The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, yesterday, advised President Muhammadu Buhari to change his style of leadership, if Nigeria must recover from its current social-economic crises, saying Nigerians are getting poorer, feeling hopeless and helpless.
The cleric also said there was tension in the land, while poverty rate was increasing on a daily basis.
Onaiyekan, who stood in for the President, Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Augustin Akubeze, stated this while delivering a message at the inter-denominational church service for 2019 presidential inauguration ceremony held at National Christian Centre, Abuja.
Speaking on the theme, “Let us chose life, not death,” Onaiyekan said it was expected that the blame game by the administration was over, stressing that dwelling on blame game will not take the country anywhere.
Onaiyekan, who noted with dismay that Nigeria was not in a state where anyone should rejoice, said: “As we embrace a new term of government, it should be for us a new opportunity to change ways and review habits of governance, for a better Nigeria.
‘’We can and we should do this, God has endowed us with resources to achieve this, resources that we, unfortunately, turn into curses.”
He also said his submissions were his personal opinion and not from Archbishop Akabueze, adding that for a positive change to happen in Nigeria, sincere change of leadership will also need to take place.
He said: “The blame game of pointing accusing fingers at others will not carry us far. For a positive change to take place, we must all be ready for a sincere change of heart, from the lowest to highest, but especially at the highest levels. Empty boast and barefaced denials of the realities around us cannot build the nation.”
Onaiyekan stressed it was important for Nigerian leaders to tell themselves the truth and accept failure.
“At this moment, we should do well to acknowledge our failure to do things the right way. Here, the words of the Psalmist should challenge each of us,’’ he added.
The Catholic cardinal stated that while the rich were swimming in affluence, the number of poor Nigerians sadly continued to be on the increase.
“The truth is that our nation is not in a state for us to rejoice. The ranks of the poor are swelling by the day, hopeless and helpless, as they watch in frustration the affluence of the very few cruising in a different world. Such wide social economic disparity has led to anger, tension, violence and outright criminality in the land. All is not well. But all is not lost either.
“Again, here we must tell the truth. For too long, we have been seeing what seems to be a policy of polarisation of the nation along primordial fault lines of ethnicity and religion. The result is that we have been indulging in the risky game of ’dancing on the brink of chaos’.
“We do not know for how long we can continue to get away with this. But the handwriting on the wall is quite clear for all who cared to see. It is sad that no condition is permanent: certainly not the present state of our nation.
“Our ethnic diversity is God’s will and gift that we ought to appreciate and celebrate. We should beware of those who seek to manipulate this in a game of divide and rule, for selfish interests.
“In our emerging global world, we should be building on our long experience of living together across ethnic lines, if we are not to allow ourselves to be left behind in our fast developing modern world.
“We are living in a world where many are abandoning faith in God, at great cost to humanity now and in the future. We do well to commend ourselves for our generally high level and of religious fervor.
‘’But if this is to translate into a righteous nation, we must all seek the will of God for good human relations. This cuts across our religious differences and affiliations. Religion is good, but not enough.
“Religion evokes a strong emotions that ought to be deployed for solving the ills of our nation, not compound them. Those who manipulate religion for their selfish political interest end up destroying religion and harming the nation. Our constitution is not perfect.
“But its basic provisions about freedom of religion are valid and must be scrupulously respected by all, especially by those who control state instruments of coersion.”
In his remarks, Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who was the special guest of honour, noted that Christians were to take the lead in giving hope to others.
Expressing the confidence that the nation’s future was bright, Osinbajo said: “Our days will be better and better. This is the reason I am so confident, our ministry is that of reconciliation. We must not permit anyone to take advantage of the fault lines.
“Our country stands at the threshold of phenomenal growth, the end of the story of light and joy. We begin with darkness and confusion but the end of our story is bright, the future of our nation is bright.”
Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd), in his remarks, urged Nigerians to pray for President Buhari and all the leaders for good governance and look after the interest of all Nigerians, irrespective of tribe, faith or belief.
He urged Nigerians to “love your country and defend it in whatever way we can; let us have peace in the land and let us ensure that this nation continues to survive to eternity, God being our helper.”