It was perhaps as expected, a convocation worthy of the eagles. But these eagles were men in their flight and trajectory of Christian worship and dedication. And that was the convention of the Knights of St. Mulumba Nigeria. It was held, running over days, in Lagos. The highpoint was perhaps the supreme council convention seminar. And it had keynote addresses delivered by some of the most important voices in Nigeria. But we shall come to that later.
Other activities of the convention included a courtesy call on His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins, Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos, on November 29. And that was besides an exciting press conference held on the premises of St. Leo’s Catholic Church, Ikeja. The press conference was addressed by Bro. Diamond Ovueraye. Ovueraye is the Acting Supreme Knight of the Order of the Knights of St. Mulumba Nigeria.
Ovueraye took out time to represent the official positions of the Knights of St. Mulumba in respect of some of the world’s burning issues. And these included globalisation/modernisation, human rights, family values, Ahiara Diocese imbroglio, etc.
On the Ahiara Diocese question, Ovueraye said: “As we pray to God on bended knees, we plead with our brethren, the agitating Ahiara priests and laity, to sheathe their swords, toe the path of peace and return to t heir Bishop and allow him take canonical possession of the Diocese. We urge them as men of God to exercise humility in obedience to the teachings of the Catholic Church, the Bishops and the Holy Father.”
On the vexed issue of same-sex marriage, the Acting Supreme Knight spoke plainly: “The Catholic Church in Nigeria and, in fact, the Knights of St. Mulumba, are against same-sex marriage as it is against natural law.’’
He implored the press to help raise the issue: ‘’Currently, some Nigerian lawyers are forming a union to fight same-sex marriage. The press can raise a debate on the issue and help share people’s opinion on the matter.’’
Beside these admonitions, it was not all talk. Trust the highly humanistic order. There was a battery of medics to help members check on their health statistics and status. And the medics were also available to offer guidance.
But the big day of the convention may be the day Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah spoke. Kukah is the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese. But that is to give his official designation. Kukah is better known as possibly Nigeria’s greatest orator and leading public intellectual.
And to listen to Kukah reminded one of what Chief ObafemiAwolowo is reputed to have said to his subalterns. He warned them never to listen to Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. If they did, he warned they stood a present danger of being converted.
That much is Kukah’s charm. I do not think it is any easy to come out of listening to Kukah without toeing the lines of his logic. An accomplished speaker and notable apologist of his Catholic doctrine and practice, Kukah imaginatively deploys all the resources of rhetoric to make the Catholic Church smell of roses. Or perhaps it is that we all have to be students of Aristotle. It was the great man who said that a convincing impossibility is preferable to an unconvincing possibility.
Thus when critics charge the Catholic Church of conservatism, Kukah is quick to its defense. For Kukah, it is a conservatism that has given life and light to the world for 2,000 years and more. It is a conservatism, a proud conservatism, that has served mankind magnificently over time and place. It is a conservatism to be proud of.
And to be fair to the facts, history is supportive of the Kukah positions. No other non-governmental organisation may have educated more men and women than the Catholic Church. And of course that is to point at only education. The Catholic Church’s role as an agent and a vehicle of civilisation is virtually of its class. In fact, that a Kukah, given his prodigious intellectual and other gifts, is of the Catholic persuasion is hint enough.
His speech was titled “The Catholic Family and the Crisis of Modernity.” Like all things Kukah, it was charming in its entirety. And it was even more so in his inimitable and audience-energizing delivery. We offer the following excerpts: “Firstly, how could an institution that is over 2,000 years old be anything but ancient and conservative? The Church seeks to conserve fidelity to the will of God at all times and in every age.
“Secondly, whereas society has created a range of options for ending marriage by divorce, the Catholic Church insists that, as Jesus said, this was not so from the beginning. Marriage, the Catholic Church teaches, is not something that happens by accident. It is part of God’s divine plan for humanity and this finds fulfillment when two people come together. Therefore, crises, no matter the enormity, should not open the exit door on grounds of what the world calls, irreconcilable differences.”
Yet, all this is not to suggest Kukah was the only voice on that day. No, there were equally capable and just as enticing speakers. There was a very wonderful lady voice. Dr. Bridget Itsueli was just as charming in her presentation. Her speech was on the same Catholic family question in modern times. And she spoke with informed insight on how to make our marriages modern, Catholic and just as exciting.
And Prof. Pat Utomi, who is already a well-known intellectual export quality Nigerian. It is just that he too happened to be Catholic. Perhaps, the trio, without intending it, were hinting on the abundance of talents, Catholic talents, in Nigeria. Utomi was a discussant and amplified the lead talks of Kukah and Itsueli. But he too was no less charming.
But would the high seats have existed with an audience? The answer is no. The audience in this instance was made up of some of the best and brightest any country would be proud of. Of Catholics or mostly so. They were, in the words of the Bible: worthy men riding on horses, horses of high moral standards. And lest we forget the governor of Lagos was there too. He was ably represented by a lady permanent secretary. And she took her time to affirm that, under Ambode, we are getting the best deal in governance. Just like the knights are giving the church, I suspect.
Atiku makes the race?
Would Alhaji Abubakar Atiku win the race if he ran against the incumbent? Atiku thinks the answer is yes. We don’t know whether it is all like in boxing showbiz. Just before the tournament, the fighters are called upon to reassure their audience they will be coming to see them win. Each claims the victory is his. But they are actually retained charges. All their boasts amount to is a salesman’s pitch. The reality and psychology of the ring are different from your promotional wizardry. That is, you don’t win by being great with the press or audience. You win by the blows and sweat, man-to-man. Toe-to-toe. Round for round.
My advice is that Atiku must bear that in mind. And if he does he should be fighting to showcase President Muhammadu Buhari as a failure and not Atiku as a replacement. If Atiku has the generosity to project the image that it is not really about him coming in, as about getting Buhari out, his job would have been half done. That is, Atiku must cultivate and project the image that he doesn’t mind if another guy defeats Buhari, sacks Buhari from the Presidency.
That is the joker. The finer point is that that guy may finally be Atiku. But that must remain a contingent, not necessary, part of the game.
And to achieve this he must set about fine-tuning his message. For instance, Atiku claims that Buhari was banned from entering the United States of America for about 15 years. That is a decisive blow. But the questions are two. First, is it true? Second, can it be established? If it is true but can’t be established, it is precarious to so state. To voice it out, it must not only be true, Atiku must have the capacity to establish it.
Now, despite the attempt of partisans to dismiss the weight of the allegation, it is not a feather weight matter. If a man who was former dictator was banned for religious extremism, we should and must know. Did the Americans see more than we saw? Did we make mistakes? Can they be corrected? But all these are hinged on Atiku proving his accusations beyond reasonable doubt and with evidence.
And one last point. Atiku should not come in or join the Peoples Democratic Party as a prince. He should try the best he can to work his way to be a prince and ultimately a king. And that is if it is the wish of the people via their votes and God. God who is the author and finisher of all destinies, especially those of power chancers. However it goes, the Atiku-Buhari slugfest is going to draw the greatest audience numbers in recent memory. And it will be like the fight in which Okonkwo engaged Amalinze the cat. It was the greatest, Achebe says, since the founder of their town engaged the spirits of the wild for seven days and seven nights. Boy, we can’t wait to be witnesses to such creational events.