Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Mattew Kukah, has taken a swipe at President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) for assenting to the same faith presidential ticket for the 2023 elections.
He weighed in on the issue when he appeared on “Politics Today” a programme on Channels Television, on Thursday, to discuss the state of the nation and choices before Nigerians ahead of the coming polls.
Despite the criticisms trailing its Muslim-Muslim ticket, the ruling APC has not shown a sign of dropping Kashim Shettima, a Muslim, from the North-east as its vice presidential candidate.
Both the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, and Mr Shettima are Muslims.
Kukah, against the backdrop of the much-criticised performance of the current administration, said the ruling party was insensitive to arrive at such a decision despite squandering power and misallocating opportunities given to them in 2015.
“In 1993 that you were talking about… I think Nigerians have gotten to a point like we have under Abacha, where we do whatever is required to get the military out. We’re going to do it. I think we have exaggerated our interpretation of what happened in 1993. Because we always have this dubious interpretation that this is evidence that Nigerians don’t care about religion,” he said.
“Maybe that was what was illustrated, but moving forward, the question I’m asking my friends who are Muslims and it’s a very simple question, especially those of us who are from northern Nigeria. Will Muslims in Nigeria or northern Nigeria be ready to make the same concession that Christians made in 1984, in 1993, and they have now been asked to make the same constitution.
“You have to understand this against the backdrop of what has happened to this country in the last seven years. You know, when you look at the squandered opportunities when you look at the way power has been distributed, when you look at the way this government has allocated opportunities in the broad spectrum of Nigeria against the wider backdrop of the crisis that we’re in now, ordinarily, the least we should be talking about is whether our next president is going to be a Christian or a Muslim.
“But as a Christian, I can tell you very frankly that the decision that the APC took, naturally, I felt astonished. The candidates in question and I might also say without sounding arrogant that I know all the presidential candidates, at least the prominent presidential candidates that are out there…It is unfortunate that two illustrious people like Asiwaju Tinubu and my friend, Kashim Shettima, should have to face this whole dilemma because it’s not their own making. But I feel that the sheer insensitivity that brought us to this point speaks to the fact that somehow our people are not aware of the volatility they have created in the system.
“I think that as a Christian, this is totally reprehensible and is not acceptable to me because of the sort of the decision the APC has made. When the campaign started, we’ll hear what people have to say, but it has just laid the foundation for what has taken us back after the kind of progress that we made in terms of national integration.”
He said the country’s politicians have been at liberty to operate at their current height of wanton corruption because of citizens’ tolerance, a disposition not common in other parts of the world.
“Let me put it very clearly, we still have a terribly long way to go. The tragedy that afflicts our country now is not a tragedy that we’re going to resolve so quickly. But our politicians must also realise that they are lucky to live in a country like Nigeria, where we have internal instruments and mechanisms of restraint that stop us from going out and picking up the violent option.
“Nigerians deserve tremendous credit for the ability to live with the rascality that passes for governance in this country. The humongous amount of theft of state’s resources has become the reason why people are struggling to get to power,” the cleric, who is the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, said.
He described the country’s much-discussed division as largely artificial which has never been more mismanaged by any government than Mr Buhari-led government.
The cleric agreed that religious manipulation by politicians has become “part and parcel of our politics” but challenged Nigerians who voted on such grounds to evaluate the dividends of such a decision.
“So I think the most important thing is for Nigerians to become much more circumspect to appreciate the fact that politicians will do what politicians do everywhere in the world, that is to play on the sentiments of people and use them as instruments for mobilizing cornering power, but increasingly as such, if you live in Nigeria, you know that that Nigerian politician is concerned with three things myself, myself and myself.
“So it’s really a question of what they made just getting wiser and sidestepping some of these landmines,” Kukah said.