• Long acrimonies, we need a national dialogue – Ehusani
• We have dialogued, let’s implement – Agbaje
• Nigeria has descended into a conundrum of tribal wars – Utomi
• We have talked enough, the leaders are not listening – Omojafor
• We have not had any form of sincere dialogue – Attoh
By Neta Nwosu
A renowned Priest and former Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Rev. Fr. George Ehusani, has called for a national dialogue that would principally focus on diverse differences to resolve the ever-lingering political, security, economic and social crises rocking the entire country. The Catholic scholar made this call during his homily penultimate Sunday at the Chaplaincy of Lux Terra Leadership Foundation in Abuja. Only few weeks ago, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Most Rev. Dr. Augustine Akubeze, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to listen to the cries of Nigerians. Speaking at the funeral of Emeritus Bishop of Orlu Diocese, Most Rev. Gregory Ochiaga, Archbishop Akubeze said that there is no religious leader who would want government to fail, neither are there genuine religious leaders who truly feel the pain of their people would keep quiet when the life and property of their people are not secured.
In another vein, the Archbishop of Abuja, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama in his homily recently in Abuja called on President Buhari to hearken to the cries of the ordinary Nigerian, noting that the masses are suffering. He said, “Let’s listen to the people. We have to cultivate the spirit of patriotism, spirit of one Nigeria. Something must be done to repair the damage that has been done whereas so many things divide us as a nation; religion, ethnic, and many factors.” Emphasizing the need by the government to create access for the masses to be able to channel their thoughts, Archbishop Kaigama recommended that government should look towards working with faith based organisations. “We need to have access to our leaders; president, vice president. We need to work together to eradicate poverty, killings, bad governance and all sorts of challenges facing us as a nation.” It is on these premises that Fr. Ehusani has canvassed for a national dialogue.
While explaining the rationale behind his call for a national conversation, he said the time has come for all hands to be on deck to make concerted efforts to fix the numerous problems confronting the country. He explained, “long standing acrimonies, animosities, long standing anger, hatred, bitterness, it may not even be hatred as much as bitterness over real or perceived hurts in this country. That is why many reasonable people have been calling for national dialogue because in a family when the children are quarrelling the parents normally bring them together to talk.” Following the long-lived animosity of the various tribes against one another, he stressed, “It is overdue, we need to have a gathering, a family gathering to discuss. What is it that the Urhobos have against the Itsekiris, what is it that the Igalas have against Igbira, what is it that the Tivs have against the Idomas and the Idomas have against the Tivs. It is time to sit down to discuss these issues, rather than we pass on hurts to our children, the children’s children.
“In 2021, I’m hearing things that they say Zik did to Awo which I didn’t hear before. I’m sure some of you would have heard it. I’m hearing things that Tafawa Balewa did to Zik or to Awo that I didn’t hear before. Meaning that if these things are not dealt with, they will keep coming up. “We need to sit down and talk, and our leaders need to listen and pay attention to the cry of everyone, we need to sit down and talk, because people are hurting. We are all saying Fulani Herdsmen, Fulani Herdsmen. But I read about the complaints from the Fulani herdsmen that they have been suffering too much. How many of you have read that? They say that they have been suffering too much and that since Buhari became President they have made too many enemies, meaning that they too are hurting, we are all hurting. So we need to sit down and discuss our issues and time is running out.
“We cannot continue to pretend. The state is failing, I know that the leaders don’t want to hear that but the leadership is failing, the state is failing, the country is failing, we need a father that would say come sit down my children let us talk, what did you say is your problem, what did you say this person has done to you? How can we ameliorate the situation? What can we do so that your anger will seize, so that we begin anew, so that we begin again?” The theologian cautioned, “ It is time my dear friends, it is time brothers and sisters, it is time the people of this country, it is time as leaders that we sit down and talk so as to begin anew, the way we are going, we don’t have much future, those of you who are leaders, who are politicians, who are only thinking of 2023, I have been warning that there may be no 2023, if we do not deal with the wounds and the anger all over the place today.
” However, Ehusani expressed hope that Nigerians want to be together but under certain terms and conditions. He explained, “We cannot be together under certain terms that were given to us in 1914 by the British or in the year 1960. It is time for us to begin to discuss and constantly review the terms under which we want to be together.” Imploring Christians to do away with anger and bitterness during Lent, he stated that there is need to tell those in authority to steadily lead with justice, peace and fairness. “Justice is what makes for peace; fairness, equity, that is what makes for peace; where there is no justice, we would always have these fires coming up here and there; it is not only that the leaders should be fair and equitable but they should be seen to be fair and equitable.
” This part of his homily for national dialogue was received with mixed feelings. Prof. Pat Utomi, a distinguished political economist and former Presidential candidate African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Dr. Franca Attoh, an Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Lagos concurred with Fr. Ehusani, but insisted on evolving more effective and sincere ways of engaging the people. While Mr. Jimi Agbaje, the former Peoples Democratic Party Governorship Candidate and Sir Steve Omojafor, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Augustine University, Ilara-Epe and marketing communications guru shared contrary views.