Onaiyekan: Nigerians Have Lost Confidence in the President

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  • Cautions presidency against rigging 2019 general election
  •  Says members will be advised on how to vote

Paul Obi in Abuja

The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Metropolitan See, His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, maintained Saturday that Nigerians had lost confidence in President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration. Onaiyekan said there was no indication that the Buhari government was serious about governance, and upholding the principal objective of government, which is the protection of life and property.

In a no holds barred encounter, Onaiyekan told THISDAY in Abuja that Buhari’s constitutional commitment to protection of life and property was no longer tenable and achievable given the degeneration of the country.

Onaiyekan’s position followed similar views by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), which had called on the president to “save Nigeria from avoidable doom or step aside.”

Following the killing of two Catholic priests and 17 worshippers in Benue State, the bishops had called on Buhari to consider resignation due to the rampant killings across the country.

Speaking to THISDAY, Onaiyekan said, “I was only repeating what we (bishops) said some two months ago when we were in Rome, when two priests and their worshippers were killed. By the time they began to attack people at worship, we thought that it was carrying it too far.

“When we talk about confidence in the government, we believe that there is no excuse for any government not to be able to deal with the issues that we have in our hands, namely, that a group of murderers should not be able to go around killing people with impunity.

“So, we are not saying that Buhari is the one who sent them, we are not saying that he is supporting them. But we are certainly saying he is not doing enough. And when not doing enough on the part of the government translated into inability to defend and protect life, human life, which is the primary, first duty of government, the conclusion is obvious, that you cannot do the work.

“When we say we have lost confidence, it is like saying, well, we wouldn’t like to believe that he can do it and he is refusing to do it. Because if we arrive at that conclusion that Buhari could have stopped all these and he is refusing to do it, it means that he is responsible for it, like some people are saying.”

The cardinal added, “The bishops’ conference didn’t go that far. We are not saying that he is responsible; all we are saying is that you are not God, you cannot do everything, even a president has a limit to his power.

“But when a president reaches a stage where he cannot guarantee lives and property, he doesn’t expect us to have confidence in him. If we cannot rely on government to protect us, who are we to rely on? Are we to follow those who said everybody should go and armed himself?”

The Archbishop contended, “We could not accept the situation where people are being killed and we are asking them to be patient, we are telling them to pray, leave it to God. No, that’s not how to run the affairs of a nation.”

On the fears that government apparatus may be used to rig the 2019 elections and thwart the people’s will, Onaiyekan warned that no form of rigging by the incumbent government will be tolerated in 2019 general elections. He stressed that those planning to rig the elections should not be fooled by the fact that those who rigged previous elections were allowed to go free.

The Catholic clergy said, “The only fear I have is if anybody arrives at the decision to use state power to frustrate the wishes of the people in terms of that election, he is likely to create confusion, many Nigerians will not take it lightly

“My feeling is that Nigerians have reached a stage now, where blatant rigging of elections will not be tolerated, and it is not a bad thing.”

On whether the CBCN will mandate its members not to vote for Buhari considering the bishops’ loss of confidence in his administration, Onaiyekan said, “This president has only indicated interest to seek a second term. Eventually, if his party chooses him, then, we will be faced with a situation of what advice we want to give to our members, who want to follow our advice in this matter.

“Normally, we do not advise our members to vote one way or the other. But when it comes to whether somebody is able to protect lives and property and somebody has proved it, that he cannot, of course, when the time comes, we will remind our people.”