Thursday Column with Mohammed Adamu
By Mohammed Adamu
Niccolo Machiavelli was the one who defined ‘hypocrisy’ as “prejudice with a halo”. Hypocrisy is defined as ‘putting on a false appearance of virtue’ –especially virtue of a moral kind, including religion’. Machiavelli’s definition of it as “prejudice with a halo” is short for: ‘pious malice’ or ‘holy animus’. To parody Paul Kelly’s musical number ‘Stealing In The Name Of The Lord’, ‘prejudice with a halo’ would be like ‘Hating In The Name Of The Lord’.
A ‘halo’ is a luminous disk-like ring of light cosmically around some planetary bodies, but iconographically hung on the heads particularly of saints in Christian religious paintings as an imagined aura especially of spiritual glory. But the noun ‘halo’ is also the root word for the transitive verb ‘hallow’ –meaning to make holy or to revere greatly –especial religious ‘men of God’. And it is to that existential extent that even those who are yet to be officially canonized into sainthood such as our eminently self-righteous Mathew Hassan Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, are no less ‘hallowed’ or ‘holy’ because they are deemed irreproachably Christ-like.
And so quite to the contrary of the ‘false Christs and false prophets’ forewarned by Jesus, these ‘men of God’ are the symbolic embodiment on earth, of the body of Christ; so that quite to the contrary of ‘sinning’ also, they are themselves rebukers of sin and forgivers of sinners. They are not subject to the ordinary human frailties and foibles of hypocrisy or prejudice, malevolence or malice against their fellow men. Hallowed men are incapable of wrong and are therefore not the candidate targets of Machiavelli when he defined hypocrisy as “prejudice with a halo” –because ‘holiness’ and ‘vice’ are not like ‘gin and lime’, blend-able; they are like ‘chalk and cheese’, in-mixable.
And for Kukah especially, who rose from the ‘common priesthood’ through to ‘priest’ and now most eminently a ‘bishop’ (hoping soon to complete the ‘holy order’ by becoming a ‘deacon’), nowhere is required more, the Christ-like character of self-effacing meekness, unassuming humility and above all transparent honesty, sincerity and truthfulness, than from a person like him, for the reason that in addition to being a bishop, Kukah is fast shaping up also to be the self-appointed soldier-spokesperson of the Church and by implication also its self-anointed cross-bearer who should exemplify fortitude and forbearance, endurance and longsuffering.
The least therefore to expect of Kukah is that, beyond the privilege of ‘forgiving’ sin, he has the greater duty to be a ‘hearer and doer’ of the word of Jesus to “speak the truth”, if not for its transcendental value, for the reason that Jesus -in John 8:32- promises that it sets men free, or at the very least for the implied other reason that not doing so is a yoke that truly binds. And as it is not for kings and rulers –according to Proverbs 31:4- to imbibe wine, lest they drink and forget the law so it should not be for ‘men of God’ especially at such hallowed cosmos as Kukah, to stray from truth, lest in their straying they mislead the world.
But if as 2-Timothy 3:16-17 says, all scripture is profitable only ‘for teaching, admonition, correction and instruction into righteousness, where is the place of Kukah’s judgmental Christmas homily when no scripture is given for ‘judgment’? Where then, you may ask, is the role especially of ‘men of God’ as judges over others? It lies only in the pre-condition that no man may judge another unless he presents himself first to be judged; that no man may take the speck out of another’s eye unless he takes the log first out of his own eye; that no man may cast a stone at sinners unless he is first without sin, and that therefore for those who insist on judging others, ‘the same measure that they mete to others, it shall be meted to them’. Fair!
It was not to discountenance the genuine grievances raised against Buhari (of ‘ineptitude’) and his obviously-challenged administration (especially of tardiness), that the army of anti-Kukah-homily rose; nor was the purpose to idly revel in the unprofitable chicanery of fallacious counter- accusations, that they argued. Far be it from that virtually every anti-Kukah opinion was wondering: now that the ‘anointed man of God’ had dared to come to equity, might he also have come with a pair of clean hands? Might Kukah also have prepared first to be judged before he judged others? Or might he, by the way, have removed first the log in his own eyes before he would remove the speck in Buhari’s eyes?
And so without exonerating Buhari of ‘ineptitude’ or possibly even ‘nepotism’, the question arises whether Kukah honestly comes across as the proverbial ‘Daniel Coming To Judgment’ because an aggrieved Shylock in Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant Of Venice’ says so, or because, as the Bible says in the book of Daniel 5:14, the ‘spirit of the gods, the light, understanding and excellent wisdom’ truly reside in him? Or to put it in less otherworldly language, given his antecedent of running openly with God and hunting sneakily with Caesar, or of regaling daily in the spiritual while reveling quietly in the temporal, or of riding gleefully on the ethereal while cruising nocturnally on the terrestrial, does Kukah posses the moral high ground to sit in judgment especially in matters in which he is an obvious interested party? Or even to give testimony on issues about which he is evidently a tainted witness?
Of Kukah unfortunately is the English Poet, John Dryden’s words apt, in his famous ‘Absalom And Achitophel’, about the crooked ‘man of God’ who would “wisely from expensive sins refrain, and never broke the Sabbath, but for gain”. And so just as someone said, that it is not about power corrupting men, and absolute power corrupting them absolutely, but that it is about men without morality corrupting power, so do I think in this case, that it is not about the pulpit telling truth to power, it is about ‘men of God’ from the pulpit first being Godly enough to handle the ‘truth’. But when the pulpit will have no qualms descending to the gallery of thieving sinners, to help reconcile them to regain their lost Eden, then the congregation cannot hope to be blessed by, but rather ‘saved’ from, such pulpit.
And do you still wonder why Machiavelli defined hypocrisy as “prejudice with a halo”? This, if you ask me, is what has cast a blemish of obvious malice on Kukah’s otherwise corrective homily, especially the point he made about the apparent tardiness of the Buhari administration in tackling the growing insecurity in the land. This he should have made without the unnecessary insinuation about a hegemonic or ‘blood-loving’ North or the innuendo he made about coup d’état . It immediately betrayed what lawyers would call ‘malice aforethought’ selectively against a particular tribe, tongue and religion. Plus even the truth about insecurity soon got lost in the haystack of malice attended by a false halo.
As the British poet, William Blake would say “A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the Lies you can invent”. Even the twin realities of insecurity and ‘ineptitude’ soon became obvious ‘truths’ told with an obvious bad intention –namely the intention to subject Buhari and his administration to the odium and obloquy of a longsuffering public owing especially to insecurity; and (side-by-side with the allegation of nepotism which Kukah had gleefully repeated without a proof), hopefully all these were intended to instigate the army to mutiny against a democratically elected government.
And when you remember that for the same or maybe even worse failings of the Jonathan administration, the same Kukah had persistently called for ‘prayer’ and had openly advised against ‘fault-finding’, then you can see, as the English politician Sir George Savile would say, that “Malice” although it is “of a low nature”, it truly “hath very long arms”. And when it is coming from a ‘man of God’, and especially a bishop, you can only pray ‘If these are the priests, may God save the congregation’!