By Francis Damina
BIRTHED in June 1932, her death was not unexpected. Not unexpected because Mama Janet Hauwa Kukah, mother of Mattew Kukah, died at the age of 86. And as we may all be aware, old age is a disease that has no cure.
Unfortunately, despite Mama’s qualifications to seek for terrestrial relocation in the hereafter owing to her age, her demise can never be dissociated from the pains of memory. Of course, death remains the most dreaded event in human existence. According to Archbishop Peter Sarpong, no matter how we view death, it still remains a “social evil which disturbs or disrupts social equilibrium”.
Of it, Shakespeare said: “Woe, destruction, ruin and decay; The worst is death, and death will have his decay.” Yes, it disturbs and disrupts social equilibrium because of its undemocratic nature that doesn’t allow us with our PVCs to participate in electing the candidates qualified to die.
On the contrary, all men and women, irrespective of their status, are qualified at any time. But since our friend, Vincent Okay Nwachukwu, had warned that: “Tribute to the dead is meaningless. Corpses are 3D— dead, deaf and dumb”, and that: “Only the living can appreciate their tributes”, mine here is to simply rattle through by reflecting on the mediatrix role that Mama, even in death, shall be playing for us as all roads lead to Anchuna-Ikulu today, Friday.
Therefore, my tribute will be more on those to send her forth than on her who is the reason for their gathering.
No doubt, Mama’s funeral will be graced by the creme de la creme of our society in appreciation for the enormous nation-building contributions and sacrifices of her son— the nerve-stretching intellectual, Priest and ‘conscience of the Nigerian nation’ — Matthew Hassan Kukah.
At least, President Muhammadu Buhari had himself commiserated with the Bishop “on the passing of his mother Janet Hauwa Kukah”. I equally have no doubt that, apart from those who contacted me to confirm her demise, the President of Ghana may have condoled with the Bishop. Also, former Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar, former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ernest Shonekan, the Sultan of Sokoto, governors Simon Lalong, Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai and Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, ministers, captains of industries, members of the civil society and the international community, the theocratic class, business moguls, among many sympathisers.
While we should not miss out the point that Mama, a miniature Mary of sort, was truly blessed to have had a son designated as ‘the conscience of the nation’, we must be grateful to her for cooperating with the plans of God in the production of the son that has for many years now been the middle man between the many oppressed and their few oppressors.
Otherwise, what if she had opted for abortion? Yes, if she had opted for abortion. Who would have replaced him and his sterling contributions at the Catholic Secretariat, Oputa Panel, Electoral Reform Committee, National Political Reform Conference, Ogoni Reconciliation, World Globalisation Commission, Oxford University, Nasarawa State University, St. Andrew’s Parish Kakuri, Sokoto Diocese; The Kukah Centre and the now Sherah Hassan University, Kachia by one of our illustrious sons? Who would have again spoken for the Katafs in 1992, and whistled in the dark in those treacherous dark days of General Sani Abacha?
Clearly, she will forever remain an examplar on the sanctity and potentials of every human life irrespective of his or her background. As we gather to commit Mama to mother Earth amidst the expected crowd of policymakers today, many will be surprised – and even embarrassed, that a man who has for many decades been advocating for the common good of society at the risk of his life, has no good road to his village, no water, no electricity, no police station, no bank, no market and other social services.
And this is where the Bishop has been exceptional – advocating for others what his own native Ikulu land is also lacking. But he is right not to diminish himself by speaking for his own tribe knowing that his status demands that he should rather speak for humanity. Yet, all beneficiaries of his sacrifices and goodwill, government and the private sector not exempted, should have made a move in providing some social services for the Bishop’s kinsmen.
Of course, I remember him saying that the only federal presence in his native Ikulu land was when an ambulance from the National Hospital with a Federal Government plate number, conveyed the remain of a native who had worked in the security department of the hospital.
You may have recalled me saying in one of my discourses: “It was this background of inequality, injustice, slavery and apartheid that baked Bishop Kukah thereby making him the rights activist that he is.” Therefore, “… anybody who thinks the Bishop has, by engaging society, strayed from his calling, or as they say, become a politician, and recently, unnecessarily inflammatory, should blame the feudalist for creating the traffic signs that defined his direction later in life.’ But feudalism by the Hausa Fulani cannot be solely responsible for where minor- minority tribes such as Bishop Kukah’s Bakulu have found themselves.
Only recently, in a piece entitled ‘Zango Kataf and the Invisible Minorities’, I surmised that Bishop Kukah probably did not take note of the predicament of the invisible minorities when in his homily at the funeral of Governor Patrick Yakowa, elements of which can be seen blurred in Bishop Bagobiri’s, accused the Hausa Fulani elite of political exclusion.
He said: “From the creation of Kaduna State in 1967, the Northern ruling class, by policy, seemed to have erected an invisible sign that read: ‘No Christians Need Apply’, to enter what would later be called Kashim Ibrahim House or represent the state at the highest levels.” Methinks, I summed up, “that the Bishop should have known that, in a similar case right within his domain, since the creation of Zango Kataf Local Government, no Ikulu man has ever been elected as chairman.”
Little wonder, politically, apart from being only a ward in spite of our large numbers, Bakulu, along with the Anghan people, are regularly being shortchanged right from the local government level.
I can’t equally forget attracting attention to the very incubator that hatched the Bishop as a priest in 1976, namely the Holy Family Parish Gidan Bako. In a tribute to the Bishop on the occasion of his 40th anniversary, I finalised: “…I wish to draw the attention of His Lordship to a near-mortal sin his admirers may have committed – the sin of omission”.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, he got ordained at Holy Family Parish, Gidan Bako, in December 1976. As the first priest hatched by the parish, the Bishop’s admirers have shown little or no sensitivity to making this historic parish worth its name. As we celebrate his anniversary, the roof of the parish church is leaking while the presbytery is still that ‘colonial’ apartment with only a room to accommodate the then Father Glackin.
And this is a parish that will soon be celebrating its golden jubilee with a record of having hatched the most productive priests in northern Nigeria such as the Bishop himself, Rev. Fr. (Prof.) Joseph Mamman of ABU Zaria, Very Rev. Fr. Andrew Dodo, Fr. Dr Philip Gaiya, Wing Commander (Fr.) Philip Kwasau, Lt. Col. (Fr.) Anthony Maimagani, and Very Rev. Moses Madaki among many others.
I think it is not good that their friends and admirers have not turned to look back at the finger that fed these priests— a finger now threatened by leprosy. And I daresay, it is better late than never. Thank God that the funeral of Maman Fr. will now serve preface to the Golden Jubilee celebration of the parish billed for this November.
Still, these friends and admirers, most of whom are policymakers, may be inspired, on the occasion of Maman Fada’s funeral, to either commit or recommit themselves, by thinking beyond the horizons of religion and ethnicity, of strategies and ways of ending the killings in Southern Kaduna that have now become a daily ritual.
Yes, Mama’s death and funeral, will resonate in her a mediatrix role in interceding for the part of the earth and the sanctuary that produced ‘the conscience of the Nigerian Nation’ – Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah. May the angels of God receive her soul and present it to God Almighty. May she rest in peace.
Damina wrote from Holy Family Parish, Gidan Bako, Kaduna State