By Miftaudeen Raji
The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan-Kukah, said no Nigerian president or head of state was ever prepared for the job of supporting the country in Nigeria’s 62-year history of democratic rule and military rule.
Kukah made this claim in an interview on Channels Television’s Roadmap 2023 over the weekend.
He said, “You can go all the way to Nigeria, you’re not going to find a single person who has been president or head of state in Nigeria who has come prepared for the job.”
According to Kukah, since it gained independence on October 1, 1960, Nigeria has had 16 leaders: eight civilian presidents/prime ministers and eight military heads of state.
Kukah compared the relationship between Nigeria and its political leaders to a bad marriage.
He said: “I always tell people as a priest that the solution to a bad marriage is not a new marriage. It is often an attempt to see what went wrong. And if you jump into a new marriage very quickly, after a while, you become nostalgic for the first marriage.
“Metaphorically, the same can be said of Nigeria. A lot of these changes we’ve seen in Nigeria are largely unscheduled.”
Kukah noted that, from the 1960s, going through the entire history of leadership, from the prime minister or president to the beneficiaries of military coups, there has been no “linearity.”
“There hasn’t been anything linear,” he explained. “In the sense that the military coups themselves that stretch over a 20-year period were just banditry and armed robbery glorified because you draw your gun and you become head of state,” he said.
Speaking about Nigeria’s recent political history, Kukah worries that the country has yet to produce a chief executive who is fit for the job.
He said, “If I take you back, now we have President Buhari. President Buhari had already said in 2011: ‘I don’t want to be president again, I’m tired.’ They literally ran him out screaming to be president in 2015.
“He took care of Jonathan. Jonathan himself, you know the circumstances that brought him to power. Yar’Adua before him; Yar’Adua was already saying, ‘I’m done, I want to go back to teaching at the university.'”
The cleric said the parallel of unpreparedness was evident in Yar’Adua’s predecessor, former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
“Obasanjo was in prison hoping that one day he would get out of prison and if he was strong enough, he would go back to his farm. You can go on and on.
“Abdulsalami was about to retire from the army when Abacha died and he became head of state. If we’re going to go back to the crime scene, that’s where you have to go back.”
On Nigeria’s inability to meet the challenges of meeting basic needs, Kukah stated that there is a need for leadership as a result of people taking the time to understand Nigeria’s problems and plan accordingly.
“Nigeria’s future depends on its leaders finding out why we don’t have electricity and why we don’t have roads, why we are so chaotic, that is, out of the shadows of government and politics. I’m just wondering if it’s by way of retirement.
Kukah noted that a government will achieve results by holding seminars and conferences that produce an aggregate of responses and possible suggestions along with a database of potential appointees with the required capacity.
Remember that civilian leaders include the late Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1960-1966) and Presidents Nnamdi Azikiwe (1963-1966), Shehu Shagari (1979-1983), Ernest Shonekan (August-November 1993), Olusegun Obasanjo ( 1999-2007), Umaru Yar’Adua (2007-2010), Goodluck Jonathan (2010-2015) and Muhammadu Buhari (2015-date).
Previous military heads of state include Major General Aguiyi Ironsi (January-July 1966), General Yakubu Gowon (1966-1975), General Murtala Muhammed (1975-1976), and General Olusegun Obasanjo (1976-1979). .
Others are Major General Muhammadu Buhari (1983-1985), General Ibrahim Babangida (1985-1993), General Sani Abacha (1993-1998) and General Abdulsalami Abubakar (1998-1999).