Why Obasanjo’s Coalition Is Not The Solution – Kukah
On February 15, 2018, Kukah Centre will hold a public lecture titled: ’How to make democracy work for Africa’. Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo, will be the keynote speaker, while General Yakubu Gowon and Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, (SAN) are the chairman and special guest of honour of the occasion, respectively. Against this backdrop, host and founder of the Kukah Centre and Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Mathew Kukah, spoke with newsmen on the theme of the event and some other national issues. AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH was there for LEADERSHIP Friday. Excerpts On Kukah Centre and the essence for the public lecture We recently completed a two-day retreat to retool Kukah Center, most importantly to reposition the center with the view to focusing on how to sustain the ingredient of our democracy. Since 1999, when we returned to democracy, we had prayerfully hoped that by now we would have covered a lot of mileage but almost 20 years later it seems to be quite a bit of tragedy. But a matter for deep concern is that if you take ordinary days in our calendar and juxtapose it with any other day in any of the administrations or any day we had in democracy, there’s hardly any remarkable change. This explains why the excitement, exuberances or the feeling, we had that we are going to turn things around have evaporated. The result is that Nigerians have been frustrated and angry that this is not what they expected. Others outside Nigeria wonder how we are coping with the sort of inefficiency in the system, the kind of inefficiency, the late Fela chronicled as ‘’suffering and smiling’’. I think this resilience has marked us out as a very special nation because those nations that have gone separate ways like the Sudan are not happier than we are. While those that took the shorter option like Yugoslavia have not had a beautiful story either. This is because, building a nation is like staying in marriage or pursuing any vocation in life that requires lots and lots of patience and hard work. And I think we are mightily grateful to ourselves as a people because despite the frustrations, despite the temptations, unlike before, we have witnessed 17 years of patience on the side of the military. Let me put it that way, because 20 to 30 years ago, we would have had three or four military coups already. I think, it is a measure of the faith of the military itself on urgency of democratization that has kept them in their barracks. But the politicians and the political class cannot continue to take this patience of Nigerians or the military for granted. This is why we at the Kukah Center feel that we owe it a duty and responsibility to encourage our people and indeed the political class to do the needful; because what we have experienced in the last few years have made us a laughing stock for the fact that with so much resources, other nations wonder why we cannot feed ourselves or do the basic things. To improve the quality of this conversation, we invited the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo who in many respect is a quintessential expression of the goal and aspirations that we think should be leading Africa. One of the things we have not been able to do in Nigeria is to learn to accept or tolerate views of other people, how to process the voices of those people who don’t feel the way we do. The major limitation in Nigeria is that the people in power feel it is them against the rest of Nigerians. If a media man holds a view contrary to that of the government, that media house is marked as enemy of the government. This is a tragic drawback of how military operated where, if you stage a coup against an individual, you are staging a coup against the nation. Democracy has opened up a space, and as such anybody who holds power holds that power in custody and in thrust for the people. So, our idea is to address the question because increasingly, people’s right across our country are frustrated with democracy; they are frustrated because it has not been able to offer them the hope they had dreamt about. But we still have to convince our people that it is still probable for democracy to work. Again, I repeat the words of good old Churchill, that democracy is the worst form of government except for others. Nations of the world have tried theocracy, which is the government by Priests or Imams and have found those systems wanting. They have tried tyranny, apartheid and so on. At the end, everybody has agreed that democracy is the best system that approximates the tool we require to manage diversity, especially for a country like Nigeria. So, on February 15 at Yar’adua Center by ten o’clock, we will be receiving the Ghanaian President who will be speaking on how to make democracy work in Africa. We don’t believe he has the tool but we believe there are lots of options there that can be thrown out to move our people out of the schism and self-doubt. Democracy is not what politicians can offer to us, it is not what the President can give to us, and it is not what governors or senators can do on part time basis. Democracy is a process which each and every one of us imbibe, adopt certain ingredients that regulate our lives, whether in classroom, places of work, our homes and those who are acting as legislators, governors or public officials are acting on our behalf. The beauty of it is that they are on the license we gave to them. So, we are hoping that their conversation will open up new opportunities for us on that day. The Vice President will be special guest of honour, while General Yakubu Gowon will be chairman of the occasion. We will let somebody speak on how media can make democracy work and so on. On issue of insecurity taking ethnic dimension The voice of the youths is highly important. When people say let the young people participate in politics in Nigeria, invariably they are saying let the youths also participate in the piece of action. In other words, let the youths partake in the corruption. The beggars in the northern Nigeria used to say if Friday will be good, that is when they will get alms, you will see the sign on Thursday. If the young ones are going to be good senators, good governors, good president, it will begin with leadership offered as student union leaders, contributions made as youth corps members and so on. I don’t like the saying that security agencies, religious leaders or the media have failed. The questions one should ask himself is have I failed; because all politics are local. The other day, the chief of Army Staff said the military are in 32 states of Nigeria and that number must have increased by now. If the military is everywhere in Nigeria, that means we are not democratizing. Yet the presence of the military has not necessarily ended the insecurity in the country. Many people think insecurity can be tackled with superior weapons. Somebody says wars come from the mind, and if we are going to end the wars we must end it from the minds of people. It is a pity if we see insecurity as an ethnic issue. Yes, it has religious colouration but it is not a religious thing; because we don’t have a situation with people going out there with knives looking for Christians. I go about in Sokoto State with my big cross on my neck and I don’t feel I am in danger. A lots of Muslims come to collect my bag, just because we have mutual respect for one another. I don’t see them as Muslims but as people who love me and I love them. If we narrow the insecurity to religion, where do we now place Zamfara State which is culturally homogenous but suffering more than any other state on account of insecurity? It is only due to lack of media coverage otherwise no state in the country is suffering from insecurity more than Zamfara State. So we should not see this security crisis as ethnic, religious or regional. The main issue is that our country is in big trouble and bringing it out is our collective responsibility. On religious people participating in politics As I have said elsewhere, we are not looking for saints or holy people, holy imams or holy bishops to govern Nigeria. That is not what Nigeria is looking for. This country is broken, not because we don’t have light. The tragedy that afflicts Nigeria is a tragedy of tremendous proportion because everybody has an experience of it. I prefer to encourage citizens of Nigeria to participate in politics because there is no space within the country that is wholly occupied by Muslims or Christians. The vice president is a pastor and one cannot get it any better than that. There is usually this dubious construction by some politicians that people should vote for them because they are Muslims or Christians. Even where that has enable some of them to win election but that has never made them to perform. In this country, every big man has a church or mosque in his house. So, if you are looking for evidence of religiosity, it is there. But underneath that structure is a stolen money. People we need are those that have requisite tools to fix Nigeria irrespective of whether they are deaf, dumb or don’t go to church or mosque at all. All we are looking for are people who can fix our light, roads, and hospitals and so on. Problem of Nigeria today The popular saying is that the problem of Nigeria is leadership. But we must take responsibility for the lapses of leadership in Nigeria. The leadership we have is the leadership we elected. Whether we control buttons that manipulated election result, whether we contributed in paying people, intimidating, convincing them to vote for particular candidate we must take the responsibility. That is why it is immoral that people who convinced us to vote for a candidate A or B but fall out with him, expect that the rest of us go the same path. Yes, it is whether we have the opportunity to question or interrogate the capacity of the leadership. This is a country where we know the leader before the election because those who have the power or lever to manipulate decide who will be president before they set up political party and we have not moved away from that path. Whether it is President Muhammadu Buhari who said he was not interested in politics any longer; it is Goodluck Jonathan that was contended with seats of deputy governor or governor of Bayelsa State; whether it is Olusegun Obasanjo who was in the prison or late Umaru Musa Yar’adua that wanted to go back to lecture. None has really prepared for the leadership thrust of this country. The other responsibility is that we have not been able to interrogate our leaders with claims of what they promised to do. Nobody questioned Buhari on how he intended to fight corruption. To go forward, we must subject henceforth anybody that wants to govern Nigeria, whether as a governor or President, to a thorough interrogation. To make democracy work, we must question the integrity of those that ask us for our votes. If you say you are going to bring Chibok girls home, we should ask you how this will happen. This is a lesson for Nigerians. Now, Americans are facing consequences of their choice. In democracy, if you make a mistake, you have to wait for four years to correct it. Democracy is about interrogation. This is why opposition must have space in our political vocabulary. The tragedy with Nigeria is to dare to ask questions. Everywhere in the world, democracy is sustained by process of constructive engagement. On the raging coalition movement I believe everyone here is married. If every time you have problem in your marriage you go ahead to marry a new wife, how many wives will you end up marrying? The solution to bad marriage is not a new marriage. I am talking as a Catholic priest. The problem with the APC is that it is a coalition and that is why it is falling apart. I saw Obasanjo putting down his signature for the coalition. We have seen so much coalitions. If you are unhappy with your party members or have failed elections and the next thing is to form a coalition, that won’t help our politics or democracy. We need to be introspective because every time we create new platform we create new enemy lines. We are not going to fix this country by removing one president or the other. Prior to the 2015, so much hate speeches, invectives were uploaded in our media, causing so much inter-ethnic, religious and regional ill-feelings. But those issues preceding or surrounding last elections, especially at the twilight of the 2015 elections are still much with us. What is appropriate was for the 2015 post-regime to provide balm and ways to heal us of the agony of those injuries, burns and maladies of hateful campaigns. That was not to be, rather more and more of those issues were left to fester, replicate and multiply by the invidious politics and actions of the day. As such, we are getting far more divided now than before, and that tragedy need to be arrested.