Since last week’s 60th anniversary of Nigerian Independence from British rule, the Nigerian government has struggled to quell public discontent.
Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, Archbishop emeritus of Lagos, has recently leveled harsh criticism of the government. He called last week for “Nigeria to be rescued from the 1999 constitution” which “facilitates insecurity, poverty and insurgency”, according to a report from Vaguard NGR.
In a speech last week, titled ‘Urgent call to save Nigeria at 60 from total collapse’, the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, Augustine Akubeze, Archbishop of Benin City, called for a national introspection and a recommitment to spiritual values and the rediscovery of patriotism, Vatican News reports, and for the political class to make good on its electoral promises of ‘restructuring’ Nigeria’s political system. Akubeze also took the opportunity to thank the many Nigerians who took up the call for forty days of prayer.
In a statement reported by Vanguard NGR, Cardinal Okogie expanded the criticism: “You cannot fix a country by using propaganda,” the cardinal said, “neither can you facilitate development by criminalizing expression of dissenting opinions.”
“Close to four decades ago,” Cardinal Okogie said, “during the struggle to rescue democracy from the hands of Nigerian soldiers, Nigerian bishops composed a prayer: ‘Prayer for Nigeria in Distress’.” He lamented that the country was still waiting for a long-term response to the bishops’ prayer.
Nigeria also faces serious security concerns – a resurgent Boko Haram, armed bandits and kidnappers. The cause of which, according to the Ohanaeze Ndigbo organisation, being that “professionalism and military precision have been relegated on the iota of ethnic chauvinism.”
Former President Goodluck Jonathan appealed for Nigerians not to lose hope, while the incumbent, President Buhari called for Nigeria to begin a “sincere process of national healing”, citing the anniversary of Independence as a prime opportunity to do so.