Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
Africa’s vast and most populous nation, with a population of more than 200 million attained independence from British colonial rule on 1 October 1960. At 60 years, the Catholic Bishops say the country has nothing much to celebrate for its Diamond anniversary, but its people can make the difference.
In an address to Nigerian clergy, the religious and Catholic faithful, Archbishop Augustine Akubeze called for national introspection and recommitment to spiritual values and the rediscovery of patriotism. The Archbishop is the Metropolitan Ordinary of Benin City and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN). The address titled, ‘Urgent call to save Nigeria at 60 from total collapse,’ was released Thursday, Independence Day, in Benin City.
How can we celebrate with so much suffering?
“Ordinarily, we as a nation should be rejoicing on this occasion of the diamond jubilee of Nigeria’s independence. But how can we celebrate when many of our people cannot afford to eat? How can we celebrate when we watch daily, the killings of Nigerians by the insurgents? How can we celebrate when Boko Haram is still holding some of the Chibok girls, and Leah Sharibu is still being held captive for over three years because she refuses to denounce Christ? How can we celebrate when Covid-19 has crippled an already poor Nigerian economy?” wondered Archbishop Akubeze.
The killing of Nigerian Christians
Archbishop Akubeze used his address to express gratitude to Nigerians who overwhelmingly responded to the call for forty days of prayer. Nigerians started daily prayers for the country on 22 August and continued till the fortieth day on the 30 September, the eve of independence.
“On behalf of the members of the CBCN … I thank everyone who complied to our request for prayers for Nigeria, especially the solidarity prayer after the Angelus for an end to the barbaric killings of Christians in the Northern part of Nigeria. I thank you all in a very special way for prayers offered for Southern Kaduna which has had too many unfortunate cases of killings of innocent people. Prayer remains our most potent weapon as Christians. We encourage all of you to continue to say the prayer for Nigeria in distress. Nigeria is still very much in great distress after 60 years of independence,” said the Benin City prelate.
Boko Haram revival?
Apart from economic challenges and corruption, security is what is on everyone’s mind in Nigeria, at the moment. A resurgent Boko Haram, armed Fulani Herdsmen and criminal gangs kidnapping citizens for ransom have made the lives of Nigerians miserable. When President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015, all hopes were on him to end the terrorist attacks. For a while, Boko Haram seemed on the verge of defeat. Recent brazen attacks by the insurgents indicate they are anything but a spent force. The 2019 Global Terrorism Index places Nigeria third after Afghanistan and Iraq.
Let your faith be the compass of your decisions
The message of the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria is not all doom and gloom. He also had words of comfort. Archbishop Akubeze urged Nigerians not to lose hope because “those who put their trust in God are never disappointed.” The change should start with every Catholic, Christian and Muslim said the Archbishop.
“To all Catholics, we say, let your faith be the compass that guides your daily decisions. Let your faith influence the values you promote. If all the more than 22 million Catholics in Nigeria decide to allow themselves to be moved by their faith-based conviction, Nigeria will be transformed. If all the Christians and Muslims in Nigeria truly follow the dictates of their religions, we will have a Nigeria that will be the envy of other nations,” challenged Archbishop Akubeze.
Nigerians: A resilient, resourceful people
Archbishop Akubeze has since reaffirmed his faith in the ingenuity of Nigerians as a people.
“We know that there are still very many patriotic Nigerians. The fact that we keep hearing of Nigerians who are doing well in academics, sports, and other areas, once they leave Nigeria, tells us that God has wired in the DNA of Nigerians the potential and capacity to be successful,” encouraged the Ordinary from Benin City.
President Buhari addresses nation, calls for healing
For his part, President Muhammadu Buhari on the morning of Thursday addressed the nation, in a broadcast, as part of activities commemorating the Independence Day anniversary. The President appealed for national healing.
“We need to begin a sincere process of national healing and this anniversary presents a genuine opportunity to eliminate old and outworn perceptions that are always put to test in the lie they always are,” Buhari told Nigerians.
President Buhari also spoke about his commitment to ensuring security for all, wish for the enthronement of the rule of law, ensuring accountability of elected representatives, his quest for an improved economy notwithstanding COVID-19 and low oil prices on the global market. As a consequence, Buhari told Nigerians that his government had no choice, but to adjust Petroleum prices upwards.