When I heard that Professor Jerry Gana, the unabashed defender and Chief Propagandist of the most horrible and extremely corrupt and brutal dictators that have ever misruled Nigeria, has also joined the race to become Nigeria’s president, I wondered what kind of country I have found myself in. First, it was the notorious ex-dictator, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Gana’s former boss, assaulting our sensibilities with the gory, oppressive information that he wants to capture power again, to resume his programme of total destruction of the country which he suspended in 1993 when he was forced by widespread resentment towards him to “step aside”; and now, it is Gana himself. Perhaps, if Gen. Sani Abacha was not foolish enough to die at the time he did, he too would be setting up his megaphones in all the market squares by now, and campaigning to recapture Aso Rock as Nigeria’s “democratically elected” president!
I mean, what do these people really take Nigeria and Nigerians for? A mass of helpless, hapless and passive animals and fools, caged in a very large jungle, for the perennial entertainment of the criminally smart, and the daring? Indeed, the decent sections of the world must be having bellyful laughter at our expense.
So, just because the Obasanjo administration has turned out an unmitigated disaster, every fellow with mouth to talk, excess money to squander, and a band brainless praise singers to unleash on us, can now aspire to become Nigeria’s president? Excuse me! Who said Obasanjo has become the benchmark, and that any person who feels he cannot match his sterling records in gross misrule and mismanagement has automatically qualified to rule Nigeria? How long will Nigerians sit back passively and watch a bunch of conscienceless fellows turn their country into another Troy or Dante’s Inferno?
No doubt, Gana is a brilliant man, and possesses exceptional oratorical skills, but these he has willingly and eagerly put to very wrong and destructive uses since he happened on the public space in 1985. What Nigeria needs now are leaders with conscience and compassion, leaders capable of being touched by the unspeakable sufferings and ungodly impoverishment Nigerians have been plunged into all these years, leaders who are God-fearing and altruistic, and have genuine intentions to deploy Nigeria’s abundant resources to improve the living condition of Nigerians. Unfortunately, even Gana himself knows full well that these are, sadly, qualities he grossly lacks.
Some years ago, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Alao Aka-Bashorun (late) said that even if a band of robbers manipulated the process and installed themselves in power in Nigeria, there are several “distinguished” Nigerians out there who would fall over each other to work for them, promote and defend them, with every fibre of their being. Unfortunately, the impression majority of Nigerians have about Prof Jerry Gana is that he has the talent and presence of mind to portray even the heinous and destructive actions of the devil himself as pleasant and wonderful, so long as that devil is his boss, and has made him his Information Minister. What this means, therefore, is that Gana is a raw, dry-as-dust professional, who does his job with mechanical accuracy, precision and soulless dedication, no matter who is ruined and pained in the process. Once, he sets his mind to market or defend any scheme by his boss, he suspends his conscience, suppresses his feelings, and does his job as merrily as he can. Ever wearing a boyish, but profoundly benevolent smile, Gana is so talented in the art of propaganda he could make a man see the path to the gallows as the marble-paved entrance to a rich, well-lit and well-provided dinning hall.
A man who can defend and market the ruinous programmes of his bosses with such fervour and unqualified enthusiasm is simply telling everyone who cares to listen that if eventually he becomes the boss tomorrow, he would religiously follow their ways, and do exactly what they had done, or even worse. In other words, if Gana becomes Nigeria’s president tomorrow, what this nation will get is Babangida, Abacha and Obasanjo rolled into one! If this does not make you recoil with dread, then, you are qualified to be Gana’s Campaign Manager, a position Matthew Hassan Kukah, Roman Catholic priest, writer, commentator on public issues and exuberant socialite, is already seriously warming up to fill.
Recently, after reading Mohammed Haruna’s piece entitled, “Father Kukah’s Misrepresentations” (parts1&2), I immediately went to look for Kukah’s essay, “Mohammed Haruna – Limits of Demagoguery” (Daily Trust, July 21, 2006), to see what Hukah had said to provoke such a reaction from his friend, Mohammed Haruna. As I already guessed, Kukah’s piece was a rejoinder to Mohammed’s earlier article entitled, “Why Jerry Gana Will Not Be President” (Daily Trust, July 12, 2006), which I had already read and concluded that it was a patriotic intervention to save the nation from strange characters like Gana who think that Nigeria was created merely for their perennial sport and manipulation.
I have read Mohammed’s piece again, and I still insist that if it was indeed inspired by the fact that Gana parades himself as a “Christian” and so is not qualified to seek to become Nigeria’s president (as Kukah would have us believe), my take is that there is nothing in the whole article (if we read the same essay) that remotely suggests that Mohammed Haruna had that as his motive. The obvious, trite truth the man was emphasizing was that Gana lacks credibility (which no sane person in Nigeria can contest) and therefore would not be able to convince anyone to vote for him. Well, if Mohammed is anti-Christian, he may have betrayed that in his other essays, which I may have missed, since I am not his regular reader, but in this particular essay on Gana, I would be most glad if anyone can show me any portion that remotely suggests that he is against Gana’s presidential ambition because Gana worships the “wrong God” (as Kukah put it).
In fairness to Kukah, I sincerely think that he has been waiting for an opportunity to get back at Mohammed (for some undisclosed reasons), but unfortunately, he chose a very wrong time, and a most inappropriate subject, to vent his anger. Indeed, if Kukah cared a hoot about Christianity, as he would have us believe, he would have allied with Mohammed, at least, in this instance, to denounce a discredited politician, who, after squandering his credibility by indulging in ignoble and unwholesome schemes has now turned around to use religion to blind the people’s eyes in order to ride on their famished backs to power. Although Gana is a featherweight and would still lose out in the presidential race, even if Mohammed did not write any essay about him, the mere fact that he even signified an intention at all represents a grave affront that must be denounced with the fiercest contempt. In fact, it shows his unsparing disdain for public opinion.
In his essay, Kukah asks: “Can he (Mohammed Haruna) produce any evidence to support what disqualifies Gana other than the claim that he worships the wrong God? What is it that we can find in Professor Gana’s records that disqualifies him from public office?” Incredible! I am very certain that Kukah asked these questions absentmindedly or in a fit of rage, or else, how can anyone who has lived in Nigeria since 1985 since Gana happened on the public space ask these very reputation-damaging questions? Please, somebody should walk across to Kukah’s parish in Kaduna and help us find out whether the Vicar General in a white, shining cassock there is still the same Kukah Nigerians used to know and admire!
Well, there is no doubt that something has really gone wrong, because, it is this same Kukah, who, in an interview with Weekly Trust (March 4, 2006) dismissed Obasanjo’s undisguised and undisguisable Self-Succession bid (a.k.a. Tenure Elongation Agenda) as a myth and creation of Nigeria’s barely literate and irresponsible media! Can you beat that? Even Gana who Kukah is defending, and who was one of those being accused at that time of helping to smuggle the illegal pro-Third Term “Draft Constitution” into the Constitutional Conference hall, has come out now to affirm that there was indeed such a plot, even though he is claiming that he had warned the president against it. Wonders! And Gana expects us to believe that, too?
Again, Kukah insists that since Obasanjo came into power in 1999, the quality of life for Nigerians has increased tremendously. He declared: “People keep saying to me (that) people are dying and things are getting worse. And I say it is not true … Things are getting better and it could get even better than they are…”
I wonder how many people in Kukah’s parish in Kaduna (assuming he still has time to interact with them) would share his views about Obasanjo’s “achievements”. Indeed, Kukah’s seniors in the Catholic Church must be thoroughly embarrassed by his totally misleading and highly provocative pronouncements and insensitive endorsement of a regime, which has practically left Nigeria to rot away, despite the unprecedented huge earnings that have accrued to the nation from crude oil sales.
Only mid-last year, I interviewed Anthony Cardinal Okogie, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, on behalf of the Chinua Achebe Foundation, and he lamented the unspeakable suffering in the land as a result of the failure of character and leadership on the part of the current administration. According to the cardinal, Nigeria had nothing to show for six years (as at 2005) of (so-called) democratic rule. A couple of months later, I was in Owerri to interview Archbishop AJV Obinna, too, and, without reading the Cardinal’s earlier interview with me (since it had not been published by then), he echoed the same sentiments. So, where then did Kukah get his information that Nigerians has never had it so good under Obasanjo? Has he read the credible studies that seventy percent of Nigerians live below poverty level (below 1$ a day), even in the midst of the boundless squandermania, profligacy and bazaar that thrive in the corridors of power?
Kukah’s unfortunate defence of Obasanjo’s abysmal misrule should provide a window for the examination of his strange, embarrassing support and defence for Gana. His eager, uncritical romance with politics, and friendship with political figures like Obasanjo and Gana, have done untold damage to the sterling ideals he so jealously espoused and guarded in the years of yore. Indeed, if Gana was a member of my Church, he would probably have since been advised to seek an alternative place of worship. Such a man only attracts disrepute to the Church, and should not in way be allowed to use Christianity this time to perpetrate any of his schemes. He is a bad advertisement to the Christian faith.
That is why Kukah’s intervention on his behalf must remain an embarrassment to all that truly love and sincerely practice the Christian faith. If Gana wants to run for the office of president, he should go out there and face Nigerians, and explain to them how he had used his “sweet tongue” and please-trust-me face to defend and polish the image of their unrepentant tormentors, and not attempt to attract a smear to “the most holy faith” with his unedifying preoccupations.
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