Father Matthew Kukah is bishop of the Catholic dioceses of Sokoto and a member of National Peace Committee. He is propelled by his vision of a peaceful and progressive Nigerian society to become a major factor in peace initiatives and conflict resolutions that have helped Nigeria scale through major threats of conflict.
Kukah sees a void in political leadership of the nation in terms of inability of leaders to manage diversity and he takes steps to fill it. In his view, the existence of this leadership gap is the source of many of the problems facing the nation, as people tend to retreat to their families, clans or ethnic enclaves for support and protection that the centre fails to afford them.
He has therefore become a major contributor in shaping up the machinery of governance through constructive speaking for ensuring equity and fairness to all. He goes all the way out to bring matters tearing people and groups apart to the round table for discussion. He sees solutions to all human issues at discussion tables rather than in violent actions.
Speaking truth to power is a guiding principle of shepherds of the people of God and that is the position that Kukah has assumed in handling issues arising in Nigeria’s political space. As an unbiased and non-partisan intermediary, he is reputed as a veritable instrument for bringing about peace and reconciliation at high levels of conflicts and disputes.
Kukah was a member of Oputa Panel for truth and reconciliation and also played a great role in resolving restiveness in the Niger-Delta. He initiated reconciliatory moves and meetings that settled the rift between former president Olusegun Obasanjo and then vice-president Atiku Abubakar.
It was important to him and the nation that the apex ruling house was not divided against itself. The reconciliation of the two principal actors at the helm of Nigeria’s affairs at that time was a great accomplishment by redirecting energy and focus from in-house fighting to governance.
Achieving unity in diversity in a country of over 200 million people with at least 250 ethnic groups is a subject that Kukah expects the nation’s leaders to take to the realm of management science. The search for national cohesion remains an illusion because Nigerians have to seek from their clans the support and protection they can’t get nationally, the bishop said.
Kukah is urging politicians to move Nigeria beyond the level where people feel safer with their relations and people around them than with other nationals. This, he said, keeps the nation averse to the expertise and intellectual contributions of those who do not belong to one’s ethnic group.
He is the founder of The Kukah Centre [TKC], a policy research institute engaged in encouraging and enhancing citizen engagement in Nigeria, promoting conflict resolution and translating the ideals of democratic and responsible political leadership.
The centre considers political leadership as a collaborative exercise that requires multiple governance structures at various levels – individuals, households, small businesses, the organized private sector, non-governmental organizations and government itself.
TKC has mitigated in a number of challenging issues since its establishment. The most notable of its contributions is the convening of the conference that gave birth to the Abuja Accord and the National Peace Committee that worked towards a peaceful transition of governance in 2015.
TKC aspires to become Nigeria’s leading institution for the promotion of an active and engaged citizenry by strengthening national debate and providing support for inclusive dialogue and advocacy initiatives. It is organized to focus on four core areas of activity.
Interfaith dialogue is one of the areas of the centre’s work, which involves actively promoting conversations among Nigeria’s faith communities as well as between leaders in faith and in public policy. The objective is to foster a productive partnership between faith leaders, the academia and public officials.
Another major platform for the centre’s operations is public policy under which it runs programmes that promote good governance. Through the activities, it seeks to foster an informed and active electorate that recognizes the pressing need to participate in shaping government policies. The centre wants Nigerians to have the understanding that good governance requires a fully functioning and participatory democracy to be attained.
The third core area of activity of the centre is leadership training at all levels of public and non-governmental sectors for the purpose of enhancing the quality of leadership. This is its contribution towards securing the nation’s future by working to raise and train leaders imbued with a sense of service based on shared values for the next generation.
The centre also engages in memory preservation and knowledge promotion activities that raise awareness on critical issues of both historical and contemporary national importance. This aims at promoting active citizen engagement. It uses knowledge promotion to drive home the importance of a political culture devoid of ethnic and religious colouring.