With the country gearing up for elections in 2023, amid rising violence and economic freefall, Nigeria’s bishops have called on Catholics to take to the polls and take up politics for the sake of the common good.
They have also decried the bad governance that has sent the country into a spiral of poverty and insecurity.
The Nigerian Catholic Network reports that Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja called on Nigerians to come out en masse for the country’s elections in February 2023 and to look beyond their own religious or ethnic sentiment in their vote.
“We must begin to take self-serving considerations off the table when it comes to politics! Merit over mediocrity is the only approach that will save our country, that is, when we elect leaders who are genuinely patriotic, experienced, competent, and sincerely God-fearing,” Kaigama said, speaking at the third Abuja Catholic Archdiocesan General Assembly on September 23rd. “There is the need for a complete change in the way we do politics. If the primary purpose of politicking is to win elections, then the justifiable end is to govern well.”
The bishops of Nigeria had warned in February 2021 that the country was on the verge of collapse, splintering along ethnic and religious lines due to bad governance and increasing incidents of robbery and kidnapping. The bishops have been progressively vocal since then, but conditions in the country have not improved. Radical Islamist factions have consistently targeted Christians, with one of the worst massacres perpetrated upon Catholics while they attended Mass this past June.
Overall, tens of thousands of Christians have died or been displaced in recent months. Now floods have also displaced approximately 100,000, impacted the livelihoods of half a million, and ruined thousands of acres of cropland. Meanwhile, the government has confiscated nearly 2 tons of cocaine from a warehouse in Lagos, most of it bound for Europe.
Bishop Kaigama’s comments follow closely on a communique from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria touching on the same themes:
We urge our Catholic Lay Faithful, especially those with talents for the difficult yet noble art of politics or whose talents in this matter can be developed, to prepare themselves for it and, forgetting their convenience and material interests, to engage in political activity in pursuance of the common good and the establishment of the moral order.
The statement, released on September 15th cited the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes, the Church in the Modern World, to justify the bishop’s call to action.
It also berated the current Nigerian government led by President Muhammadu Buhari for allowing the country’s economic, social, and security situation to degenerate so drastically.
The statement cited the massacre of worshipers at Saint Francis Xaviera Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State, on Pentecost Sunday, 5 June 2022, as well as the constant attacks that Nigerians have suffered. The Bishop’s report lamented that
all of these have led to an incessant loss of lives and destruction of property of innocent people. Regrettably, the government has not lived up to its duties with regard to security. We observe that even when suspects have been arrested, there is not even diligent prosecution of the culprits of these nefarious acts, thereby leaving the citizenry helpless and despairing.
It called on the government to act for peace, and for citizens “to strengthen security measures in their homes and institutions” and “to be law-abiding, vigilant, and to shun all forms of violence and criminality.”
The bishops used their report to blame the government for Nigeria’s “failing economy with an ever-increasing debt burden,” that has led to poverty “and hunger in our land, in spite of our huge human and natural resources.” It cited the economic downslide for also causing “the mass migration of our human capital, especially professional and skilled labourers.”
“In light of the above, we urge governments to make adequate policies and provide the enabling environment for the creation of more jobs by both the government and the private sector. This would surely reduce the level of poverty, insecurity, and unrest in our land,” the bishops concluded.