Spending on Weapons Despite Pandemic Scandalous, Says Pope

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Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-AUDIENCE-NAME April 18, 2018.

•Osinbajo: Things will get better for Nigeria
•Kukah cautions against rewarding repentant criminals

Deji Elumoye, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja with agency report

Pope Francis yesterday urged countries to quicken the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly to the world’s poor, describing the spending on armed conflict and military during a pandemic as “scandalous.”

In his Easter message after saying the Mass, Francis read his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message, in which he traditionally reviewed the world’s problems and appealed for peace, Reuters reported.

A similar message by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also called on Nigerians not to despair over the state of the nation, expressing optimism that things are bound to look better for the country with time.

Like the Pope, the Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Most Reverend Matthew Hassan Kukah, condemned the policy of rewarding repentant criminals who have killed, maimed Nigerians and destroyed property worth millions to the detriment of their victims.

But the Serving Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church (CGCC), Pastor Tunde Bakare, has said that the efforts of the Buhari administration in the past six years have been inadequate in dealing with the root causes of the country’s challenges.
With the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 is the second year in a row that Easter papal services were attended by small gatherings at a secondary altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, instead of by crowds in the church or in the square outside.

The pope said: “The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor. Nonetheless – and this is scandalous – armed conflicts have not ended and military arsenals are being strengthened.”
Francis, who would normally have given the address to up to 100,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, spoke to fewer than 200 in the church while the message was broadcast to tens of millions around the world.

The square was empty except for a few police officers enforcing a strict three-day national lockdown.
The pope asked God to comfort the sick, those who have lost a loved one, and the unemployed, urging authorities to give families in greatest need a “decent sustenance.”
He praised medical workers, sympathised with young people unable to attend school, and said everyone was called to combat the pandemic.

“I urge the entire international community, in a spirit of global responsibility, to commit to overcoming delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries,” he added.

Francis, who has often called for disarmament and a total ban on the possession of nuclear weapons, said: “There are still too many wars and too much violence in the world! May the Lord, who is our peace, help us to overcome the mindset of war.”
Noting that it was International Awareness Day against anti-personnel landmines, he called such weapons “insidious and horrible devices.”

He stated that the world would be much better “without these instruments of death!”
In mentioning conflict areas, he singled out for praise “the young people of Myanmar committed to supporting democracy and making their voices heard peacefully”.
More than 550 protesters have been killed since a February 1 military coup in Myanmar, which the pope visited in 2017.

The pope called for peace in several conflict areas in Africa, including the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia and the Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique, noting that the crisis in Yemen has been “met with a deafening and scandalous silence”.

He appealed to Israelis and Palestinians to “rediscover the power of dialogue” to reach a two-state solution where both can live side by side in peace and prosperity.
Francis said he realised many Christians were still persecuted and called for all restrictions on freedom of worship and religion worldwide to be lifted.

Things will Get Better for Nigeria, Says Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has asked Nigerians not to despair over the state of the nation as things are bound to look better with time.
Osinbajo who spoke on the sideline of the Easter Sunday service at Aso Rock Chapel at the State House, Abuja, told Nigerians to have great hope that things are going to get better for the country.

He said: “I just want to thank God for our nation, and pray that our nation will experience the grace and mercy of God in so many different ways that we are expecting His grace and mercy. All will be well in Jesus Christ’s name.”
He added that the message of Easter was a message of the special and exceeding love and grace of God.

“God’s plan for humanity was that Christ will die and will resurrect. The resurrection is evidence of the fact that those who believe would be saved eternally and would live eternal joy and peace with the Almighty. And that promise is open to every single person.
“Whoever you are, that promise is open to you. That is, if you subscribe to that plan if you accept that Christ died for you and rose again and that the plan is fulfilled in the resurrection,” he stated.
Osinbajo also described the Easter season as one “of great joy because we celebrate the evidence of the plan of God. In some way, God has given us a receipt of our salvation and it’s really exciting.”

Kukah Cautions against Rewarding Repentant Terrorists, Bandits

The Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah has bemoaned the policy of rewarding repentant criminals who have killed, maimed Nigerians and destroyed property worth millions of naira to the detriment of their victims.
Kukah added that the resort to use of propaganda, selling of half-truths and outright lies by those in authority to blackmail genuine critics could only worsen the already bad situation in the country.

In his message to mark this year’s Easter celebration, Kukah said the so-called repentant terrorists, bandits and kidnappers have waged war against their country, murdered thousands of citizens, destroyed infrastructure and rendered families permanently displaced and dislocated.
He urged the government to stop investing billions of naira in rehabilitating bandits rather than bringing succour to the victims.
He lamented that the relations of most of these victims have been left to mourn alone and bury their loved ones alone in agony and penury.

He said: “When kidnapped or killed, victims and their families are left to their wits. They cry alone, bury their loved ones alone. And our government expects us to be patriotic?”
According to him, victims of terrorism and banditry need empathy and succour, which have not been forthcoming from government.

He added: “Sadly, human life is hemorrhaging so badly in Nigeria, but the greatest tragedy is the death of empathy from those in power. Mysteriously, the government is investing billions of naira in rehabilitating so-called Boko Haram repentant members and their other partners in crime in the belief that they want to turn a new leaf.

“These criminals have waged war against their country, murdered thousands of citizens, destroyed infrastructure and rendered entire families permanently displaced and dislocated. Why should rehabilitating the perpetrator be more important than bringing succour to the victims?”
Kukah also lamented the level of frustrations in the country resulting from endemic corruption and poverty.

He stated that Nigeria is drifting almost irreversibly into a dark tunnel.
“Things are falling apart with unnerving rapidity because those who govern have only a pact to protect their interests. Politics is merely its conveyor belt of ambition. Nigeria has a date with destiny. If we do not turn around, The axe is already laid to the roots of the tree,” he said.

According to Kukah, while the country is sinking deeper into crisis, those in government are busy “manufacturing consent by creating imaginary enemies, setting citizens against one another by deploying religion, ethnicity, region, and other platforms.”

“Recently, according to the World Happiness Report, we are one of the unhappiest nations in the world. This is unacceptable but understandable. Our clay-footed fight against corruption has not moved the needle of transparency forward.

“Of course, being the poverty capital of the world comes with its rewards such as banditry, violence, death, sorrow, blood, poverty, misery, and tears. Our cup of sorrow is permanently full; hence the exponential rise in the frustration curve across the country,” he said.
The bishop spoke on the controversy and crisis generated by the issue of Muslims wearing hijab in Christian schools in Kwara State, describing it as one of those selfish political actions that tend to undermine national cohesion.

He said: “The rumblings over the wearing of a hijab in Kwara State suggest that we have not seen the end of individuals sacrificing national cohesion to feed their personal ambitions by starting small.”Most politicians hardly think through the long-term effects of these pyrrhic victories of using religion. What started as a small fire with adoption of Sharia in Zamfara in 1999, spread across the northern states. “Ordinary people broke into ecstatic joy. Today, what has become of the North? What are the lessons?”

Kukah urged Nigerians not to lose hope but to be steadfast in prayers and supplications.
While wishing Nigerians a happy and peaceful Easter celebration, Kukah said Prophet Isaiah’s words should give them hope and consolation.

He said: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

Meanwhile, the presidency yesterday faulted the submission of Kukah over the security situation in the country.
In a statement by the media assistant to tge president, Garba Shehu, the presidency said Kukah’s vituperation during this Easter festive period was ungodly.

The statement stated that Kukah was playing politics with the homily he delivered during the Easter Sunday service stressing that the president should not be dragged into his politics.
Garba traced the security challenges facing the nation to the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, saying there was no basis to blame the Buhari’s administration which is less than six years in office.

“All citizens have their individual ideologies, even their own versions of truth. But if you profess to being a man of God, as Father Mathew Hassan Kukah does, ideology should not stand in the way of facts and fairness. Father Kukah has said some things that are inexplicable in his Easter massage.
“But, in saying that the Boko Haram terrorism is worse than it was in 2015, he did not speak like a man of God,” the statement explained.
The presidency urged Kukah to go to Borno or Adamawa to ask the citizens the difference between 2014 and 2021.

It added that the hijab issue in Kwara State on which Kukah dwelt was a state matter which the courts of the land had adjudicated.
According to the statement, they are matters that have appeared in several states as far back as the Obasanjo administration.
“In all of that, when and where did the name of President Buhari feature? He is playing partisan politics by dragging the President into it.

“An administration that has created a whole ministry, for the first time in the country’s history, appropriating enormous resources to it, to deal with issues of internally displaced persons cannot, in all rightfulness be accused of not caring for them. Some of the comments are no more than a sample of the unrestrained rhetoric Fr. Kukah trades in, which he often does in the guise of a homily,” the statement added.
It urged the people to continue to support the ongoing efforts by the administration to secure the country and move it forward.

Nigeria’s Survival Hanging in the Balance, Says Bakare

The Serving Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church (CGCC), Pastor Tunde Bakare, has said that the efforts of this present administration in the past six years have been inadequate in dealing with the root causes of the country’s challenges, adding that the country’s survival is hanging in the balance.

Bakare, in his Easter message with the theme: “The Conspicuous Handwriting on the Wall,” which was delivered yesterday in Lagos, stated that Nigeria’s national survival is precariously hanging in the balance due to the inability of the present administration to address the country’s fundamental fault lines that would require constitutional restructuring and devolution of powers from the federal to federating states to address.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration had spent time papering over cracks and dressing windows while the weak foundational structures were crumbling under the weight of neglect.
“To paraphrase the words of W. B. Yeats popularised by Chinua Achebe, “things are falling apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon our land,” he said.

He added that the Buhari administration might be suffering from what political analysts had termed the “second-term curse,” which has been described as the perceived tendency of presidents to be less successful in their second terms than their first terms.

Bakare said history suggested that the so-called curse could be attributed to overconfidence and loss of focus by leaders during their second terms in office.

He quoted from The Wall Street Journal that “there is a classic explanation for this supposed curse, summed up in a single word: hubris. “The re-elected president overestimates his mandate. He ignores opposition and pursues goals that prove to be beyond reach. Freed of the need to seek re-election, isolated by the perquisites of office, he plunges ahead—only to fall off a cliff.”

Bakare stated that he was compelled to speak out “at this point because, given the state of the nation, the legacy of President Muhammadu Buhari is in grave danger of being confined to an unsavoury side of history. I am indeed compelled to speak out because Nigeria is in a state of emergency” as its “underlying conditions have resurfaced and our nation is now in a critical state. Her survival is hanging in the balance and she has been rushed to the emergency room.

“Indeed, my aim in highlighting these issues is to ensure that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari does not fall victim to what is historically described, especially in American politics, as the ‘second-term curse.’”

According to him, the Buhari administration’s overestimation of its second-term mandate manifested in the widening of the focal points of his administration from its initial three-point agenda on security, anti-corruption and the economic diversification for job creation in 2015 to nine-point agenda in 2019.

He acknowledged that some achievements were made in Buhari’s first term under the three-point agenda but stated that “the current state of the nation is a clear indication that these efforts have been insufficient in dealing with our national problems; they have been unable to address the underlying problems of the Nigerian nation.”

“The major limitation of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has been the failure to appreciate the fact that the problems of Nigeria are more deeply rooted than these honest efforts can reach, and that what is required is a holistic and systematic approach to governance.

“Unfortunately, after winning re-election in 2019, rather than do a deep dive to address the fundamental causes of our national malady by dealing with the root causes of insecurity, corruption and joblessness, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari decided to treat more symptoms by broadening its agenda. The president’s Next Level Agenda widened the focus from a three-point to a nine-point agenda,” he added.

Bakare warned that insecurity would undo the gains recorded under the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Scheme meant to foster food security, adding that it will increase non-performing loans as farmers failed to return to their farms due to insecurity.
He said insecurity would also impair the ability of the railway lines being built by the Buhari administration to run effectively.