BY BISHOP JOSEPH BAGOBIRI
We have in the recent past been deafened by the choruses of hate and threats of war from almost every region of the Nigerian conflation. The tone for this macabre was set by a rather unfortunate statement credited to a conglomerate of groups purporting to be representing the entire Northern Nigeria on which some of us are bona fide members, but were never consulted or carried along in its drafting and presentation. This was quickly followed up by a similar statement by the Region of the Niger Delta with the acronym RONDEL. Other regions like the Middle Belt, comprising mainly of Christians of the Northern region extraction, followed suit with spurious press statements.
The position of the South East and South West for restructuring of our Nation and sometimes threats of secession are a common knowledge to us all. This madness is a luxury that this country cannot afford to descend into. Surely, these cacophonies of voices express a certain high level of discontent in our Nation. But discontent among citizens of a nation is not something peculiar to one people. Such feelings and agitations constitute a real challenge to both the leadership and those being led. But the burden above all is on the leadership of the given discontented people. Nigerians must wake up to the reality that our problems are not those of ethnicity, religious affiliations, political plurality or regionalism, even though they assume such garbs or guises. The Igbos for instance, are not the real enemies of the Arewa people, or the Yorubas to the Middle Belters. At the heart of our national crisis, are unbridled greed and avarice expressed in the three hydra vises of discrimination, excessive corruption and the dearth of fraternity shown in the lack of respect for the sanctity of human.
These voices are expressed in our various calls not only for resource control or resource ownership, but also in laying claim to land mass, the penchant for monopolizing political and security power by a single section of the nation etc. The six-month long National Conference of 2014 was one forum where the various forms and expressions of greed were brought to the surface. On more than one occasion the proceedings and deliberations became so tensed, and they almost brought the CONFAB to a terminus prematurely. But good will and a high sense of patriotism led to the successful conclusion of the Conference with resolutions arrived at mainly through consensus. No region achieved 100% what she brought at table during the conference. Compromises and strong negotiations became the hallmark of our activities then. This dialogue was meant to have been continued by those that divine providence has placed the governance of this nation on their shoulders. Unfortunately, this process was advertently scuttled and now seems aborted. The agitations that are brewing up in our nation today are a clarion call for a dispassionate evaluation of the causes of friction among the diverse groups and regions of Nigeria. If this is handled properly, it can turn out to be a real advantage and a blessing to our nation and the world at large and transform it into a model for all societies lacking in homogeneity. We must now put on our thinking caps as patriots of a Country that holds so much hope and promises prosperity for all and so shun sentiments that could make us resort to mudslinging on one another. Our differences in ethnicity, religion and political affiliations must be harnessed and channeled towards the development, unity, none disintegration and fractionalization of our great and promising nation.
We are better off being together after over 100 years of leaving together as an amalgamated nation. The idea of shrinking into pockets of states as the agents of anarchy and disintegration across the Country are wanting to plunge us into is a retrogressive measure that is anachronistic. This goes contrary to the current trend of things globally, where nations that used to be divided are melting and forming themselves into formidable blocks for the prosperity and general wellbeing of their citizens. We must take the bull by the horn and work assiduously through dialogue and just compromises to resolving all the imbalances and structural deficiencies afflicting our great Nation.
Please stop the insanity of drumming the choruses of hate and conflict. Let’s us have the courage to undo the pervasive structures of greed and selfishness that are debilitating and stunting our growth as people. Government must take a lead on this and take Nigerians to great confidence by listening and adhering to constructive counsels and criticism. This cannot be achieved with a strong, dynamic and visionary leadership. The Party in Government must resolve its internal squabbles and commit itself to providing Nigerians with visionary and inspiring leadership where every Nigerian and all Nigerians see themselves as equal stake holders in the re-engineering of our nation to greater heights. What Nigerians want is a country grounded on the principles of justice, equity and fair play, where no person or group of persons is discriminated against or marginalized. Peace thrives only where there is justice. This is a worthy desire and it is not only feasible but realizable. The mentality where a Government sees herself as the know-it-all thereby ignoring the useful inputs of citizens towards the building of a healthier and prosperous Nation must be jettisoned. Let us know this: all parties in a war are losers. But with peace, love of one another and our Nation (Patriotism), all regions will become winners. All of us therefore, Muslims and Christians, Middle Beltans, Hausa/Fulani, Yorubas, Igbos, Ijwas etc, shall be become losers if we fail to eschew our differences and evolve ways of working harmoniously together in our diversity and plurality.
Let me end with a call for action not only through dialogue but more to this through dia-praxis. We want more action on the level of genuine law enforcement of our constitution, more action from the side of the executive, legislative and judicial dimensions of governance. On the religious side, leaders must preach the truth about their various religions. Religion must not be allowed to become the reason for violence and war. A religion that teaches violence or war is to that extent a travesty; a negation of what religion is about. As Pope John Paul 11 said: “Religion is not and must not become, a pretext for conflict…….. the only religion worthy of the name, is the religion that leads to peace and that true religion is mocked when it is tied to conflict and violence”. True religion is concerned primarily with the worship of God which includes adoration, praise, thanksgiving, love and making of supplications. To love God this way must necessarily include love of neighbour. Anyone who says, “I love God but hates his neighbour is a liar. Since a man who does not love the brother that he can see cannot love God whom he has never seen (Un4:20).
When crime and violence are carried out in the name of Religion, People of Religions must be courageous enough to out rightly condemn such evil even when the perpetrators are members of their Religion. Silence over such grave evil makes People of Religions guilty or associates of the evil committed and renders them morally blameworthy for such crimes
We must all be united in prayer for our Nation to come out from the woods of current confusion. That God will once again shame the prophets of doom who are not only predicting the breakup of our Nation, but are planting dangerous traps to make sure we collapse. They have failed in the past and by the force of our prayers and unity of purpose, they shall fail again in their bid and quest for our disintegration. Let us therefore pray and work for the good of our Nation, for our peace is contingent to that of our Nation. The Prophet Jeremiah said this all: “Pray and work for the Peace [good] of the city which I have exiled you, pray to the Lord on its behalf, since on its welfare and peace yours depends….. Yes, I know what plans I have in mind for you. The Lord declares, plans for peace, not for disaster to give you a future and a hope. When you call to me and come to pray to me, I shall listen to you. When you search for me, you will find me, when you search whole-heartedly for me, I shall let you find me……. I shall restore your fortunes and gather you from all nations…… back to the place from which I exiled you [from the prophecy of Jeremiah 29:7-14].
Finally using the words of St. Paul as found in the second reading of the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity that we celebrate worldwide today: Brothers, we ish you happiness, try to grow perfect, help one another. Be united, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with the holy kiss. All the saints send you greetings. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2Cor 13:11-13).
Bagobiri is the Bishop of Kafanchan Catholic Diocese, Kaduna State