Friday, August 21, 2015 7:52 am
In an interview, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, of the Sokoto Catholic Diocese and member of Nigeria’s National Peace Committee, responds to his critics regarding his comments over President Muhammadu Buhari’s planned probes of treasury looters.
There has been a deluge of reactions against your comments regarding ‘probe can’t be substituted for governance’ among others. What’s your response to this?
I am quite pleased that people are talking and I am not bothered about those who agree or disagree with me. Why should people agree with me if they do not feel persuaded by my argument? I consider myself an individual with the freedom to air my views. I do not see why anyone who disagrees with me should make me feel offended. We can disagree without being disagreeable. You can detect the quality of minds, people’s character and level of decency by how they approach issues when they do not agree with you. I was not teaching or marking an English paper, so whether I recommended probe or investigation, it does not matter. There are over 170 million Nigerians with competing views.
You were quoted as saying government can investigate first before any probe. Could you elaborate on this?
I did not say that. Some of those who claim to disagree with me kept making up the stories as they went from one beer parlour or bus stop to the other. Now, no one seems to remember what I said, so what is there to elaborate on? I have said it elsewhere and I was only making a suggestion based on my experience as a Nigerian. How many probes have we had? Where are the convictions? I am not against probes of any sort. My advice was that with no clear strategy, government could raise undue anxiety and they may lose the element of surprise and find that the required ammunition for building their case has vanished, that’s all.
In all of this, would you say people merely misunderstood you or chose to misrepresent you?
Honestly, my text message boxes and emails have been full of messages of appreciation right from the day I left the studio of Channels. For some inexplicable reason, I did not receive one single text of anyone disagreeing with me. People just told me about the social media stuff and since I do not have their passport I am not a member of the social media community. When I speak or write, sometimes I see hundreds of those comments, but I honestly do not have the time to read them. Those who genuinely know me and honestly felt otherwise, endeavoured to reach me and asked for clarification. That is the measure of an honest mind, not those who live in the gutters and write or speak with mud in their mouths.
Again, the tragedy is that Nigerians prefer to believe what they pick from the gutter, the things that make them salivate. Now, people are making up their stories about what both President Jonathan and General Buhari agreed upon.
Do you think the probes will yield any positive results?
Whatever will get us out of this pit, let us go for it as long as it is legal. In my view, probes are a strategy not an end and for a poor, angry and frustrated citizenry like ours, the poor like to see blood, blood of others as long as it is not their relatives or towns men or women. Let the probes start and you will see what will happen. I just pray the government does not get stymied, that is all I am saying.
Are there specific areas you think investigations should be carried out on?
Let the probe experts take it from there. I have nothing to say because this is precisely my point. What are the rules of engagement, how will these probes be conducted; is it individuals, ministries, ministers, or what? Until this month, did you not hear all the noise about Mrs. Diezani and her six billions? Now, all is quiet. Our limited attention span is a matter of concern. From what I hear from the probe fundamentalists, they already have those they want probed.
The National Peace Committee brokered a deal between President Muhammadu Buhari and the former president, Goodluck Jonathan. Apart from what is known publicly about the meeting and the good and peaceful conduct during the election, what salient issues are in the peace deal? Does it for instance impose certain conditions on Mr. President? Also, does it include the general belief by many Nigerians that if President Buhari won the election, he would not probe Goodluck Jonathan as it is widely said that the latter conceded defeat on the understanding that he would not be probed?
Again, the tragedy is that Nigerians prefer to believe what they pick from the gutter, the things that make them salivate. Now, people are making up their stories about what both President Jonathan and General Buhari agreed upon. On that day, I read out the full text of the agreement. It was published widely in Nigerian newspapers. So, did you journalists not read it and did Nigerians not read it? Where are these mischief makers manufacturing their lies from? I don’t understand how those who already have an idea of what General Buhari stands for will turn around and impute the things they are imputing. The focus on the agreement was that they would do everything in their power to put Nigeria first and that they would accept the results of the elections. They both agreed but of course with the caveat that they are seen to be free, fair and credible. No one said anything about probe or any other thing that might follow. This is why it is astonishing but not surprising that some mischief makers will jump out and say that I am shielding President Jonathan from probe. I am disappointed but not sad. We can do better than this with some level of honesty.
Did Jonathan’s name feature in your discussion with the President when the Peace Committee visited him?
How can President Jonathan’s name feature in our discussion? First, the media reported a day before our meeting that President Jonathan and President Buhari had had a meeting two days earlier. Both men are former head of state and president. I imagine that President Buhari must be laughing at all this nonsense by those who are publicly wearing and displaying their ignorance as a garment of honour. A former president is a former president and we the ordinary people must be careful in poking our noses in their affairs.
*Interview conducted by Daily Trust