Sokoto in Nigeria is a city, a provincial capital or the capital of an empire that once existed, depending on which one each reader takes. This Sokoto does not have the affluence of Kano or the political presence that Kaduna boasts of, Kano and Kaduna being the other cities of status in northern Nigeria. But it has the mystique that the other two do not have. In Nigerian politics, Sokoto is about power. Even the Catholic Church has been beaten by the Sokoto bug. For, it is from Sokoto Nigerians get what can be taken as the Catholic narrative of Nigeria in time and space every Christmas or major Christian festival in the messages sent by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Mathew Hassan Kukah. Kukah’s is not institutional or structural or coercive power. So, his messages ruffle no hierarchy. His is rather the power of voice. Intervention found several paragraphs from the 2022 Christmas message, for instance, to be of argumentative, logical or conceptual significance and abstracted them from the over 2000-word message. The full text is already a stuff for those who follow this link https://www.facebook.com/100001288666013/posts/pfbid0266vPmGWrjeQzi54YETu3WorGMUrTW86KukKKxwKcei52PDqGdU4zZB9iJBNax3QNl/?mibextid=Nif5oz
…. In Nigeria today we bear scars, we bear trauma, we bear deep sorrow today. Our children are still in the forests, in the hands of evil men. But most of them have no names. They are only numbers. Still, let us not give up. Let us not be afraid. Let us, like our mother, meditate over all these things and await the Lord’s doing. Be vigilant. This is the last Christmas for this present government’s administration. Let us all do our duty as we have a chance to choose new leaders. Do not be cynical. God is not done with us. Choose leaders who, in your view will love us, will care for us, will cry with us, will laugh with us. Look ahead and do not look back.
.… We need to stand up and stand firm. We need new mechanisms for saying no to the violence of governance.
.… To President Muhammadu Buhari, President and Commander in Chief.
Mr. President Sir, a merry Christmas to you and your entire family. I speak for myself and Nigerians when I say, we thank God that He mercifully restored you to good health. We know that you are healthier now than you were before. We can see it in the spring in your steps, the thousands of miles you have continued to cover as you travel abroad. May God give you more years of good health. However, I also wish that millions of our citizens had a chance to enjoy just a fraction of your own health by a measurable improvement in the quality of health care in our country. It is sad that despite your lofty promises, you are leaving us far more vulnerable than when you came, that the corruption we thought would be fought has become a leviathan and sadly, a consequence of a government marked by nepotism. In my Christmas Message last year, I pointed out the fact that you had breached the Constitution by your failure to honour and adhere to the federal character provisions of our Constitution. The evidence is all before us all.
I want to commend you however, for the efforts you have made in the area of infrastructure. There has been a measurable improvement in the landscape especially in the area of roads. I commend you for the efforts and honesty of seeking to end malfeasance in the electoral processes and your courageous support for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Am I to believe that you knew and could do nothing about the Muslim-Muslim ticket within your Party? Still, we pray for a free, fair and credible election. Since this is your last dance, I do wish you a merry Christmas. Next year, as your Bishop, I will endeavour to visit you in Daura to catch up on outstanding Tithes and other duties you owe your Diocese.
.… To all the Members of the political class, a happy Christmas. You are seeking power at a time that the nation is in severe distress. You must demonstrate that you grasp the length and breathe of the problems that our country faces. We have heard your promises, but we do know that promises before elections are sweet, but actions after elections are often bitter. I plead with you to co-operate and collaborate with institutions which are tasked with the responsibilities for these elections, INEC, the Security agencies, the National Peace Committee, civil society organisations and the entire people of Nigeria. We are already overwhelmed by violence and our future hangs in a balance. Do not further fan the embers of hatred and divisions. Seek to create a vision that can unite our country. Learn the mistakes of the past especially in the areas of managing our diversity and designing and effective mechanism for power sharing. Nepotism is a cancer which has consumed us in the last few years. We have paid the price of nepotism entrusting power into the hands of mediocres who operate as a cult and see power purely as an extension of the family heirloom.
…. Finally, to us religious leaders in Nigeria. In the last few years, we have seen a lot of effort in the area of interreligious dialogue. However, for dialogue to be meaningful, we need some firm and honest commitment. We need to see visible fruits of respect and we must also try to show this in practical terms. Amidst the growing concerns about the relationship between Christians and Muslims, the situation in Nigeria remains tied to political manipulation of the levers of power and favours by the political elite. We leaders need to demonstrate our honesty openly to our people by finding common lines of joint action among ourselves. Common projects such as exchange visits to our places of worship can inspire confidence.
…. Over the years, Pope Francis has built on the tremendous work undertaken by his predecessors to increase the tempo of dialogue with Islam in concrete terms. For example, the Pope Francis has travelled to Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Morocco and Palestine. He has carried with him the message of peace, love, security, urgency of dialogue between the Abrahamic faiths. In his visits, we have seen the fruits of sincere dialogue and leadership. These visits are deepening trust and pushing back the extremists in our midst. Let us take a few examples.
Today, Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has made unprecedented progress in creating religious harmony with Christians. In 2019, he built a massive Cathedral in Cairo known as the Cathedral of the Nativity for the Christian community. He has attended Masses with Pope Tawadros in Cairo. He has opened up Parliament to Christians and Women. On December 9, last year, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia was opened in the United Arab Emirate. This has opened the way for the friendship and collaboration between Pope Francis and the Grand Mufti of Al Azhar University, Shaikh Ahmed Al Tayeb. As a result of their work on human fraternity, the United Nations has now declared February 4, the World Friendship Day.
…. In 2005, I was part of a Vatican delegation to Qatar when that country opened up relations with the Vatican. We were presented with a plan for the building of a Catholic Church by the government. Genuine progress among religions is determined by the honesty of the religious and political leaders. When a religious or political leader openly stands with the Other in moment of violence or open discrimination, he sends out a signal of solidarity. Our festivals offer us opportunities to go beyond the perfunctory greetings to open personal visitations and worshipping together. But, when a leader prevaricates in the area of solidarity for fear of his people, he appeases and feeds the extremists and fanatics.