Matthew Kukah, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, says the average northerner has become far more impoverished under President Muhammadu Buhari than he was under former President Goodluck Jonathan, but they will still vote for Buhari.
He also said despite all their years of monopoly of power, the northern elite have brought shame to the entire North and made people of the region too weak to fight.
“…after all these years of monopoly of power under the military and civilians, we northerners are still the weakest, the most sickly, the poorest, the most illiterate, and the most vulnerable. We have the highest number of childhood stunting, which is a danger to the future. The elite have brought shame on us and made us too weak to fight,” Kukah told The Punch.
“There is a noble obligation that all elite owe to those they represent, those on whose shoulders they may have stood, those who voted for them or those who helped them get an education. In the rest of Nigeria, this elite have met these obligations by building schools, hospitals, clinics, and so on for their people. They have bridged the gap between government’s absence and the welfare of their people. This is the story of almost all of southern Nigeria and parts of the Middle Belt.
“In the North, the evidence of this dereliction of duty litters the entire landscape, millions of out-of-school children, federal and state government projects such as irrigation and power-generating dams that now lie abandoned in remote communities, structures, such as the Almajiri schools, all in decay in many communities, and so on.
“Look at the World Bank, UNDP and other reports on development in Nigeria and look at northern Nigeria. The sad thing is that for the elite, these lives of destitution, illiteracy and squalor are reservoirs of investment from where they draw their oxygen of political relevance.
“The grinding poverty leaves the people permanently below zero and all they do is continue to look at the stupendous wealth of the elite with awe. In exchange, they (the elite) pretend to offer them (the poor) dubious religiosity through the manipulation of pilgrimages and construction of mosques.”
He added that although majority of northerners are more impoverished under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari than they were under former President Goodluck Jonathan, they will still vote for him in 2019.
“Indeed, the Buhari project presents us with an interesting view. The average northerner has become far more impoverished under Buhari than he was under (former President Goodluck) Jonathan. But they will still vote for Buhari because they see him as the only one who can help bring their derelict elite to order. It is a strange appeal but that is it,” he said.
“They believe their corrupt elite are above the law. They were seduced with Sharia because they believed it was going to help them punish their own elite, who they see as being above the law of Nigeria. These are the issues.”
Kukah also lamented that the elite have manipulated and distorted religion to the detriment of the masses, noting that such manipulation gave birth to the Boko Haram insurgency.
“In my view, it is the long historical experience of this distortion of the religion of Islam with its exclusionist tendencies that Boko Haram has exploited.
“Boko Haram exploited the fact that this elite proclaimed Sharia in 1999 and 2000, while in reality, they did not believe in the religion itself. So, Boko Haram simply has asked them to step aside.”