Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, who has continuously spoken truth to power, unlike those who choose to ferment prejudice, is a religious leader whose intervention in politics is spurred by the quest to make a difference for the people. Perhaps, his uncompromising stand on national issues, explains the critical assignments he had been part of in the past.
Among such national assignments include serving as Secretary to the National Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission, popularly referred to as Oputa Panel; National Political Reforms Conference; Ogoni/Shell Mediation Initiative and the Electoral Reform Committee. Bishop Kukah’s contributions to the work of these committees caused many to express the fear that the nation would lose his services, when he was elevated to the position of bishop in 2011. But he allayed this fear, saying the church has only given him a bigger platform. He maintained that as long as injustice and hunger stalk the land, he will continue with the struggle as he considers himself a bishop without borders.
The cleric has not wavered on this promise. He has continued to contribute to national discourse despite his busy schedule. However, his interventions have always pitted him against the Muhammadu Buhari-led presidency, which usually accuse him of partisanship. But the question many have always asked against this backdrop is: Should religious leaders play active role in politics or refrain from stepping into the political sphere? Though this is one question that has defied a definite answer over the years because Nigeria is a country made up of diverse religions, it is the right of every citizen as provided in Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) that “every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular, he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests.”
While many insist that religion should be separated from politics, there is a political school, which argues that if others can enjoy political expression, such should not be denied of religious leaders. This political school insists that religious leaders should be entitled to political comments like other citizens in free societies. It was advanced that politics is not bigger than religion, and so, if dabbling into affairs of the state is going to make the difference for the people; religious leaders should influence it smartly.