Matthew Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, was interviewed on a Lagos TV channel about rumours that his National Peace Committee had intervened on behalf of former president Goodluck Jonathan to stop attempts by President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate the corruption of the previous regime.
Watch the interview:
The bishop seemed to be talking out of both sides of his mouth. While claiming that he was not against “probes” of previous administrations, he still said that “if we recovered all the money stolen, how are we sure it will not go the same way”. While this is a valid point, in terms of recovered money being stolen, it is not an argument against trying to recover the proceeds of crime.
The bishop sounded like an apologist for Jonathan, claiming there were “spectacular benefits” from his presidency. He never explained what these benefits were and who benefited. But considering the evidence in terms of power supply, unemployment, healthcare, infrastructure, education and so on, there were no benefits for the majority of Nigerians.
Kukah seemed to be close to the Jonathan presidency and maybe there were “spectacular benefits” for him. As far back as 2010, specifically at a conference about Nigeria at the British Museum in London, Kukah claimed that the mere fact that Jonathan was president was a positive and it meant that “minorities” in Nigeria were on the rise.
During his latest TV appearance, he banged on about how great it was for Jonathan to accept defeat and step down, as if this wasn’t what a defeated president was supposed to do. Kukah claimed that “history will not forget what Jonathan did”. But the real issue is not what history decides to remember or forget, but that Nigerians should not be bamboozled into accepting criminality in exchange for “peace” and “letting sleeping dogs lie”.
In fact, it is important for peace that criminal acts are investigated, prosecuted and punished. The fact that this is hardly ever done has fostered a culture of impunity in the country. This has resulted in a breakdown of law and order and the rampant corruption that causes insecurity.
Kukah claimed his committee was full of people of integrity, who would not support illegality. But the facts beg to differ. Members include former military ruler Abdusalam Abubakar. Tunde Bakare, who was Buhari’s running mate in the 2011 presidential (s)election, once said: “When Obasanjo came to power in 1999, he set up the Kolade Panel to review the contracts awarded by the eight-month administration of General Abubakar Abdulsalam. That panel discovered that Abdulsalam looted more than Abacha month-for-month, but nothing happened.”
It’s no surprise that Abubakar would belong to a committee that tries allegedly to stop investigations into looting. Other committee members include blinging “pastor” Ayo Oritsejafor, whose private jet was seized in South Africa with $9.3m in cash that the authorities claimed were for smuggling arms into Nigeria. Oritsejafor and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) were alleged to have received a 7bn naira ($35m) bribe to support Jonathan. He surely would not want any investigations into the misdeeds of the Jonathan administration.
Other members of the committee include Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwarts like Adamu Mu’azu and Ben Obi and beneficiaries of previous government appointments and patronage such as Bolaji Akinyemi and Ibrahim Gambari. None of these people speak for ordinary Nigerians.
While most Nigerians would prefer President Buhari to chase after stolen money, sparing no one, Kukah’s self-appointed, self-important “National Peace Committee” would rather be left at peace to enjoy the “spectacular benefits” they have had from government patronage.
Nigeria is better served ignoring them.