In his Easter message in Sokoto titled “Nigeria: Reconciliation postponed?” the cleric particularly slammed the violence that trailed the elections even as he charged the justices of the courts not to dash the hopes of Nigerians who are unhappy with the outcome of the polls.

“The much-awaited elections, so full of promise have come and gone, well, not yet, some might say. They generated so much enthusiasm and excitement among our citizens who believed they would be a defining moment for our country. The buildup was marked by so much expectation about a transition to a new order in Nigeria. The outgoing President had given his word that his legacy would hang ensuring that we have successful elections. The electoral umpire, basking in self-confidence, assured Nigerians that these would be the most transparent and seamless elections in our history. We took the assurances in good faith. Literally half of the population had registered for the elections and were armed with their voters’ cards. On election day, the national mood had a sense of an Easter metaphor to it. First, like the journey to Jerusalem, joyous citizens filed out to their designated polling units. Our citizens, fired by patriotism, braved the harsh weather (rain or heat), hunger, thirst, depending on their locations across the country. As the day wore on, we had news of the usual glitches about election materials arriving late, a song that sounded familiar.

“Much later in the day, there were reports that the scenes were getting ugly with evidence of a return to our old ways now known as voter suppression: ballot box snatching, intimidation, physical violence against ordinary citizens, with reported incidents of injuries and outright killings. Amidst all of this was the utter chaos around the uploading and transfer of the results. INEC’s garment of legitimacy and credibility was now caught up in a barbed wire of conspiracy theories. As the day drew to a close, a cloud of doubt spread across the country as the excitement and high expectations vaporized.”

Kukah said the situation has left Nigerians as men and women returning from a funeral with forlorn looks who believe that justice has eluded them. But he admonished them not to show their anger through violence, but transform it to a motivation to seek justice.

“Nigerians are so collectively frustrated that it is almost impossible to convince them that they can find justice. Everywhere you turn today, Nigerians look forlorn, disconsolate, lugubrious, and despondent. Our swagger is gone. We look like men and women returning from a funeral, murmuring discontentment in hushed tones. It is therefore not surprising that even the victors are blowing a muted trumpet.”

The bishop empathised with aggrieved citizens and asked them not to give up in the quest for justice even as he admonished the justices of the court not to dash their hopes. He told the legal officers that their hard earned reputation was undergoing severe stress and pressure from those who want justice on their own terms.

“To the justices, you face difficult challenges ahead and you are mortals. The future of our country hangs on your deliberations. I will not judge you. I can only pray that God gives you grace. It will be up to you to decide how you use that gift which no amount of influence or power can buy… Nigerians are looking up to you to reclaim their trust in you as the interpreters of the spirit of our laws. The future of our country is in your hands. You have only your consciences and your God to answer to when you listen to the claims and counter claims of Nigerian lawyers you and have to decide the future of our country. We pray that God gives you the wisdom to see what is right and the strength of character and conscience to stand by the truth. You have no obligation to please any one. Our future depends on how you arrive at your much awaited judgement.”

The cleric commended the youths for the energy and courage they invested in the polls. 

“You fought a good fight across party lines. Your engagement and involvement substantially changed the contours of our politics. Things will never be the same again. Keep the dreams, but know the contours of the long road ahead,” he said.

The cleric condemned the violence that trailed the elections, saying it cannot be accepted as the new ladder to power.

“Unpleasant as this may sound, this blood that they have shed could be seen as blood of the birth of a new Nigeria. It can become the blood of our new birth, our redemption. However, we cannot accept that violence and bloodshed are the normal route to power. Because like the blood of Abel, the blood of those who have been murdered continues to cry out to heaven seeking for justice.”

He also urged the incoming president to most importantly, secure the country, saying, “I am hopeful that you will appreciate that the most urgent task facing our nation is not infrastructure or the usual cheap talk about dividends of democracy. These are important, but first keep us alive because only the living can enjoy infrastructure. For now, the most urgent mission is to start a psychological journey of making Nigerians feel whole again, of creating a large tent of opportunity and hope for us all, of expanding the frontiers of our collective freedom, of cutting off the chains of ethnicity and religious bigotry, of helping us recover from the feeling of collective rape by those who imported the men of darkness that destroyed our country, of recovering our country and placing us on the path to our greatness of exorcising the ghost of nepotism and religious bigotry.”

Speaking to President Muhammadu Buhari whose administration ends on May 29, Kukah said: “As you prepare to return to Daura or Kaduna, I do not know if you feel fulfilled or that you met the tall dreams and goals you set for yourself such as ending banditry, defeating corruption, bringing back our girls, belonging to everybody and belonging to nobody, selling off our presidential fleet and travelling with us etc. You may have followed my engagement with you through these messages over the years. You publicly referred to me during one of our visits as your number one public critic with a huge smile. I commend you for the fact that you have known that none of this was done out of malice, but that we want the best for our country. May God guide you in retirement, while we all embark on the challenge of reclaiming the country we knew before you came.”

The Kaduna catholic bishop also prayed God to forgive, secure  and bless Nigeria.

“We have not lived up to the vision that you have for us – a vision of justice, peace, unity, and prosperity for all our children. Yet, we thank you for your mercy upon us. Father, please guide our transition to a new dawn. Banish evil and insecurity from our land. Give us the spirit of forgiveness and heal us from our infirmities, that blindness which makes us forget that we are brothers and sisters, children of One Father. In your mercy grant eternal rest to those who have died and give us the strength to start again. May the power of our Risen Christ be upon us and our dear country. Amen. A happy Easter, Nigerians.”