By Most Reverend Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo
As Nigeria marks the 60th anniversary of that day in 1960 when it was declared independent, I join other Nigerians to thank God that Nigeria, this ailing giant entity of stunted potentiality, still exists. God deserves that much. According to a Nigerian sage: “Nigerians must stop saying that only God can save their country. God has done more for Nigeria than he has done for other countries. Those others only used God’s grace far better than us”. In fact, what we have to celebrate is, God’s goodness and little else. Even after sixty years, independent Nigeria is still a mirage, a mere mental construct, rendered even more unattainable by the multiplicity of problems that assail the country. The problems of insecurity, violence, insurgency, corruption, unemployment, crippling inflation and pervasive criminality, might still not eclipse the hopes of an independent Nigeria. The strength of the nation’s diversity and the combined force of its peoples could still overcome any challenge if the very leaders who should nurture the country’s cohesion were not working against it.
For example, the lifeblood of a federal republic like Nigeria is equity in representation, distribution of resources, positions and privileges. Nigeria has however been asphyxiated by the self-serving, sectionalist, and tribalistic character of most of her leaders. Nigerians believed that President Muhammadu Buhari would be different when in his inaugural speech in 2015, he said that he belonged to everybody and to nobody. How very wrong they were! The President has since put in place the most divisive regime of lopsidedness and marginalization in appointments and recruitments to favor the northern part of Nigeria. The latest evidence is in the recent lopsided appointments in the Nigerian Customs Service, a major parastatal in the country. In a barefaced manner and in such a multi religious and ethnically diverse country as Nigeria, seven senior positions there all went to Northern Muslims. This is to say the least, bizarre. I call on the President to lead the charge for the restoration of equity, fairness and balance in appointments and recruitments in Nigeria in order to restore the federal character of Nigeria and the confidence of the people and so exploit the strength that can be found in national unity.
Yet, Nigeria still has a Federal Character Commission which was put in place to prevent imbalance and unfairness in federal appointments and recruitments. Why has it been so silent? How does one account for the silence of the National Assembly, the Governors forum, the Nigerian Bar Association, the numerous Councils of Elders, Traditional Rulers and other elite associations in Nigeria in the face of obvious anomalies in governance? 60 years is more than enough time to wean Nigeria of the burden of non-performing organizations and associations which force Nigerians to ask “If thee cannot help, who can?”
Such questions that Nigerians ask today show that after 60 years of Independence, Nigeria still lacks authentic independence. Nigerians must fight for independence anew. All hands must be on deck for we have no other country to call home. We must fight for independence from thieving leaders and politicians, corrupt civil servants and unionists, bloodthirsty terrorists and tribalists, economic mercenaries and religious bigots and all sorts of social miscreants who merely seek their own cut of the national cake at whatever price. We all must fight for a moral and ethical regeneration in the families, society and the country. We must all oppose injustice and graft wherever they are found and fight for the rule of law applied equally to all. We must all do all we can to support one another in charity and solidarity to alleviate the sufferings of our co-nationals. We must make our leaders remember that the power of the people will always outlast the people in power.
Finally, prayer works wonders. We must continue to lift our voices to God in prayer. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) called for a 40-day programme of prayer to end on October 1. We believe that it has worked for our country. God is answering our prayer. It is left to us to recognize the opportunities he offers to us and seize them to advantage.
I wish Nigerians a successful journey towards authentic independence.
Most Reverend Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo is the Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Oyo.