By Matthew Hassan Kukah
HIS Lordship Bishop Joseph Danlami Bagobiri, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan was buried on Thursday, 15th March, 2018. He was one of the best of Nigerian I met at the 2014 National Conference and I still remember our “Last Supper” at the Abuja home of Dr. Peter Odili.The homily below by Most Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese at his funeral mass is most befitting. Goodnite sir! Here’s the concluding part of Re. Kukah’s ministration on the occasion.
My point is that these circumstances of perceived and clear exclusion raised the volume of Bishop Bagobiri’s voice. This should not be seen as a sign of weakness. Rather, it comes with the calling. Moral revulsion leads a leader to rebellion. All you need to do is look at the prophets of old right up to John the Baptist. It was moral revulsion that led Jesus to whip the traders in the temple. It was what led Prophet Mohammed and Dan Fodio to revolt. History has not changed and nearer home we have evidence. It is the politicians who panic in the face of the uncomfortable message of a prophet. That is why John the Baptist had to die.
Politicians are often fond of praising Church leaders especially when they are in opposition, in exile or are victims of state repression. Church leaders are praised for being voices of the voiceless, standing for justice, courageous etc. When things change and the opposition politician of yesterday gets to power, they expect you in their pocket. You raise the same issues and they accuse you of supporting the opposition, hating our government, standing in our way, being a danger to the nation etc. People like us know this only too well. I recalled one incident when I criticised Obasanjo in a lecture and two weeks later, I was in the Villa for a meeting. One of the Ministers saw me and said to me: You have access to Baba, so why do you have to criticise him in public? I looked at him and said: I had access to Abacha but we still had to fight for his freedom.
The late Cardinal Archbishop of Recife, Helder Camara said it all: When I feed the poor, the politicians say I am doing God’s work. When I ask why the people are poor, the politicians say I am a Communist. It was the excesses of the government against the poor that drove Oscar Romero from being a rather Conservative Bishop to a radical. It is the corrosive impact of Communism and its dehumanising influence that drove Pope John Paul to take up the cause of overthrowing Communism as the Pope. The excesses of the Marcos regime against the people of the Philippines led Cardinal Sin to take to the streets of Manila rather than remain in comfort of his Cathedral.
The degrading influence of Racism on black people was what led the Rev. Martin Luther King to the streets of Alabama, New York, Washington and the entire country. In his famous, I have a Dream Speech, he said that America had failed to deliver to the black people the promises contained in their own Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. He said injustice was synonymous with a bounced cheque and concluded that African Americans would never accept the idea that the bank of opportunity had insufficient funds!
What took Archbishop Tutu to the streets of South Africa and around the world? Was it not the ravages of apartheid clearly shown in the killings and destructions in Guguletu, Soweto and other South African cities? Why did Nigerians clap each time the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Communiques were read in the Churches during the Abacha era? Clearly, any religious leader that stands aside in the face of tyranny, oppression, and injustice is traitor.
For the better part of the last three years, Southern Kaduna was at best an inferno of pain, suffering and death. Death and destruction by mysterious killers became the daily menu of Southern Kaduna. In village after village, innocent men, women, children, the lame and the invalids were put to the sword. Farm after farm was destroyed with a vengeance that was unprecedented and with no clear provocations. Community life of harmony collapsed with accusations and counter accusations. Entire villages became ruins over night and the landscape of graves dotted everywhere.
Amidst this, life was gradually becoming nasty, brutish and short.
These are the circumstances that provoked a change of tone in Bishop Bagobiri. With Southern Kaduna having become one huge Bantustan of government neglect, with no media signals from the Centre, how was the world to know what was happening to his people?
In his television programme on Channels Television during the crisis, the Governor of Kaduna State levelled two accusations against religious leaders whom he accused of selling a narrative of what he called, a policy of exclusion. According to him, in his own words, these religious leaders wanted only people of a particular indigenous or religious group to live in parts of Southern Kaduna. Secondly, he said that some Church leaders had collected money from missionaries abroad to bury their dead and to rebuild thousands of Churches that had been destroyed.
I am not sure which religious leaders he was speaking of, but at least the two most prominent religious leaders in Southern Kaduna would be Bishop Bagobiri and the Emir of Jema’a. It is interesting that when the interviewer pressed the Governor for evidence on the grave and damaging allegations he had made against these leaders, he seemed rattled and simply said the security agencies were gathering the information and that people will soon be prosecuted. Elections are coming and still we have not commenced prosecution.
By his own admission, the Governor says that a thousand churches had been destroyed in Southern Kaduna and that people had lost their lives. His one grouse was that these leaders were collecting money from good wishers abroad to bury their people. This was a clear case of self-indictment by the Governor. First, did he expect that the people of Southern Kaduna would wait for him to come and supervise the mass burials of their people after burying the Shiites in mass graves? By casting aspersion on missionary assistance, the Governor betrays a troubling ignorance of the causes of the crises we have faced.
The work of missionaries may be a problem for him today, but for the people of Southern Kaduna, the message of Christ is steeped in their blood. Without the missionaries, they would be no better than slaves, mere beasts of burden. Without the missionaries, the history of northern Nigeria would be pathetic and the region would still be in the dark ages. We in Southern Kaduna are proud of our Christian heritage. We will live by it, die for it if need be, but we are going nowhere. We are free citizens and not in bondage to anyone or institution.
We are proud of the freedom they gave us. They gave us a message of liberation, voice and the promise of a new life. The people of Southern Kaduna have embraced this gospel with its promise of a full life. There is neither retreat nor surrender because this is the faith of our fathers. It has given us the tools, the courage and the confidence we require to take our rightful place in our society.
Apart from the Barewa College, which other prominent institution in Kaduna state does not owe its origin to the missionaries? All the so-called Government schools in Kaduna State are products of the criminal and unjust take over of missionary schools by government. Sample the list of these schools: St. John’s College Kaduna, St. Paul’s, Wusasa, St. Enda’s Teachers’ College, Zaria, Mary’s College Fadan Kaje, St. Louis, Zonkwa, Sacred Heart Women Teachers’ College,
Kaduna, St. Anne’s Primary School, Queen of Apostles College, Kaduna, College of Mary Immaculate, Kafanchan, the ECWA Girls School in Kwoi, among many others. That you have repainted a stolen car does not make it your own.
The people of Southern Kaduna have suffered the injustice of deliberate exclusion from all the rungs of local and national politics. They have got to where they are now by the sweat of their brow. We do not ask for pity or sympathy from anyone. We have come so far, not through the state but in spite of the state in northern Nigeria. That is why, as you leave this stadium, whether you are going to Abuja, Jos, or Kaduna, please look left and right and note if you will see one single federal or major State government structure on the high way. All the structures you see as you drive along are the result of the sweat from the brow of our people. The federal and state governments are absent.
Bishop Bagobiri was in the middle of all this. He was a great pastor, a builder of human capital. He took over a very rural Diocese with 19 Parishes drawn from Jos and Kaduna Archdioceses. Today, he has 53 Parishes and about 120 Priests. Today, he has some of the best-trained priests in Nigeria and abroad. It is time for them to step up to make the required sacrifice to sustain his legacy. He made his contribution in the development of Southern Kaduna by trying to close the gap left by the neglect of the state and federal governments. He founded a Female Religious Congregation, a Monastery and a Tertiary institution, the St. Albert Institute.
He deserves our appreciation and commendation. In real life, he had difficulties with many people including his colleagues. He was a man of strong convictions and very often, his convictions tended to blind him to other opinions, but he was deep down an honest man. But, at heart, he was perhaps a victim of his own convictions and honesty. Thankfully, he had the chance to make peace with most of the constituencies he felt he had wronged. We sat beside one another when he suddenly turned up at the last Bishops’ Conference.
We thank God that it all ended so well for him.
…When TY spoke truth to unconscionable power
I SPOKE to a respected retired officer from the north last week after the return of the Dapchi girls and his last words to me were that if what is going on now goes beyond 2019,Nigeria would have arrived at Kigali.
Three days after we spoke, the reticent Gen. T Y Danjuma mounted the podium in Taraba to speak truth to unconscionable power. He talked about ethnic cleansing agenda going on in the country and the complicity of personnel of the Armed Forces. Before him the DG SSS unwittingly let out a secret at the Senate Security Summit that most of the sophisticated weapons being used by Fulani herdsmen are from the armories of the security forces.
When an establishment person like TY says if people expect our security forces to defend them then death is their portion one after the order, there is clear and present danger in the land.
The General asked Nigerians to defend themselves in the face of clear refusal of the State to fulfill its mandate of protecting citizens.
God,divert Nigeria from this dangerous careering to Kigali!