Then came more punches:
“Monsignor, is it possible that God allowed this to happen because of what you did to me in my office, punching me a por helpless priest ? He stood up, moved towards me and said: “Now leave my house, leave. Ole (thief) he added. I knew him too well to worry and the safest thing to do was to keep a distance from his punch.”
I presume Bishop Kukah has read Monsignor Pedro Ayodele Martin’s unpublished autobiography in which we are regaled with the following version of events:
While his mother was a pillar of support when Pedro opted to join the priesthood, his father did not pull punches. He came down really hard: “Ayodele, the Catholic Church would have to be really desperate to admit the likes of you.” However, he did not raise any objection.
It is somewhat strange that in his tribute, Bishop Kukah made no reference whatever to the fact that Monsignor Pedro Martins was an old boy of King’s College, Lagos before switching sides to teaching and grooming the opposition – St. Gregory’s College, Obalende.
Perhaps I should add that regardless of the fact that I attended King’s College, Lagos (1957 to 1963), my campaign to become the president of St. Gregory’s College Old Boys’ Association (Nigeria and Worldwide) is very much on track in spite of meddling by INEC [Independent Nigerian Electoral Commission] King’s College was (and remains an amazing crucible). A case in point is that of Babatunde Kasali who had been the subject of much taunting that he was not following the footsteps of his older brother Babajide who was an outstanding athlete.
Guess what ? Babatunde came back from the long vacation in his third year and to everyone’s astonishment he self-motivated himself to become a super athlete. It was completely out of the blues. In due course, he matched the superlative achievements of his older brother who had gone off to America, and eventually became professor of Agriculture.
The younger brother joined UBA (United Bank of Africa) and rose to become the Chief Inspector (for compliance). He is currently the Chairman of Wema Bank Plc. His wife is a judge in Lagos State.
The relevance of this anecdote is anchored on our collective prayers that the Almighty should deliver a spark to our beloved country so that it would wake up from slumber and perform exceptionally – like the Kasali brothers.
Let us conclude matters with the memorable epitaph by Bishop Kukah:
“Of course, nothing Msgr. Martins did shocked anyone any more. Everyone had grown so used to the style of one of the greatest human beings one would ever meet. He lived a full life, was a pride to the Church that owned him, a loyal military officer and a great patriot. He will be said to have fought the good fight; he fought many wars, lost only a few battles and won the hearts of many. About Msgr. Pedro Martins, no one could be neutral. For him, truth had no shades of grey.
He came, he saw, he conquered without stooping. Those of us who fell victims to his punches can now say aloud, free at last. Thank God Almighty we are free at last !
He went only like Msgr. Martins would have left – on his own terms. For some years, his head was in heaven while his body remained here leaving both heaven and earth in suspense.
Here on earth he could not speak for years, but the angels said they had not seen him at the gate yet. He took off and arrived heaven early enough to hand Arsenal the FA Cup and made it easy for Cardinal Okogie (the official Chairman of the Arsenal Clerical Supporters’ Club, with Bishop Ajakaiye as able Secretary) to rejoice rather than mourn him. Rest in peace, the great one. Take a bow and receive the crown of glory.”
Perhaps he should have left some space for the resilience of Monsignor Pedro Ayodele Martins who was appointed by the then military Head of State General Olusegun Obasanjo to chair the panel set up to review cases of those who were aggrieved by the gale of “Retirement with immediate effect” which devastated the civil service, the military, security services, judiciary etc. The very day, Monsignor Pedro Martins submitted his report along with recommendations for remedies/restitution, he too was summarily retired from the Army !!
As for our beloved Bishop Kukah, I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the statement credited to him by CNN which gave extensive coverage to the newly commissioned Dangote Refinery at Lekki, Lagos State.
“What we need in Nigeria are not just oil refineries. We desperately need the refining and cleansing of our soul, mind and spirit.”
The holy book has cautioned us: “There is virtue in patience.”
Let us wait and see how long it will take the irrepressible and indomitable Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah to get into the boxing ring with Nigeria’s brand new President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces (who is being sworn in today 29th May 2023) and start throwing punches.
Beware, the spritely and feisty Catholic Bishop of Sokoto does not pull his punches.
Indeed, when the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR was invited to be the referee in the inevitable “Roforofo” fight between the feisty Bishop and the new President, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Buhari had a ready made alibi:
“I am on already on my way to Daura for a brief stop over. Thereafter, you will have to cross the border to Niger Republic to come and bother me.”
Instead of a long winding handing over note, what he left on his desk for his successor followed the American tradition. It read as follows:
“The game is over. My time is up. I have run a good race and finished my course”
What is truly amazing is that for all those eight years Buhari was President of Nigeria, his best kept secret is that he is very adept at the game of chess. For many years, our mutual friend late Bayo Belo was his regular opponent/partner. He first picked up the rudiments of the great game at Provincial Secondary School, Katsina. He mastered it when he was at Nigerian Military Training College, Kaduna, and thereafter, at the various military courses he attended in the United States of America.
Here is the farewell message from the front page of “ThisDay” newspaper of May 25, 2023:
“Sam Ortom to Muhammadu Buhari”
“We have suffered for eight years. He doesn’t need to go to Niger Republic. He should stay here (in Nigeria) with us. All of us should work with the incoming administration and by the grace of God, we shall go from bottom to top.”
– Benue State Governor taking a dig at the President whom he says he has forgiven for the fate that befell his people in the last eight years.