On Sunday, March 7, Professor Toyin Falola organised a Zoom Interview, titled A Conversation With Bishop Hassan Kukah. THISAGE was one of the participants. The following is an Excerpt of the interview as monitored by us. Happy Reading:
On Radicalization of A Priest
When we use the pulpit to address issues and people, it is like any other person who uses a platform to address a particular interest. The question is whether it is used wrongly. Once we can get out hands around the issues, we can get things going. The question that I am a priest does not mean that I am above the laws of the land. What are the social questions that predispose people to radicalization? Remember Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa, Pope John Paul 11 and Ayatolai Khomeni in Iran. When people lose their voices it is not wrong for the priests to assist, especially if it helps to address issues in the country.
How People Can Forge A Path Ahead Without Too much Reliance on the political elite or the Government
The truth of the matter of the good, the bad and the ugly is that many rely on government in everything. The collapse of institutions in Nigeria and the absence of effective leadership make it difficult to thrive without government. The present state of things makes the state the only means of survival. Too many people are relying on what we have here; there is a mono economy of oil, the extractive industry on which they collect rents. The environment is not conducive for people to want to venture outside the state. We have to be more creative. In 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari came to power through the sagacity of young people. It is a tragedy that in 2020 we would have #End SARS protest. If we had gone on that support, may be we would have gone far by now, but the system has been compromised. If people want to get out of it, it means they have to subscribe to some values that are necessary for building a good society otherwise we cannot get of the present situation of your begging bowl is bigger than my own. It is not going to happen in 2023, we have to think of it in a long term.
The Fear that Youths Involvement May Be Hard Because Politicians May be Succeeded By Their Children
I want you to cast your mind back as a historian (directed at the organizer, Prof Falola). Can you tell met the son or daughter of any government politician who is playing a frontline role in the politics in Nigeria. Which businesses have been able to go beyond two generations.? I do not believe that children of politicians and people in government would replace their parents. The system does not support that. The children of the stupendously rich know they cannot identify what their fathers have done to amass such riches, this brand of Nigerian system of smash and grab. They cannot recycle themselves to become relevant.
Now that the Youths Have Made Their Voices Hear Through #EndSARS, how Can They Position Themselves to Be Heard?
I have a story. I had a lunch with a Professor in Abuja recently and a 5- year old girl walked in from the kitchen and somebody said ask Google. Everybody laughed. Now the story is that a young lady visited the house sometime ago and was seeking an answer to a question and the young girl told her to ask Google. My hope is that I can see what young people are doing with technology and networking. Age is on their side and they see what we, the older ones cannot see. The point I am making is that many of the young people are not going to be doing things the way their parents who are stealing money are doing. The government is treating the #EndSARS as a law and order issue. If #EndSARS achieved anything, it is the need for Nigerians to be on the streets because after casting our votes, it does not necessarily bring good governance. I have met a significant number of politicians who told me #End SARS was a defining moment for them. It is a metaphor. For me, it is that after we have cast our votes, we should, as ordinary Nigerians be ready to take to the streets and demand good governance. The youths are ready to leap Africa away from the corruption template that is prevailing. More needs to be done. The youths have to be more creative, historically poised to rescue Africa. The task is not going to be easy. But the more distant they are from the contradictions in the system, the more they would be ready to work. In my view, it is good to create a level playing field. When we talk about how money would come, that is the work of regulatory agencies. I don’t like to moralize here.
On Biafra and Nigeria Civil War
The Biafra conversation is a measure of how we have managed to stay in one place all this long. The young people are asking why was the wars fought in the first place. Since the war, Nigeria has not made a significant move in any direction. I have met not one, two or three soldiers who fought on the Nigeria side and they say if war were to come again they would fight on the side of Biafra. This is a sad commentary on our past. As we are talking it is as if we are still under military rule. These people do not have the reflexes of managing an egalitarian society. If there are lessons to be learnt from our past it is that we don’t need a shooting war but ideas.
Would Breaking- up Solve The Problem?
Many of us have been foaming in the mouth. Things are so tough that at time I have asked myself should I leave this priesthood? All of us have realsied we have made mistakes in the past and we have apologized. I don’t think any Nigerian, in his right sense, should pretend nothing binds us together. This 923,768 km² that Lugard gave us binds us together. All of us are now global citizens but I know all of us are still nostalgic about this country. It is not going to remain like this and let none of us be under any illusion that anybody stands to gain anything if this country breaks up, nobody is interested in this country breaking up but the point is that who we were yesterday is no longer who we are today,”
Worsening State of Insecurity In Nigeria
To create a good society, you don’t treat unequal people equally and you don’t treat equal people unequally because if you have a society where just being a woman penalises you, or just belonging to a different religion penalises you or just being of a different social class penalises you, then you don’t have the hope of pulling together the resources, mental ability and otherwise that people have.
So, for me, in the final analysis is how do you create an environment where everybody thrives according to their abilities? That is the responsibilities of those who create and manage the state because not everybody is going to be a civil servant, not everybody is looking for a job from government, people just want to be able to do the things they need to do.
But now, if you have a country where you can’t even do the things you want to do whether you are a government official or a private citizen because of insecurity, because the light is not there, because the roads are not there, then you have a problem. You don’t need a prophet to tell you that that society is breeding and creating discontentment that could manifest itself in violence.
The challenge is for us to create a conducive environment and this is why I worry about this government because the government has not created a narrative that points in a direction that we should be going. We don’t expect the President to do everything, we are not expecting angels, but it is that a nation has to survive on a vision about where we are going and how we are going to get there. But when you raise this question, people begin to think that you are an enemy of the state or that you are inciting citizens.
“You don’t need to incite anybody in Nigeria because government has created an environment for that development by making loose a bunch of people going around killing everyone. Who do you need to incite? You can only incite the government to take its responsibility to secure our country, it is not too much to ask.