The exact details of Nnadi’s death are unknown, the bishop said, other than he was killed alongside a woman named Mrs. Araga. Kukah noted that for days after Nnadi’s capture, he and Nnadi’s family held out hope that he was still alive. On Feb. 1, Kukah announced that Nnadi had been found dead.
Kukah said he was inspired by Nnadi’s mother’s reaction to the terrible news.
“She looked up at me and said tearfully, ‘My Lord, you said Michael was still alive. Is he really dead?’” he recalled. “Before I could say anything, she provided a moving answer: ‘My Lord, but Michael entered Seminary with all his heart and body, all’, she said with finality.”
Kukah said he was also moved and honored by the reaction to Nnadi’s death, both nationally and internationally.
“(The Aid to the Church in Need) sent me a message to say that when they asked people around the world to light a candle for Michael on the date of his burial, 2,436 persons from Afghanistan, Pakistan, United States of America, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Madagascar, South Africa, Congo, Mali, France, Spain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia responded,” he said.
“In the light of this, I wondered, who are we to mourn? Who are we to refuse this crown of honour and glory? We ceased to mourn for Michael thereon,” he said, adding that he decided to see the martyrdom as an act of honor and victory for Christians.
Good Shepherd Seminary, home to nearly 270 seminarians, is located just off the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria Express Way. According to AFP, the area is “notorious for criminal gangs kidnapping travelers for ransom.”
Schoolgirls and staff from a boarding school located near the same highway were kidnapped in October, and were later released.
In the last year, several priests and seminarians, along with pastors from other Christian denominations, have been kidnapped in Nigeria, some for ranson, and some by Islamist militant and terrorist groups. Kidnappings of Christians have multiplied in recent months, prompting Nigerian Church leaders to express serious concern about the security of their members and to call on the government to prioritize the security of its citizens.
Nnadi’s death should be a decisive moment for all Nigerian Christians, who have suffered severe persecution and instability under the rule of President General Muhammadu Buhari, whose promises for peace and security in the nation have fallen woefully short, Kukah said in his homily.
“No one could have imagined that in winning the Presidency, General Buhari would bring nepotism and clannishness into the military and the ancillary Security Agencies, that his government would be marked by supremacist and divisive policies that would push our country to the brink,” Kukah said.
“This President has displayed the greatest degree of insensitivity in managing our country’s rich diversity. He has subordinated the larger interests of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen and women. The impression created now is that, to hold a key and strategic position in Nigeria today, it is more important to be a northern Muslim than a Nigerian,” he added.
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“His north has become one large graveyard, a valley of dry bones, the nastiest and the most brutish part of our dear country.”
Kukah noted that this abuse of power has been condemned by many Muslim leaders and intellectuals, though not to much effect.
“We are being told that this situation has nothing to do with religion,” Kukah said. “Really? It is what happens when politicians use religion to extend the frontiers of their ambition and power. Are we to believe that simply because Boko Haram kills Muslims too, they wear no religious garb? Are we to deny the evidence before us, of kidnappers separating Muslims from infidels or compelling Christians to convert or die? If your son steals from me, do you solve the problem by saying he also steals from you?”
Kukah then echoed the call of Sa'adu Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, a spiritual leader to Muslims in Nigeria who has spoken out against the persecutions, for the northern political elite to reclaim their land.
The persecution of Christians and other minority groups in Nigeria is not new, Kukah added, and has been ongoing since the founding of modern-day Nigeria. But it cannot be ignored by Christians any longer, he added.
“We Christians must be honest enough to accept that we have taken so much for granted and made so much sacrifice in the name of nation-building,” he said, noting how Christians have supported various state leaders, mistakenly believing they would bring peace and stability to Nigeria.