By Jennifer Ugwueke
Catholic Bishops have said that developments in the Country show that justice, equity and fair play have clearly fallen apart and the Country is no longer at ease. Following these, they noted that the very soul of Nigeria needs to be recovered.
These were contained in the communiqué issued at the end of Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, 2021 meeting, comprising Ibadan, Ilorin, Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti and Osogbo dioceses on from July 19-20.
A statement made available to newsmen in Ado-Ekiti by the Catholic Bishop of Ekiti Diocese, Most Rev. Felix Ajakaye, said the communiqué was signed by Most Rev. ‘Leke Gabriel Abegunrin and Most Rev. John Akin Oyejola, the Chairman and the Secretary, respectively. The meeting was held at the Domus Pacis Pastoral Institute, Igoba, Akure, Ondo State.
Entitled, ‘Recovering the Soul of the Nigerian Nation’, the communiqué, which noted that “Nigeria seems to have lost its very soul because it is no longer a healthy entity”, admonished Nigerians to stand firm and not lose hope but continue to pray and work for a better nation.
The bishops also lamented that the alleged high level of despondency in Nigeria could make the people to lose hope and zeal for democracy.
Though the clergies bemoaned the alleged untidy political developments in the country, they, however, maintained that the situation was redeemable if the people would return to the path of God.
“To all our fellow Nigerians, we say, stand firm and never lose hope for God cannot be defeated.
“We call on Nigerians to continue to pray and work for a better nation for we have no other country than this. If we do not give up doing good and believing in God’s promise, we shall see better days”, the communiqué noted.
They said the good health of any nation consists in its capacity to offer its citizens a territory where they can feel at home, feel secure and enjoy the basic necessities of life.
But they noted that this unfortunately is no longer the case in Nigeria, where armed conflicts, armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, insurgency, banditry and extra-judicial killing persist as the order of the day.
“When a nation loses its soul, its people lose the cohesive elements of human relationship,” the communique said.
“A nation that has lost its soul is characterised by inept, uncaring leadership which functions by selective allocation of posts, privileges and resources and by selective application of justice. It is characterised by leaders who, rather than care for the citizens of the country, simply exploit and denigrate them. Such a nation takes food out of the mouths of its own citizens and watches them starve. It deploys its scarce resources to the advantage of the rich and powerful while offering mere crumbs to the poor and weak.
“A nation that has lost its soul therefore breeds a citizenry where nobody cares for anybody else. Nigeria exhibits all of these traits, no doubt. Its constitutive principles of justice, equity and fair play have clearly fallen apart and the country is no longer at ease. No doubt, the very soul of Nigeria needs to be recovered”, they noted.
The bishops said the ongoing controversy surrounding the proceedings of the National Assembly gives ample evidence of the theatre of the absurd which democratic representation has become in Nigeria.
“Be it on the electoral reform, electronic transmission of electoral results, press freedom or the Petroleum Industrial Bill (PIB), the work of those who represent the people on the federal level in Nigeria does not seem to bring much satisfaction to the people for whose interest they were allegedly elected. With the National Assembly at various occasions prioritising party and privileges over people’s rights and interest, relief and progress continue to elude Nigerians.
“Simply put, those who claim to represent the people seem to have perfected the art of sabotaging the progress of their same people. Indeed, the time may have come for Nigerians to no longer simply roll over and accept non-representative decisions of the Assembly but to challenge them by all legitimate means.
“Ongoing electoral reforms give another opportunity for reviving the hopes of the people and confidence in the nation’s democracy. An important part of electoral reform, which is often ignored, is the education of the people who participate in building democracy.
“Only participation in the political process and adherence to the rule of law offer an enduring means of authentic change but people must be helped to understand this fact. We urge the media and civil society groups to sustain this education agenda so that Nigeria can reap the full benefits therefrom. We also urge our people to register and obtain their voters cards. Only this grants them the power to exercise their rights to determine who governs them from time to time. Our country will greatly benefit from this”, the bishops said.
Continuing, they said, “In the face of our current national crisis and encroaching chaos it is surprising that the Nigerian government continues to demonstrate a disturbing allergy for truth even when it is most evident. The recent effort by the presidency to malign the address of Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto Diocese, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States of America Parliament/Assembly in Washington DC on the Nigerian situation on religious freedom is laughable to say the least.
“Bishop Kukah, in his patriotic and frank presentation called attention to some verifiable data and statistics about the Nigerian situation on that privileged international platform. He spoke for authentic Christians and Muslims who are under persecution. No doubt, he intended to solicit the support of that forum which many Nigerians believe holds the promise of some assistance and relief from our current national crises.
“The Federal Government, however, has characteristically gone up in arms against the person of Bishop Kukah and his purpose. It is commonly said that when there is a problem in a democracy, more democracy is needed to solve it. Sadly enough, our current Federal Government does not seem to subscribe to this.
“Our sympathies go to the Nigerians who bear the brunt of Nigeria’s debilitating situation because of economic depression and hunger, armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping for ransom, unemployment and injustice. Many have died as has happened in Igangan in Oyo State and elsewhere while so many are still dying. May the departed souls rest in perfect peace and may those who are suffering at various levels find help and comfort.
“We call on all Nigerians to do all they can to help one another even in these hard times and work more assiduously to create a better society. To help the downtrodden and oppressed, it is not enough to provide relief materials. It is just as important to fight for justice and fairness and protect fundamental human rights”, they said.