BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO
Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, comprising Ibadan Archdiocese, Ilorin, Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti and Osogbo Dioceses, on Thursday, lamented worsening economic hardship in the country and expressed annoyance over failure of the political leaders to better living conditions of the citizens.
The clerics also bemoaned insecurity pervading the land, intractable food insecurity, exodus of youths and brain drain, saying, “It is distressing that Nigerian leaders, past and present, continue to exact more sacrifice from ordinary Nigerians while increasing their own scandalous remunerations and comfort.”
In a communiqué entitled “Overcoming The Hard Times in Nigeria,” issued after the meeting of the bishops at Pope John Paul II Pastoral Centre, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, from August 16 to 17, 2023, the bishops, having prayerfully deliberated on issues of Church and national interest at their second meeting for the year, declared that, “All Nigerian leaders stand indicted unless they make a change, shun prebendalism and serve the aspirations of their people.
“We pay tribute to fellow Nigerians for merely staying alive in these intriguing and debilitating times. Between the shock of contestable elections, fuel subsidy removal and escalating cost of essential goods and services, the average Nigerian is shell-shocked and driven almost to desperation. As citizens of one of the wealthiest nations on the planet and yet unable to live decent lives, Nigerians are still desperate for better times which seem now more and more like a mirage. What many Nigerians go through on a daily basis is almost unspeakable. It is distressing that Nigerian leaders, past and present, continue to exact more sacrifice from ordinary Nigerians while increasing their own scandalous remunerations and comfort.
“What more, most of our current leaders seem to lead the country without any compass, hardly knowing what to do about anything. Yet, the demands of Nigerians are very straightforward and simple, namely: purposeful leadership and good governance, verifiable security of life and property, decent infrastructure and social amenities, the enforcement of the rule of law and a conducive atmosphere for development. These are not unthinkable demands to make. All Nigerian leaders stand indicted unless they make a change, shun prebendalism and serve the aspirations of their people,” the communiqué disclosed.
On the ongoing brain drain, the clerics said, “The bleak atmosphere of hope for a better life in Nigeria is partially responsible for the mass migration of Nigerian professionals, workers and youths who continue to seek greener pastures in other lands. This has been on the increase mainly because of the economic situation in the country, dwindling opportunities and the disdain with which Nigerian governments at all levels treat the legitimate demands of workers for improved working conditions. Migration is a natural human phenomenon and moving from place to place is a human right.
“However, it is the responsibility of the government to see that no one is forced to leave his fatherland due to such push-factors, such as bad governance, insecurity, bad economy, unaffordable and unstable education system, and lack of job opportunities. The hemorrhage can only be controlled if the government responds to its duties of forging a conducive environment for Nigerians to attain their legitimate aspirations in life. We align with the Catholic Bishops of Africa urging all who would migrate, to do so legally and with adequate information about the risks and dangers they might face.”
Commenting on the coup in Niger Republic and the ECOWAS resolutions, the bishops warned President Bola Tinubu and the National Assembly against involving the country in war with Niger, noting that, “Governments that fail to represent the interest of their people in democracy, compromise their legitimacy. If the public reaction to Nigeria’s involvement in restoring democracy in Niger is anything to go by, one can say that military intervention in Niger being proposed by the leaders of the Economic Community of West Africa States is very unpopular.”
They added, “Nigerians favour negotiation and other non-military means and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is president first and foremost of Nigeria needs to listen to Nigerians before anyone else. We call on the President and the National Assembly therefore to avoid involving Nigeria in armed conflict in Niger as we have more than enough challenges domestically. No Nigerian life should be sacrificed for the crisis in Niger or anywhere else because war of any kind is a failure of humanity.”
The communiqué, signed by the President of the Province, Most Rev Gabriel Abegunrin and the Secretary, Most Rev John Oyejola, read further, “All over the country insecurity remains an emergency of serious concern. Whether in the form of kidnapping, banditry, insurgency or ritual killing, Nigerians feel increasingly hemmed in, in their own country. Regular news of brutality and killing from the security agencies who should protect the people only intensifies the siege context in which daily life continues. Government must show greater seriousness in tackling these challenges head on. Recent news of the ambush and killing of 21 Nigerian soldiers by suspected bandits in Kundu, Wushishi local government of Niger State does not inspire confidence that the security agencies are able to confront the prevailing situation. The tragic death of Dr. Vwaere Diaso in an elevator crash at General Hospital, Odan, Lagos, a mere two weeks before completing her programme is a metaphor for the needless loss of lives occurring often in Nigeria and the lethargy with which such tragedies are treated.
“Nigeria currently is at risk on many fronts. Of these, food security is a major concern. Any country unable to feed its citizens will be a perpetual victim of manipulation and does not deserve its sovereignty. Current threats of scarcity of food and unaffordable cost of living in the country require not only release of resources from the national reserves but an aggressive agricultural campaign aimed at returning Nigerians to the land. Government must have sustainable programmes for food production, preservation and processing and provide facilities for Nigerians to engage in it. This commitment over some years will unlock the potential capacity of the country to feed its citizens and other countries as well.
“The strength of any nation lies not only in its political or economic power but more in its moral integrity. We must admit that our country is in serious deficit of moral rectitude. As Bishops, we are concerned that this is not being given serious attention in our schools, formation programmes and public institutions. We commit ourselves to this because posterity will not be kind to us if we do not show our people the way, no matter how impossible this may seem. However, the weight of reversing the free fall of morality in Nigeria is on the shoulders of all of us. We must find a way out of this unprecedented darkness in which we find ourselves. We enjoin individuals, families, institutions, and the government at all levels to put integrity and moral rectitude as a priority in their relationships and operations.
“Hope is a necessity for living. Without hope the drive for survival dies in people and life is no longer worth living. Nigerian leaders easily mouth messages of hope and better times to get into office but once installed, they forget all commitments to sustain it. This deficiency kills the dreams and paralyses the initiatives for development in generations of people. It generates desperation, delinquency, banditry, and other forms of criminality. Governments at all levels must seriously work to restore the hope of Nigerians through concrete result-oriented policies and programmes. We strongly urge Nigerians too never to give up hope even in the face of the most daunting challenges, for hope is not a disposable ingredient but a God-given gift for the sustenance of life and humanity.”