Kukah now has the obligation of updating his present assessment of the government when he goes to visit Buhari in Daura as he has promised to. Until that time, it is safe to say that he is yet unhappy with the Buhari administration.
As was the case this time last year, the Catholic Archbishop of the Sokoto Diocese, the Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah, has again issued a damning score card on the Muhammadu Buhari administration. Kukah has become a consistent critic of President Buhari and of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party-led government.
Aside what has become an annual December ritual of assessing Buhari’s performance in office, the bishop has also taken other available, “out-of-season” opportunities to ask searching and inconvenient questions of the ruling APC government. That he is at it again, just two months to the next presidential election and less than five months before Buhari’s second term in office expires, should be enough measure of his conviction that President Buhari has failed as a president. This on account of his inability to live up to his electoral promises in 2015 through 2019.
In a Christmas day sermon at his Sokoto Diocese’s St. Mary’s Church, Father Kukah offered a blunt testimonial that has, as usual, got both partisans and opponents of the APC and President Buhari debating the upsides and downsides of his verdict. The particulars of the criticisms are not radically different from what many Nigerians already know and have remarked on concerning the Buhari administration. They also bear close resemblance to the respected cleric’s observations about the administration last December. Which is to say that like Buhari himself, the criticisms of his government have remained the same for nearly eight full years, certainly so in the last seven and half years.
If we are to look back further to 1984 when Wole Soyinka described the military regime led by the duo of Muhammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon as deaf on account of their stubborn disregard of the voice of Nigerians- should we cast a retrospective look to this time in Buhari’s life, there is no other way to describe Buhari but as a leader who lacks the capacity to feel the pulse of Nigerians. It was this same reason that was advanced for removing Buhari and Idiagbon from office by Ibrahim Babangida and his fellow coupists that described the Buhari junta as too rigid in 1985. There are, indeed, no new tricks to teach an old dog. Buhari has been too long in the game and too set in his ways to change.
Now at eighty, anyone nursing the hope that the Daura-born politician can beat a path different from that he has trodden for most of his life lives but in a fool’s paradise. I think this rigid bent that has not necessarily been helpful was the aspect of the Buhari persona and character that Nigerians who rooted for him to be president misapprehended on his fourth but successful presidential run. Most Nigerians who supported his ambition to be president must have only seen the apparently tough, austere side that was a desirable counterfoil to the weak, profligate ways of the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
What they didn’t reckon with, perhaps didn’t know, was Buhari’s Achille’s heel, his general lack of opinion, which is apparent in his overdependence on associates and tendency to out-source authority to surrogates who then proceed to use and misuse power in his name.
Otherwise, it wouldn’t be the case that the lack of inclusivity in appointments, the challenge of insecurity (now diminishing), worsening economic crisis, signposted by galloping inflation and an increasing debt burden, and religious insurgency – all of which were criticisms leveled against the Buhari government right from its first few months in office would still be the same criticisms leveled against it in the last months of its terms.
For Father Kukah, the deliberate promotion of nepotism and religious intolerance have been hallmarks of the Buhari government. The pain of these twin issues run deep for the respected cleric whose southern Kaduna people has been at the receiving end of some of the worst attacks in the nearly eight years of the Buhari presidency. Such closely-felt wound would take long to heal and it is doubtful if the pain can ever be forgotten. Even in Sokoto where Kukah presides as a bishop, he has been the target of attacks on account of the spiraling effect of attacks on Christian churches following the religious murder of Deborah Samuel, a young female student that was killed by no other than her own colleagues following a disagreement over religious views.
The most worrying aspect of Kukah’s prognosis of Nigeria’s descent into bedlam during the Buhari presidency is in his identification of a caste system in the immiseration of Nigerians. This is a two-way system of the rich and the poor along which Nigerians have for long been divided. It now comes with a sinister connotation with its association with castes. This suggests a rigid, feudalist type of economic system that is more or less preordained or predetermined by the ruling class. Where would such a system take us? What good can come from it? What does it tell the pauperized majority about the way out of their situation? Is a peaceful resolution of this potentially explosive situation still possible?
Kukah draws an ironic comparison between Buhari’s renewed health and the ailing state of the Nigerian economy. How come that a relatively buoyant economy would exchange position with and suffer near-irreversible deterioration under a physically weak President Buhari that presented all the signs of advanced age?
It’s only in the area of infrastructure that Kukah is willing to cut Buhari a slack. This too is something to share if it’s not enough to roll out the drums for an all-out celebration. But at least, the second Niger Bridge, among other projects, is almost one hundred percent complete. Easterners (easily Buhari’s most implacable critics) who travelled home for Christmas and New Year celebrations have the opportunity to travel in less stressful circumstances. Perhaps, this could give Buhari a less adversarial if not favourable relationship with them. There are a few more evidence of Buhari’s investment in infrastructure that may not be readily visible at the moment. Some of these, like a few of the projects started under the Jonathan administration but are now being completed by Buhari= a few of these projects can only be available for assessment after Buhari is out of office.
Kukah now has the obligation of updating his present assessment of the government when he goes to visit Buhari in Daura as he has promised to. Until that time, it is safe to say that he is yet unhappy with the Buhari administration. While he may be saying this for all of us Nigerians for whom the observed challenges of the Buhari administration are obvious, he is also saying it for himself and challenging us to do the same for ourselves.
Have a great and prosperous New Year 2023