The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and Bishop Matthew Kukah.
The Northern Elders Forum has said contrary to the Presidency’s assertion, the delayed delivery of military equipment from the United States to Nigeria was not caused by the Archbishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah.
The elders said rather than blame a clergyman for military setbacks, the Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)’s regime should upgrade the military’s operations to a standard that satisfies globally accepted norms.
The Director of Publicity and Advocacy of the Northern Elders Forum, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said this on Monday, reiterating the Forum’s call for Buhari’s resignation.
Responding to a statement on Sunday in which the Presidency blamed Kukah for selling a false image about the country’s interreligious relations leading to a delayed supply of fighter jets, Baba-Ahmed said the regime must learn to handle criticism.
In Sunday’s statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the Presidency noted “The US administration of the time concurred: the delivery of such jets would help deliver a critical turning point in Nigeria’s struggle against jihadist terrorists across the Sahel.
“Yet two years later, that jet delivery was rescinded, the reasons are given that unless Nigeria improved its religious relations between Christianity and Islam then US support would not be forthcoming in this, and many other areas.
“Such views were compounded by the constant lobbying of US Congress by the opponents of the Nigerian government who had lost the previous election, and many of their southern religious supporters – including Bishop Mathew Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Diocese of Sokoto, who, unsurprising, provides a supportive quote for the dustcover of the new edition of Campbell’s book. (Kukah even took to addressing the US Congress himself, briefing his audience on the history of coups in Nigeria – without, of course, mentioning that none had occurred since 1993, some 29 years ago).”
But speaking on Monday, the NEF’s spokesperson said Kukah’s arguments on the government’s failure to tackle insecurity are right.
He argued that the delayed procurement of weapons was due to the conduct of the armed forces and related agencies on human rights issues.
Baba-Ahmed said, “You know, the presidency spokespersons have a way of deflecting criticism by making it personal. When you say that there is a shortfall in the quality of government, they find something to stick you with.
“People like Bishop Kukah and I, are used to this. We don’t take it seriously. This organisation should be criticised and must be criticised, and those who are ready to do so should be willing to take some of the words that Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina recycle every once in a while when we point out certain facts about the failings of President in terms of securing the country.
“But the truth is, maybe they know this, maybe they don’t know, Nigerian Government has problems procuring weaponry from Western countries, because these countries, in most cases, have standards regarding conduct by their armed forces and related agencies, in terms of dealing on human rights issues, dealing with prisoners of war, dealing with populations caught up in conflicts.
“Everybody knows this. They will not sell you one bullet unless they are satisfied that you’ve met certain criteria. And they have raised issues over and over again. The Nigerian government knows this. But they need to improve the conduct of the Nigerian military, in the fight against the insurgency, against terrorists.”
Harping on an earlier call by the forum for Buhari to resign over the spate of insecurity in the country, he said, “We must not go to the 2023 elections with the current state of insecurity.