BY AMOS DUNIA, ABUJA – The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan has told the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government that the blame game of pointing accusing fingers at others will not carry the nation far.
Cardinal Onaiyekan said that for a positive change to take place, we must all be ready for a sincere change of heart, from the lowest to the highest, but especially at the highest levels, stressing that empty boasts and bare-face denial of the realities around us cannot build the nation.
Onaiyekan, who stated these at the inter-denominational Christian Service that held at the National Christian Centre, Abuja, heralding the inauguration of President Buhari for a second term of office, said this is no time for any celebration of victory or for lamentation over defeat, adding that rather, it is time to pull efforts together, with the grace of God, to tackle the serious challenges facing the country.
He noted that the last elections left behind thick clouds of acrimony that are still to clear, saying; “We are still waiting for the final verdict of the tribunals, on which we now rely, in a spirit of peaceful contest, guided by the rule of law.”
In his words; “At this moment, we would do well to acknowledge our failure to do things in the right way. Here the words of the Psalmist should challenge each of us: “If you Oh Lord should mark our guilt, who would survive?”
“The truth will make us free. The truth is that our nation is not in a state for us to rejoice. The ranks of the poor are swelling by the day, hopeless and helpless, as they watch in frustration the affluence of the very few cruising in a different world. Such wide socio-economic disparity has led to anger, tension, violence and outright criminality in the land. All is not well,” Cardinal Onaiyekan warned.
He continued; “But all is not lost either. As we embrace a new term of government, it should be for us a new opportunity to change ways and review habits of governance, for a better Nigeria. We can and we should do this.
“God has endowed us with adequate resources to achieve this, resources that we unfortunately turn into curses and problems. Ethnicity and religion are two cases in point.
“Our ethnic diversity is God’s will and gift that we ought to appreciate and celebrate. We should beware of those who seek to manipulate this in a game of divide and rule, for selfish interests. In our emerging global world, we should be building on our long experience of living together across ethnic lines, if we are not to allow ourselves to be left behind in our fast developing modern world.
“We are living in a world where many are abandoning faith in God, at great cost to humanity now and in the future. We do well to commend ourselves for our generally high level of religious fervor. But if this is to translate into a righteous nation, we must all seek the will of God for good human relations. This cuts across our religious differences and affiliations.
“Religion is good, but not enough. It is useless, and can even be worse than useless, if it does not promote good human behavior. We cannot deceive God. We may, by our human failure, give religion a bad name. But God will always be the Holy and Righteous One.”
The Cardinal noted that religion evokes strong emotions that ought to be deployed for solving the ills of our nation and not to compound them, stressing that those who manipulate religion for their selfish political interests end up destroying religion and harming the nation.
He further said; “Our constitution is not perfect. But its basic provisions about freedom of religion are valid and must be scrupulously respected by all, especially by those who control state instruments of coercion.
Onaiyekan said the greatest of God’s gift to mankind which is life in itself, is in danger all over the land as gunmen and women, unknown and known, have been sowing death, destruction and misery almost everywhere.
In his words; “Property, well-being, harmony and peace are endangered by generalized insecurity. Before God, this is the truth and not political propaganda mounted to discredit the government. The nation must be mobilized to join hands to face the disaster looming over all of us.
“Again, here we must tell the truth. For too long, we have been seeing what seems to be a policy of polarization of the nation along primordial fault lines of ethnicity and religion. The result is that we have been indulging in the highly risky game of “dancing on the brink of chaos”. We do not know for how long we can continue to get away with this. But the handwriting on the wall is quite clear for all who care to see.
“It is said that no condition is permanent: certainly not the present state of our nation. In this new term of office, there is need for a drastic change of government system, if our nation is to be saved from imminent chaos. The sad fact is that many have already lost all hope in the future of this nation. “According to them, we are to get ready for the worst. Frightful conspiracy theories are making the rounds in the social media, shaping and twisting the attitudes and minds of many people. In this situation, the serious warnings from well-intentioned wise elders should not be ignored, less still denigrated without due respect.
“There are, we hope, many more people who still believe in our ability to build a united nation under God, and thus to realize the dream of our constitution. Doing nothing but complaining and pointing accusing fingers at others is to wait for the worst to happen. The positive and responsible option is to stand up to be counted and get involved in building the nation of our dreams. The Lord has put before us a choice between death and life. He urges us to choose life, for our own good and for his greater glory.”
Cardinal Onaiyekan therefore prayed for the wisdom and the courage to regain and strengthen our sense of national cohesion, in the midst of dangerous rumours of war and chaos, from within and from outside our national borders, adding that it is God’s will that His children live in security in this land of ours.
He also prayed that all those whose duty it is to keep us safe will do their duty, with no more excuses or compromises.
The Cardinal also prayed for President Buhari to live up to the Christian and Muslim principle that all authority and power belong to God, and must be exercised under his will.
He said; “May he be liberated from bad advisers and unhelpful associates. May he see the wisdom of bringing on board every segment of the nation, for an improved sense of belonging, without which the problems of the nation will not be successfully addressed.”