Gift Joseph Okpakorese
Media channels have recently announced a bold statement made by the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Rtd, His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan.
According to the report, the Emeritus, Archbishop of the FCT, Cardinal Onaiyekan, had on Monday following Easter Sunday, remarked: “that nobody can stop the Bishop of Sokoto, Most Rev. Matthew Kukah, from speaking against bad governance in the country”.
Reacting to the statement made by Cardinal Onaiyekan, the federal government, interpreted the criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration by Kukah as ungodly, indicting him of dabbling into partisan politics in his Easter message.
However, Onaiyekan, who recently came up as a guest on AIT’s breakfast show, Kakaaki, in Abuja, in his opinion, disclosed his conviction that genuine religious leaders had a purpose in politics, which entails promoting and representing the interest of the masses and telling the truth all the time to the leadership in the name of God irrespective of the cost. In his words;
“With all due respect to whoever is speaking for the Presidency, he has a wrong idea of politics. Maybe, for him, politics have been just a game they play in the middle of the night.
“But, if you understand politics as to how you organize and manage the community for the common good, we are all supposed to be politicians.
“Does that mean that whenever we (religious leaders) tell the truth and work to make our country better, we should shut up because we are playing politics? No, we refuse. We will continue to talk.
“In the whole project of nation-building and good governance, people, have different roles to play. The role of Mr. President is, of course, the most important in terms of organizing everything.
“But the role of religious leaders, if you are a genuine one, should be to be able to speak in the name of God.
“So, let no one stop Kukah and other religious leaders from speaking from their hearts. They cannot force you (the government) anyways.
“What we expected from the Presidency was to hear what Bishop Kukah had to say, and take the issues one-by-one; maybe give explanations, if there is a need for such, and hopefully reflect on his message in its plans,” Onaiyekan said.
Moreover, while commenting on the recent calls of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and renowned Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, for amnesty to bandits and terrorists, Onaiyekan stated that such an action has dire consequences especially as it only provides a temporary solution to the problems of insecurity and even encourages more criminals to spring up in most regions of the federation. He continued, stating that;
“We should not misread what Jesus Christ did in his relationship with sinners, criminals, and worthless fellows. Jesus condemned sin, even though he loved sinners.
“We should be telling bandits and terrorists: ‘Go and sin no more. We cannot in any way give them the impression that they are doing the right things.
“All the question of easy amnesty, under the pretense that they have repented, and spending money on them is sad, especially when we say we have no money to spend on the victims.
“Kids’ glove treatment of criminals boils down to bribing them to keep calm because the causes of criminality and insecurity will still be there. The more you treat criminals this way; the more others will come out so that they too can come to get the same treatment.
“We made it clear that unless the injustices are addressed, there is no room for peace. It is only when you address the injustice that you can now sit down for peace,” he said.
Speaking on the lengthy agitation for Nigeria’s disintegration advocated by some citizens, Onaiyekan revealed that they were essentially a representation portraying cries of frustrations, anguish, and despair of the masses, caused by the insensitivity of the federal government. He added that the nation had never witnessed the level of insecurity it is passing through in the past 20 years, which has now forced the masses in seeking alternative means, taking their destinies into their hands.
“With what we have now, there is no way you can excuse the authorities. The first duty of the government is the security of lives and properties. The separatist agitations across the country are cries of despair. If you cannot trust the government to protect you, where do you go?
“Government has not told us they are unable to protect us even though they have sometimes in the past told us to defend ourselves but how are we supposed to do that? So, the agitation for separation is simply a cry of anguish.”
He Continued, insisting that, “Restructuring is one of the solutions (to Nigeria’s break-up). We don’t need a powerful president, but a safer nation. We have r
He continued, insisting that, “Restructuring is one of the solutions (to Nigeria’s break-up). We don’t need a powerful president, but a safer nation. We have raised these issues of federal might and federal character to a level where they are no longer working for the people. So, the people have realized that things must change.”
The outspoken Archbishop, however, suggested strongly that President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo should back up their words and promises to the people with the right actions to produce results.
“Mr. President is not a bishop. So, he cannot just preach to Nigerians in his Easter message. He should go beyond that and do something. Mr. Vice President cannot also do the same only. He is the next in the line of power and authority.
“They should do something to generate hope in Nigerians. They both cannot just make statements as if they are preaching when they have executive powers given to them. It is not only the citizens that have given them power. God has also given them power. So, they have the responsibility to do something. We are tired of hearing beautiful words from rulers.”