Lady Chizoba Osamgbi is the National President of the Catholic United Sisters in Christ, famously known as CSU. She is a legal practitioner by profession and works in the telecommunications industry. In this interview with the Editor, NETA NWOSU, she speaks on the humble beginnings of CSU, its goals as well as impact and state of insecurity, appointment of new Service Chiefs, declining participation of women in politics amid other contemporary issues.
When was Catholic Sisters United in Christ formed? And where? How many dioceses do we have this organisation and what is the total membership strength?
Catholic Sisters United in Christ, fondly called CSU was formed in 1994, at St. Agnes Catholic Church, Maryland Lagos. CSU has presence in 7 Archdioceses/Dioceses namely; Lagos Archdiocese, Diocese of Abeokuta, Abuja Archdiocese, Diocese of Bomadi, Warri Diocese, Nnewi and Minna Diocese, respectively.
Why was it formed? How is Catholic Sisters United in Christ different from CWON and Confraternity of Christian Mothers?
The then Parish Priest of St. Agnes Catholic Church, Maryland, Lagos observed that young women were being nonchalant in being engaged and participate in the activities of the Church, they were leaving the Church in search of fulfilment elsewhere. Upon investigation, it was discovered that these young women felt either too “young” to join the already existing female groups or too “old” to be part of some other groups. The restriction of certain membership conditions also was not favourable as such the tendency to seek for a sense of belonging elsewhere outside the Church, which caused loss of faith, loss of their Catholic doctrine etc. became a threatening challenge. He then gathered some young women and CSU was birthed. CSU was formed to bridge the gaps mentioned above, as at point of entry which is between the ages of 25years to 45years, the lady is faced with life facts which a gathering of sisters of like minds brought together by CSU were there to cushion the effects by way of mentoring, praying together, learning more and maintaining the Catholic doctrines, watching out for each other, among others. The Catholic Women Organisation of Nigeria (CWON) is the umbrella body of all women societies in the Church. It is a mandatory women organisation according to the structure of the Church. CSU is a pious female praying group which membership is by choice not compulsion. Confraternity of Christian Mothers (CCM) is a society for women who are duly wedded in the Church, meaning only married women can be members. Catholic Sisters United in Christ (CSU) however, draws its membership from both single and married women, there is no marital status restriction. All you require is a desire to know and serve God, a desire to learn more about the Catholic faith/doctrines, a place bound together by sisterhood. Our CSU apostolate includes, spiritual building of members; Charitable activities; Encouragement and Support for vocations (Clergy and religious) and Evangelism (spread of CSU).
How has the Catholic Sisters United in Christ contributed to spiritual, social and economic growth of its members? How has it impacted on the Church, women and society as a whole?
CSU through its operational mode impacts on her members spiritually through her spiritual activities. CSU holds weekly meetings which only one (1st week) is a General meeting, the others are spiritual meetings…. Bible sharing (2nd week), Doctrinal talk (3rd week), 20 decades of the Rosary (4th week) and where there is a 5th week, it is for Praise/Worship and Testimonies. Every meeting begins with recitation of the Holy Rosary, has bible readings, intercessory prayers. CSU has Lenten and Advent recollections as period of the Church calendar dictates. Singles and Married recollections as the case may be. Annual CSU holds a Live in Retreat where members from all the Dioceses/Archdioceses come together in a pastoral or retreat center to seek the face of God with the guidance of a Retreat Master (Clergy). Socially, CSU creates a favourable atmosphere to build solid friendships, contacts, sisterhood bonds. There are activities which creates avenues to unwind in CSU. The welfare aspect of CSU where no sister is alone is also attestable. Economically, members support each other by way of teaching each other ropes of business, career, entrepreneurship guide, trade, business connections whatever one can do to assist a sister learn how to fish rather than giving fish always. In CSU, members support and watch out for each other. Catholic Sisters United in Christ has impacted on the Church, women and society as a whole positively because in the Parishes, Deaneries, Dioceses/Archdioceses where CSU has presence our impact is positively felt. Members, through the mentoring and grooming they got from CSU have been able to handle different assignments in the Church and they do very well. The society has better women who are self-reliant, women develop and maintain their self-esteem, have a sense of acceptance and are better personalities.
What do you think is responsible for the poor emergence of women Senators and Reps in the National Assembly? What do you think should be done to increase women participation in politics?
The poor emergence of women Senators and Reps in the National Assembly can be attributed largely to the cultural bias of the female gender participation in politics. The Nigerian political terrain is not so female friendly… the cultural factor of seeing politics as a “Man thing” whereby women in politics are often times termed morally loose without justification in most cases. The notion that politics is a dirty game does not help matters. The victim mentality by some women, that feeling of being weak is a showstopper because there are women who are mentally stronger, more educated, more leadership savvy than some men. But with the victim mentality, some women do not want to fight/struggle for the position, they just want to sit and have the position dropped at their table just like that. Another critical factor is funding, most women who would have delved into politics lack the financial capacity to so do. Politics requires massive funding/expensive nature of politics and the gender factor most times does not favour the participation of women in full time politicking. Women are not often times economically endowed to participate in the Nigerian political terrain. To increase women participation in politics, the conditions have to be less cumbersome. We need to expose women to leadership trainings and roles. Women should be given more assignments/responsibilities by government because those who have been tested have proved their worth; for example, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former MD of World Bank, now DG, World Trade Organisation, Late Dora Akunyili DG of NAFDAC, Arunma Oteh, former Treasurer and World Bank Vice President, DG of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ifueko Omoigui former Federal Inland Revenue Boss and so many others. These women have track records of delivering optimum results when given the opportunity, therefore more women should be encouraged, given responsibilities and support to function.
More women are becoming domestically violent. What do you think is responsible for this unhealthy development injurious to building strong families, the local Churches and units of the society?
The issue of domestic violence has become a fast-spreading canker worm in our society, I want to mention at this point that domestic violence is not limited to spouses only, it includes but not limited to domestic violence against children, domestic staff, employees etc. With women most times being at the receiving end and there is no justifiable rationale for this. The family is the basic unit of society and with less/diminishing reverence to family sanctity, the society at large suffers for it. Poor upbringing where children grow in hostile environments of domestic violence, lack, poor behavioural examples make them feel it is a norm and practice it when they become adults. The emergence and society engulfment of information technology has drastically reduced the quality physical family time/ relationship. Use of gadgets hinder physical quality time parents spend with their children/wards. Everyone is always busy on one gadget or the other, talking and relating less. This creates a vacuum. Spouses tend to use domestic violence as a tool of intimidation, either because one has an upper financial capacity or in a bid to assert gender dominance. Economic challenges are also a threat and injurious to building strong families. Parents are away from their children lots of the time in pursuit of means of livelihood. Children are left to train themselves; the fundamental parental input are often times lost in the fracas. These are not permissible in the Church’s teachings; the Church strongly frowns at and condemns any form of violence in its totality. The society suffers as well with this trend of domestic violence, prominent personalities have lost their lives, been maimed, or sustained physical incapacitations as a result of being victims of domestic violence.
How do you see the appointment of the new Service Chiefs? What advice do you have to enable them foster a new approach to tackling the frightening insecurity situation in Nigeria?
The appointments of the new Service Chiefs by President Bola Tinubu are commendable and reflects the principle of federal character representing the geographical zones which is a departure from the previous composition where Service Chiefs were from the same political zone, creating tension in the security architecture of the country. The naming of the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, as his new National Security Adviser (NSA) comes with lots of expectations. EFCC recorded remarkable milestones under the administration of Alhaji Nuhu Ribadu, therefore, the expectation is that he will bring the magic wand to the insecurity situation in Nigeria. The service chiefs as appointed; Chief of Defence Staff, Maj. Gen. C.G Musa; Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen T. A Lagbaja; Chief of Air Staff, AVM H.B Abubakar; Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla; and Acting Inspector-General of Police, DIG Kayode Egbetokun are persons who have track record of achievements in their various fields, they come with lots of experience and there’s seemly public confidence in them. The frightening insecurity situation in Nigeria is crying to high heavens for solution, farmers in the hinterlands are unable to farm, livestock is attacked and destroyed, incessant killings here and there. These threaten the total survival of Nigerians as a race. My advice is simple, Nigerian Armed Forces who were part of ECOMOG, the formal arrangement for separate armies to work together. Which was largely supported by personnel and resources of the Nigerian Armed Forces, with sub-battalion strength units contributed by other ECOWAS members — Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, the Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and others., this ECOMOG personnel that aided the restoration of peace in Liberia, Monrovia, South Africa and other African Countries where Nigerian soldiers negotiated, fought/combated and reinstated peace; the dreaded military mighty of Nigeria that earned us the status of “Giant of Africa” should recoup again and recover our fatherland. Even those who cannot, for reason of age or incapacitation, may not go into the actual battle should be called out to mentor, groom and boost the morale of those facing up the battle. They should rise up and stand to restore the serenity of the Nigerian space. Government should declare Serious WAR on insecurity as it threatens the very foundation of our sovereign existence as a country. Those guilty of security crimes, irrespective of who they are, should be arrested, prosecuted and made to face the consequences of their actions. This will no doubt, checkmate and deter offenders and/or intending offenders.