on the streets with no future in sight, we are, as the Governor of Borno would say, the poster child of poverty.
“The world is changing and we have a country to build. Even Usman Dan Fodio said that a society can live with unbelief, but no nation can survive with injustice.” Kukah declared that no religious leader worth his salt could stand by in the face of visible injustice, stressing that “it will be a mortal sin” to be aloof to glaring injustice. He lamented the killings in Southern Kaduna. According to him; “For the better part of the last three years, Southern Kaduna was, at best, an inferno of pain, suffering and death. Death and destruction by mysterious killers became the daily menu of Southern Kaduna. “In village after village, innocent men, women, children, the lame and the invalids were put to the sword. Farm after farm was destroyed with a vengeance that was unprecedented and with no clear provocations. Community life of harmony collapsed with accusations and counter accusations.
Entire villages became ruins overnight and the landscape of graves dotted everywhere. “Amidst this, life was gradually becoming nasty, brutish and short.” The bishop said his people of Southern Kaduna had suffered the injustice of deliberate exclusion from all the rungs of local and national politics.
“They have got to where they are now by the sweat of their brow. We do not ask for pity or sympathy from anyone. We have come so far, not through the state, but in spite of the state in northern Nigeria. “That is why, as you leave this stadium (in Kafanchan), whether you are going to Abuja, Jos, or Kaduna, please look left and right and note if you will see one single federal or major state government structure on the highway. “All the structures you see as you drive along are the result of the sweat from the brow of our people.
“The federal and state governments are absent; Bishop Bagobiri was in the middle of all this.” He described the late clergyman as “a great pastor, a builder of human capital.” Kukah said Bagobiri made his contribution to the development of Southern Kaduna by trying to close the gap left by the neglect of the state and federal governments. On the killings in Southern Kaduna, Kukah said he reached out to the National Peace Commission (NPC) led by Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar, and a meeting was held with Governor Nasir el-Rufai, after which the committee undertook a visit to Southern Kaduna.
“I had already got Gen. Abubakar to agree that after seeing the governor, we would go into Southern Kaduna and he agreed. “Next, we went on to Kafanchan same day and met with a cross section of leaders from civil society groups, CAN, JNI, etc. Everyone was quite delighted and offered very useful suggestions,” he said. According to Kukah, over one year after the NPC submitted its report, there has been no official response from the state government.