The President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze, yesterday, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to find a lasting solution to the security challenges confronting Nigeria or risk losing his administration’s legitimacy.
The cleric also called on Buhari to urgently review his appointments at the federal level which, according to him, lack diversity and does not fulfill the spirit of total integration.
He spoke at the opening of the second plenary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria held in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
Governors Dapo Abiodun, Kayode Fayemi and Simon Lalong of Ogun, Ekiti and Plateau states respectively as well as the deputy governor of Osun State, Olugboyega Alabi, were in attendance at the event.
Also present were the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Tallen; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Jimi Agabje; renowned economist, Prof. Pat Utomi; the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, and Most Rev. Antonio Filipazzi, who represented Pope Francis.
In his address, Akubeze, who is also the Catholic Archbishop of Benin, decried the rising level of insecurity in the land which continued to manifest in violent killings, herdsmen and farmers’ clashes, kidnappings, insurgency and banditry.
According to him, the Federal Government has been slow or failed to promptly respond to the prevailing security challenges.
The cleric submitted that any government that fails to protect the constitutional rights of her citizens had failed.
Akubeze said if Nigerian leaders cannot guarantee peace and security, they have no business using taxpayers’ money to provide security for themselves and their families while the rest of the citizens kept dying.
He said: “At various times, we have called on the government to deal seriously with the issues of insecurity in the land. We have urged the government to stop celebrating the few instances of what they call success by stating that the terrorists have been technically defeated.
“Nigerians do not want to have a debate on the meaning of the word ‘defeated.’ We are just interested in living our lives peacefully without any fear of being kidnapped for ransom or being driven from our home land.
“Nigerians do not want to be faced with the daily tasks of looking for security persons to escort them to their farms. Nigerians do not want to be afraid when they go to the market to sell or buy; or when they go to the church or mosque to pray.
“We are not asking the government for too much. We want to be able to move freely in the country. Every government that fails to protect the constitutional rights of her citizens has failed. The government, if it does not respond rapidly to change the situation for good, is gradually losing legitimacy.
“If the leaders of a country cannot ensure peace and security, they have no business using taxpayers’ money to provide security for themselves and their families while the rest of Nigerians are dying daily.”
The archbishop also bemoaned the lack of diversity in the federal appointments and sensitive positions of governance, saying the approach of the Buhari administration to the issue has been “minimalistic.”
Akubeze declared that no federal agency in the country should be dominated by one ethnic or religious group.
He pointed out that as president, Buhari has same obligation to those who voted for him and those who did not vote for him.
He said: “The lack of diversity in the appointments by this government at the federal level should be reviewed with the aim of assuring every Nigerian that appointments to positions of importance is not based on the number of people who voted for you from those areas.
“The president is the president of every Nigerian. He has the same obligation to those who voted for him as well as those who did not vote for him. He uses the taxes from people who voted for him and those who did not vote for him. Therefore, equity is expected in appointment of persons to federal agencies.
“Nigerians reject a minimalistic approach to this issue. We have heard the government say that they have fulfilled the constitutional requirement of appointment at least a minister from each state. This is a minimalistic approach and does not fulfill the spirit of total integration of every Nigerian.
“All federal agencies should have directors and staff that reflect the diversity in our land. No federal agency should be dominated by one ethnic group or one religious group. Nigeria belongs to everyone of us.
“We must not establish cultural hegemony or a religious hegemony in a constitutional secular state like Nigeria. If we allow it, I can assure you that it is a recipe for disaster.”
Akubeze stressed the need for justice and peace which, he noted, are necessary for a sustainable nation.
He added: “Development does not take place during crisis. People do not build their economy during crisis. What leads to crisis in every part of the world is injustice. Injustice is the fertile ground for breeding violence, for creating war, for promoting generational prejudice; it is the ground for destruction.
“If anyone desires peace, the person must work for justice. Justice requires us to give everyone their due. From sharing of resources to caring for the human person. Where there is no fair share of wealth, there will be crisis.”
Earlier in her remarks, the chairperson, Planning Committee, Prof. Oluyemisi Eromosele, said the conference was the convergence of all bishops in Nigeria to address the state of the nation and contemporary issues affecting the Catholic Church and the country at large.
“The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, incorporated in 1958, has been, over the years, a veritable force for the unity, communion and solidarity of over 36 million Catholics spread across the 36 states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja,” he stated.