Matthew Kukah has decried “cries of shrill Islamization across the land,” enabled by government corruption, according to a Jan. 8 report from the Catholic News Service of Nigeria.
“These cries arise when those in power use religious affiliation and blatant nepotism as means of access to power,” the Bishop of Sokoto continued in a Dec. 8 homily for the ordination of three priests on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at Sokoto’s Holy Family Cathedral.
The remarks likely alluded the Boko Haram, a militant Islamic group in Nigeria responsible for the deaths of an estimated 53,870 people since May 2011, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
“The grounds (Boko Haram) have against the Nigerian state are basically the same as ordinary Nigerians have about the persistence of corruption, the growing inequalities, the fact that the political system is not working and that poverty is increasing,” Bishop Kukah told CNA in a previous interview in 2014.
On Jan. 2, just weeks after his remarks, Bishop Kukah’s brother, Yohana Sidi Kukah, was kidnapped, according to The Nation, a Nigerian newspaper.
The Nation reported that Yohana Kukah was freed on Jan. 11, after spending more than a week in captivity. He is the paramount ruler of Ikulu chiefdom. The motivation for his kidnapping is not yet known.
Bishop Kukah has often been an outspoken critic of Nigerian officials, particularly Nigerian President Buhari, who is frequently accused of using Islamic identity for political gain. In 2001, Buhari called for the implementation of Islam’s Sharia law across the country.
Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission announced Jan 10. that Nigeria’s presidential and assembly elections will be held February 16, 2019, according to the Associated Press.
Bishop Kukah has frequently called for peace during his 6 year leadership of the Diocese of Sokoto, a region in northwestern Nigeria home to another religious leader, the Sultan of Sokoto, considered the most important Muslim spiritual leader in Nigeria.
Bishop Kukah holds a degree in peace studies in addition to his studies at both Harvard and Oxford.
“Sadly, we seem again to have done what we do best, namely, squander these chances and allow the dark forces of bigotry, prejudice and greed to take hold and today, we are far more divided than we have ever been in the history of our nation,” Kukah said in his Dec. 8 homily.
“When these things begin to happen, look up, and hold your heads high, because the time when God will free you, your redemption is near at hand,” he added.