YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – A leading African prelate has stated that the lack of political will to end rising insecurity in Nigeria “is turning our country into one wide funeral home.”
The Bishop of Sokoto in northern Nigeria, Mathew Hassan Kukah in an exclusive interview with Crux issued a sweeping critique of President Bola Tinubu’s handling of the country’s multiple woes, including rampant killings, kidnappings, secessionist attempts, and piracy, which have all conspired to threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of citizens.
Tinubu came to power in 2023 on promises to tackle the insecurity problem, but Kukah now says he is “saddened by the seeming stasis in the fight against insecurity.”
Kukah, 71, has an outsized presence in Nigerian public life. Holding a Ph.D. from the University of London, he’s one of the most trusted and admired religious leaders in the country, having served on a national commission for political reform, and having led negotiations to end a conflict between the Shell corporation and the Ogoni ethnic group over oil operations in the Niger Delta.
Following are excerpts of the Crux interview with Kukah.
Crux: President Tinubu came to power promising to place a handle on the rising insecurity in Nigeria. Has the President failed?
The president has four years, and even if we do not have to wait for that length of time to see results, surely, after about seven months, with a motley team of persons you do not even know, it will be difficult to gauge the performance.
If you recall that some northern politicians admitted that they brought in killers to destabilize the Jonathan administration, then you must appreciate that the application and deployment of violence is often a strategic calculus in the game of perceived loss of power by the north. So, the persistence of violence can be seen as one way of undermining this government, especially when you note how the northern Muslim ruling class has openly confessed to its frustrations in the game of the Muslim-Muslim ticket that they thought would consolidate their hold on power, and it seems that the administration has proved them wrong.
I am saddened by the seeming stasis in the fight against insecurity. However, for the security agencies, the militarization of the fight has become instrumentalized and a great meal ticket, because there are anxieties that they have been penetrated and there is no will to end this fortune-making enterprise.
How would you describe the situation of insecurity: killings, kidnappings, secessionist’s attempts, piracy etc. in Nigeria today?
It is a scar, and the zenith of the corruption of the Nigerian state. I do not believe that after spending as of last week over $10 million that we have not made any progress either way. This validates the point I made earlier. The lack of political will and clear commitment to end this tragedy is turning our country into one wide funeral home.
We need to see concrete, measurable time lines for progress. We will measure this government not by its promises, but clear signs that it can end this tragedy. The equipment to fight this war are available, and if those appointed cannot show progress, they should be told to go.
Every conceivable promise made by this government hangs on the scaffold of security, because even citizens will not invest in their own country if there are no security guarantees. I am ashamed as a Nigerian by the seeming helplessness of the government at all levels. We want and we must see action, a cleansing of the bad eggs in the top echelons of the security agencies, because there are divided loyalties.
What is your reaction to the call by civil society organizations on the president to institute a state of emergency as a way of stemming he insecurity?
This is nonsense. After over thirty years, we are worse off because of military rule. With the military stretched across the length and breadth of the country, we are definitely in a state of emergency of sorts.
This call is based on mere sentiments and it is nonsense and a mere unintelligent reflex. There should be a middle term plan to get the military off our streets and back to the barracks where they belong, because their presence is a nuisance in a democracy and it helps to weaken their respect and credibility. In which democracy do you see the military struggling with the rest of society? It is a measure of the failure of our democracy.
The military has been criticized for either perpetrating the killing of Christians or for complicity in the killing of Christians. Isn’t there a chance that a state of emergency would just over the military the license to carry out even more killings?
Nigerians are killed in their country because the country is unsafe, not because we are Christians or Muslims but because this defeats our sense of citizenship. Yes, many criminals have burnt churches, mosques and often target worshippers, but this happens because our state is weak.
We are like victims of covid-19. The World Health Organization recently reported that most of those who died of Covid-19 had what they called underlying diseases. Nigeria has many underlying diseases and our immune system has been weakened by corruption. Corruption has seriously weakened the efficiency of the security agencies, the civil service and public service. It is this weakness of the body system that allows these illiterate, rag tag band of criminals to make a mockery and to taunt the army, police and security agencies of an entire country!