Kukah: Democracy and dictatorship can’t coexist, one has to cancel out the other

By Festus Nwaneri, July 30, 2021

Matthew Kukah, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto diocese, had on Wednesday July 28, stated that democracy and dictatorship cannot coexist, adding that Nigeria is treading a dangerous path.

Kukah spoke on Wednesday in Abuja at an event with the theme ‘Civic Space: Pathway to Social Cohesion and Integration in Nigeria.’

The event was organised by The Kukah Centre and Open Society Initiative For West Africa (OSIWA).

The bishop said the country is treading a dangerous path because the young people are feeling disempowered.

“This is a dangerous path we are treading. Our young people are feeling disempowered. We are faced with a nation that is consuming its own children, we are faced with the prospects of an uncertain future. It is impossible, even the worst enemy of Nigeria would never have contemplated that this is where we will be,” he said.

Kukah said the 2023 elections will give Nigerians another opportunity “to think of the mistake we made”.


“Democracy is not an exercise undertaken by good men and women which is what Nigerians have always fallen victim to – that we are looking for holy men, men of integrity, men of dignity to govern us and we assume that managing a diverse Nigeria does not require some level of deep intellectual reflection and understanding on the complexity in managing a society so energetic,” he said.

“In 1998, I tried to write an article on civil society out of curiosity, that article turned into a book ‘Democracy and Civil Society in Nigeria’ and a lot of people commended the book – it is no longer in circulation. One of the things I concluded was that democracy and dictatorship cannot co-exist, one has to cancel out the other.

“The tragedy that has now afflicted our country is no excuse for us to become despondent, 2023 whether it happens or whatever the case may be, we prayerfully hope it happens, it gives us another opportunity to think of the mistake we made.

“Using the agents of state, those in power have also sought to close the (civic) space. Democracy is a work in progress, all of us engaged in Democracy and opening up the civic space must realize that it is a long journey.”

Also speaking, Idayat Hassan, director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), said in the last six years, the civic space has shrunk.

“In the last six years, the civic space has shrunk. For the fact that I can’t go on Twitter without a VPN has impacted on my right,” she said.

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