. …Urge government to see Nnamdi Kanu’s re-arrest as opportunity to dialogue on issues of justice, equity, fairness
. …Implore Nigerians to be agents of lasting peace, security, obedience, fight against corruption, injustice
. …Say nothing should be done to stifle freedom of information and expression
By Neta Nwosu
The Catholic Bishops of the Owerri Ecclesiastical Province have rejected the removal of electronic transmission of election results, from the proposed amendment of the Electoral Act 2010, by the National Assembly. The Bishops disclosed this in a communiqué issued at the end of the Owerri Ecclesiastical Province’ meeting, held at the Bishop’s House, Ahiara, Imo State, on Wednesday, last week. The Bishops, after a prayerfully thorough look at the state of the nation, gave a gloomy look of Nigeria, in urgent need for everyone to work together for peace. The Bishops in the communiqué titled “Working together for Peace”, signed by Most Rev. Anthony John Valentine Obinna, Metropolitan Archbishop of Owerri, Chairman, and Most Rev. Augustine Ndubueze Echema, Bishop of Aba, Secretary, urged the lawmakers, to ensure the will of the electorate prevails, to avert violence. “When the will of the electorate is frustrated through rigged elections, violence naturally erupts.
We, therefore, state loud and clear that by passing a bill, recently, against the transmission of the results of elections, by electronic means, both chambers of the National Assembly have created room for the manipulation of electoral votes, and laid the foundation for bloody conflicts, in future general elections,” the communiqué stated. Cautioning the government against mismanagement of the case of the leader of the Movement for the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the Bishops, who described the pro-Biafra activist, as a ‘metaphor for political exclusion and marginalisation’ said, “His recent re-arrest is an opportunity for the government to initiate dialogues, on the issues of justice, equity, and fairness that underpin the agitation of his group, and the agitations of other groups, like the one led by Sunday Adeyemo, popularly called Sunday Igboho, for the Yoruba Nation, calling for self-determination, and restructuring. It is worthy of note that the re-arrest of Nnamdi Kanu will not end such agitations. The mismanagement of his case and any other will trigger off avoidable unrest.” The meeting of the Catholic Bishops of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, which deliberated over the state of the nation, reviewed the democratic, economic and security situation of the country, coupled with agitations for restructuring, arrived at a number of resolutions. The communiqué further read.
Bemoaning the Effects of Violent Conflict
“We unequivocally condemn the violence unleashed on our society, in recent times, whether by some Fulani terrorists or the so called “unknown gunmen” or by some overzealous security agents. We equally condemn the illegal arrests and extra-judicial killings that took place recently, in our communities. The slaughtering of many young persons, who were randomly stereotyped, left our people traumatized. Many families were devastated, as they mourned the loss of their beloved ones. “We express our heartfelt condolences to all the bereaved, and pray for the happy repose of the deceased. Be that as it may, we continue to plead with our political elite, and the citizens of our States, to shun violence, and to embrace the path of conciliatory dialogue, as a veritable means to attaining enduring peace, and security, in our communities.
Attaining Peace through Good Governance
“It is evident that enduring peace and security are to a large extent, products of good governance. No doubt, providing effective governance is a difficult and complicated matter. Nevertheless, political leaders are always to keep in mind that the primary purpose of government, is securing the life and property of the populace, and providing for their overall welfare. In this regard, we call on government, to put more efforts into beefing up security in our communities, by putting in place well-equipped and well-motivated security agents, and to be cognizant of the fact that effective security in today’s world is backed by up-to-date technology. “Furthermore, government would be enhancing security and peace, by facilitating youth empowerment, ensuring regular payment of salaries and pensions, and putting in place basic physical and social infrastructure. When most of the people in a society fall below the poverty index, tensions, conflicts and restiveness are bound to arise. Likewise, when the will of the electorate is frustrated, through rigged elections, violence naturally erupts.
Responsible Citizenry as a Hallmark of a Peaceful Society
“Being a good citizen is the hallmark of a peaceful and progressive society. To promote peace and security, in our society makes an integral demand on all and sundry. Inasmuch as the state has the principal role in maintaining peace and security, it is also the duty of the citizens to complement her efforts. “As Spiritual Fathers, we urge our citizenry to be more responsible, and enjoin all, especially civil servants, to become agents of change, in the fight against corruption and injustice, to demonstrate patriotism in their places of work, obedience to the rule of law, and total commitment, in working for lasting peace and security in our land. “While avoiding unnecessary suspicion, and any form of xenophobia and bigotry, we call on all our citizens, to be vigilant, in order to identify, and report trouble makers and criminals, within their communities, to the relevant authorities. We also urge all, to respect the sacredness of human life. The emerging culture of targeted killings makes us enemies to each other, and suspicious of one another, which could lead to mutual destruction.
Freedom of Expression: Indispensable Element of a True Democracy
“The media, whether electronic, print or the modern social communication technologies, like the social media are important tools for freedom of expression. However, it cannot be denied today that their misuse poses a great danger to social cohesion and peace. Misinformation and disinformation are very much on the increase, especially among the younger generation that identify themselves as “netizens”, who spend most of their time on the internet and social media platforms, creating and spreading fake news, engaging in war of words, stoking the fire of ethnocentrism, and defaming people who do not share their view points. “However, abuse does not destroy use. The media remain the Fourth Estate of the Realm, and an indispensible element of a true and peaceful democracy. We are aware of the anxiety that led government to propose the two bills before the National Assembly: the Nigerian Press Council Bill and the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission Bill. Without being preemptive, it is apposite to remind the National Assembly that the right to freedom of the press, and the right to freedom of expression are primary constituents of the bill of human rights. “Access to information, feedback to the government and accountability by government are strengthened, by the independence of the media, and the right to exercise the freedom of expression and information. Nothing should be done to stifle these freedoms. However, the responsible exercise of freedom of information and expression means that the media should be used with caution, and maturity. Critical appraisal and verification of information should be employed, at every point of information dissemination, and media ethics embraced by all media platforms and practitioners.
Trust in Divine Providence
The Lord never abandons His people through the storms of life, and at every turn of event. He that led the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants through thick and thin would always see our society through the ‘Red Sea’ and ‘wilderness’ of our current political and economic upheavals. Jesus calmed the storm (Matthew 8:23-27), at the prayers of His disciples. On a final note, the Catholic Bishops of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, called on the citizenry not to relent in calling upon the Lord of mercy, and not lose heart (Luke 18:1). “We, therefore, urge all Christ’s faithful in all parishes, in our province, to remain steadfast in prayer, for God’s intervention, in our struggles for peace and security, in our Province. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Nigeria, and St. Joseph, Protector of the Church, intercede for us. Amen.