We, Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, comprising Ibadan Archdiocese, Ilorin, Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti and Osogbo Dioceses, after our meeting for the year 2021 at the Domus Pacis Pastoral Institute, Igoba, Akure, from July 19-20, 2021, prayerfully issue the following communique:
1. Nigeria, No Longer at Ease
Nigeria, our country, seems to have lost its very soul because it is no longer a healthy entity. The good health of any nation consists in its capacity to offer its citizens a territory where they can feel at home, feel secure and enjoy the basic necessities of life. This unfortunately, is no longer the case in our dear country, Nigeria, where, armed conflicts, armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, insurgency, banditry and extra judicial killing persist as the order of the day. When a nation loses its soul, its people lose the cohesive elements of human relationship. A nation that has lost its soul is characterised by inept, uncaring leadership which functions by selective allocation of posts, privileges and resources and by selective application of justice. It is characterised by leaders who, rather than care for the citizens of the country, simply exploit and denigrate them. Such a nation takes food out of the mouths of its own citizens and watches them starve. It deploys its scarce resources to the advantage of the rich and powerful while offering mere crumbs to the poor and weak. A nation that has lost its soul therefore breeds a citizenry where nobody cares for anybody else. Nigeria exhibits all of these traits, no doubt. Its constitutive principles of justice, equity and fair play have clearly fallen apart and the country is no longer at ease. No doubt, the very soul of Nigeria needs to be recovered.
2. The National Assembly and Democratic Representation
The ongoing controversy surrounding the proceedings of the national assembly gives ample evidence of the theatre of the absurd which democratic representation has become in Nigeria. Be it on the electoral reform, electronic transmission of electoral results, press freedom or the Petroleum Industrial Bill (PIB), the work of those who represent the people on the federal level in Nigeria does not seem to bring much satisfaction to the people for whose interest they were allegedly elected. With the national assembly at various occasions prioritizing party and privileges over people’s rights and interest, relief and progress continue to elude Nigerians. Simply put, those who claim to represent the people seem to have perfected the art of sabotaging the progress of their same people. Indeed, the time may have come for Nigerians to no longer simply roll over and accept non-representative decisions of the assembly but to challenge them by all legitimate means.
3. Strengthening the Electoral Process
The high level of despondency in Nigeria might make people to lose hope and zeal for democracy. This is however not a good solution. Ongoing electoral reforms give another opportunity for reviving the hopes of the people and confidence in the nation’s democracy. An important part of electoral reform, which is often ignored, is the education of the people who participate in building democracy. Only participation in the political process and adherence to the rule of law offer an enduring means of authentic change but people must be helped to understand this fact. We urge the media and civil society groups to sustain this education agenda so that Nigeria can reap the full benefits therefrom. We also urge our people to register and obtain their voters cards. Only this grants them the power to exercise their rights to determine who governs them from time to time. Our country will greatly benefit from this.
4. Only the Truth Can Set Us Free
The holy book declares “You will come to know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). In the face of our current national crisis and encroaching chaos it is surprising that the Nigerian government continues to demonstrate a disturbing allergy for truth even when it is most evident. The recent effort by the Presidency to malign the address of Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto Diocese, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States of America Parliament/Assembly in Washington DC on the Nigerian situation on Religious Freedom is laughable to say the least. Bishop Kukah, in his patriotic and frank presentation called attention to some verifiable data and statistics about the Nigerian situation on that privileged international platform. He spoke for authentic Christians and Muslims who are under persecution. No doubt, he intended to solicit the support of that forum which many Nigerians believe holds the promise of some assistance and relief from our current national crises. The Federal Government however has characteristically gone up in arms against the person of Bishop Kukah and his purpose. It is commonly said that when there is a problem in a democracy, more democracy is needed to solve it. Sadly enough, our current federal government does not seem to subscribe to this.
We declare again, as we have done often in the past, that only the truth can set us free. Nigeria must allow this to happen! The attempt of the Nigerian National Assembly to silence the press and penalise journalists for merely doing their job is to be completely rejected. We hold that the freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, guaranteed by the constitution and cannot be alienated by any government least of all in a democracy. For the sake of our democracy, that right, exercised with responsibility, must be protected. We support Bishop Kukah in his effort to unveil the truth about the Nigerian situation in order to ameliorate things. We call on the Nigerian government to learn not to see criticism as an attack or a crime.
5. Our Sympathies with those who continue to pay a High Price
We express our deepest sympathies for the Nigerians who bear the brunt of Nigeria’s debilitating situation because of economic depression and hunger, armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping for ransom, unemployment and injustice. Many have died as has happened in Igangan in Oyo State and elsewhere while so many are still dying. May the departed souls rest in perfect peace and may those who are suffering at various levels find help and comfort. We call on all Nigerians to do all they can to help one another even in these hard times and work more assiduously to create a better society. To help the downtrodden and oppressed, it is not enough to provide relief materials. It is just as important to fight for justice and fairness and protect fundamental human rights
6. Reviving the soul of Nigeria
As religious leaders, we declare that political and economic restructuring without moral revival is bound to fail. Nigeria needs spiritual and moral revival which will restore common positive values to their rightful place in our polity. These values include honesty, truthfulness, integrity, accountability and the fear of God. To this end, as leaders of the Church, we call for a revival of authentic catechesis at all levels in the Church. Ongoing catechesis is the lifeblood of the Church. To shun it is to threaten the life and mission of the Church itself . Evangelization is the task of all adults in the Church and there can be no evangelization without proper catechesis. Priests are the first teachers of the faith in their assigned tasks. Therefore, they are to work closely with those assisting them in the ministry of catechesis and monitor the process. This is the mandate given by the Lord Jesus Christ to all his disciples (Matt. 28: 19). We call on all our pastoral agents who have been formed in various ecclesiastical fields to apply their formation to the education of the faithful as well as the unconverted. In this era of fake news and disinformation, the dissemination and defence of sound doctrines and morals must be taken very seriously.
7. Golden Jubilee of Episcopal Ordination
We heartily congratulate Most Reverend Felix Alaba Job, bishop emeritus of Ibadan Archdiocese and Most Reverend Michael Olatunji Fagun, Bishop emeritus of Ekiti Diocese who both celebrated 50 years of episcopacy. This is a very rare favour from God bestowed on our Province for which we are grateful. May God bless them and all our elders and grant them still sound health of mind and body in his service. Amen
8. Felicitations and Blessings for the Eid El Kabir Festival
We felicitate with our Muslim brothers and sisters on the occasion of this year’s Id el Kabir, the festival of great sacrifice to Allah. Let us all in the spirit of the festival work together for peace and make all necessary sacrifice to build our nation on the strong pillars of fairness, justice, equity and the rule of law. May God bless all our brothers and sisters during this festival and grant peace to us and our country.
To all our fellow Nigerians, we say “stand firm and never lose hope for God cannot be defeated”. We call on Nigerians to continue to pray and work for a better nation for we have no other country than this. If we do not give up doing good and believing in God’s promise, we shall see better days. “ Behold, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall raise an upright Branch for David; he will reign as king and be wise, doing what is just and upright in the country” (Jer. 23:5).
A COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF IBADAN ECCLESIASTICAL PROVINCE AFTER A MEETING HELD AT THE DOMUS PACIS PASTORAL INSTITUTE, IGOBA, AKURE, ONDO SATE, NIGERIA, FROM JULY 19-20, 2021.