This title of today's discourse is somewhat misleading. My intention was to interrogate the reaction of Nigerians to the recent activities of the so-called National Peace Committee, hurriedly cobbled together by local and international stakeholders before the last general elections to ensure it did not also turn out to be the last to be organized in Nigeria as a corporate entity.
But the sudden appearance of Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah of the Sokoto Catholic Diocese on Channels Television last week in which he made some scathing remarks against the on-going probe of billions of Naira allegedly looted by the last administration changed all that. By choosing to go public with his personal views on the matter, the amiable Bishop effectively became the face and spokesman of the Committee.
While a great majority of the reactions on social media targeted the individual members of the Committee, such as its Chairman the retired General Abdulsallami Abubakar, it was the comments made by Bishop Kukah, on the same television programme, which suggested that the on-going loot recovery effort of the present administration was unnecessary and a major distraction to the real governance, which appears to have irked Nigerians beyond imagination.
Let me hasten to add that I first encountered Bishop Kukah on through this medium when he reacted positively to some of my writings. We followed that up with chance meetings at the airport, the last being in Owerri of all places. Being a frequent public commentator like myself, the Bishop must have been used to various kinds of reactions from the general public.
It is the normal thing. What he probably never expected was the nature and volume of the reactions that trailed his appearance on the popular television programme. For such a man of God, I am certain that the allegation of corruption levelled against him must have hurt the most. Many have suggested that his opposition to the ongoing recovery of looted funds can only be justified by someone who has been ''settled'' as it is often put in the Nigerian context.
By last Sunday, the anger against the Bishop had become so intense that it resulted in the circulation of an on-line petition to be forwarded to the Vatican! Like members of the PDP top hierarchy who still appear to be reeling from the pain of defeat, by their comments, Bishop Kukah appears to have also misjudged the current mood of Nigerians and the level of their support for President Buhari.
With President Jonathan ensconced in Aso Rock and in full possession of the powers of his incumbency, few people, outside the inner caucus of the APC, gave Buhari any chance of winning the election. In one particularly coy reaction to his BBC interviewer only days before the card reader, along with the Permanent Voters Card (PVC), unleashed the seemingly irreversible revolution in the Nigerian electoral process, Jonathan responded with an emphatic ‘yes’ to the question of whether he stood a chance to win the election.
For someone of his intellect and experience, what the appearance on Channels TV proved beyond doubt, is that the Bishop failed to grasp sufficient lessons from the virtual dethronement of the Pharaoh, which President Jonathan threatened to be in far too many instances of his regrettable Presidency.
The Bishop may not have intended it, but his suggestion that the mere fact that the Jonathan conceded defeat, even before the final results were announced, was sufficient for Buhari to foreclose any sort of inquest into the alleged unrestrained looting of the public treasury under his watch, made him out as someone who condoned corruption.
The animated manner he argued against the probe also the unfortunate impression that he was on the same page with the likes of Olisa Metuh and Ayo Fayose. While many have concede that Jonathan did the right thing by conceding defeat, they wholesomely rejected Kukah's view that the act alone was sufficient for a general amnesty for the former president's team irrespective of their crimes.
I also hold the view that we cannot canonize people who indulged in monumental corruption simply because it has become fashionable or politically correct to do so. The risk we run with that sort of mentality is that future leaders could also steal to their heart's content and still escape justice for the symbolic gesture of conceding defeat after losing their elections. The Bishop is not suggesting that that is right, surely.
I also disagree that the recovery of looted funds and the provision of good governance are mutually exclusive in the manner he suggested. While the appointment of Ministers is also important, with due respect, it must be added that they do not run the government. The bureaucrats do.
A great majority of the youths he thanked penultimate week played a crucial role in his election. A great majority of them are products of the internet age. They are educated but jobless. They are angry and desperate for change. The web has turned the world into a global village. It provides them with a mirror and perspectives of how great their nation could truly become with exemplary leadership. They are conscious of the enormous opportunities available to their peers in well-governed nations like Singapore and Malaysia; all countries dwarfed by Nigeria in the abundance of human and natural resources.
They are the same generation of Nigerians who enthusiastically embraced the card reader and the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) in the last elections in their overwhelming numbers. Except for the few nut cases like Nnamdi Kanu, and his Radio Biafra; buoyed by the power of social media, the recent election provided them with the opportunity to emphatically reject the politics of the past half century. It was the politics that was predicated on the primitive exploitation and use of primordial sentiments. Now, they are not prepared to settle for second best. They demand for change!
It is the future of the same youth, not that of a wasted generation to which the Bishop and myself belong, which I suspect is paramount in the calculations of the President Buhari. It may be too early to conclude, but the signs are bountiful that the old tactics of fear-mongering and hate campaigns employed in the past by far too many irresponsible politicians, ended with the comprehensive defeat of the PDP in the last elections. A great opportunity beckons for Nigeria to emerge from the shadows.
But for Nigeria to realise its full potentials in the shadow of the scorching African sun, something will have to give. For more than five decades the recourse to base sentiments had blurred the defining lines between good and evil in the choice of our leaders especially at the centre. Today, with the political will available in abundance, we have a remarkable opportunity to break with the rampant impunity of the past.
With no visible improvement to their socio-economic conditions in sixteen years of the PDP, our youth yearn for a quantum lift from the third, to the first world, in real-time, and with supersonic speed. But we also know that it is not possible for the government to achieve without sufficient funds?
When the APC promised to provide its version of social security for millions of our un-employed youth, barrel of crude oil sold for $166. Today it is less than $50 for the same quantity! President Buhari requires every kobo he can lay his hands on to make the difference.
Bishop Kukah may not entirely agree with me, but by unwittingly lending his unquestioned credibility to the ranks of those opposed to the recovery of public funds allegedly looted in the last administration, he also gave the impression that he also doggedly opposed to change. I do, however, agree with him on the need for due process in the recovery exercise.
I also that the President must talk less in his pursuit of the alleged thieves for the simple reason that if they cannot halt his efforts altogether, they have the capacity to make it more complicated with advance warning.