Nigeria is again weeping and preparing seriously for the forthcoming elections, an important exercise which will affect us all for another four years. While we rejoice for the total return of government to civilian rule and the orderly progress towards an eventual restoration of Democracy, it is imperative for all Christians, especially the
Catholic Knights, to pause and ponder a while so that we all can perform our civic duties in a conscientious way, for the benefits of ourselves and our children. That is why we should see ourselves caught up in a moment of sober reflection on the role every one of us should play in the politics and Government of this Nation, reconsider our stand and take up new commitments.
Just as he did about two thousand years age, Christ today, throws a serious challenge to all Christians. His message is clear and obvious.
The Christian must be the light of the Nigeria Society, radiating faith in God, holiness and joy and thus promoting peace, unity and progress. they should be in the forefront of the social and political order and draw support and inspirations from the biblical injunction of our Lord Jesus Christ that, ‘the Christian should be the light of the world, the salt of the earth and the leaven of the society” (‘Matt. 5: 13-16 13:3, Lk13:21)
By this injunction, Jesus today is urging all Christians in this country to take politics and government more seriously so as to assume the attributes of the salt and serve as preservatives of our cultural, social moral values, and social justice, and in this way, silent what fools are saying and doing in ignorance. As Christians, therefore, we enjoy the fullest freedom, with the consequent personal responsibility to take part as we see fit in the political, economic, social and spiritual affairs of this Nation, with no restriction other than set by the church’s magisterium.
As we have authoritatively been informed through the Papa charter on the laity in Nigeria:
“The Christians’ special apostolate is to bring the spirit of Christ into such spheres of life as marriage and family, trade and commerce, the arts and professionals, politics and governments, economy, culture and national and international relations.”
The Vatican 11 Council documents on the Laity also stresses on this unique role of Christians. They said:
“Thus by their competence in secular field and by their personal activities and gifts, elevated by the grace of Christ and the Holy spirit, Christians are expected to work vigorously so that by human labour, technical skills and civil promotion: created goods may be perfected for the benefit of every one and according to the design of the creator”
Thus: (i) It is the “Christians who are best placed to promote the good of the family, education of the young, more equitable distribution of earthly goods, closing or bridging the gap between the rich and the poor and better understanding between people.
(ii) It is the “Christians who can often by their combined efforts in associations: social, cultural, political or otherwise, remedy situation which offend against justice, which induce to sin or which deprive human beings of their God given right.
iii) It s the “Christians who by wise objective counsel and appropriate actions, influence culture, political decisions, economic and educational policies anti social relations “(Vat 11: The church, No 36)
In the communiqué issued by the Catholic Bishop of Nigeria, after a plenary meeting in 1988, they said:
“We remind Catholics and others who recognize our religious and moral leadership that they have not only a right but a duty to work for and ensure the establishment of a just and moral social order in the Nation”
Good and honest Christians with God-given inclinations and talents for political leadership, should therefore not hesitate to come forward and offer themselves for the services of the Nation in order to rescue our Land from endemic moral corruption, political instability, injustice and inadequate socio-economic systems and policies. It is only as members of the electorate and governments that Christian citizens can show how they can contribute equitably to the common good and manifest simultaneously both civil and religious virtues.
“The social task of the Christians in providing food for the hungry, water for the thirty, shelter for the aged and the homeless, schools and hospitals for all, can best be provided through active participation in politics and government. It makes them available on a large scale through proper democratic structures.
Consequently, it provides the Christian an ample opportunity to perform his/her spiritual and corporal works of mercy on a larger scale.
In the old republics, people were tempted to self-indulgence and consumerism, and human identity was often defined by what one owned and not ones qualities or ability to perform and produce positive results.
Consequently, crooks and mediocres were often given positions of responsibility. Prosperity and affluence tended to make people assume that they had the right to all that prosperity could bring and thus they could become selfish in their demands.
“Thus the major temptation that existed then was a growing materialism in the out-look of the people and the society, to the extent that people were led to believe and think that only money could buy positions of responsibility and that pleasure, comfort and self-indulgence could be substituted for moral and spiritual virtues “(Pope John Paul 11).
Consequently, people had insatiable taste for the acquisition of wealth, particularly money. This led to a greater desire to purchase rather than to produce, resulting in very few having much money for purchasing the too few goods. Naturally, this gave rise to inflation. The rich got richer while the poor remained poorer and the common man was asked to “lighten-up his belt”.
In the communiqué issued by the Catholic Bishop of Nigeria after their first plenary meeting for the year 2001, they agreed that: Several factors are responsible for the current inadequate political and socio-economic situations in Nigeria”. According to them, some go back to historic foundations of the nation, and others have risen more recently. “Paramount among them,” they said, are the following:
“Power has been taken away from the people and put into hands of a few elites, crooks or mediocre. The voice of the people is no longer heard in the halls of governments and the people have become numbed and passive. One reason for this is that people do not have a proper understanding of the personality and responsibility of the officials they “elect” in the supposedly free and fair elections as a result, many “elected” officials are not accountable and have no sense of service to those who “elected” them. The crushing of poverty and ignorance of the people have left them vulnerable to the evil manipulations of these unscrupulous and self-seeking politicians, and other persons or groups who exploit them. The people themselves appear complacent and passive, and un-willing to face the challenges of Nation Building. Concluding, the Bishops of Nigeria had this to say:
“We perceive an imbalance in the power structure in the land, hence many agitate for a review of the existing structures in Nigeria and the return of power to the people.”
Now that the power has been returned to the people, they should be left alone to carry out their fair elections, so that crooks and mediocres may not be allowed to take action or position of responsibility.
Late Pope John 11 in his speech to the nation on the occasion of his first visit to Nigeria in February 1982, identified 26 evils that usually plague developing countries like Nigeria. They are grouped as follows;
a.) Economic Evils: – Bribery and corruption in high and low places, embezzlement of public company funds, economic sabotage and persistent unemployment.
b.) Socio Evils:- domination over the weak, callousness towards the poor, the friendless and the handicapped, extravagant and unproductive spending, parade of wealth, nepotism denial of the right of the poor, lack of discipline “seeking to have more, rather than to produce more” increase in various degrees of selfishness, reduced life expectancy, malnutrition, illiteracy and sickness.
c.) Political Evils:- Tribalism, ethnicism, discrimination against one because of one’s origin or sex: violence, assassination of political opponents, rigging of elections and kidnapping of political opponents.
d.) Moral Evils:- Abortion, prostitution, human trafficking, contraception, divorce, polygamy, dishonesty, unfaithfulness, and sexual immorality.
The message implied by the Pope’s speech is clear. All Nigerians-Christians and Non-Christians, have shares of the blame for the 26 evils identified by him.
“For while the principal actors in this drama exploited the rest applauded them or at best kept quiet feeling unconcerned.
But it is said that “the best way for evils to thrive is for good people to be quiet and do nothing about them.” The Pope, by drawing the attention of Nigeria to these evils, was calling on all Nigerians-Christians and Non- Christians, saying “Be not afraid” to stand by the truth for fear of what people might say or think,
Christ at various places addressed this invitation many times to those he met “Be not afraid;” The Angel Gabriel said to Mary “Be not afraid” (Matt.1:20), Christ said the same to the Apostles, to Peter in various circumstances, and especially after his resurrection. He kept on calling “Be not afraid” especially to those to whom he assigned some positions of authority. Recall what he said to the seventy-two disciples when he sent them to the cities ahead of him. He said:
“Go your way, behold I send you out as lambs among wolves, carry neither money, bags, knap sack nor sandals and greet no one along the road” (LK 10:3-4)
Therefore Christians in Nigeria, especially the Catholic Knights, need perhaps more than ever before, these inspiring and encouraging words of the Risen Christ. “Be not afraid” to speak the truth and live by the truth.
“Their conscience needs to grow in the certainty that someone exists who holds the keys to death, an Alpha and Omega of human history (Rev. 22:13) — be it the individual or collective history and this SOMEONE is love (1John 4:8-1 6,)- love that became man, love crucified and then: it is Eucharistic love. It is the infinite source of communion; he alone can give the ULTIMATE assurance when he says “Be not afraid” (Pope John Paul 11). That some one is Jesus Christ Our Saviour and Lord
Therefore as long as your intension to take to politics or government is for the common good and the glory of God, be assured of the guidance and protection of Christ and the means (material and spiritual) with which to achieve your purpose.
The seventy-two disciples had this assurance from Christ when they were told:
“Go I am sending you out as lamb among wolves. Carry neither money bag, knap-sack nor sandals.”
. Christians however, in taking to politics and government should recall and note; The Warning of Pope John Paul 11 to the Head of State, President Shehu Shagari on 12 February, 1982 at the State House, when he said
“Nigeria has been blessed by the Creator with abundant rich human potentials and natural wealth. Such gifts, received in human gratefulness are also a constant source of challenges. For the goods of this world are given by the creator for the benefit of all. Public Authorities are therefore entrusted with the sacred assignment to channel these riches to the best use and interests of all the people, that is, for the betterment of all and for the future of all”
The message of the Pope is again very clear.
“The problem of Nigeria has not been that of lack of human and material resources but that of a failure and even some times an entire absence leadership
Consequently, Nigeria’s abundant human, material resources and potentials have never been properly harnessed or prudently utilized for the benefit of all. Instead a minority of our people have been “enjoying” affluence while a majority have been wallowing in poverty, hunger, ignorance and diseases.
Very soon we will again be going to the polls to cast our votes. In doing so let us recall what the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria also have to say. In a joint Pastoral letter of the Bishops in February, 1982, they warned us as follows:
“It is a CRIME against society to sell or buy votes. It is a bigger CRIME to rig elections or declare elected; a candidate who certainly was not elected, no matter in what clever way this maneuver is perpetrated.”
This implies that any one who sells or buys votes might be paving the way for crooks and mediocres to take up positions of responsibility thereby plunging this Nation further into darkness, caos, disease, poverty and ignorance. Nigeria is fed up of these wealthy SPONSORS of such crooks and mediocres because, in their attempt to justify the use of their wealth, they eventually become indirect DICTATORS through their candidates. Therefore as we go to the polls, let us bear in mind that the common good is supreme law in modern politics.
Thus, if there is any time in the history of this Nation for any man or woman of great integrity to come forward to provide the much-needed leadership; it is now! The dedicated Catholic Knights for instance, have all attributes and means that can make them succeed in providing such a leadership because:
“They have the proper training, up-bringing and wealth of knowledge from the church to lean on and the grace from the sacraments and the Holy spirit to help them in difficult tasks.”
. For us Christians, Christ is our model of a true leader. He taught us that any one aspiring to a position of leadership must be prepared to serve and not to be served.
“Any one who wants to be great among you must first be your servant, and any one who wants to be first among you must first be a slave, for the son of man Himself did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as ransom for many” (Mark 10:43
This leadership by example is also fully reflected and expressed when our lord himself washed the feet of his disciples. This is fully shown in the gospel of St. John “so when he (Christ) had washed their feet and put his garments back on, and reclined at the table again,” he said to them:
Do you realize what I have just done for you? You call me “Teacher” and “Master” and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I therefore the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow so that as I have done for you, you should also do” to others. (John 13:12-16)
. By implication, Christ through this admonition is calling on Nigerians who are endowed with the attributes of a good leader to come forward to serve and not to be served. On the other hand, Christians who do not have that inclination and talents for politics and government should participate indirectly through lobbying vigilance and molding of public “opinions” through discussions, articles in the news papers and journals and commentaries on contemporary issues in the radio and television. Christians should therefore be vigilant and alert not to allow “MONEY BAG” politicians to influence them with their money. It is precisely because of this type of dirt polities of the old republics that dedicated, determined and convinced Christians are called upon to go into modern Nigerian Politics and make it clean.
The Christian leader envisaged for Nigeria of today must therefore be a man, morally disciplined and must have clear realistic programmes for combating the evils of our society, for establishing a just and humane social order, and for improving the material, cultural and spiritual well-being of our people as a whole. Such programmes should also have concrete plans for job creation for all levels of school leavers, plans for the reinforcement of our internal security by providing for adequate training, working equipment and motivation for or even decentralization of our police force. In this way we come to reassure our people of the security of their lives and properties and provide thereby the minimum justification of the existence of good government.
The program should be specific on such crucial matters as education, oil resources, agriculture and industrialization. And of these matters, education should be given the highest priority. Consequently, I can not but fall back on the simple recommendation, namely,
“That the constitution should make the deliberations statutory binding on governments to make education free and compulsory for all Nigerians to at least the Junior Secondary School level. For an educated majority would, as the saying goes; be easier to rule or govern but difficult to enslave.”
Much of the transgressions that took place under the aegis of the old republics and the military regimes would have been difficult to perpetrate, were the larger Nigerian public sufficient) enlightened and aware.
Late Pope John Paul 11, in his speech to the Head of the State – Shehu Shagari, on the 12 of February 1982 at the State House, was highlighting on the characteristics of Proper National Development Plan (PNDP) when he said:
“I whole heartedly encourage all those entrusted with the well-being of their fellow men to make the human person the true criterium for all developmental efforts developmental  projects must always have a Human face. They can not be reduced to a purely materialistic or economic endeavour. The human person must always be the ultimate measure of the feasibility and success of an economic or social programemes. Progress can therefore not be separated from the dignity of human person, not from the respect for his or her fundamental human right. In pursuit of progress, total progress, anything must be rejected that is unworthy of the freedom of human right of the individual and of the country. Freedom of religious practice, of speech, of association, the protection of a well functioning judiciary system, respect for and the promotion of things spiritual and cultural, love of truth: these are the ingredients for progress that is truly and fully human.”
In other words any developmental projects or efforts that do not consider the provision of the basic needs of the common man are bound to be anaemic, illusory or wasteful. Therefore such basic needs as food, shelter, water, education, and good health, recreation and well functioning communication system that are affordable to the common man must be the planning priorities of any developmental projects that have the human face. Concluding his speech to the Head of State, the Pope had this to say.
“Among the problems that infest the developing world is a disproportionate urbanization that can create slum conditions, place the disinherited and the less fortunate on the margin of the society and link want and poverty to come, prostitution and the loss of moral values. Only the united efforts of all the citizens under enlightened and
God fearing leader that can overcome the difficulties such as these”
A call has been made by this paper on Christians, especially catholic Knights, to come out without fear to be involved in the politics of this great Nation so as to:
i. silence what fools are saying and doing in ignorance;
ii. stop crooks and mediocres from buying their ways into positions of responsibility;
iii. embark on developmental projects that have the human face, projects that consider human basic needs such as water supply, shelter, food, education, light, good health, recreation and well functioning judiciary system, affordable communication system as their priorities; and
iv. eradicate corruption and immorality from the society.
They (Christian) needs perhaps more than ever before, the inspiring words of the risen Lord “Be not afraid” to speak the truth and live by it. They should realize that Christ alone who has given then the mandate and the ultimate assurance when he says: “Be not afraid” is fully behind them. They can provide the much needed leadership by example because they have the proper training and wealth of knowledge from the church to lean on and the grace from the sacraments and the Holy Spirit to help them on difficult situations. All they needed to do always is to recall to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar in the time of difficulties and the Holy Spirit to give them enlightment.