The Catholic Bishops in Nigeria on Tuesday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to rise up to his responsibility as a matter of urgency to save Nigeria from the looming collapse. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) expressed concern on the state of the nation in a statement titled “We must pull back from the brink of collapse,” jointly signed by Most. Rev. (Dr.) Augustine Akubeze, President, CBCN and Most. Rev. Camillus Umoh, Secretary, CBCN stating that the survival of the nation is at stake. The statement read: “The Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari can no longer delay rising to its obligation to govern the nation; not according to ethnic and religious biases, but along the lines of objective and positive principles of fairness, equity and, above all, justice. It is not too much for Nigerians to demand from Mr. President sincerity both in the public and private domain. There are no more excuses.”
“The very survival of the nation is at stake. The nation is falling apart. Serious insecurity, clearly evident in widespread loss of lives and property, for long unaddressed, has left the sad and dangerous impression that those who have assumed the duty and authority to secure the nation are either unable – or worse still, unwilling – to take up the responsibilities of their office.Time is running out and the situation needs to improve. “The clamour for self-defense is fast gaining ground. Many ethnic champions are loudly beating the drums of war, calling not only for greater autonomy but even for outright opting out of a nation in which they have lost all trust and sense of belonging. The calls for secession on an ethnic basis from many quarters should not be ignored or taken lightly.
Many have given up on the viability and even on the desirability of the Nigeria project as one united country. No wonder many non-state actors are filling the vacuum created by a palpable failure of government. Expressing concern over the present state of instability in the country, the Catholic Bishops said “This must not be allowed to continue to fester and degenerate. We are raising this alarm because of our deep patriotic love for our nation, not for any sectional interests, be they political, ethnic or even religious.” “Despite the persistence of crises around us; assassinations, COVID-19, kidnappings, murders, banditry, armed robberies, we sincerely affirm our faith in the viability and desirability of the Nigeria Project, as one prosperous nation under God. But we are also convinced that building such a nation, especially in our present circumstances, comes at a cost.
We are also convinced that the alternative of tearing ourselves apart, comes with a cost that is far higher than what it takes to keep ourselves together. The statement also implored Nigerians to seek a common purpose with sincerity of mind. “As individuals and as groups, we ought to be ready to make the necessary sacrifices that would enable us to manage our differences better and turn them into a positive, rather than a negative force. Governments at different levels ought to lead the way. “We need to have the courage to admit that there is a lot wrong with our nation. It is our patriotic duty to point this out, with all objectivity and sincerity. The rule of law has too often been disregarded, giving way to widespread impunity, leading to a progressive break down of good order. There is a wide consensus that even the laws and rules we have made for ourselves are often the cause of our problems.
No wonder there is an on-going clamour for constitution review, restructuring, decentralization of the security agencies and calls for many changes to many things we have been taking for granted. “Examples include issues surrounding national census, constituency delimitations, states and the nagging issue of Local Government autonomy, violence and lack of internal democracy in political parties, a weak and compromised National Assembly, the Amendment of the Electoral Act etc. In these matters, the nation is not lacking in many good and brilliant ideas. What has been lacking has been the political will to embrace the change that is necessary for building a better nation.” The Catholic prelates noted that the new Service Chiefs are insiders, and should be familiar with the problems of insurgency and banditry, as they implored them to adopt a more co-ordinated strategy with State Governments and other security agencies for winning this sad war.
The clerics further urged government to uphold some basic values and principles, including mutual respect for and acceptance of the nation’s diversity, a deep sense of justice for every person, equity, solidarity and inclusiveness. In addition, the Catholic Bishops urged citizens to be ready for sincere dialogue, in the true sense of the word, as it was once defined by His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Arinze, who is a renowned expert in dialogue: “You talk, I listen. I talk, you listen.” “On the one hand, there should be a dialogue between the people and the government. Government has the duty to create room for such dialogue, with groups and with individuals. It means being open and receptive to criticism. On the other hand, we, the people need to dialogue with one another across our various lines of diversities and identities. In particular, ethnic and religious groups need to find a way to put their heads together to deal with our common challenges”, the Bishops admonished. On a final note they called on everyone to submit themselves to the directives of God the Almighty Father “to fill us with the wisdom and courage to pull back from this brink of collapse.”