Matthew Hassan Kukah is not a new name in ecclesiasticism. An acclaimed fiery and astute catholic, Kukak has been almost everything in the faith before his recent position as the Catholic Archbishop of Sokoto. Being the bishop overseeing the seat of the caliphate, one had expected some form of quietude or acquiescence when it comes to comments about the Hausa/Fulani oligarchy or his frequent criticisms about bad policies of government.
But Kukah is not a stranger to Muslim/Christian feud. His community of Zangon Kataf had had rough experiences in many years of annihilation by the Hausa/Fulani before it was put to an end by General Zamani Lekwot. For many years, Zango, founded well over 400 years ago by the Hausa/Fulani merchandise as a transit camp around 1650 AD, had been dominated by the Hausa/Fulani rule.
Lekwot fought very hard and liberated his kinsmen from the strangle hold of the oligarchy in 1992. A military tribunal set up by General Ibrahim Babangida after the fierce battle between the mainly Moslem Hausa and mainly Christian Atyap communities of the Zangon-Kataf Local Government Area in Kaduna State, which erupted on May 15, 1992, had sentenced Lekwot to death for alleged complicity in the killings. But he was later granted clemency and released.
This time around, Kukah has once again run into murky waters with the authorities. Few hours to the end of 2021 Kukah, as usual had released his New Year message where he lampooned the Muhammadu Buhari administration and its lack-luster administration, which has led to the dwindling fortunes of Nigeria as a nation.
In his message, entitled, ‘Another Christmas with Dark Clouds of Death,’ Kukah had taken on the administration for leading the country into an abyss, a dark tunnel with no light in sight.
It was his contention that the Buhari administration has led the country into a cul de sac. With rising insecurity, hunger and deprivation, Kukah had said, “Yes, our dreams have been aborted. Yes, our commonwealth has been stolen. Yes, our cancer of corruption has metastasized. Yes, we have been guilty of patricide, fratricide and attempted even suicide. Yes, we are hungry, angry, thirsty and starving. Yet, we stand firmly with the unshaken belief that no matter the temptations, the world has known worst times. These may be the worst of times, but for men and women of faith, they could be the best of times. We must stand firm and resolute because, our redeemer lives.”
Not a man to keep quiet in the face of infamy, Kukah had described Nigeria as a grave yard whose roads are busier than those to the farms.
“Amidst the wails and laments, I hear the congregants saying; the world is coming to an end, it has never been so bad. Yes, people are dying, but they are not dying more now than they did in recent years,” he had said.
Expectedly his sermon drew fire from different flanks, some for and others against. Not surprising the reactions that followed reflected the sharp division in the country’s religious culture. While the Muslim saw the sermon as an attack on their faith, the Christian community thought otherwise.
While Kukah admirers saw his sermon as characteristic of the man and what he represents, his critics, drawn mostly from the Muslim community described an attack on the presidency as an attack on the Muslims. This is despite the fact that the man heading the caliphate, Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, had in no glowing terms hit hard on the Buhari administration.
The call by Kukah lashing the presidency and APC of playing politics with insecurity broke the camel’s back as the Northern Elders threatened his life while the Christians advised him to be careful over his life. Kukah had reminded the federal government that it is fanning the embers of insecurity having failed to do the needful in containing the various forms of violence while drawing attention to the millions that died in the civil war.
The Muslim community in their characteristic style had asked Kukah to apologize to the Muslim or leave Sokoto. Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, in his defence of Kukah had described the criticism as “diversionary” and “nationally unhealthy”. He warned Nigerians not to succumb to the demands of irrational religionists who would demand a mile after getting an inch.
The loudest defence, unexpectedly came from Kukah’s kinsmen, Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU). The union had warned the Muslim community from allowing any harm comes Kukah’s way.
However in the midst of this controversy, Kukah’s reputation is soaring higher. Just few days ago, the Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis, appointed Kukah, as a member of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Human Integral Development.
The appointment, which was contained in a letter to Kukah signed by the Prefect of the Dicastery, Peter Cardinal Turkson, according to a statement on Monday by Christopher Omotosho, the Director, Social Communications, Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, was seen as a vindication of Kukah’s stand on the malaise in the Nigerian society.
According to the statement conveying his choice, by the appointment, Bishop Kukah will join other members of the Dicastery drawn from different regions of the world to advise and promote the Holy Father’s concerns on issues of justice and peace, human rights, torture, human trafficking, care of creation and other issues related to the promotion of human dignity and development,” the statement partly read.
It noted that the appointment is for an initial period of five years, while it is renewable thereafter, adding that the Council would be formally inaugurated on a soon-to-be disclosed date. The recent appointment adds to Kukah’s string of national and international engagements within the universal Church.
He was previously appointed a Consultor and later a member of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, Vatican City where he served under three Popes
Born August 31, 1952 in Anchuna, Kaduna State, Kukah, who was Kukah was ordained a Catholic Priest on December 19, 1976 rose through the ranks before taking over as the current bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto in 2011 from Bishop Kevin Joseph Aje, who was the Bishop from 1984.