Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Revealed: What I Told Tinubu About Buhari – Cardinal Okogie

Last Thursday, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi
Okogie, celebrated his 80th birthday with a Holy
Mass at the Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos, and
reception at the St. Gregory’s College, Obalende,
Lagos. In an interview later, the retired Catholic
Archbishop of Lagos reflected on his four years in retirement after attaining the mandatory age of 75.
This year also marks his 50th priestly ordination
anniversary. He recalled that a large chunk of his
years as the Archbishop of Lagos was devoted to
speaking out against injustice and oppression of
the downtrodden by those in positions of authority.
“Though a clergy, I have always believed that it is
the right of every citizen to aspire to actualize his
God-ordained destiny within the framework of the
larger society. It is also my firm conviction that one
should never be silent or docile when his or her
fundamental rights are being trampled upon by those who have sworn to the Constitution to
safeguard the welfare of the citizens. These, to a
large extent, have for years defined my guiding
principles, actions, and utterances as a clergy and a
citizen of Nigeria”, he said.
“For instance, during my years as President of
Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and also as
two-term President of the Catholic Bishops
Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, during the Babangida
era, I did not shy away from saying the gospel
truth whenever it was obvious that the country was being led astray by the leadership. A couple of
times, I and other like-minds succeeded in pricking
the conscience of those in authority as to make
them re-think their anti-people policies. But for a
larger period of time, it is on record that we were
able to help galvanize the civil societies into standing up for their rights and hold their leaders
accountable for their stewardship. How well these
agitations have been sustained to achieve set
goals over time is a topic for another day.
“Today, since I retired as Archbishop of Lagos,
and by extension from active public service, you
may still wonder why I still speak on the state of
the nation when I should be enjoying my
retirement. Well, it may interest you to note that
though I may not be as visible as I used to be, I have however not relented in my commitment and
desire to see to the entrenchment of a truly
egalitarian society where justice, equity, and fear of
God would reign supreme. These have always
been my desire. You may say that at my age, since I
am near the departure wing to heaven, I should by now be indifferent to the numerous challenges
confronting the country.
I beg to disagree. How can I remain quiet when 17
years into our democratic dispensation, the ship of
our nation is being tossed about by self-inflicted
storms that are tossing the people up and down?
How can I keep mute when Nigerians have
continuously been taken for a ride over the years by our politicians, who rather than serve the
masses, chose to play them like the game of chess?
I want to affirm here that as long as the good Lord
gives me strength and the breath of life, I will
never remain silent while this country is in turmoil.
I believe it is the responsibility of everyone of us to
continue to contribute our quota to a better society
for us and the generations yet unborn.
May 29, 2016, we marked Democracy Day under
the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. But is
there much to really celebrate about? 17 years into
our democratic dispensation; have we really
mature as a nation? What lessons have we learnt
from the errors of the past and what efforts are we making to avoid a repeat?”
On the state of the nation
Cardinal Okogie: It is the responsibility of
government everywhere in the world to provide
the enabling environment for the citizens to eke a
living. In the case of my country Nigeria, it appears
the reverse is the case. The poor masses are left to
roam about without proper guidance, and so majority continue to wallop in penury in the midst
of plenty. So much have been said and written
about the 16 years misrule of the People’s
Democratic Party. Many more policy analysts will
readily tell you that the problem with Nigeria
originated right from independence in 1960. Be that as it may, the swearing-in of President
Muhammadu Buhari last year was perceived as a
milestone in the people’s quest for positive
change and improvement in their quality of life.
But a year later, the people are still grumbling.
Indeed, the hardship has doubled. Thousands of
workers are being laid off every day; the value of
the naira is falling while states are owing workers
months of unpaid salaries.
Buhari may mean well for the country, but so far,
his actions and utterances have failed to help put
food on the table of the average Nigerian. So, my
advice to Mr. President and his associates is this: do
not take the goodwill that you enjoy from
Nigerians for granted. Do all that is necessary to revamp the economy before things get out of
hand.
On renewed N-Delta militancy
For the years that the late Musa Yar’Adua and his
successor, Goodluck Jonathan, held sway, we saw
a drastic reduction in the activities of militants in
the Niger Delta.
Unfortunately, the militants are now back to the
trenches under different pseudonyms. Their recent
attacks on oil facilities in the region are daily
crippling the country’s capacity to produce oil. The
oil and gas pipelines bombed in Warri West Local
Government Area have also worsened electricity generation plan of government. How long would
this continue?  One thing is certain. Ours is a mono-
economy that relies solely on oil for our foreign
exchange earnings. With the sorry state of our
economy, we cannot at this crucial time afford the
stalling of oil production in the Niger Delta.
That would further put the country’s finances in a
precarious situation. I am aware that the Niger
Delta Avengers have reeled out many conditions to
be met before they can agree on a ceasefire.
I am equally aware that President Buhari has
vowed to deal decisively with the militants. Only a
few days ago, the dailies reported that the military
invaded Gbaramatu Kingdom believed to be the
hometown of a wanted ex-militant, Tompolo.
While condemning the disruption of our oil facilities under any guise, I equally want to stress
that the use of military force is not the best
solution. It would only aggravate the situation. I,
therefore, want to plead with President Buhari to
consider dialogue as a major option to end the
crisis. Considering the high casualty rate and huge losses so far expended in our on-going fight
against Boko Haram, it would not be out of place
to settle the Niger-Delta issue without wasting
human lives.
Equally, I want to plead with the aggrieved
militants to please sheathe their swords and allow
for mediation.
On herdsmen’s excesses
One of the most contentious issues facing the
present administration is the carnage linked to
herdsmen in some parts of the country. We are all
too familiar with the Agatu killings and the
massacre in Nimbo, Enugu State. Firstly, I want to
use this medium to express my condolences to families of the deceased and pray that the good
Lord will comfort them in their period of grief. The
loss of lives in any form is very sad, particularly if
such lives are cut short in tragic circumstances as
the attacks by the herdsmen. Such barbaric acts
only dehumanize us. Some have opined that the failure of the President to make a public
pronouncement immediately the issue came to
national discourse is borne out of his affinity to
those concerned. That aside, I want to reiterate
that it is the responsibility of government to
safeguard the lives of its citizens. No life is more important than the other. The questions many are
asking are: who provides the herdsmen with AK
47 weapons? Are the herdsmen truly Nigerians or
extension of the Boko Haram sect members
particularly as global terrorist watch have listed
them as a number on the terrorist list?
However, I am glad at the outcome of the recent
courtesy visit of the Catholic Bishops to the
President during which he gave an express order
to the law enforcement agents to fish out the
perpetrators of the dastardly acts and bring them to justice.

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