As the Nigerian situation worsens, and people in different quarters talk about the adverse state in which the Nigerian nation is embedded in currently, and looks like there are no targeted attempts by the leadership of the country to resolve these pressing issues, the Catholic Men’s Guild, CMG, like other well meaning groups are worried about the state of affairs in the country, as they mark their Patron Feast Day. The event which had as its theme, “The role of the Church in modern Nigeria – COVID-19, security, et al challenges”, held at Catholic Church of the Assumption, Ikoyi, Lagos brought together experts from various sectors to x-ray the problems confronting the country, as they proffer solutions. Chairman on the occasion, Most Rev. (Dr.) Augustine Akubeze, Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Benin City and President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, called on the lay faithful to be fully involved in building a viable nation, by taking their rightful place in the transformation of the secular society, with the gospel message that brings salvation.
Speaking on the need for Christians to be actively involved in shaping the country positively, Archbishop Akubeze said that the second Ecumenical Council issued a decree on the apostolate of the laity, Apostolica Atcetatic, a magisterial document solely devoted to the means through which the lay faithful can influence society, through their witness to the thrills of the gospel. He reiterated on the need for the laity to always go back to this document, which he said will help to elucidate how the Church can educate the lay faithful, in taking up their role in permeating the world, with the allure of the gospel. He urged the Church in Nigeria to resist the temptation of quick solution to every problem, without deep reflection. He said: “We are living in a time of microwave mentality, instant gratification mentality, and this has allowed the gospel of prosperity and miracle centers to thrive.” Speaking on the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the pandemic has shown humans that they can be crippled easily, without proper planning “The pandemic has also shown how compassionate some Nigerians could be. It showed how a holistic resolve to deal with problems can easily yield positive result”, he said.
On insecurity, he said: “We have discovered how vulnerable we are as a Church. We have had our churches bombed, our priests and lay faithful kidnapped and killed, and our parishioners who are farmers, driven out of their farmlands by herdsmen. It is imperative that a professional body like Catholic Men’s Guild should strategize ways on how your voices can be heard in matters of electoral reforms, constitutional reviews and the true autonomy of every religion in every part of the country.” For his part, Prof. Pat Utomi, renowned economist said that Nigerians are not peculiar that they live in the conditions they do currently, rather that the nation has weak institutions, making it easy for people to take advantage of the weak institutions. On importance of institutions, Utomi said: “Institutions are matters of continuous erection. Institutions are settled habits of the community because people are constantly pushed within certain boundaries.
Stating that Nigeria’s weak institutions happened because Nigerians allowed it, Utomi added that the problem with Nigeria is that of state capture, as people seek political power to capture the state. “State capture is systematic and systemic corruption of governmental processes for the material benefit of the individuals. That’s what government is in Nigeria. There is power over purpose”, he said. He urged Nigerian Christians to put up a brave fight against bad governance and other problems in the country, adding that if they do not, they are actually betraying their faith. High Chief (Dr.) Mike Ozekhome, Legal Luminary, activist, and Keynote Speaker at the event said COVID- 19 has had a debilitating impact on the country, even as it is faced with other problems such as poverty, mass unemployment, insecurity among others. Ozekhome urged Christians to do the right things always, as well as adhere to the COVID- 19 guidelines.
“The Church has to be vigilant, sensitive and support government. Religion, as well as Church is an integral part of the country”, he said. He urged Christians who are interested in politics and political offices to go there and influence people positively as Christ would do, Ozekhome said the duty and mission of Christians is to Christianize culture because culture shapes human progress. Condemning the way protesters were attacked and shot at the Lekki Toll Gate during the EndSARS protest, he urged the people to speak up for their rights, and fight the evil in the land Dr. Ona Ekhomu, Security Expert, noted that Nigeria is experiencing increase in insecurity because of porous borders, ungoverned forests, incompetent law enforcement, poor intelligence capabilities, among others. On security tips, he said: “People must understand that security is important to them, so they should take action, get advice from security consultants, maintain good lock hygiene, watch for strangers and suspicious behavior, and so on.
Dr. Bamidele Mutiu, Medical Expert and Director, Lagos State Bio Bank, gave tips on measures to prevent, as well as combat COVID-19 disease. Mr. Matthew Egbadon, President, CMG, in his welcome address, expressed concern over the myriad of problems confronting the country, including the corona virus disease. Decrying the unpreparedness of government in providing the COVID-19 vaccine, the Egbadon called on the present administration to rise to the occasion, and put things right in the country. Calling on Nigerians to be agents of positive change In the country, he urged them to emulate the qualities of John the Baptist, the Patron Saint of Catholic Men’s Guild. The Guest of Honour, Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, was ably represented by Very Rev. Fr. Julius Olaitan, Dean, Lagos Island Deanery, and Parish Priest of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Victoria Island, Lagos.