Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos clocked 64 on June 1, 2023. On the occasion of the birthday celebration at the Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos, His Grace, Archbishop Martins granted an interview to The Catholic Herald newspapers. In this chat with NETA NWOSU, Editor and Constaincia Uruakpa, the prelate spoke on his humble beginnings as he charged the Federal Government to ameliorate the suffering induced on Nigerians as a result of the removal of the fuel subsidy. Excerpts:
Congratulations on your 64th birthday. What is life about at 64?
In general, from time to time, all the days of our life is about God being gracious, God being good, God being so completely without any measure of holding back, just being gracious. So, I feel a sense of gratitude to God all these years, for the family which God gave to me, my parents who were there during the basics of life, to all the priests and people that I have met all the years who have been part and parcel of my development and growth. I have been blessed in many ways. And so, 64 is a time for gratitude.
If you look back to your growing up years and now, what distinct changes have you experienced?
I grew up in a neighbourhood in which every child is everybody’s child. In other words, every boy is the son of every elderly person and every girl is the daughter of every elderly person. That was the kind of environment in which I grew up, which is a closely knit community in which people look out for one another, and know one another, and want to do things for one another. That was the community in which I grew up. I am sure that there’s still a measure of that in our time, but certainly, it’s not as closely knit as I did experience it as a child. And all in all, the opportunity for communicating is a lot more than it was at that time. I remember growing up, what we had in our house was a rediffusion, only one station, it didn’t change to anything else. And then eventually, gradually, we began to have other kinds of radios, players and the rest of it. Now, we have such a wide array of possibilities of communication and communicating with one another. I think that’s also a great thing that we must thank God for at this time, even though it has its challenges, but it’s a grace to thank God for.
At the Mass while you were giving your remarks, you indicated a decline in quality of life. Now we have a new president, and the first thing he did was to come up with removal of subsidy, and on the spot, hardship took a different turn. It’s difficult for people to move around, there are fuel queues everywhere, hike in transportation, and hike in food prices. What do you have to say to console and encourage the Catholic faithful as well as entire Nigerians in coping with this kind of a harsh situation?
Well, removal of fuel subsidy has been in the air for quite a while, and there have been all kinds of reasons why it should be taken off and all of that. I think what has gone wrong here is the throwing it out just like that at people and the immediate effect that it created in people because we already knew that this was going to come at some point in time. Only that I believe it was not given the due process of people being informed and duly seeing through it to the end. However, whatever the case may be, we can only ask that our people would recognise that nothing lasts forever apart from the grace of God. Our people should recognise the fact that these challenges are there at this point in time. We wish they were not there. We wish it could have been done differently. We wish things could have been different than it is, but it is where we are now. So, let us recognise the fact that nothing lasts forever, apart from the grace of God. And we also hope while we are at it that government will also ensure that it takes the right steps to cushion the effects of the hardship that is with us now because we all knew right from time that if subsidies were going to be removed, there are also going to be steps taken in order to ensure that people do not feel the impact in such a rash way as we are feeling it now. So, government needs to correct itself by ensuring that it does what is necessary to make life bearable for the people.