Remove That Fatwa From Bishop Kukah’s Head, By Mike Ozekhome (SAN)

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“Fatwa” is an Islamic religious Decree issued by the Ulama. A death fatwa calls for the head of a person. The “Ulama” is a body of Muslim scholars who are recognised as possessing specialist knowledge of Islamic laws and theology. I am compelled today to make a second outing on Bishop Mathew Kukah’s Christmas homily, and call for those beating the drums of war to immediately STOP.

The last time I checked, the secularity of Nigeria has been guaranteed by section 10 of the 1999 Constitution. What is Bishop Kukah’s offence that some rabidly misguided, intolerant and ethno-religiously bigoted individuals styling themselves as Muslims are calling for Kukah’s head? When did criticizing President Buhari or government become treason such as to provoke some people taking the laws into their hands? When, why, how and where did we lose our humanity, brotherhood, friendship, mutual respect and tolerance?

When Nigerians, in a hotly disputed election (that was all but free, fair, transparent and credible) re-elected President Buhari in February, 2019, I didn’t recall it was only Northerners or Muslems that voted for him. They did not, could not have, and were never able to enthrone Buhari alone. It took Southern Nigeria’s Intervention (especially the Christianly-dominated Southwest) to make Buhari president after his serial and dismal failures in 2003, 2007 and 2011.

So, why are a particular religion and a section of the country suddenly appropriating (or better still, misappropriating) the President to themselves as a sectional, ethno-religious warlord that is immune from criticism by the very people he governs? Is this not the same government that periodically welcomes, embraces and cuddles Rev. Father Mbaka (of the same Catholic Christian faith with Bishop Kukah) as a friend, brother, idol, prayer warrior and religious mentor, simply because he preaches in favour of the same Buhari government in his Adoration Ministry grounds in Enugu? Do these fatwa-wielding people not always embrace Mbaka for being on the side of Buhari and his inept colourless regime? What kind of government and cult-deity-worshippers of double standards, duplicity, intolerance, tribalism, ethno-centrism, nepotism, prebendalism, impunity, favouritism, insecurity, upgraded corruption, decimation of citizens’ rights, subjugation of rule of law, liberties and court orders, vindictiveness, brutality, insensitivity, tears, sorrow, blood, pains and pangs, are these?

Make no mistake about this: CANCEL AND ANNUL THAT FATWA ON KUKAH’S HEAD. IMMEDIATELY. When did criticising Buhari and his non-performing government of opaqueness, non-inclusiveness, serial borrowings and second recession become an attack on Islam or Muslems? Do these people credit Nigerians with brains and a sense of history at all?

That the fatwa on, and quit notice to Kukah by the Muslim Solidarity Forum was authored by one Isa Muhammad Maishanu, a Professor, makes the threat more damaging, odious, disgusting and highly unexpected and unacceptable.

What did Kukah say in his Christmas message that these government bootlickers and fawners masquerading under religion have found difficult to catch any sleep over since then? They said he called for a coup. How? Kukah merely accused the President of nepotism and other governance infractions in his Christmas message. He said if Buhari had been a Southerner and a non-Muslim, and such a ruler had done a quarter of what Buhari had done as President, there would have been a coup. True or false? What did President Goodluck “my ambition is not worth the drop of blood of any Nigerian” Jonathan do wrong that he was pelted with stones and literally hounded out of power?

For speaking truth to authority (conscience is an open wound; only the truth can heal it – Uthman Dan Fodio), Kukah was accused by Lai Muhammed (Minister of Information) of attempting to stoke the “embers of hatred, sectarian strife and national disunity”. The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) joined the fray, by terming Kukah’s honest and refreshingly invigorating Christmas message as “reckless, inflammatory and unguarded”. Was it really? NO! Except for those with thin skin for criticism.

It is now the turn of the Muslim Solidarity Forum (MSF) to take the threats a notch higher, by declaring, “We wonder how Kukah, who lives peacefully and comfortably in the heart of the Sokoto Caliphate, can make such a callous and senseless statement”. Not done, he (Professor Isa Maishanu), who signed the statement, ordered “Kukah to immediately stop his malicious vituperations against Islam and Muslims and tender unreserved apology to the Muslim Ummah or else, quickly and quietly leave the seat of the Caliphate, as he is trying to break the long peaceful co-existence between the pre-dominantly Muslim population and their Christian guests”. Hear! Hear!! Hear!!! Even the very indigenes of Sokoto State who are minority Christians were termed “Christian guests”. Has Professor Isa Maishanu cared to also know that Muslim minorities are allowed to live their lives peacefully and carry out their legitimate endeavours in the largely and predominantly Christian-dominated parts of Nigeria, such as the entire South-East, South-West, South-South, Middle-Belt and most or many parts of Taraba, Adamawa, Borno, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Nassarawa, Kogi, Kwara, Niger and the Zulus? What happens if the said Christians were to declare their own Fatwa? Will there be a country called Nigeria?

Why did Prof Isa strain Kukah’s phrase of “a pool of violence to draw from” to mean “reference to those he has always characterised with violence – the Muslims”? why? How did the term, “people with a pool of violence to draw from” refer to Muslims, whether directly or by way of innuendo, which Isa regarded as “a serious provocation”?

Did Isa ever read, or cared to read and digest Bishop Kukah’s earlier clarification of his statement to the effect that he NEVER called for coup? Kukah, dripping as ever, with his intellectual fecundity, lucidity and clarity, had clarified: “If you call for a coup, it means it is something that is not here. It is something that will happen in the future. So, it is grammar. So, if I call for it, it means it is not ready. But, if I say had it been so, so and so, it would have, the tenses are completely different, and I may be probably wrong. If you know better, let me know. So, it is unfair for any journalist or newspaper to say that I called for a military coup”. Was this tutorial not clear enough, especially since no Nigeria, Muslim, Christian, journalist or those at the corridors of power has ever challenged Kukah’s clarified position? By the way, are these Isa’s Muslim body, MURIC, and others baying for Kukah’s holy and spiritual blood not under the umbrella of the entire Nigerian Muslims led by the temperate, urbane, exposed, cerebral, accommodating and pan-Nigerian Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR? Is Bishop Kukah no longer a Northerner also because he is a Christian?

When has it become a crime to criticise and critique government, or speak truth to power and interrogate authority? When did Nigerians agree to suspend our inalienable rights, liberties and constitutional and civil freedoms simply because President Buhari is in power? When did Nigerians agree to elect into office a Loius XIV of France, who, in his inebriation with the liquor of power and absolute despotism, once proudly stood in front of Parliament (on April 13, 1865) and declared imperiously, “L’etat c’est moi” (“I am the state”)? King Louis who successfully separated the Church and the State and snatched France back from the Cardinals actually reigned from a very youthful age, to a record time of 72 years and 110 days. Christians are still surviving there.

Are these bootlickers, fawners, ego-masseurs and grovellers ever helping President Buhari to find rhythm, compass and synergy? Didn’t they hear that even white pigeons refused to obey Buhari and fly from their cages, days ago at the commemoration of the Armed Forces Remembrance Day, a sign that it is not only Nigerians, but the animal kingdom that is fed up with Buhari’s chaotic, vacuous, incompetent, clueless, abrasive and iron-grip rule of impoverishment and adjective penury.

Leave Kukah alone. Let Kukah be. Touch neither a limb, nor a hair of his. Kukah is Psalm 105:15 and Chronicles 16:22 (“touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm”). It was the Holy Sea, the Papacy in Rome (the only country within a country), that posted Bishop Kukah to serve in Sokoto. No man, woman or group in Nigeria has the capacity, authority or right to send him packing, or threaten him to leave Sokoto.

Fiery 69-year-old Bishop Hassan Mathew Kukah has been working in the Lord’s vineyard for 45 years as a Priest. The no-nonsense pulpit terror of bad governments and dictators was ordained a Catholic Priest on December 19, 1976. He attended the University of Ibadan for a Diploma in Religious Studies; Pontifical Urban University, Rome in 1976, for a Bachelor of Divinity; University of Bradford, United Kingdom in 1980, for a Master’s degree in Peace Studies; and the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 1990, for a Ph.D. It was during his doctoral studies that he produced his first book, “Religion and Politics in Northern Nigeria”. He was a consultant to the Vatican for 5 years, and has remained a resonating voice in Nigeria’s polluted socio-economic and political firmament. LEAVE BISHOP KUKAH ALONE.

So frustrated I have also personally been with President Buhari’s nepotic and sectionalistic government that I once asked in exasperation, in an earlier write-up: “Are we not fast sliding into “Northern Republic of Nigeria”, or “Federal Republic of the North”, or “Northern Nigerian Republic”, or “Republic of Northern Nigeria”, or “Federal Republic of Northern Nigeria” or “Republic of Northern Nigeria and others”.

Bishop Kukah is a pan-Nigerian, non-sectional, non-ethno-religious cleric. LEAVE HIM ALONE.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“It is the desire of the good people of the whole country that sectionalism as a factor in our politics should disappear…”
– Rutherford B. Hayes

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