It’s a pity that Bishop Matthew Kukah was the only cleric who stuck out his neck for Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. It’s also a pity that the only one who does not want to be a hypocrite is on the burner of fiery criticism.
It’s also a pity that corruption, the bane of our history and cultural fabric, was played down by Nigeria’s most intellectual man of God.
But these were not the most telling of my experiences last week. I debated GEJ with a prominent writer, and he defended the scum of his era. His case: Nigeria created Jonathan and Nigeria had to live with him. Was Jonathan a corrupt man, I asked? He wallowed into meaningless obfuscation. He would not accept that his administration was bad. Neither would he agree that his government misruled this country. He said he was good for Nigeria.
After that conversation and the gaffe from Kukah, I told myself that no ruler in Nigerian history has corrupted fine minds like Jonathan since the IBB era.
The philosopher David Hume once asserted: “The corruption of the best produces the worst.” He reeled out this line in respect of religion.
In the same week when all sorts of foul charges were pelted at the door of Jonathan’s regime, the ex-president was photographed bouncing off a private jet. He wanted to see animals at a Games Reserve in East Africa with his wife and others who followed him on another private jet. The same week when the Immigration boss was suspended for corrupting the process of employment, the NPA was reported to have spent N160 billion of N162 billion it made last year. The NPA story also tells us that most of their dealings were undervalued, a code word for corruption.
Kukah, a constant motif in Nigerian debates, is a master of the rigmarole. You hardly know where he stands on an issue. He navigates a warren of narratives, entices you with his folky ability to spin a yarn, props up the pros and cons with almost equal poise, and berths in a never-land. A few times he is caught in a position, he is exposed. He did that when he profiled the ethnic groups in the country. And now this.
He probably needs to read Jesus’ admonition that “let your yea be yea and your nay nay.”
Why Kukah’s case is sad is that I expected all those Christian clerics who did not have enough of Jonathan as a son of God to say something. Did Jonathan not visit all of them? Did they not endorse him? Was it not because of them that his numbers went up in the Southwest? Was he not doling out prophet’s offerings in dollars?
Are they not aware of all the revelations now? Is curse not in the house of the thief, according to scriptures?
Why did they leave Kukah alone to say what all of them probably thought? Did they not robe Buhari in Boko Haram clothing? Was Buhari not the devil? Or have they changed their minds, or are they rethinking them? Many of them who claimed to hear from God, did they hear wrong?
“He that hath my word, let him speak it faithfully,” wrote Prophet Jeremiah. “What is the chaff from the wheat?” Did Jesus not say, “I have not sent them, depart from me, ye that work iniquity?”
Was it a mistake? Why not repent openly? Prophets can err, but they owe it to their flocks to own up. None of them has gone back to their flock to discuss what happened in the Jonathan era? Was it the veil of Satan, or they said what they did not hear?
Why has any of them not asked the CAN leader Ayo Oritsejafor to speak in the spirit of contrition about the waywardness of their prophesies and injunctions.
Kukah’s peace committee, as Tatalo Alamu noted, was not intended to shoo Jonathan out of power. It boomeranged with Buhari victory. They erred by asking Buhari to follow the rule of law. He had not flouted it or shown any sign he was going to. When outrage was bursting out ears about the sums of money allegedly stolen, it was out of sync with the Gospels and human dignity to use rule of law as veneer. Then Kukah showed their true colour when he said Jonathan did a spectacular thing, so we should move on.
The good voice of the week came from the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III, when he asked that all thieves should go to jail. That is the sort of thing Jesus would have said.
History is replete with men of God who associated with rulers of decay. Recently, the era of George W. Bush was marked by clerics who paraded the White House. Eventually his ranking among people fell. The man who had mentioned Jesus as his role model left office as a liar and “murderer.” The same clerics fell into moral filth and disgrace.
Kukah did not lose his way, I think. The fog just cleared and our eyes just opened to his vision of Nigeria. Clerics are good on the pulpit, but we should not be pupils of their conduct. The Bible is replete with men of great revelations who erred in conduct from Abraham to Peter the rock.
“If I had served my God as I have done my king, he would not have given me over in my grey hairs.” Those were the words of Cardinal Wolsey who mortgaged his sacerdotal conscience to King Henry VIII of England. Henry VIII was a monarch for life. GEJ reigned only for about eight years. So the clerics returned to their duties. Shakespeare’s rendition of the quote hits the bull’s eye. Since most of the clerics have not ruined their callings. Here is Shakespeare’s rendering in his play Henry VIII: “Had I but served my God with half the zeal I served my king, he would not in mine age have left me naked to my enemies.”
The bard of Avon anticipated Kukah who is now being roasted by his enemies. Wolsey did not follow the law. Henry the VIII who wanted to break with the Catholic Church to have a divorce and marry a Boleyn sister, met resistance in Thomas More as Robert Bolt’s dramatised in his play, A Man for All Seasons. Thomas Cromwell was More’s counterpoise as shown in Hilary Mantel’s novel, Bring Up the Bodies. Both books shed light on the critical time in English and world history. It pitted men of God against worldly opportunists and their kings. Robert More alone survives today as a man of conscience.
I enlist this column with the Sultan. Probe and jail. The Jonathan era was a corpulent corpse. It stinks and infects. Ebenezer Babatope, no role model, says Jonathan was pure. Technically maybe. But not morally. If you preside over rottenness, you cannot be free of its stench. But if there was a law against foolishness in leadership, GEJ will go to jail. But he will have to explain to us as a people how all of these happened on his watch. Just as the CAN and its members should explain how their ‘eyes of understanding’ did not see what the lay voter saw of the corpulent corpse of the GEJ era. Lying is corruption. It’s time for all to be true to themselves. As Shakespeare wrote in Henry VIII: “Corruption wins not more than honesty.”