Very Rev. Fr. Raymond Anoliefo, Director, Justice, Development and Peace Centre (JDPC), Archdiocese of Lagos in this interview with NETA NWOSU and CONSTAINCIA URUAKPA on the 63rd Independence celebration and the challenges of the nation; speaks on insecurity, socio-political and economic woes, as well as leadership problems retarding the country’s growth amid other issues. Excerpts:
State of the nation
First of all, from a positive standpoint, grateful to God that Nigeria as a country is 63 after independence. And we are thankful to God for the abundance of human and natural resources for the good people across the length and breadth of the country. The dynamism and everything that this country is blessed with. So, from a positive point of view, some level of gratitude. But now, from a realistic point of view, pragmatic view point, not much to be excited about in the entity called Nigeria; failure taking shape almost at all levels. And with current impasse we are going through, the current challenges we are going through, the fuel subsidy removal and its attendant challenges, inflation almost approaching 30 percent, unemployment rate, regardless of the shenanigans of the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS. Unemployment is ridiculously on the high side, and the food crisis. There’s a whole lot. The economic indices are terrible, security is at an all-time low across the country; from the south to the north, it’s all tales of banditry, terrorism, kidnappings and what have you. And it almost seems like the leaders have no answer, no clue to what they want to do.
So, it’s a mixed bag of being positively optimistic that by the grace of God we have all that it takes to be a great nation. But realistically, we are fumbling all the way. The last elections are nothing to write home about. The decisions of the judiciary have also left so much to be desired. And the only thing we are still hanging on to is hope. There’s insecurity. There’s lawlessness. There’s impunity. There’s corruption, and what have you. All the negative things can be said about this country. So Nigeria at 63, I think it’s a mixed bag, but I think we can tighten our belt and beyond just being hopeful, that we intentionally work at getting ourselves out the dungeon that we have found ourselves. So, that’s how I will summarise it. There’s laxity everywhere. The three arms of government, the executive, legislature, judiciary just so poor, so bad. The armed forces, the police; it’s so disheartening. Health care, there’s not so much. Education, not so much to be proud of now. Well, we thank God for life and for a country we can call our own.
First for the government, I don’t know if they actually do need advice because if they need advice, they would ask for it. Those at the helm of affairs are the most insincere persons you can ever think of. By their very utterances, their disposition, their mannerism, you simply know that these persons have no interest in the common good. So, what do you want to advise? That they should just have love for the common good. If that is ignited, persons will step down from places of position by themselves, even without any court of law saying it. They just have no intention of using power for the common good. Advice? I don’t think there’s any advice for them. They should all get out from there; from the presidency to the least of them, they have no business being there. They are not doing anything there. They are not sincere persons.
And we can see it being played out with all the tons of lies, with policy somersault here and there, fuel subsidy removal, when they are still trying to pay fuel subsidy, and you take away the fuel subsidy, there are no palliatives. And the palliatives you are still discussing. And then, who are those that have the register? It’s just where we are. It’s just an unfortunate situation. It’s not about Mr. President, it’s all of them. Look at the Senate President. Look at those who are there with him, looking for prayer points or prayer that will be sent to their emails. Legislators that resumed sitting in the month of June as it were, and then in August, they are going on recess after two months, and will have to be paid. So, why are they going on recess? So, it’s just a criminal establishment.
Look at the judiciary. Look at the decisions they make. Nobody is talking about substantial justice. We are looking at technicalities, what the law is. Nobody is talking about if it’s right or it’s wrong. Nobody is talking about substantial justice. Nobody is doing what is right. So, we can go on and on. I don’t know if government needs any advice. The truth is they know what they are doing. They know. They know what they have to do to get this country running. But they don’t want to do it because this country has been designed to work the way it’s working. This country is designed to be as malfunctioned as it is current ly. It’s intentional. This country is designed to have poor health care, to have poor educational facilities. It is designed this way. Those who are there know what to do to get us out of this dungeon, but they will not do it. They do not intend; they don’t have the goodwill to do it. They even lack the capacity. They don’t have the moral capacity. They are morally decayed in corruption, in stealing, in exponential and geometrical terms. So, they lack every ounce of integrity to be able to change anything.
If everyone is expecting a change from this current crop of leaders, I think that person should take a brain-check or maybe just check into a hospital and let them examine their head, because this administration, this government is incapable of giving us anything good. They don’t have the wherewithal. They don’t have the goodwill. They don’t have the decency. You can’t give what you don’t have. If we are not battling with certificate forgery, we are battling with identity crisis. How can such persons function? It’s like asking the devil to give you light, to give you blessing. It’s just by way of analogy. I’m not that foolish to place my hope that these people will do something good. So, that’s for them. I don’t think I have advice for them. If they want, they can call the people that they need to call. I doubt if they will call you to ask if people have advised them. They know what to do. They have not asked for anybody to advise them. So, there’s no need wasting advise on them.
Middle class as solution
They should go and have the goodwill to work for the citizenry and stop this misbehaviour and this gallivanting and indecency that they are patrolling and rubbing all of us in the face. For the masses, I think that’s where there’s a whole lot that can be done, because we are in the majority. So, I think we have to do something. So, Nigeria at 63, people have to come back and love this country, not like physically coming back, but have to sit back and love this country, and have a genuine desire to get this country working. And that’s where the middle class in Nigeria has to work. The middle class seems to be comatose. And like I said, it’s intentional. The middle-class is not functioning. And if the middle-class is not functioning, change becomes almost an out of the window affair with little positive change in any country. The middle class are quite comfortable where they are. Nobody wants to get hurt. Nobody wants to rock the boat. So, I think the middle class can be able to, if they want to come out and speak with one voice. We are hopeful. Hopefully, we can drag those who are at the lower wrung to see reason with us why we can upset the status quo.
There’s need for complete reorientation of our mindset, our value system. As a people, we place hope on the wrong people.We worship the wrong types of heroes. As a people, we worship the wrong types of heroes. And so, our value system as a people collectively has been bastardised. Hard work ‘s not appreciated. Integrity is not appreciated. So, we tend to glorify what we should be having a disdain for. So, that value system, that value reorientation, what some philosophers will call a trans valuation of values has to happen with everyone of us because it is from the people, the citizenry that we elect the leaders. So, those leaders didn’t fall from the sky, they came from us. The corrupt. So, they mirror exactly who we are. That’s exactly what we are. That’s exactly how we are. So, they say Nigerians are fantastically corrupt. We can be angry about it, and can be saying, ‘oh, this west too, they are also corrupt. But let’s ask ourselves, are we truly corrupt? The answer is yes. From the least to the top.
So, if we need a change in the country, we must begin from ourselves, both at the religious front, civil society front, the schools, in places of worship, in our everyday work places, market, in the playground, in the remote and dainty villages. We must begin from there in value orientation. May be national orientation agency may take that up and see how we can begin to rebrand ourselves, cherish what is honest. Let integrity, honesty, discipline, let them be things that will take us to the top. But unfortunately, if you are able to have some money and you bribe your way, you kill, you main. So, that’s one for the people. Another one is that we must focus on the things that unite us.
The last election has driven a very huge dagger in our midst and has torn us further apart, down to Yorubas, Igbos, Hausas, then at least the major tribes don’t see eye to eye. And the politicians are very aware, so, they use it to continue pushing us aside. But we can say no to it. There’s so much good in the persons from the south, so much good in people from the north, and all of that. So, across the length and breadth of this country, we have fantastic people. So, basically, I think we have to begin to heal again. The last elections have not helped. But we need to heal. The holy book says the kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. So, actually, we are so divided as a people.
Education and youth participation in governance
Something else the people need to do is to begin to talk about civic education, and youth participation in governance and politics from now on, before the 2027 elections, because I can tell you for free that if we are to conduct another election now, the voter apathy will be palping. People are disoriented and disgruntled. They are fed up and disappointed with the outcome and how the process of the 2023 general elections took place. So, if conventions are not held around this topic significantly, and then, people are not well mobilised, we might have a 2027 election where we just end up to have one party system, because every other person will not be interested, they will just say, ‘Well, go and do what you people like. We are not interested.’ And that wouldn’t be good for our collective pshyche and of course, generally, for our development as a people.
So, that also needs to be done. I think generally, education; people need to be aware where we are as a people, get interested, so that these issues are kept at the front burner. Unfortunately, as a people, we are very quick to move on. Nigerians are very, very uncertain, we pick up something, we can’t sustain, our anger can’t be sustained on a particular issue. Another one comes and distract us, we drop it and jump on that one. What were we discussing before? Now, we are on Mohbad. Yes, very correct that we need to put and lend our voices, justice must be done. But trust me, maybe next week there will be another issue again, it takes the front burner, and nobody will remember that once upon a time we were trying to get justice for someone and all that. There’s a justice for Chike that has been going on for some weeks now. I don’t know what has happened to it.
Respect for rule of law
For government, part of why they are just so disappointing, nobody also respects court orders. I’m not a fan of Emefiele. So, what has the court said? I’m not a fan of Bawa, former EFCC Chairperson. In fairness, those ones too; Bawa never respected court ruling, that’s why even now, nobody is respecting court ruling. Somehow, our system is gradually becoming like a Banana Republic. I hope it will not get to that point where Thomas Hughes talks about the state of nature where everything is brutish, life is short and nasty, people take laws into their hands in order to survive. It becomes survival of the fittest. And of course, the Church has a huge role to play to galvinise our members, civic education, discussions on how governance had to… and then, just the general orientation value change.
We must begin to inculcate it from time to time. Fortunately, I am a Nigerian baby. My birthday falls on 1st of October. Sometimes I just wish that Nigeria’s independence was another day. Sometimes thinking of sharing birthday with Nigeria lives a sour taste. But then, I’m still happy that every 1st October, Nigeria is celebrating. I wish the country all the best not just praying and wishing, I will try my best possible to contribute my quota in leaving a reasonable impact within my sphere of influence, so that hopefully, our little drops of water can add up to something. We need to make this country work, and this country can work and can be great again.