Heed Onaiyekan’s admonition




The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Cardinal John Onaiyekan’s admonition to Nigerian leaders at all levels to change their system of governance in order to address the numerous challenges facing the country and its people is not only timely but also quite germane. It is, indeed, a clarion call that must be heeded in order to set the nation on the path of development.  

In his homily at the interdenominational church service for the May 29, 2019, presidential inauguration held at the National Christian Centre in Abuja, Onaiyekan poignantly said it’s no time to celebrate electoral victory or defeat of political opponents as the country is currently ‘dancing on the brink of chaos.’       

In a message titled, ‘Let Us Choose Life Not Death,’ taken from Deuteronomy 30:19, the cardinal said there was need for a spiritual reflection for the peace and prosperity of the country. “At this moment, we would do well to acknowledge our failure to do things in the right way. Here the words of the psalmist should challenge each of us: ‘If you Oh Lord should mark our guilt, who would survive?’

“The blame game of pointing accusing fingers at others will not carry us far. For a positive change to take place, we must all be ready for a sincere change of heart, from the lowest to the highest, but especially at the highest levels. Empty boasts and bare-face denial of the realities around us cannot build a nation.

“We are in the house of God, and before God we must tell the truth. The Lord Jesus has told us that ‘The Truth will make us free.’ The truth is that our nation is not in a state for us to rejoice. The ranks of the poor are swelling by the day, hopeless and helpless, as they watch in frustration the affluence of the very few cruising in a different world. Such wide socio-economic disparity has led to anger, tension, violence and outright criminality in the land. All is not well.

“The greatest of God’s gift to us, life itself, is in danger all over our land. Gunmen- and women-unknown and known- have been sowing death, destruction and misery almost everywhere. Property, well-being, harmony and peace are endangered by generalised insecurity. Before God, this is the truth and not political propaganda mounted to discredit the government. The nation must be mobilised to join hands to face the disaster looming over all of us. 

“Again, here we must tell the truth. For too long, we have been seeing what seems to be a policy of polarisation of the nation along primordial fault lines of ethnicity and religion. The result is that we have been indulging in the risky game of ’dancing on the brink of chaos’.

“We do not know for how long we can continue to get away with this. But the handwriting on the wall is quite clear for all who care to see. It is sad that no condition is permanent: certainly not the present state of our nation.

“But all is not lost either. As we embrace a new term of government, it should be for us a new opportunity to change ways and review habits of governance, for a better Nigeria. We can and we should do this. God has endowed us with adequate resources to achieve this, resources that we unfortunately turn into crises and problems. Ethnicity and religion are two cases in point,” the cleric further said. 

He also spoke on the country’s sharp division over ethnic and religious affiliations, saying, “our ethnic diversity is God’s will and gift that we ought to appreciate and celebrate. 

 “We should beware of those who seek to manipulate this in a game or divide and rule, for selfish interests. In our emerging global world, we should be building on our long experience of living together across ethnic lines, if we are not to allow ourselves to be left behind in our fast developing modern world.

Speaking at the church service, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo called on Christians in the country to lead in giving hope to others, saying the country’s future is bright. 

Also speaking, former Head of State, retired General Yakubu Gowon, called on Nigerians to love and defend the country to the best of their ability. He also called on Nigerians to pray for President Muhammadu Buhari and all leaders in the country so that they would give good governance and look after the interest of all Nigerians irrespective of their tribe, faith or belief. 

While we align with Onaiyeken on the propriety for a responsible, responsive and proactive leaders at all levels of the nation’s governance architecture, it is expedient to point out that the followership must also be alive to its democratic duty to hold leaders to account. The mass of the Nigerian people have over the years been seemingly too docile and complacent in the governance of the country, particularly at the state and local government levels.

This shirking of responsibility, against the grain of a flourishing democracy, is largely responsible for the inept, laissez-faire and corrupt leaders that have over the years been the bane of Nigeria’s development. It is, therefore, high time the people rose to the leadership challenge bedeviling the country as a way forward for Nigeria.

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