Nigeria: Not What Time, But Whose Time? A Critique of Bishop Kukah’s Convocation Lecture
The convocation lecture by Bishop Matthew Kukah did not disappoint. It had all of the elements that have come to make Bishop Kukah an authentic precious voice of a Nigerian society turned into a wilderness by a feudal system that has captured our politics and economy, especially since 1999. The scope of literary evidence of his comparative framework from the Bible to Poetry, Fiction, American Constitutional literature and Oral literature about Nigeria’s’ search for historical relevance they are all there plus an insight into the foundation of many anti-people policies that define every constitution of our country.
You also see the depth of intellectual analysis with which he approaches his assignment and the passion with which he presents a spicy combo of facts and an alternative vision for a better Nigeria! These have become “native” ingredients of Bishop Kukah’s dishes to the public. They were in full play and of a richer flavour this time. The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto used them to create the unique Kukah delicacy of a 2020 convocation lecture, to make it a prescription diet from the North to the South and from the East to the West.
But in my view Bishop Kukah forgot to give the hungry a place at the table. I argue that the poor and oppressed in Nigeria are those left hungry by the Feudal system which has run Nigeria’s democracy since 1999 as a bazaar for those who monopolize access to the treasury. They claim a right to appropriate to themselves not only the treasury but the entire economy at Local Government, State and Federal Government levels. It is the feudal system by its disregard for competence and equitable access to opportunities for all Nigerians, that has turned an overwhelming percentage of citizens into primary victims of our nation.
In my view the big idea in the lecture is that it will take a group of committed elite ie people with better dreams for Nigeria or components of it, to fight to uphold sustainable values that can bring the society to a steady path of progress. It seems from Bishop Kukah’s position, such struggle has not happened. Simply put, the lecture is a call for Nigerians to define what their common goals and values should be, in order to find the zeal of collective energy to pursue same without being derailed.
It would seem that Bishop Matthew Kukah, blamed the lack of any group with such shared dream about our nation or it’s components, as the reason for pockets of inconsistent and individual efforts that tend to lead in conflicting directions. His position appears to be a warning that those we call the present political elite are like Boko Haram.
They do not mean well because they have no ideas of what Nigeria should be for all of us. He considers them same as kidnappers and robbers, but they are only different because they are more tenacious and deadly in their bid to snatch every lucrative space for themselves. He makes a subtle statement about the peptic quality and general gloom arising from social injustice in Nigeria: the personal success of today’s patrons of feudalism in Nigeria is dragging the nation backwards into darkness.
But to me that is where Bishop Kukah’s thesis lacks historical validity. First he wrongly assumes that the forces of feudalism are unorganized. They may appear so, but in actual fact their common interest brings the feudal forces in the North, South, East and West into a collective defense of a system that benefits their “sectional” or group interests. Political party, ethnic group and religion become mere tools for personal gain.
For instance those who make the Niger Delta unproductive by refusing to invest huge revenue allocations from Federal Govt into productive industries that could create opportunities for more people, are our Niger Delta sons and daughters. They are not Muslim or from Kano, Katsina or Maiduguri. They want you and I to be their “slave” who obey their political decisions. Thus even though they are our brothers and sisters they are as negative as those Feudalists from the Caliphate of Sokoto, Kano, Katsina or Yola.
Secondly, it is sad that Bishop Kukah did not address the capacity of feudal forces to expand their hold on the national economy and politics. It is a simple process by which the Nigerian political system confers total control of any profitable corridors, on those in political office and their cronies. The same process disconnects the overwhelming majority of Nigerians from state resources because they do not have political power.
Such people have limited opportunities and zero state resources to pursue any aspirations. This tends to translate Nigerian society into two segments, namely: the first is the group of “Masters” ( ie those who have political power along with their cronies. They are less than 200 persons among whom are politicians, civil servants and cronies who serve as corridors for those in power to loot public resources in each state under any administration).
The second category is the masses who graduate from being Supporters to Servants and finally into Slaves. In every state a growing population is gradually dispossessed by deliberate State policies, into the underprivileged. So we lose access to resources, we lose human dignity and we lose the right to aspirations as citizens. This overwhelming majority of Nigerians, are daily dragged into slavery by a feudal process which deprives people of fair access to productive resources or social justice (even justice in court, goes to the highest bidder).
What to do? I would hold that Bishop Kukah failed the logic of his analysis. You cannot liberate “the enslaved” without liberating the economy that made them slaves. To do so we must join hands to demand that collective resources such as State or LG revenues be properly invested to create collective opportunities. This struggle for deployment of our collective resources must move to that main theatre of warfare between Masters and those they have turned into Slaves.
In the period 1999-2019 the rank of slaves continued to increase as unemployment, mass poverty and insecurity rendered the majority of citizens vulnerable and conquered. What time will such slaves begin to win the war? Bishop Kukah missed this systematic investigation of Nigeria’s modern feudal system. That is why he failed to answer the question: whose time is it in Nigeria?
Amaopusenibo Bobo Brown, veteran journalist and emeritus National President of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, is the Managing Consultant /CEO of Grain Consulting, Port Harcourt.