By Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has identified endemic corruption as the cause of the debasement of human life in the country.
The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria made this observation at the weekend while giving the keynote address at Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria political conference in Abuja, with a theme: “Roadmap to Good Governance in Nigeria: the Perspective of the Catholic Church”.
Onaiyekan, whose speech was read by Bishop Anselm Umoren, noted that thousands of Nigerians are killed annually on the dilapidated roads across the country because the money meant for contracts awarded for road construction are pocketed.
The cleric also noted that hospitals across the country are nothing but glorified consulting clinics, adding that while the politicians and the wealthy elites continue to engage in medical tourism, the health sector in the country is left to rot in ruins.
“As always, it is the poor people who are most affected; who die everyday from basic illnesses that are a thing of the past in many countries of the world, including in Africa,” Onaiyekan said.
The former President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) also lamented that uninterrupted democratic experiment in the last 20 years had for most part remained a process of trial and error without much good results to show for it.
He flayed the vast majority of politicians of stealing the mandate of the people through shabbily conducted elections only to gain power and start enriching themselves, their families and cronies.
“Since the return to democracy, corruption in Nigerian politics has remained both endemic and systemic. Politics is largely seen as the easiest avenue for quick wealth and easy money. It is construed with a cafeteria mentality as a place where people are invited to come and eat.
“Any politician who does not get rich is a fool and not many Nigerians want to be fools. The mismanagement, embezzlement, looting of our national resources is one of the most brazen stealing bazaars anywhere in the world. Nowhere else in the world do leaders and citizens tolerate this sort of theft in broad daylight with nothing happening to the thieves,” Onaiyekan said.
The Cardinal, however, accused all Nigerians of complicity for woes of the nation and for refusing to hold elected leaders accountable, describing them as docile people that have learnt to cope with bad leadership and all sorts of deprivations.
“We seem to have convinced ourselves that we do not deserve the good things, which citizens of other countries enjoy; we are contented with struggling and fighting for the crumbs falling from our master’s table. Our politicians use religion and ethnicity to divide and distract us while they focus on plundering our national wealth and bleeding our national treasury”.
He challenged Nigerians to insist on accountability and use the wisdom and common sense, which God had given them to organise their national affairs.
He also noted that religion, which ought to be used for prophetic outrage against societal ills, has become a willing tool in the oppression and impoverishment of the people. “See what we made of Christianity today with the prosperity gospel, which has put stupendous wealth in the hands of a few so-called men of God while millions wallow in starvation, poverty and misery. We are amongst the most religious countries in the world and yet we are so corrupt as a nation. We are among the poorest nations in the world, yet Nigeria is among the happiest nations in the world. These contradictions defy common sense, “ Onaiyekan said.
He tasked the Laity to shake off docility and chart the Catholic faith perspective on good governance by ensuring that only credible, accountable and responsible men and women ascend to public office.