To stimulate a robust discussion geared to proffering solutions to the challenges facing the nation viz-a-viz the roles of its respective stakeholders and Church, the Lagos Archdiocese of Lagos held its 13th Annual Cardinal Anthony Okogie Foundation (ACOF) Lecture and Fundraising on 15th October, 2020 at Mc Govern Hall, St. Agnes Catholic Church, Maryland, Lagos. The Lecture themed, ‘A nation in need of redemption, spiritually, socially and politically’, came at a time the country is experiencing a crackdown on Police brutality protests. Delivering the keynote address on the occasion, the Catholic Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos, Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, affirmed that the Nigeria nation is in dire need of spiritual, social and political redemption to free it from the teeming problems.
The Director, Lay Apostolate and Chaplain, Lagos Archdiocesan Laity Council, Very Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Ibe, in his welcome address noted that the annual lecture is aimed at stimulating the national consciousness and awareness of the issues that are central to and necessary for the national coexistence and development as a people. According to him the theme presents an opportunity for a succinct diagnosis of Nigeria’s physical, political, social, economic and sadly even spiritual ailment. Speaking on the current state of the country, Archbishop Martins stated, “We live in a time when the world is grappling with a global pandemic and its effect on our society.
Unfortunately, as we are coping with the bitter taste that the COVID-19 experience has left in our mouths, we are also having to battle with our perennial problems as a country. We are still faced with the problems of bad governance, corruption, insecurity, economic instability, banditry and more recently, a violent resurgence of the SARS menace. “This has left the average Nigerian with a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. Providentially, on the 6oth year of our independence, the theme of our ACOF theme offers an opportunity for a deep reflection on the challenges facing us as a country in search of nationhood. “Nigeria is indeed a nation in need of redemption on all fronts, spiritually, socially and politically. Spiritually, not just by our prayers, but also our actions which should follow as the fruits of our prayers. Socially; by the overhauling of our value system, so that we can have a system that encourages and rewards hard work, merit, honesty and discipline.
We need a value system that rejects and frowns at selfishness, greed and inordinate desire for wealth. Finally, politically by, redefining our idea of politics as an opportunity to serve, and not for unjust exploitation of the people.” Noting that the problems being witnessed in the country cannot be tackled by the government alone, he beckoned on citizens to join hands with the government to tackle the problems in the country. “While it is easy for us to point accusing fingers at the government, blaming all our woes on the government’s inability to steer the ship of the nation in the right direction, and for poor management of our resource, we must never forget that the maladies of greed, selfishness and corruption eating deep into the fabric of the society cannot be cleared from our national consciousness by the government alone.
“All hands need to be on deck, so that we can save the sinking ship of Nigeria. Even though government has the duty of taking the lead, the task is for all. The Archbishop also reminded Catholics of their obligation to be involved in the political activities of the country, as well as bringing Christian values to bear on how politics is done in the country. “We should be able to bring our Christian values to bear on how politics is done in our country. At this point, we must remind ourselves as Catholics especially the laity, of our obligation to be involved in the political activities of our country. We thank God for a number of Catholics that are actively involved in partisan politics.
We need them to deliberately work to bring in other Catholics to be involved in grassroots politics, from the ward level upwards, so that we can begin to have a stronger voice in the scheme of things among the faithful. After all, they are the ones Christ has called to bring his message to the market squares. “They should be able to weigh in on discussions, for example, concerning a return to true federalism, the concept upon which Nigeria was birthed. We have deviated and we see clearly the need to return there for the redemption of the nation. Catholicism that is founded on the principle of unity in diversity, provides us the ready basis upon which we must propose and fight for a restructuring that boils down to a return of the practice of federation that would make us a true Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Speaking on the event and its impact on the Archdiocese, the Director, Lay Apostolate and Chaplain, Lagos Archdiocesan Laity Council said it is an occasion organised in honour of the Archbishop of Lagos Emeritus, Anthony Cardinal Okogie to raise consciousness and funds for human development. “The basic aim for organizing this event is to raise consciousness and also to raise some funds. Consciousness for human development, funds for us to have something for the foundation to take care of young men and women who are in secondary schools and tertiary institutions, so that they can become leaders of tomorrow.
So that’s basically what today’s event is for. It entails a lecture that is given for that national consciousness coupled with a fundraising towards making contributing to the foundation,” he stated. “The late Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. It goes without saying that in order to alter the trajectory of impending doom which Nigeria seems to be trailing, one must first set the feet of her future leaders, (through education) on the firm foundation of hope and knowledge.” On what informed the theme that has to do with redeeming the nation, Rev. Fr. Ibe said: “Well, you and I know that Nigeria is still after 60 years of independence struggling to find her feet. I mean practically, every area of her life. And the Cardinal himself in whose name this foundation is established is one that is very passionate in the socio-political space about upliftment of the masses, of the Nigerian populace, and the ordinary man.
He has always been that way even while he was fully in charge of the Archdiocese of Lagos as the Archbishop. Now that he is retired, he is an Emeritus, he still continues to lend his voice from time to time to such situations. So that is the basic reason or motivation for the establishment of the foundation in the first place. The Guest Speaker at the event, Prof. Pat Utomi presented a paper on the theme, “Nigeria: A nation in need of redemption, spiritually, socially and politically.
” He said the coming of military rule with the coup d’état of January 1966 moved Nigeria into a season in which centripetal pressures took over. “From diffusion of power in a federal system to concentration in the centralized hierarchical tradition of the military moved Nigeria from a Competitive Communalism mode to prebendal culture of the vicar at the centre handling out prebends to assistants in the states. “The fiscal federalism system would suffer even greater injury because Oil which was found in commercial quantities in Oloibiri in 1956 had become a factor and was now the major source of revenue.
The alchemy of soldiers and oil killed federalism, local autonomy, and the principle of subsidiarity. Corruption deepened after the civil war that followed military intervention and state capture was soon to take hold. Water had found its way into the watermelon and Chinua Achebe would say the centre could not hold and things had fallen apart. “From musical chairs, by ambitious soldiers we journeyed to a place of unbeneficiated arrogance of, and with power.
The crude exercise of public authority by people who were supposed not only to be agents and representatives of the people, and who had fiduciary obligation to act in the best interest of the people became their masters, and an alienation of the people from power and politics and particularly with the central government. This was now threatening the continuing existence of Nigeria as a country as calls for an Oduduwa republic and sentiments of Biafra, enhanced by the anger of the middle belt and particularly the people of Southern Kaduna who had been at the receiving end of murderous banditry and farmers-herder clashes. These were become the defining phenomenon of now.
” The lecture which was organized by the Lagos Archdiocesan Association of Papal knights and Medalists (APKM) was attended by the Governor of Lagos State, ably represented by the Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture, Hon. Olanrewaju Elegushi, religious and Lay Catholic faithful from all walks of life, Rt. Hon. Chevalier and Dame Udiumo Itsueli KSG, OON, Bar. Chief (Mrs.) Philomena Omorodion, President, Catholic Women Organization, Nigeria, Lagos Archdiocese and a host of others. The event also saw awards presented to some personalities in the Archdiocese including Sir Steve Omojafor and Mrs. Winifred Akpani and among others.