Father Kukah: Marginalisation of Buhari’s key supporters has made him vulnerable

Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah, speaks about his developments in the polity, President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointments and more with Punch's Tobi Aworinde.

Do you agree with Buhari that Jonathan’s government is to be blamed for the country’s current economic woes?This is a redundant proposition. Nigerians voted out Jonathan to end the economic woes of yesterday. The present is in your hands to assess. In my first interview in the life of this administration, I warned the President that the honeymoon would not last and that he better get on with the job of governance. Today, you make an honest assessment yourself. Is the economy better now or not?

What are your thoughts on Buhari’s fight against corruption so far?
What do you want me to say? Make an empirical assessment yourself. Again, when I warned of the challenges of fighting corruption in a democracy, the problems of processes and the capacity of the corrupt to stall and frustrate the system legally, some said I did not want to support the fight. Isn’t the same government now saying that Mrs. Diezani’s case has been stalled due to lack of resources? Have you heard her name mentioned again? Have we recovered the $6bn they said she stole? Strategy, not raw power, leads to victory.

How you think the internal crisis rocking the APC will affect the 2019 polls?
Talk of the moment, not 2019. To see a party, which came to power with so much goodwill, now frittering it all away is a measure of how Nigerian politicians understand the dignity, sacrifice and discipline that characterise party politics as a means of building a nation. The lack of honesty and discipline in sharing the spoils of victory has exposed the party’s moral underbelly. Now, the APC has been suffering from the side effects of very limited effective blood circulation in its body system. It now has to figure out how it can survive a heart attack.

I hear the rumblings and calls for a new party. This will be cowardly and will only further divide our people and deepen our frustrations. I often counsel my parishioners that the solution to a troubled marriage is not a new marriage but self-examination.

My grandmother used to say that whatever made ‘mama vulture’ bald will also make ‘baby vulture’ bald. We need a serious moral overhaul and a system that can make politics honourable, not the same carpetbaggers jumping ship. If parties become mere conveyor belts for the ambitions of a greedy and sybaritic elite, then we are in serious trouble.

Perhaps the APC should have spent more time cleansing itself internally, taking stock of the environment and strengthening its moral fibre, rather than all the energy it spent composing elegies of banditry and despoliation of the PDP. Soul searching and self-cleansing could have gone pari passu with a concerted but silent plan to rid the nation of the unacceptable excesses that characterised the past. The party would have developed a clear vision of a new dawn and provided a platform for rallying all the young men and women who voted it to power.

Punishing the irresponsibility of yesterday was important but it should not have become the main preoccupation of government, especially when it had not settled down. Now, the falcon has become the falconer. It may not be too late, but the President needs to quickly rethink a new strategy, reverse his hegemonic tendencies and seek dialogue and consensus within the APC family. It can be done because God will not abandon us. The APC parades some of the most brilliant and patriotic members of the political class. They should dig dip into their arsenal of sagacity. These young turks should seek to claim back the soul of the party rather than trying to jump ship.