Frankly, had Alhaji Musa Aliyu Ladan’s advertorial (Bishop Matthew Kukah: A Politician Dressed in Clerical Robes?, Daily Trust March 23rd, 2020) not been so full of gross errors, mutilations, misrepresentations, embarrassing and disconcerting counterfactuals, I would have let it pass. However, I believe by writing this response, I can help him first and then some of the unsuspecting readers who might be misled and forced to drink his ill prepared kindelmo of falsehood only to innocently suffer later diarrhea. To do this, I will stick to some of the issues that require correction.
The first show of ignorance by Alhaji Ladan is the claim that the procession from 57 Dioceses of Nigeria was over the killing of a Christian clergy in Adamawa. The foundation of his argument automatically collapses because he based it on a wrong and false premise. The Catholic bishops had decided in January that we had lost too many citizens to Boko Haram, banditry, kidnappers and other criminal elements. This wanton loss of lives was unnecessary and sad. There was a general feeling that the government could and should do more to protect citizens. The bishops wanted to call both national and international attention to the fact that the nation had bled enough, that the losses of human lives was no longer tolerable. We all agreed that our focus should be on the loss of human lives in Nigeria as opposed to Christians because we have consistently said that it is necessary for us to stop talking of the dead in religious terms, but as citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, again, the procession had absolutely nothing to do with the killing of a Christian clergy, the plank on which Alhaji Ladan has hung his entire argument and that is why, even some Muslims who shared our vision joined us.
I feel quite saddened when I hear prominent Muslims say that most of those who have died from the insurgency are Muslims. Sadder still is the conclusion drawn by Alhaji Ladan who says in his Advertorial: Now that a clergy had been killed, suddenly they are shouting from the top of their heads as if the life of a Christian is more valuable than that of a Muslim. By making this point, Alhaji Ladan turned the sword to his own chest. If 90% of Muslims have been killed, what explains the silence of Muslims? What stops them from raising their voices against this evil? How many have to die before we stand up together? Even so, are Christians to be blamed for taking the murder of an individual member seriously enough to warrant being on the streets? In the light of all this, Alhaji Ladan should commend the Catholic community in Nigeria for calling attention to the need for the killings to end and then praying for God’s mercy on the souls of the dead. How does this become, in the words of Alhaji Ladan, a blackmail, a molestation or a conflict I cannot fathom.
Unrelenting, Alhaji Ladan persists on his path of blind ignorance. He says that I am being addressed as Bishop of Sokoto because I want to be at par with the Sultan of Sokoto. Rather, he says, I should be addressed as a bishop of Sokoto Diocese, not Bishop of Sokoto as I claim. Lord God Almighty! On the contrary, were Alhaji Ladan not displaying his ignorance so proudly, he would have realised that he is addressing me properly and doing me a favour. There is no record of my being addressed as Bishop of Sokoto because such a title does not exist. There might be a diocese without a bishop, but there can be no bishop without a diocese! I often joke with Sultan about the size of my own jurisdiction against his. Sokoto Diocese is 4 States (Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, and with a landmass of over 107,000 kilometers! So, why should I want to be known as Bishop of Sokoto? So, thanks to your ignorance, you have made my case well! I am, truly, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese. As for the Sultan and I, I suggest that you respect yourself and maintain sufficient social distance!
Alhaji Ladan claims that Catholic Diocese of Sokoto occupies only a small span of land along Ahmadu Bello Way with Kebbi and Argungu as satellites. To him, the procession tried to; create the false impression that Catholics are the major population in Sokoto. Sadly, for us as Christians, our focus is on the quality of the practice of the faith of our members not their quantity. Christians are called upon to bear witness in a way and manner that, as the Bible says, by their fruits you shall know them (Mt. 7:15).
Alhaji Ladan continues to ride his horse of falsehood with pride. He says: A forensic analysis of the video will even confirm that many of the Catholics were shipped(sic) from other cities and states to buttress the erroneous impression of a huge Catholic population in Sokoto. How does this forensic analysis tell those who were shipped(sic) to Sokoto? As I already said, I, as well as millions of others who saw the video totally agree with Alhaji Ladan that the huge turn-out frankly shocked me. However, I saw it more as a measure of the mood of the times, an appreciation that the Church was playing a prophetic role for the larger society. I agree that the Catholic population is less than 1% as Alhaji Ladan says, but what really is the point? Since when did our rights depend on %%?. We need will, not numbers to make impact.
Alhaji Ladan somehow wants his readers to believe that by exercising my right and calling out my people to pray for an end to the senseless and endless killings of my fellow citizens, I have somehow committed a crime and I am being ungrateful to the people of Sokoto. He says that: Upon his request, he was allocated(sic) by the state government a very sizeable piece of land in a very prime location behind Sokoto General Post Office, where he built four mansions. Wow! I am not sure how loud to laugh.
Did I request for land in Sokoto? Why not? Am I not a free citizen? Was I allotted (or allocated to use his own words) a plot of land by the state government? The answer is No and I believe the governor of the day is alive and well to make his own case. Is my house behind the General Post Office? Yes. Does it have four mansions? No. Does this gentleman live in this town at all? How and why does prejudice blind a man? How did two buildings mutate to four?
Alhaji Ladan says that Muslim leaders have financed my NGO, The Kukah Foundation. First, the Kukah Foundation does not exist and it is not an NGO. Secondly, I think that Alhaji Ladan must ask himself what it is that these Muslim leaders see in me that they continue to support me as opposed to asking why. There is a Kukah Centre, a Policy Think Tank, but not a Foundation. I ask, Alhaji Ladan, why should a man willingly inflict lethal injury to his own personality and credibility by trading in so much lies and falsehood founded on mere prejudice. Please let Alhaji Ladan come up with all the facts about what he calls the whopping N50m donation to the Kukah Foundation as he says. I will gladly let him take N49, 999, 999 and I will keep only N1. I hope he has the courage of his lies to step forward. Let him return to his informants for proper briefing. I do not have a single penny in my accounts or those of the centre that I cannot account for!
Finally, I have taken note of his empty threats and will fully notify the relevant authorities accordingly. Whatever may have informed his prejudicial falsehood, I hope that in the light of all that I have outlined, he has the decency to apologise publicly to me for peddling such falsehood and misrepresentation against both my person and the Catholic Church under my care.
I am a free citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, my country that I am very proud of. My rights are not and will never be circumscribed by my faith, stature, gender, location or anything else that people like Alhaji Ladan might think. I did not choose to make Sokoto my home but today by the grace of God, I am proud to call it home. I am making and will continue to make whatever contributions we can make to create a better society. None of us is perfect but communication can clear the clouds
of prejudice and hate. We have a country to build and I am thankful to God that I have made my own contributions. I am not a stranger in Nigeria and from my installation as the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, I have been humbled by the warmth and the large heartedness of the people of the state, the successive governors, His Eminence, senators to the people on the street. As for my relationship with His Eminence the Sultan, let me caution you: ‘Komi gwanintansa, makaho ba ya rawa a bakin rijiya!’
I will never forget a day at the Protocol Lounge at Abuja Airport where I was waiting to catch a flight. I was being introduced to someone in the lounge by a friend as the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto. A gentleman whom I did not even know barged in, literally took over the conversation and said: Stop introducing him as the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto because by saying so you are excluding us. He is our bishop! We all laughed but it was a touching experience. As I travel around, I meet people who worry about our safety in Sokoto but I say quite honestly, I have never felt safer. Our lives are in the hands of God not mortals and not based on the apparatus of security that we weave around us. People like Alhaji Ladan are the threat to our search for a common ground beyond religion. Or else, what law did Catholics or Christians break by organising a prayer procession? Did Alhaji Ladan approach the security agencies to know whether we were authorised to have a prayer procession?
Before we started our procession, I counselled our people in the Cathedral and told them of the sacredness of our procession and the need to be prayerful. Our placards said as much. I watched as ordinary Muslims on the streets looked on with surprise but not a single sign of animosity. I watched as Muslims took photos with their phones. I watched as some waved at us in solidarity of sorts. So, where has Alhaji Ladan dreamt up this scarecrow of lies and falsehood about the prayer procession?
When I paid Governor Wammako (as he then was), my first courtesy visit, he told me: We have no distinction between indigenes and settlers in Sokoto. Everyone is an indigene. I am not aware that this offer has been withdrawn.
You did not need to waste almost six hundred thousand naira (N600,000), just to embarrass yourself because I could have explained all of this to you. Wasting such a huge amount of money is akin to the elephant going into labour only to deliver a sick rat. My brother, appreciate that truth is not difficult to find by those who are honest. Lies exist in the market of darkness while truth lives in the light. I have addressed you as Alhaji out of courtesy because I do not know which ordinary citizen can opt for advertorial to make a point. Take my offer, my house is open and you are more than welcome.
However, as to whether I am a politician dressed in clerical robes, I consider this an honour. I repeat my response to all of this: I am politically very conscious of the events around me, but not a politician. I like to sing and I love music, but no one has ever called me a musician.
My dear brother, Alhaji Ladan, Ramadan is close. If indeed you represent he Concerned Indigenes of Sokoto Caliphate I believe this money could have helped quite a good number of young people to get to school or ameliorated the problems of the poor as they face Ramadan.
Matthew Hassan Kukah is the current Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto.