Bishop of Sokoto Diocese of the Catholic Church and the convener of the National Peace Commission, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, during an interview with ARISE News on Wednesday, addressed various pressing issues related to the National Peace Accord, electoral violence, and the challenges faced by the Tinubu administration.
Regarding the National Peace Accord and its fulfilment, Bishop Kukah emphasised the need for a realistic perspective: “I think there’s a total misconception on the work of the peace committee, and we continue to hear people say, ‘I’ve signed this agreement and nothing has happened. What is the peace committee doing about it?’
“I repeat what I’ve always said in response to all this: the promises that we all make are subject to all kinds of circumstances and conditions. Merely making the promises does not guarantee that life is going to be hunky-dory. But as the problems emerge, people have to find a way of resolving those problems while keeping their eye ahead of what stability ought to be.
“Similarly, when we call people to sign this accord, we also have a duty and responsibility to engage them. That means ordinary Nigerians should acquaint themselves with the contents of the peace accord that is being signed. We must continue to hold the feet of these people to the fire.”
Reflecting on the issue of electoral violence, Bishop Kukah referenced former British Prime Minister John Major’s speech, highlighting that challenges and contestation are inherent to democratic processes. He emphasised the importance of strengthening democratic institutions: “It is natural that we’ll have this contestation. The question is for us to grow the institutions around which democracy functions, to radically struggle to ensure that the hands of the judiciary are tied behind their backs and they have nothing to do with electoral outcomes. That means academics, intellectuals, and civil society groups must debate the issues with the National Assembly and hope that we can mend the laws because it is the nature and quality of the laws that is eliciting this kind of reaction. We are relatively new to this game, and we are not getting what we deserve, but we must keep our eyes on the ball and ensure that the next election is better than the next election. Having lived in this country, we know that there are many things that have happened that if they had happened 20 years ago, we would be under military rule. But the fact that even the soldiers themselves have decided that they will keep their hands behind their backs and that no editorials have been written calling for the military to take over suggests that Nigerians are committed to a democratic culture. It is long coming, but we must continue relentlessly because it’s the only guarantee against war.”
Regarding the Tinubu administration, Bishop Kukah expressed concerns about communication and policy decisions: “I think one of the biggest challenges this government has faced is the quality of its communication and the quality of the types of strategies it has adopted in trying to communicate with Nigerians. I think that people’s hearts might be in the right place, but the quality of decisions that have been made, whether it is fuel subsidy removal or certain policy decisions that have unleashed untold suffering on ordinary Nigerians, everybody can see it. But I think the government needs to have a conversation that suggests to Nigerians that look, we are on the road to Golgotha, but there is going to be redemption, and we need a sequencing of outcomes. That is okay if we do this; there will be suffering for this amount of time, and this is what we are supposed to see. I think that hasn’t come out and is largely responsible for the anxiety and the frustrations that ordinary Nigerians now face. I think it’s a little too early for us to say things are one way or the other, but given the volatility in the market and its impact on the lives of Nigerians, this government’s intentions need to be more properly calibrated and articulated; otherwise, people are going to get very despondent sooner than later despite the good intentions.”
Bishop Kukah’s statements highlight the complexities facing Nigeria, urging a balanced perspective, strengthening democratic institutions, and effective communication to address the challenges encountered on various fronts.