The church on the state of the nation
THE church, as a societal institution, primarily caters for the spiritual needs of the people but cannot afford to be oblivious to existential necessities. The simple reason for this is that the brunt of bad government is borne by the people including church leaders and church members. The peoplein authority who divert resources meant for public good to private pockets are beneficiaries. This is why pungent messages have been coming from the pulpit and other platforms to draw the attention of the people in government to social afflictions arising from their failings in the conduct of government business. The second session of the 22ndsynod of Ibadan Diocese, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, provides, on yearly basis, a forum for a critical look at the state of the nation. The synod which took place from April 5 to April 8, 2018 was hosted by St. David’s Anglican Church, Ijokodo, Ibadan. The synod is an annual gathering at which church leaders – clergy and laity – put heads together to review the past, examine the present and project into the future. While church activities and related issues are expectedly accorded greater attention, the state of the nation is not treated with scant regard.
One event that is generally seen as most important during the synod is the delivery of the bishop’s charge. The charge is a comprehensive appraisal of the activities of the church in which the bishop itemises programmes, projects, accomplishments and constraints. It also offers the opportunity to direct attention to tasks that lie ahead not only for the church but also for the nation. Speaking on the prevailing situation in the country, the Bishop of the Diocese, the Most Rev. J. O. Akinfenwa, called for ‘’more intense and heartfelt prayers’’ for Nigeria. ‘’Ours is a nation with very great potential but it is a shame that the potential continues to waste away.’’ He said. Bishop Akininfenwa noted that for decades, Nigerians – especially the young people – have been migrating in droves to various countries of the world. He said those countries have been found attractive because they have established order and made progress.
He reiterated the fact that Nigeria was not yet a nation as he stated that true nations share common national values and aspirations and articulate a national dream. ‘’Even though there are misgivings about how the constituent units of the entity called Nigeria were cobbled together, we have remained together for long enough to forge a harmonious and progressive union if we wanted to. After over a century of living together and 58 years of independence, we are yet to forge a common national value. We do not have a Nigerian dream that we all subscribe to.’’ He observed.
The bishop spoke about tension in the land because what one section wants is inimical to the interests of another section and nobody is ready to shift ground. He said while the separatist agitations are not the way out, the yearnings of the constituent units should be addressed if Nigeria is to become a true nation. According to him, it is difficult to preach righteousness where there is no justice and it is when people cannot get redress by just means that they resort to self-help. The cleric was particularly concerned that the impact of so many years of decline and decay is being mostly felt among the country’s youths because ‘’they have been compromised and undermined’’. The consequence of this, he continued, is that they are getting involved in anti-social behaviour instead of being prepared for contemporary challenges. He called for prayers for peace in the build-up to next year’s elections as he urged the politicians to eschew violence and approach the polls with the spirit of sportsmanship.
He counselled that Nigerians on their part, should act positively ‘’in their little corners’’ and do something positive to uplift the country.
This year’s synod lecture was delivered by Dr Festus Adedayo, former press secretary to Governor AbiolaAjimobi of Oyo State. He spoke on the challenges and possibilities of the subject of a raging debate in Nigeria – restructuring. He shared the popular view that the agitation for restructuring is largely predicated on the belief that Nigeria as it is is not working. He said the president must drive the entire process if the objective of restructuring is to be realised.The alternative, in his view, is for the National Assemblyto put in place necessary legislation that can pave the way for the desired changes. He was, however, pessimistic about the National Assembly being favourably disposed to bringing about any meaningful change because it is a prime beneficiary from the status quo – the pervasive rot.
In a communiqué at the end of four days of deliberations, the synod embraced the call for a return to the 1963 Constitution under which each constituent unit can progress at its own pace by consolidating on its areas of comparative advantage. It expressed support for the implementation of the 2014 National Conference because many of its recommendations are helpful to the Nigerian project. The communiqué also expressed concern about the security situation in the country. It saw as worrisome the unceasing atrocities of Fulani herdsmen who have been destroying farmlands, killing with impunity, raping farmers’ wives and daughters and setting their habitations ablaze. It also made reference to the nefarious activities of kidnappers, ritual killers and financial scammers and urged the government t to take decisive steps to ensure that law and order prevail in every part of the country. It urged the government to pursue with vigour and ensure the release of the Dapchi school girl still being held by Boko Haram terrorists because of her faith.
- Olatoye, a veteran journalist, lives in Ibadan.