THE Christmas message of the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, on December 25, 2022 has resonated the call that the incoming administration needs to restructure the economy if it must succeed.
Informed analysts who reacted to the speech told The ICIR that the concerns raised by the cleric are, indeed, worrisome as Nigerians feel the high impact of government’s failure on insecurity, rising inflation, and currency problems.
The cleric, well-known for his fearless declarations on national issues, had once again raised issues with the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s inability to manage Nigeria’s diversity.
He accused Buhari of nepotism, which he said was fuelling corruption.
In the Christmas message delivered at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Sokoto, the cleric called on the President not to leave behind a vulnerable country, as he celebrated his last Christmas period as president of Africa’s largest economy.
Kukah stated in his message, “In Nigeria today, we bear scars, we bear trauma, we bear deep sorrow. Our children are still in forests, in the hands of evil men. But most of them have no names. They are only numbers. Still, let us not give up. This is the last Christmas for this present government’s administration. Let us do our duty as we have a chance to choose new leaders.”
The cleric stressed that Nigeria was falling to the pressure and irruptive forces of primal ethno-religious national, with an emphasis that “before Nigerians’ eyes, a dubious jihadist culture has held our nation to ransom with the government simply looking away.”
Kukah remarkably pointed out that despite the President’s lofty promises, he was leaving Nigeria far more vulnerable, and dashing the hope the citizens had on him for a corruption-free nation, which Kukah alleged was marred by his nepotism.
“In my Christmas message last year, I pointed out that you had breached the constitution by your failure to honour and adhere to the federal character provisions of our constitution. The evidence is before us all,” he said.
Kukah’s speech was not all gloomy, as he praised the President’s efforts in areas of infrastructure and electoral reforms.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has quickly reacted to the message, describing it as “unGodly” coming from a priest, and asserting that Buhari deserved kudos for the “achievements” the party argued he had racked up during his tenure.
The APC director of publicity, Bala Ibrahim, said Buhari, rather than condemnation deserved commendation from Kukah.
Ibrahim said, “I hold him (Kukah) in high esteem and respect him because he is a senior brother to a friend.
“Secondly, he is a man of God. But I am sorry to say that sometimes his speeches are unGodly. UnGodly in the sense that he does not seem to be objective at times.
“If you are going to be objective or speak with fairness, you cannot but give credit to Buhari for the way and manner he handles this country.”
Analysts’ concerns and suggestions
A social critic and professor of Law at Baze University, Sam Amadi, who spoke with The ICIR on the concerns that Kukah raised, said the cleric’s comments had prepared the template for the incoming administration not to repeat the mistakes that Buhari made.
Amadi contended that repeating such mistakes would plunge Nigeria further into an abyss which might be very difficult to emerge from.
“What is important now is for those who eventually win the election in 2023 to have a sense of purpose to realise that the country is in a very bad place. We would be deteriorating unless there is a reversal of where we currently are now.
“The first challenge is whether those who won would see their victory as an authorisation to do big, or whether they would see their victory as an authorisation to serve themselves and mock those who failed,” he noted.
Referring to some statements that Buhari uttered, Amadi said, “When President Buhari won, he had the opportunity to see the victory as an authorisation to restart and do better and that would mean fairness to all. But he didn’t do that; instead he started to talk about 97 per and 5 per cent.”
The President, Amadi posited, faltered by putting together a team that did not reflect Nigeria’s abundant talent, adding that the result is what Nigeria is experiencing in weak economic growth, currency depreciation and rising poverty.
He stressed that the focus for anyone who wins next year’s election should be high economic growth that “must overcome Nigeria’s rising population and multi-dimensional poverty that has 133 million Nigerians in its net.”
The law professor said, “Growth has to go together with fair distribution, and create opportunities for people to move up the economic ladder. Economic growth must be prioritised not as ad hoc, but as an integral part of government’s economic policy.
“Government’s economic growth must prioritise anti-poverty measures and create wealth for those at the lowest economic baseline.
“More importantly, we have to develop a strong consensus of some basic restructuring reform policy. Look at what is happening in Southern Kaduna currently. We must come together in a foundational sense to parry the country away from no-feudalism to a clear democratic citizenship so that we can enjoy a new trajectory of growth.”
To the Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, Buhari had shown lack of capacity since 2015.
Onyekpere said, “The people are still being killed in southern Kaduna, as they were being killed before President Buhari came into office. There is no leadership in place.”
Maintaining the country is on autopilot, he added, “If there’s leadership, how can the State Security Service and the Central Bank of Nigeria be playing the kind of games they are playing now when they both report directly to the President? This raises lots of questions.
He also questioned the rationale of banks rationing payment at counters to depositors.
Onyekpere saw a huge disconnect in the coordination of policies and programmes of the government, a situation he said has made the country rutherless under Buhari.
“Let’s look at the naira redesign: why are people still being largely paid with the old currency, despite the 31st January deadline? The new notes are still scarce and banks are rationing payments even with the old currency, as I witnessed in banks in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.