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Sunday, 17 August 2014

Somebody Left Our Doors Open To Insurgency– Kukah


Somebody Left Our Doors Open To Insurgency– Kukah

Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah is the Catholic bishop of Sokoto Diocese. His opinions on critical issues usually create national agenda for public discourse. In this exclusive interview with ANKELI EMMANUEL, he observes that certain salient issues bordering on the loss of moral values both in the religious and political arena are responsible for the myriads of problems confronting the country
In recent times, there appears to be mutual suspicion about northerners in other parts of the country who are seen as potential Boko Haram members. What do you think this suspicion portends for the country?
I think the issues are grossly exaggerated. And I don’t think it is something we should pay too much attention to. It seems to me that there is a bit of media frenzy and there is the need for us to think even much more clearly and closely about how the media behave in a period such as this. How do citizens, religious leaders, and everyone behave in a period such as we are in?
I say that because some days ago, Daily Trust newspapers published a story involving a very prominent leader of the Arewa Community in Imo state who was actually saying the idea of identity cards was their own not that of Governor Rochas Okorocha. However, on television today, Okorocha denied anything of that sort.
What I am saying in effect is that the media has gone into frenzy and the result is that, there is very little attention to facts before they are published. There is so much sensationalization in some of the reportage. Therefore, I am just saying that it is not correct to say that every northerner is a potential Boko Haram member. I have been to Asaba, Onitsha and different parts of this country. Therefore, it is not true to say that I or anybody coming from this part of the country should be seen as a potential Boko Haram.
Recently, the Sultan of Sokoto Sa’ad Abubakar III solicited advice on the way forward thereby prompting criticism that Muslim leaders are not doing enough on terrorism. What would be your advice as a clergyman?
Well, I am not an adviser to the Sultan. He is more than eminently qualified to speak for himself. Let me, however, say very quickly that I think the most important thing is that perception is a reality. Cain did not necessarily cease to be the son of Adam because he killed his brother. That I have become a murderer today does not mean I am not the son of my father, rather, I am probably a bad son. So, the truth of the matter is that the people who are perpetuating this violence said they are Muslims; they are not asking for anything but an Islamic state.
Now, you may quarrel with how they are going about it. You may even say that Islam does not allow anybody to murder another person. Indeed, no religion or society tolerates murder. But what I think we are missing in the whole of this conversation is that we are not asking ourselves what prepared people for this kind of action.
If you have children that are well fed, and well clothed within the best means available to you and suddenly, one of them becomes a thief, I don’t think the best thing to do is to simply condemn him, rather you try to find out why in the midst all the affluence, he went wayward. In the same way, I think these are times for serious introspection among the Muslim communities in Nigeria. I have said it severally that Boko Haram has been a terrible advertisement for Nigeria, but perhaps, it is the worst advertisement for Islam.
It is not enough to say that these people are not Muslims but that what is it in Islam that predisposes people to this kind of action? For me, these are not questions that we can answer. The question we should rather ask ourselves is about the person that left the door open for this calamity to set in. Perhaps, we must also say that these issues are not peculiar to Islam in the whole country but in northern Nigeria alone. Therefore, we must isolate and localize the problem not because it is a northern problem but because it is a problem peculiar to Islam as expressed in northern Nigeria.
There are Muslims in the southwest. There is also a little percentage of Muslims in the middle belt and there are Muslims in some parts of the southeast. They are not going around murdering people. There are Muslims in Senegal, Gambia and other parts of Africa. They are not going about it that way.
So, the question we must ask with honesty is, “What is it about Islam as practised in northern Nigeria that predisposes people to this kind of action? And as I said earlier, we can have long lectures on this, but I think that is the direction we should focus the question. It is not about whether we are being represented well or not or whether those people are not Muslims. The criminals who represent us badly in Nigeria do not lose their Nigerian identities. That was why I said this is a very trying time for us as a nation. It is not for us to cast aspersion but to ask ourselves certain honest questions.
 The Sultan said recently that insecurity in Nigeria is all about 2015. Do you also share that thought?
Well, that is what the Sultan said and you should have asked him. However, whether there is a correlation between the insecurity we are facing, I do not know. I however, have the feeling that the matter is grossly exaggerated. I think that it is quite conceivable and possible that 2015 will come and go very peacefully, but since we are Nigerians and we always look at the worst case scenario for ourselves, we are also our worst enemy in terms of perception.
But over and above that, like I have consistently said to the politicians, there has to be a country first, before we can think of conducting elections.
The abduction of over 200 innocent school girls in Chibok has raised global concern and criticism against Nigeria. As a priest, what do you think the government should do and what they have failed to do to rescue these girls?
You know, I worry because this is Nigeria where you have about 170 million experts on everything. And there are certain things that we must concede that, at least, we don’t have the answer. I think people have been very critical of the president, the government, the military and all that. Yes, they have the right to do so, but none of these get us anywhere closer to bringing these girls home. And I think it is sad if anybody believes that the president of Nigeria, one way or the other, has something to do about this matter which he is not doing now.
It is not a fair assessment of the situation because nobody else could have done something else completely different from what he has been doing. Secondly, I think that we should have been praying. The unfortunate thing is that this whole thing has turned into politics. And there are people who are looking at it as if the president is weak. It is not the way a country behaves when you have a crisis of this nature, there is need for sobriety.
It is important to note that we are not the first people to go through all these. America sat down helplessly to watch for, at least, 445 or so days when its citizens were kidnapped in Iran. They could not do anything about it. This is not the first time something of this nature is happening but the most important thing we are saying is that we want these girls back alive.
With the level of insecurity in Nigeria almost reaching its crescendo, most Nigerians are of the opinion that the country is at the crossroads. Do you also share that belief?
There is no doubt about the fact that we are facing very challenging times as a nation, and as I said, no sane citizen must treat this situation with levity. It is a wakeup call for all of us. But we must also appreciate the fact that this is not the worst thing that has happened in human history. Few months from now, it will be the beginning of the First World War in which over 20 million people lost their lives.
The people of Algeria had a war after their election and it all came to pass. Now, we have the Boko Haram insurgency in its intense form for the better parts of a year and a half or two, and for the lives we have lost, it is one of the greatest tragedies because we are not even having an all-out war. It is also that we are dealing with senseless killings.
We must, however, address the fact that if anybody knows the best way of addressing this kind of things, let them step forward and say so. But the fact of the matter is that, there are no easy options. The way our country is right now, there are massive wastelands and with a police force of less than half a million, how many policemen can you send across the country? With the military force of perhaps less than 200,000, how many of them can you send across the nation? These are some of the practical realities.
For instance, when some innocent people were been killed in Southern Kaduna and I went there on condolence, one of the things I tried to tell the young people was that they should be very careful because I could see anger and frustration on their faces because you may be the only one left and I said, “Look, you may be angry but do not do anything stupid. May be you are the only surviving person left and other people have died on your behalf. If you go on and do something stupid the history of your house is forgotten”.
So, it is the question of us having the maturity and the capacity to know that this too will pass away. And depending on how we handle situations, it could give us a stronger and a better nation. But frankly, I’m personally convinced from the things I am seeing and from the things I’m monitoring that the worst is over. Also, the unwritten part of this text is that I am convinced that a substantial part of these evils have been perpetrated by people who are not necessarily Nigerians.
The easy thing, of course, is for us to say that everything that has happened is a Fulani man creation or whatever. But again, we also have to ask some of the questions as to whether we have the kind of Fulanis we used to see around us to have been able to acquire the kind of sophistication and the clinical ability to do the kind of things that these people were doing?
Now, the Janja weeds were in Sudan until about three or four years ago and we do not know where they have gone to. And like my grandmother used to say, that the bird that calls the rain is usually the first to be beaten by the rain. It is quite possible that some people contracted these people expecting that they will probably do a quick job and get out and as it has turned now, it is worst than they expected. So, I think what we can do is just to still remain together like men and women in a boat that is threatened by a turbulent sea. We may have reasons to quarrel but the worst we can do is to lose control of the rowing instrument.
The National Confab recently gave recommendation for the creation of additional states. Do you think Nigeria needs additional states as it is now?
I guess my thought don’t matter because I am not a member of the confab and I can only say, well, if they have come up with the recommendation for the creation of 18 more additional states, then I’m sure they probably know how thestates can be created. So, I guess it is left for them, the National Assembly and the president.
Nigerians seems not to be happy with the confab because they failed to place emphasis on security of lives and properties of Nigerians but rather concentrated on resource control and the host of other petty issues. What is your view on that?
They are not police force. I don’t think you could have called a national conference or whatever name it is called just to address the problem of security. If you want to address the problem of security, very few people in the hall have been brought to the place because of their competence in security matters. If you want to address the problem of security in this country, then the person who is the chief security officer of this country is the president. He has his service chiefs and then the various directors of the security agencies.
There are nobody else; they could solicit for advice but the ball is in their courts. And I think we must also trust their abilities and competence. No matter how knowledgeable you and I may be, unless our advice is sought, there is little or nothing we can do, but, remember that we are living in a country like Nigeria where everybody knows everything and everybody has a point of view about everything.
So, there are no learners. Everybody in Nigeria is a teacher because everybody has a point of view about everything. But the issues we are dealing with are not issues you can resolve by conference. And like I said, I have listened to many people on the television like the governors, ministers and so on and sometimes, I’m very happy with the effort that most of them are putting in. All those efforts are tied to the security of this country. So, it is not as if one day, whether Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, January, February, March or May that we would say now this is the deadline and security has returned to Nigeria.
Security is a psychological state of mind. Israel is one of the most secured countries that one would want to be but if you go to Tel Aviv, there is also far greater tension. So, insecurity is not necessarily absence of harm it is more or less a psychological state of mind that is contingent on a range of other factors. So, I don’t think that all of us should necessarily think that we have the capacity to comment on matters that are as sophisticated as the issue of security.
So, clearly, there is a correlation between the unemployment as we called it and the non industrial activities that are occurring in Nigeria. I mean, probably you were not born then but when the Textile industries were functionally running in Kaduna, even if 10 or 15 of such industries are still working, then it would have been an open question whether we would have had Boko Haram?
But again, you will discover that in those days when the textiles were functional, people require minimal skills. There are people that were working there who never went to any school. There are people who had primary school education and a very few number of them then had secondary school education, but there was always something for somebody them to do. So, our glorification of the university degree, in my own view, is not only largely a misplaced priority but is also a function of the colonial mentality of the feelings that this is what you require in order to climb higher.
Like I said, there was this joke somebody told me about an Igbo man who came back from America with a Ph.D and there was a reception in his honour in the village square. After the man got up to speak, he was speaking eloquently about how much he worked had to get the Ph.D and one spare parts dealer who is one of the richest men in the village got up to say, “Look, can somebody ask this man what is it that he is saying and how it can be translated in naira?” He requested that the man should tell them the value of Ph.D in naira. What I am saying in essence is that, money may not be everything, but it is also important to know that people have also demonstrated that you can actually do the best you can and everybody does not necessarily need to have a university degree.

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