Emeritus Archbishop of Catholic Diocese of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, on Thursday in Enugu lamented the general despair in the country, saying that long delayed and unfulfilled hopes are making people to give up on the viability of the Nigerian project.
Onaiyekan noted that things were not getting better and people were generally lamenting the state of things in the country.
Delivering a convocation lecture at the Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, entitled, ‘The Catholic Church in Education in Nigeria: Between Public and Private’, the cleric singled out the education sector as of the sector where things were not being done right, even as he stressed the crucial role of education in nation building.
The situation, he said, was not good for Nigeria as a nation.
“There is a disturbing pessimism blowing across our nation in our days, almost bordering on generalised despair. This is not good for any nation. Long delayed and unfulfilled hopes are leading many to give up on the viability of the project called Nigeria,” he said.
Onaiyekan, however, faulted the clamour in some quarters for separation of Nigeria by some ethnic groups and other elements, saying the proposal seems a gamble that may not be as simple as it appears.
“Building together a greater nation comes at a great cost, which we must all be ready to pay.
“I am quite convinced that those costs, high though as they may be, are much less than what it will take for us to disintegrate.
“Almost every aspect of our national life is calling for drastic and radical renewal. If we cannot tackle everything at once, may be, we start with education. The arms of the Church must continue to be stretched out for collaboration with other stakeholders, including and especially the government,” he said.
Onaiyekan noted that the nation’s education system has not been the best as it is “afflicted by gross neglect and mismanagement.”
Stressing the importance of education in the development of a nation, he called for well-funded education system and insisted that “we need to convince ourselves that without good education, there can be no serious development in the nation.”
He said that denial of education to Nigerian children is grave injustice to them.
“Good education is the right of every child. It is the responsibility of government to make this available. Otherwise, this basic right becomes futile and a grave injustice. This is the strong conviction that I wish to proclaim in this convocation lecture,” Onaiyekan said.
He also made case for private universities, saying that government should extend funds to them because they are involved in training Nigerians who help in nation building.
He equally called the National Universities Commission (NUC) to stop regulating private universities, calling rather for a separate body to regulate private universities to enable them develop at their pace.
The occasion was graced by the new Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Diocese, Bishop Ignatius Kaigama, who is the chancellor of the university; the Catholic Bishop of Enugu, Callistus Onaga, among others.