- CAN to Buhari: Nigeria overdue for restructuring
Senator Iroegbu in Abuja and George Okoh in Makurdi
Former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan and his Otukpo diocese counterpart, Michael Apochi have jointly called on Nigerians to unite against criminality and fight for the liberation of citizens from the grip of Boko Haram, violent herdsmen, kidnappers and armed banditry in the land.
Mark and the spiritual leaders spoke at the dedication of an ultra modern complex built and donated to St. Augustine Catholic Church, Otukpo, Benue state by the immediate past President of the Senate and his family on Saturday.
In his remarks, Senator Mark expressed appreciation to God for the enablement to contribute to the propagation of the gospel needed to salvage mankind and make the society a better place.
He added that the church building was his family’s modest contribution towards spreading the gospel of God, and expressed hope that the worship centre would help curtail evil in the society and transform perpetrators for good.
Mark prayed for a peaceful, united and progressive society where everyone is free to pursue his or her legitimate ambition in any part of the country without fear of attack or molestation.
In his homily, Cardinal Onaiyekan thanked Senator Mark and his family for contributing to the work of evangelism, promising that the church would continue to preach peace, unity and harmonious relationship between and among Nigerians.
Onaiyekan bemoaned the unabating violent clashes, particularly the recent Benue massacre that has claimed scores of lives, saying, “We must as a people of Nigeria unite against these forces of evil to liberate ourselves. This carnage and blood-letting orchestrated by hatred and wickedness cannot be a way of life. We must all join hands to stop this spate of killings.
“As Christians, we pray for peace, justice and love. We have no room for hatred or vengeance. Vengeance is for God. Let us do everything that promotes peace and harmonious relationship with our neighbours”, he added.
Onaiyekan reminded the apex government to include rebuilding of churches destroyed by insurgents as it prepares to rebuild the crisis-ridden North Eastern States.
In his remarks, host Bishop Apochi expressed appreciation to Senator Mark and his family for the gesture, and expressed belief that the house of worship would help promote peace, unity and curtail the ills in the society.
Four other Catholic Bishops; Peter Adoboh (Katsina-Ala), Wilfred Anagbe (Makurdi), William Avenya (Gboko) and Michael Gokum (Pankshin) and about 50 Priests joined in the dedication of the new church.
Meanwhile, the President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), HE Rev. Samson Ayokunle has thrown his weight behind those calling for the restructuring of the country.
Ayokunle in a statement issued yesterday by his Special Assistant, Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, faulted President Muhammadu Buhari’s stand on the issue, having in his New Year message rejected the quest for restructuring.
The CAN President, who also doubled as the President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, yesterday in Abuja at the International Workers’ Retreat of the Convention said, at 57, the country is due for restructuring but added that it must be done without fear of favour to all the divides.
He said: “There is the need to update how we govern ourselves, thus restructuring the nation after 57 years is a welcome development. It must be done without bias or prejudice to religion, ethnicity, class or group affiliation. We must develop our home-grown democracy. The present system is a hybrid of the American and British system. It is not working well for us.”
The cleric said it is clear that every nation in the world has her glory, adding, “Nigeria is not left out. Our glory is our pride as a nation”.
According to him, “When we gained independence from Britain in 1960, it was a turning point in our history and a breakthrough for the nation’s glory to burst forth. Our glory shone brighter after independence as we became the foremost nation in Africa and indeed among the black race.
“However, at a point, the glory began to fade and we are yet to recover that glory. If we must bring back the glory of Nigeria and rise to more glory as a nation, then effective participation is compulsory for all Christians”.
The CAN President disabused the minds of Christians who are avoiding politics as a plague because it is dirty, and urged them to have a rethink and embrace it if they want to make impact on the political scene.
“The practice of separation of State and Church must be redefined. While the State must not be allowed to control the Church, the Church must influence the State through Christians who are in position of power.
“To get to a position of power, there is need for election especially in a democratic setting like ours. We must be involved in all facets of politics. Politics is not a dirty game as many have come to believe, but those who play politics are the ones who are dirty”, he added.
Ayokunle advised who are politically conscious to join a political party, and be a card-carrying member, to register to vote when called to do so by INEC, participate actively at the ward level of their party, attend meetings, and contribute meaningfully during discussions, to vote and encourage others to vote during election period and monitor and protect their votes.
Speaking further he said, “Sidon look approach will not help us as Christians. Mike Murdock said, ‘Never complain about what you permit’. If we do not participate actively in politics, then we do not have the right to complain about the type of leaders that are presented by political parties to be voted for and voted into various offices”.
According to him, “This year, God is interested in our nation and us. Throughout the Bible, we see God intervening, leading and instructing men on how to lead their nations. He is urging us as Christians to be involved in the governing process of our nation. Nigeria is at the centre of God’s plan for the human race”.
On the issue of nation building, Ayokunle said, “If nation building in the 21st century is to be successful, the importance of democratic values, civic culture and civil society that develop and sustain them, the importance of increasing social, political, and economic equality, and of human development, rather than just economic development, are key in any successful strategy for long-term democratic nation-building.
“For nation-building to be a sustainable force for peacebuilding, it must incorporate more than just the Western appendages of democracy, voting systems, free market development and increase in the Gross National Product (GNP) of the nation”.
On the perceived ongoing genocide in Benue and Taraba states, the CAN Leader prayed for peace in the areas, he asked God to comfort the bereaved, heal those recuperating in the hospitals, and challenged the government and the security agencies to live up to the expectation.
“Those bloodletting could have been avoided if our political leaders and the heads of the security agencies are alive to their responsibilities. This is why the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has been consistently calling on them to live up to the billings.
“What is happening in the North-central of the country is a shame, ungodly, wicked and ungodly. It is high time we stopped it before we are thrown into another needless civil war”, he added.