Emeritus, Catholicolic Archbishop of Abuja, His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan, on Monday, said that nobody can stop the Bishop of Sokoto, Most Rev. Matthew Kukah, from speaking against bad governance in the country.
The Presidency had described the bashing of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration by Kukah as ungodly, accusing him of playing partisan politics in his Easter message.
But Onaiyekan, who appeared as a guest on AIT’s breakfast show, Kakaaki, in Abuja, said that he believed that genuine religious leaders had a role to play in politics, which included advancing the course of the masses and speaking truth to power in the name of God.
“With all due respect to whoever is speaking for the Presidency, he has a wrong idea of politics. Maybe, for him, politics have been just a game they play in the middle of the night.
“But, if you understand politics as to how you organise and manage the community for the common good, we are all supposed to be politicians.
“Does that mean that whenever we (religious leaders) tell the truth and work to make our country better, we should shut up because we are playing politics? No, we refuse. We will continue to talk.
“In the whole project of nation-building and good governance, people, have different roles to play. The role of Mr President is, of course, the most important in terms of organizing everything.
“But the role of religious leaders, if you are a genuine one, should be to be able to speak in the name of God.
“So, let no one stop Kukah and other religious leaders from speaking from their hearts. They cannot force you (the government) anyways.
“Kukah is not preparing a coup against Buhari. He is only concerned about the people he sees every day. Kukah is speaking for so many who do not have a voice.
“What we expected from the Presidency was to hear what Kukah had to say, and take the issues one-by-one; maybe give explanations, if there is a need for such, and hopefully consider considering his message in its future plans,” Onaiyekan said.
Speaking on the joint call by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, for amnesty to bandits and terrorists, Onaiyekan said the move would amount to a cosmetic solution to the problems of insecurity and breed more criminals in parts of the country.
“We should not misread what Jesus Christ did in his relationship with sinners, criminals and worthless fellows. It is clear that Jesus condemned sin, even though he loved sinners.
“We should be telling bandits and terrorists: ‘Go and sin no more. We cannot in any way give them the impression that they are doing the right things.
“All the question of easy amnesty, under the pretence that they have repented, and spending money on them is sad, especially when we say we have no money to spend on the victims.
“Kids’ glove treatment of criminals boils down to bribing them to keep calm because the causes of criminality and insecurity will still be there. The more you treat criminals this way; the more others will come out so that they too can come to get the same treatment.
“There was no condition. There was no request of any condition.
“We made it clear that unless the injustices are addressed, there is no room for peace. It is only when you address the injustice that you can now sit down for peace,” he said.
Onaiyekan also spoke on the pockets of agitation for Nigeria’s breakup, saying they were basically cries of anguish and despair of the masses.
He said the country had never been so unsecured as in the past 20 years, compelling the people to seek to take their destinies into their hands.
He added the government’s alleged failure to protect lives and properties was mainly responsible for the secessionist agitations
He said that even Federal Ministers had in the past called on the people to defend themselves.
“With what we have now, there is no way you can excuse the authorities. The first duty of the government is the security of lives and properties. The separatist agitations across the country are cries of despair. If you cannot trust the government to protect you, where do you go?
“Government has not told us they are unable to protect us even though they have sometimes in the past told us to defend ourselves but how are we supposed to do that? So, the agitation for separation is simply a cry of anguish.”
He added that “Restructuring is one of the solutions (to Nigeria’s break-up). We don’t need a powerful president, but a safer nation. We have raised these issues of federal might and federal character to a level where they are no longer working for the people. So, the people have realised that things must change.”
Onaiyekan urged President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo not to merely preach to the people during religious festivals that all will be well, but to back up their messages with the right actions to produce results.
“Mr President is not a bishop. So, he cannot just preach to Nigerians in his Easter message. He should go beyond that and actually do something. Mr Vice President cannot also do the same only. He is the next in the line of power and authority.
“They should do something to generate hope in Nigerians. They both cannot just make statements as if they are preaching when they have executive powers given to them. It is not only the citizens that have given them power. God has also given them power. So, they have the responsibility to do something. We are tired of hearing beautiful words from rulers.”