Temple Chima UbochiTuesday, February 13, 2018
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Bonn, Germany



If a king misbehaves, his subjects will cover their faces with basket and admonish him (Eze daa iwu, ndi ona achi ekpuru nkata gwa ya okwu) (Igbo Proverb)

Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself (Ezekiel 3:17-19)

he Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria, on Thursday, Feb. 8, paid a courtesy visit to Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. There, the bishops told President Muhammadu Buhari that the enormous goodwill with which he assumed office in 2015 was being fast depleted by some glaring failures of his government.

The Bishops articulated their points but showed no moxie in presenting them. The tried to speak truth to power, but were not forceful, and did not go deep enough. Using the words of HuffPost, the Bishops should have presented a powerful nonviolent challenge to injustice and unbridled totalitarian forces, often perpetuated by this government. They're supposed to be comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. They're the only few who can admonish a tyrant like Buhari and get away with it, but they chose to be soft on him. They should have demanded the highest standards of justice and equality from this government, but they didn't. I'm not impressed!

These are excerpts from the Bishops' address to Buhari:

"There is no doubt that when you came into office, you had an enormous amount of the goodwill of Nigerians since many saw you as a person of integrity who would be able to bring sanity into a system that was nearly crippled by endemic corruption. Nearly three years later, however, one has the feeling that this goodwill is being fast depleted by some glaring failures of government which we have the moral responsibility to bring to your notice, else we would be failing in our duty as spiritual fathers and leaders."

The Bishops also told Buhari of the too much suffering in the country with poverty, hunger, insecurity, violence, and fear, among others, pervading the land. In their words:

"Our beloved country appears to be under siege. Many negative forces seem to be keeping a stranglehold on the population, especially the weaker and defenceless ones. There is a feeling of hopelessness across the country. Our youths are restive and many of them have taken to hard drugs, cultism and other forms of violent crime, while many have become victims of human trafficking. The nation is nervous.

"Just as we seem to be gradually emerging from the dark tunnel of an economic recession that caused untold hardship to families and individuals, violent attacks by unscrupulous persons, among whom are terrorists masquerading as herdsmen, have led to a near civil war situation in many parts of the country.

"We are saddened that, repeatedly, innocent citizens in different communities across the nation are brutally attacked and their sources of livelihood mindlessly destroyed. Lives are wasted and property, worth billions of naira, including places of worship, schools, hospitals, and business enterprises are torched and turned to ashes."

The Bishops bemoaned the recent massacre of unarmed citizens by these terrorists masquerading as herdsmen in some communities in Benue, Adamawa, Kaduna and Taraba States which has caused national shock, grief, and outcry. The Bishops added that the Federal Government's silence in the wake of the attacks was shocking. They warned that with a feeling of helplessness among the people, there was the danger that some people might begin to take the law into their own hands. They, therefore, called on the government to take seriously its primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of its citizens and ensure that such mindless killings did not recur. According to them, although herdsmen may be under pressure to save their livestock and economy, this should not be done at the expense of other people's lives and means of livelihood. They also kicked against the proposed establishment of cattle colonies as the solution to herdsmen and farmers' clashes. Hear them:

"We would like to add our voice to those of other well-meaning Nigerians who insist that a better alternative to open grazing should be sought rather than introducing cattle colonies in the country. While thinking of how best to help cattle owners establish ranches, the government should equally have plans to help the other farmers whose produce is essential for our survival as a nation".

According to the Punch, the Bishops also urged the government to tackle the spate of kidnappings in the country headlong. They advised the government to invest more in equipping the Nigeria Police Force with modern high-tech devices that would help them to track down and arrest criminals for prosecution. They also asked Buhari to address the imbalance in government appointments and distribution of amenities by respecting the federal character principle as enshrined in the constitution. According to the Bishops, the situation had created the loss of a sense of belonging in many parts of the country, hence the constant cries of marginalization, agitation for secession and calls for restructuring. Hear them: "These and many more such problems are, in our opinion, grave matters that should be worrying all political leaders in our country today, rather than any bid for re-election".

The bishops assured Buhari that they would continue to make their contribution to nation-building through prayers, admonitions, and assistance to needy Nigerians whenever they could. They said as the voice of the voiceless, they would continue to highlight the plight of the people and play their role of sensitizing the government, thus promoting good governance, national unity, and cohesion. The added that everybody in government at the moment had to take more decisive role to restore the confidence of the Nigerian people. Hear them:

"Our collective efforts must be seen in the desire to return to the fine principles of democracy, such as true federalism negotiation and consensus building, as means of achieving a more equitable distribution of the resources of our country and good governance".

Although some have praised the Bishops for all they told Buhari, for me, they were speaking with fear. They should have told Buhari, point blank, to wither the thought of contesting in 2019. They should have been courageous, like the biblical Prophet Samuel, by telling Buhari that God is no longer supporting his rule, as he has lost favor in His sight, because of his misrule - as such, that God has taken power away from him come 2019. Nigerian religious leaders - Cardinals, Bishops, Pastors, Imams, Mullahs, General Overseers, etc are also failures and part of Nigeria's problems, as they support thieves and condone evil.

The Catholic Bishops who visited Buhari had a rare chance to tell Buhari the exact feelings of most Nigerians. Even if they found it hard to do like the prophets in the Bible - Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Zephaniah, Haggai etc - who were not afraid to admonish any bad king those days, they should have learned from their fellow clergies, who helped change their respective societies into something better.

The Catholic Bishops should have been like Cardinal Jaime L. Sin, the powerful Roman Catholic archbishop of Manila, who used his influence to champion the rights of the poor and rally the widespread popular resistance that brought down the presidencies of Ferdinand E. Marcos and Joseph Estrada. He was called a champion of the poor in the Philippines. According to Wikipedia, Jaime Lakhia Sin (August 31, 1928 - June 21, 2005) was the 30th Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila and was also a Cardinal. Sin was known for his instrumental role in the 1986 People Power Revolution, which toppled the regime of President Ferdinand Marcos and installed Corazon Aquino as his successor. He was again considered a charismatic leader of the Filipino people in the 2001 EDSA Revolution that replaced President Joseph Estrada with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Cardinal Sin died at the age of 76.

The Catholic Bishops should have been like Karol Józef Wojty?a, the Archbishop of Kraków in Poland, who in 1978 became the first non-Italian pope in more than 400 years and took the name Pope John Paul II (18 May 1920 - 2 April 2005). He was a vocal advocate for human rights and used his influence to effect political change. According to Biography.com, A vocal advocate for human rights, John Paul often spoke out about suffering in the world. He held strong positions on many topics, including his opposition to capital punishment. A charismatic figure, John Paul used his influence to bring about political change and is credited with the fall of communism in his native Poland.

The Bishops should now go back to their respective congregations and prepare them against the impending Jihad the Fulanis will unleash in Nigeria. The Bishops should know that the time for "turning the other cheek" is over, and should learn from the Anglican Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, and the head of the Mount Zion Faith Global Liberation Ministries, Nnewi, Bishop Abraham Udeh, who have condemned the killing of innocent Nigerians across the country by Fulani herdsmen, likening what was happening in the country to Jihad, and have added that it was time Nigerians defend themselves from the unwarranted attacks.

Most of all, the Bishops should go and prepare their congregants to vote Buhari out of office, in 2019, if he insists on contesting then. That's their God-given assignment!