The All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Governors Rochas Okorocha and Rotimi Amaechi of Imo and Rivers States, as well as formers governors of Lagos, Anambra and Abia States, Bola Tinubu, Dr. Chris Ngige and Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, were recently in Owerri on campaign.
These chieftains and other notable figures of the APC took some time off their schedule and paid a courtesy call on the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Anthony J.V. Obinna. Vintage Obinna exploited the opportunity to tell his guests his Nigerian story.
Speaking earlier, Gen. Buhari appealed to everybody to go for their permanent voters cards, as well as vote according to the dictate of their conscience.
“We are going round to tell Nigerians to get their permanent voters cards ready, to go out and vote and to make sure that it counts. He said that there has been continued dilapidation of the country’s infrastructure, education, health care and the most serious among this is power. “Millions of Dollars, not Naira, have been spent but nothing to show for it”, Buhari told Archbishop Obinna.
In his own short remark, the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, pleaded with the Archbishop to beg politicians to stop playing politics with religion, stressing that no nation that passed through this lane survived.
“Poverty has no religious or tribal mark. Some people, who fail in many areas try to hide under religion. The clergy should continue to discourage politicians from playing politics with religion”, Tinubu said.
For Senator Chris Ngige, Nigeria is on the verge of vanishing and the church has a role to play in promoting good leadership.
Lending his voice during the visit, the former governor of Abia State, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, disclosed that APC is committed to good governance, adding that the party will ensure that everyone elected abides by this. He finally appealed that APC should be given a chance to execute their programmes.
ARCHBISHOP OBINNA RESPONDS
“When I heard you (Buhari) were coming, I went back to my PhD thesis, which I defended in January 1984, and I want to read a part of what I wrote just a few days after the coup d’état of December 31, 1983.
“In 1960, the British colonial government relinquished the administration of Nigeria. On January 15, 1966, a military coup d’état ended the rule of the Nigerian leadership, which took over from the British. Corruption was the declared reason for the coup. This coup then led to a three-year civil war, 1967-1970.
“A military coup d’état in 1975 ended the leadership of General Yakubu Gowon, a military head of state. In 1979, the military handed back power to a civilian regime. As I was putting finishing touches to this study, the news of another military coup came. In effect, President Shehu Shagari and the civilian leadership were overthrown on charges of the same ineptness and corruption, which he had earlier decried and in the face of which he had called for an ethical revolution. A new military head of state, Muhammadu Buhari, now presides over Nigeria. Where we go from here is yet uncertain. . .
“On December 31st 1983, a moral crisis in Nigeria gave way to a military coup d’état. In his broadcast to the nation on the reasons for the coup, which toppled the civilian government presided over by Shagari, the new military leader of the nation, Muhammadu Buhari, said that the army seized power in order to put an end to the serious economic predicament and the crisis of confidence now afflicting our nation.
“Corruption had attended unprecedented heights under Shagari”, said Buhari, dismissing as rigged, the August election that gave Shagari a second four-year term. “There is ample evidence that rigging and thuggery were relative to the resources available to each of the country’s now banned six political parties”. Buhari added that his government would not operate kick backs, manipulated contracts or over-invoicing, nor would it condone forgery, fraud and embezzlement.
After reading a portion of his doctoral thesis, the Archbishop then asked his visitors: “Have we moved forward or backwards from this point?”
“I spent a lot of time thinking of Nigeria. My study was with a view to finding a modus vivendi for all Nigerians and I ended up with an ideology for Nigeria, which I called life enhancement. Enhancing the life of every Nigerian on the basis of equal value of every Nigerian. On the other side, I talked about one concept, live and let live. I found one concept to hold live and let live together, which is Convivial, the Convivial of the variety instead of the fittest. So, this is African democratic ideology, Convivialism.
“I ask your Excellency, can we live together as one people, one nation, in Nigeria? Can we, wit the multiplicity of our religions, of our ethnic groups, of our class structure, with the multiplicity of our conflicts, stick together as one country? I keep asking myself. Can we forge one nation, one national consciousness, through which every Nigerian, whether from Yoruba land, from Itsekiri, from Oyo or from Sokoto can live together?
“Right now, we are sitting on a keg of gun powder. We have known war. I was a prisoner of war at the end of the civil war. I was imprisoned in the military camp. So, I come from a background of having survived through the war and have been detained and escaped from prison. God allowed me to be alive till today!
“Well, before I knew you (Buhari), your name has been in my doctoral dissertation, published in 1984, and we are yet trying to forge a nation,one people, one mind.
“Do we have one God or many gods? This is part of the problem. If we have one God, we should have one humanity, one national family, but we have many gods, then we have multiple humanity.
“This is a very important issue at the apex level. So, the real issue for now is not PDP or APC, but our belonging together as one family, one nation, so that I can move freely from here (Owerri) to any part of the country, as I did in 1985, when I came back from the United States of America. At that time, I was able to travel through Nigeria without any harassment. But today, it is difficult to drive through Nigeria. It is unfortunate because Nigeria is such a lovely and a wonderful place.
“Whether it is the PDP or APC ruling the nation, our concern is how do we become fellow sons and daughters of God and respect and treat one another as such, without the feeling that you are inferior or that I am superior. This is part of my mission to equalize and or equilibrate the perfection of us Nigerians.
“We see each other not just as brothers and sisters but as sons and daughters, giving each person his due recognition as son and daughter. So, let everybody humble himself. Some people are suffering from a disease of pomposity, a form of psychosis.
“It is a pity that you are being brought back to 1984, when you should have moved on and rested comfortably after having served the nation. This is part of the predicament of Nigeria. If things had been better shaped, it would have been a different thing. Some of the countries that have had things better shaped are doing better. Even the small nations of Asia that were coming to us, including Malaysia that came to borrow palm fruits here, they are now super power in that area. Countries like Korea and Japan have become the Asian Tigers.
“Your Excellency, you will do well to address the issue of religion. See how you can actually transcend the polarization that we see at various levels. Since this nation is multi- religious and multi-ethnic in nature and content it requires something that will hold everybody together. That has been my concern. If we start talking of Christianizing everybody, you create a problem. If anybody talks about Islamization, it will create problems. That’s why there is a need for a certain transcendent that will guide whoever is at the apex of Nigeria.
“I think that during the time of Shagari, there was a certain accommodation at that time. There wasn’t too much emphasis on Christianity or Islam as part of any official policy. Efforts should be made to prevent sectarian apostles from manipulating either Islam or Christianity.
Let us emphasize those things that are for the welfare of the people: education, health, electricity, because everybody needs these things, whether Muslim or Christian. If there is earthquake here (Assumpta Cathedral, Owerri), all of us, whether Christian or Muslim, will fall in. If there is an accident, all of us will go in. So, there is a certain humanistic strain.
“We shouldn’t buy into Western secularization. Definitely, Muslims, Christians and Africanists, we agree on certain humanistic values. That was why it was easy to fight the issue of homosexuality and lesbianism. We don’t tolerate those, whether as Africans, Muslims or Christians.
“The Vatican and the Islamic heads of state have been able to fight secular forces, materialistic forces that are trying to trivialize many things. But again, we have the danger of religious violence. It can come from Christians. It can come from Muslims. We need eliminate it in our body politic.
“Here in Imo State, if not for the work of the Justice, Development and Peace Commission, JDPC, and our other education management, this man (pointing at Governor Okorocha) would not have become Governor in Imo State. We sustained our prayer for upright voting, accurate counting and martial announcement of election results and we are praying up till this moment.
“There was a revolution in 2011 here in Imo State, under APGA. We insisted that people should cast their votes and remain there until the votes were counted and announced. That was how the votes were secured. The votes were not secured by the politicians. So, we are not new to the political process.
“I am a Christian to the core but humanistic in my drives. As a lecturer for 17 years, the values I reeled out were life enhancement principles and they are neither Christian nor Muslim. This is from African Anthropology – Ndubuisi – life is supreme, Chinwendu – God is the owner of life.
This was the basis on which I developed my thesis, not so much on Islam or Christianity, although I studied the various currents in Nigeria, with a view to finding a common ideological framework that will guide us, that will shape our attitude, evaluate us on the basis of which we can operate. So, what is being said here is the ideology of faith and harmony, which can be incarnated within the Nigerian political framework and we will be all the better for it.