Kukah Bombs Buhari

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Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, has told President Muhammadu Buhari to stop blaming the immediate past administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for the present economic woes being faced by Nigeria. Pointedly, Kukah told Buhari to take the bull by the horn and rebuild the nation’s economy, which he said is comatose, instead of passing the buck.

Buhari has repeatedly blamed Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for misrule in the past 16 years resulting in the economic crisis that the country is facing. Just on Monday, Buhari stated that his government inherited “no savings, no infrastructure, no power, no rail, no road and no security” from 16 years of the PDP government.

Apart from Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, hordes of ministers and leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have blamed the present economic recession on the PDP administration, saying the past government squandered the resources of the country when in power.

But Kukah, on Tuesday night in Akure, the Ondo State capital, during the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), told the APC-led Federal Government to stop the blame game and concentrate on rebuilding the economy.

The secretary of the 2005 National Political Reform Conference asked the Federal Government not to focus only on the fight against corruption, but put in place policies that would check corrupt practices and improve the standard of living of average Nigerian.

The fiery cleric regretted the blame game over the state of the economy and the dwindling living standard of the average Nigerian since Buhari came into office on May 29, 2015. According to him, government should continue with the good things done by the Jonathan’s administration while the bad polices of the administration should be jettisoned.

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He said those who committed crime against Nigeria state should be made to face the wrath of the law. Kukah said: “The previous government didn’t only do bad things; it did a lot of good things. And I think the business of government is not our business; our business is: if the previous government did badly, that is why we voted a new government.

“We didn’t vote a government to complain about yesterday. If we wanted yesterday, the new government would not be there. It is really about taking responsibility. No matter how much you praise or abuse Jonathan, he is not the president of Nigeria. “I think that people must understand, you take power to solve problems, not to agonise.

As the head of a family, no matter how bad things are: no food in the house; you as a father can’t enter the house crying. It is the question of developing the mechanism that can solve the problem. “Even my best friends in APC now realise that nobody can sing the song about Jonathan being responsible for the problems we are in.

We are not asking you to change the whole world, but Jonathan created problems: we are now riding a train between Abuja and Kaduna. The train wasn’t there before. Things that Jonathan did that can help Nigeria, let’s continue with them. The bad things that Jonathan did and those who deserve to go to prison should go to prison.

But sending people to prison will only be useful if it puts bread on the table of people.” While faulting the manner the war against corruption is being fought by the Buhari administration, Kukah said clamping people into prison should not be the ultimate, but proffering solutions to what make people corrupt.

His words: “I have always said, you can’t cure malaria by just providing tablets; you might provide tablets to cure malaria, but you have to look at the cause of malaria. As long as dirty waters and mosquitoes are around, there will still be the disease.

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My argument has always been that we are really fighting corruption; we started off with the assumption that corruption is all about people stealing money. “But stealing money is actually the other end of corruption.

The reason we don’t seem to make much progress is based on the kind of diagnosis; how we diagnose the problem.I still believe that unless we get to the root cause of poverty, inequality, which is really the evidence and symptom of corruption; you can talk of fighting corruption all the rest of your life and very little is going to happen.”

Kukah advised the government to communicate more with the people and proffer practical solutions to the problems. Although he said things are extremely difficult for Nigerians, but said the situation can bring out the best in the people.

According to him, “These are trying times and they can actually help to bring out the best in us. And I think that really, it bears no repeating that I think the challenge government is facing is this: just to be able to explain to people that this suffering has something redemptive about it because if you know that at the end of this suffering something good is going to happen, people will be ready to live with the consequences.

“So far, I don’t think government is communicating effectively with ordinary Nigerians and to know where we are and the state of things. So, this is why you increasingly have a situation which people are not willing to make sacrifices because they still believe that their obligation is to protect themselves. I think unless government openly explains and engage people very constructively, what you are going to face is a situation which ordinary citizens are finding the best ways to protect and defend themselves.”

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Despite the harsh economic situation, Kukah said Nigerians are still the highest consumer of champagne aside from France, saying some people still buy a bottle of champagne for N1.5 million. He counselled the government to take practical steps in addressing the challenges confronting the country.

The cleric said: “All government needs to do is to think out, a bit more clearly, how it can engage ordinary Nigerians. It is not enough to tell people to get back to the farms; the issues are much more than that. It is not enough to say you have big plans for agriculture; it is developing very clear, short, medium and long term solutions to the present situation.

“People are suffering from combination of both physical and psychological insecurities, and also, the very real threat that is poised by all kinds of agencies: the herdsmen, armed robbers, kidnappers and many more.

In an environment like this, if somebody does not take control, I think that is the responsibility of the Nigerian state. We are sliding into a situation that could end up creating far more problems for us. And this is really the time we all need to come together.”

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