Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, that fiery cleric, social critic, rights Activist and intellectual prodigy on the pulpit, in July, lost his mother, Madam Janet Kukah. I had condoled with him by SMS and whatsapp message when his number was not going through. But, I kept on asking myself one question: “who will comfort Bishop Kukah?”
This question is relevant, considering the fact that this charismatic, fecund and former Secretary-General of the Catholic Secretariat and current Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese (born 31st August, 1952), has, over the years, comforted thousands (perhaps, millions) of people, who lost their loved ones.
Bishop Kukah has preached at many grave sides, furnished hundreds of funeral homilies, delivered oceans of comfort to bereaved families, and recited the holy rosary times without number.
All to comfort people. Kukah was a member of the Oputah Panel that investigated human rights violations during successive Military juntas (1999 – 2001). He also served as Secretary to the 2005 National Political Reform Conference and Secretary-General, Catholic Bishops Conference. Now, who will comfort Kukah? Only God. Bishop Kukah loved his mother dearly.
He was like a second husband to her. They were like siamese twins – Romeo and Juliet; six and half a dozen; Hamlet and the Prince of Denmark.
Growing up, Kukah and his mother were always teased by his uncle for being the uglier of the set of twins that he was. But Matthew had a ready-made answer: “it is better to be ugly and alive than to be handsome and be dead!”.
Mama Janet Kukah died at 86. She was born in June, 1934, in Katul Gida, Ikulu Chiefdom of the Zangon Kataf LGA, Kaduna State. Mama who was married at only 18 (as her husband’s third wife), was not even a Christian then.
She later converted to Christianity. She served fervently in the Lord’s vineyard in the Catholic faith.
But, two ironies: First, mama did not initially want Kukah to be a priest. Second, she could not attend Hassan’s ordination ceremony because she had fractured her left thigh in an accident on her way to Lagos, preparatory to his ordination.
At Igbobi hospital, she exclaimed, in her usual humourous self (at seeing her collared gladiator son), “You remember at the beginning, I had said that if you insisted on being a priest, I would kill myself. God took note of it.
However, I think God decided to just break my leg as a punishment”. Now, who would comfort Bishop Kukah? Only God. As one of the early respected founders of the quite famous
“Zumuntar Matan Katolika”, Mama Janet is credited as having composed the lyrical chorus in Ikulu, “Azumunta Folo” (Zumunta is sweet). Her repertoire of songs is a pot-pouri of soul-stiring songs that has regenerated, with incredible resurgimento, the Ikulu music culture as a genre of the Zumunta Mata.
A deeply compassionate and extraordinary prayer warrior of the highest nobility and virtues, this “Mother Theresa” believed more in giving than in receiving (Acts 20:35).
Her permanent bed companions were her Hausa Bible and Rosary, with which is communed with God. This is the irreplaceable gem that has transmitted from temporal terrestrial life to eternal celestial life.
Now, who will comfort Kukah? Only God. Bishop Kukah is not the ordinary-runof- the-mill-priest. He uses the pulpit to preach against societal ills and bad governance. He posits panacea for deepened democracy and true fiscal federalism.
At Bishop Bagobiri’s obsequies, on March 17, 2018, Kukah fired from his always revved cylinders: “Politicians are often fond of praising Church leaders especially when they are in opposition, in exile or are victims of state repression.
Church leaders are praised for being voices of the voiceless, standing for justice, courageous etc. “When things change and the opposition politician of yesterday gets to power, they expect you in their pocket.
You raise the same issues and they accuse you of supporting the opposition, hating our government, standing in our way, being a danger to the nation etc.” Now, who will comfort Bishop Kukah?
Only God. NOW THIS On February 11, 2020, at his funeral homily of Michael Nnadi, a student of the Catholic Good Shepherd Seminary, Kaduna, who was abducted and gruesomely murdered, Kukah lamented that our “nation is like a ship stranded on the high seas, rudderless and with broken navigational aids.”
“Today, our years of hypocrisy, duplicity, fabricated integrity, false piety, empty morality, fraud and Pharisaism have caught up with us….. Nigeria is on the crossroads and its future hangs precariously in a balance. “We have practised madness for too long.
Our attempt to build a nation has become like the agony of Sisyphus who angered the gods and had to endure the frustration of rolling a stone up the mountain. “No one could have imagined that in winning the presidency. Buhari would bring nepotism and clannishness into the military and the ancillary security agencies.
“No one could have imagined that his government would be marked by supremacist and divisive policies that would push our country to the brink.
“This President has displayed the greatest degree of insensitivity in managing our country’s rich diversity. He has subordinated the larger interests of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen and women.
“The impression created now is that, to hold a key and strategic position in Nigeria today, it is more important to be a northern Muslim than a Nigerian.”
“Despite running the most nepotistic and narcissistic government in known history, there are no answers to the millions of young children on the streets in northern Nigeria. The North still has the worst indices of poverty, insecurity, stunting, squalor and destitution,” he pontificated. Now, who will comfort Bishop Kukah? Only God.
The flaming clergyman bemoaned the nadir to which the military has sunk, losing its hitherto “allure and gravitas… because the military has gradually become trapped and ravaged by ethnic, regional, religious and class considerations.” Now, who will comfort Bishop Kukah? Only God.
On 23rd August, 2013, I was kidnapped (in the hot afternoon), along Benin-Auchi Express way, near Ehor, by dangerously armed kidnappers.
Four Policemen who came for my rescue were gunned down in cold blood. I was in the dungeon of the terror group for 21 whole days. Days of mental agony, psychological torture, physical trauma, spiritual bruise, fear of death, fear of fear.
Nigerians rose up for my release in the print, electronic and social media. My kidnappers (always hooded, except at night), told me so. God had prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies (Psalm 23:5).
Of the many reactions, there was one particular one that seared and scorched the hearts of my captors and continually flogged them with spiritual koboko and divine bulala. It was the 27th August, 2013, press release by my very good friend, Kukah, titled “Release Ozekhome in the name of God”.
I did not know what Kukah wrote that so tormented my tormentors, until God ordered my release; and I read it. Inter alia, the cassocked “conscience of the nation” passionately pleaded with my abductors, in the following words: “The news of the kidnapping of my good friend, Mike Ozekhome has come to me with as much shock as it has been received by other Nigerians.
On the surface, it is tempting to say that he has joined a growing club of unfortunate and innocent citizens who are daily preyed upon by a hapless generation of conscionable young citizens of our dear country.
“Sure, these are sad times for our country, but the kidnapping of Mr. Ozekhome carries a distinctive ironic ring to it.
Here is a fine gentleman in every sense of the word, a hard working professional who has worked assiduously with his bare hands right up to the top of his profession. His patriotism and deep commitment to justice saw him at the forefront of the fight against tyranny and dictatorship in the darkest days of our country.
He sacrificed his life, family and career and was a victim of some of the ugliest phases of the brutality of those in power. He did all these to give our country in particular and a new generation of young Nigerians a better future. His humble beginnings and his hard work should be seen by the young generation as ideals to be emulated.
“His country through the legal profession recognized his contribution by elevating him to the enviable position of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN.
The recognition only renewed his commitment to justice and the cause of the poor. It was early this year that he pleaded with me to join a Foundation he was setting up for the cause of the poor. I was quite happy to oblige him because I have believed in his cause for the down trodden. He has made all these sacrifices for the future of these same tragic youth who are now his captors.
“Coming at the dawn of the democracy and freedom he struggled for, this is at worst, a second crucifixion for a great patriot. True, no citizen deserves to be denied of his freedom in a Democracy except those who have broken the law. Nothing therefore could be more ironic than for this great son of our country to be forcefully snatched from the highway in a Democracy.
In the name of God and all that is noble, I call on his captors to release him unconditionally and immediately. I call on our young people to renounce this violent, ungodly and evil act. “I believe the future of our youth does not depend on the blood money that comes from kidnapping, popular and commonplace as this ignoble cause has become.
Our youth must embrace the future with hope, believing that tomorrow is theirs to build. I believe that this blood money can only erect a house of cards for now.
They should renounce this criminality and turn to pursuing legacies they can proudly hand over to their children tomorrow. I beg for God’s mercies and peace for the souls of those gallant police officers who surrendered their lives and continue to pray for our security agencies. May Mike regain his freedom soon.”
And I was released. And I set up the Mike Ozekhome Foundation (MOF).
All to the glory of God. Now, who will console Bishop Kukah? Only God. Mama, arise from your cold grave, following our Lord’s footsteps.
Strut around proudly like a peacock in the Spirit world; giggle with a guffaw for donating an uncommon product to Nigeria and mankind – Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah. Farewell, mama.
Adieu, mother of a Catholic generation. Sleep eternally in the Lord’s bossom, mother. Now, who will comfort Bishop Kukah? Only God.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
“Hope, the best comfort of our imperfect condition.” (Edward Gibbon).
Fellow Nigerians, let us mourn with Bishop Kukah and kindly follow me every week, and put our heads together on how to make Nigeria a better place. This, always on “The Nigerian Project”, by Chief Mike A. A. Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb., Ph.D, LL.D.
• Follow me on twitter @ MikeozekhomeSAN