At 59, may God bless our leaders and all our fellow-citizens. May God bless the government and people of Nigeria with wisdom, courage and patience to work together in harmony so that we may build a Nigeria that does the will of God, a Nigeria we all can be proud of. All those who believe in God and who wish Nigeria well must pray and work for a better Nigeria. We must not just bend our knees in prayer, we must also roll up our sleeves and work for Nigeria. We must overcome our addiction so that we can enjoy the numerous blessings with which the Almighty had endowed us as a country—our addiction to falsehood. Our allergy to truth is our greatest undoing.
But there is no therapy for denial in addiction. Addiction requires admission if there is to be real and effective therapy. Salvation is therapy, and Nigeria must admit that she is in urgent need of the therapy that salvation is. But what will save Nigeria? What, if not truth? Our salvation begins when we begin to bear witness to the truth, when we begin to admit the truth that, 59 years after independence, instead of getting better, things are getting worse. We and our leaders have a duty to our benevolent God and to our children’s children to work for a better Nigeria. The best present we can offer to Nigeria at 59 is to repent from sins against God and against Nigeria. We must, individually and collectively, resolve to work for a better Nigeria
The truth is our democracy is sick unto death, perhaps dead already, because men and women who have never stood up for democracy are the most vocal, the most active, and the most influential in our different political parties and in government circles. Our practice of politics needs to be clearly differentiated from criminality. Our severely defective electoral process needs to be replaced before the next elections with a process that is less prone to manipulation by money, violence and incumbency, and largely insulated from exploitation of our ethnic and religious diversity.
The truth we must admit is greed has superseded service in a system where government controls the wealth in the land. Many stand for elections knowing that whoever gets into government gains access to Nigeria’s wealth or to a huge portion of it. Too many wrongly believe that public service is no service except service of their pockets. Little wonder Nigerians, citizens of a richly endowed land, live like paupers.
Oil-rich Nigeria is poverty capital of the world. Her wealth is in the hands of a few while majority live in destitution. The truth is Nigerians have been waiting for 59 years for a government that serves the common good, waiting for the executive to do something right, for the legislature to make good laws, and for the judiciary to do justice. May we not wait in vain.
At 59, the spate of kidnapping in our country tells us a parable about our land and about we the people. Nigeria and her sons and daughters have been abducted by a self-seeking elite present or represented in the three arms of government. Admitting this bitter truth and doing something about it: that is what will save Nigeria. But to pretend that this is false is to sprint on a fast track to destruction. The truth is our much-need war against corruption must rise above partisanship. It is alright to want to temper justice with mercy. In fact, justice and mercy are two sides of the same coin. But neither ethnic nor religious nor party affiliation should obstruct justice.
The truth is security agencies need to be trained and equipped to secure the land and its people, not just the lives of politicians, their families and their friends. It has taken us too long to fight Boko Haram. Our soldiers, young men and women, deserve adequate military equipment. So many of them have fallen unsung while putting out a fire they did not start, a conflagration caused by our dirty politics.
The truth is, 59 years after independence, our youths see a bleak future and flee their fatherland, the land for whose freedom our founding fathers fought. No good education, no jobs, no security, our youths go in search of greener pastures, risk their lives crossing the arid and lonely desert and the mighty ocean, and end up in countries where they are dehumanized. Those countries know that our own political leaders desecrate our dignity. So, they have no iota of respect for bearers of Nigerian passport. Neither comfortable at home nor secure abroad, we must admit the truth if we are to be saved, for to be truthful is to be free, and to be free is to be saved.
The truth is Nigerians are unhappy because truth has been abandoned, justice banished. Honesty has become a crime, dishonesty is rewarded. Competence no longer matters. But Nigeria needs leaders who are intellectually, ethically and technically competent to manage her affairs. Living in penury, Nigerians hear of senators and their cars. Unable to make ends meet, Nigerians are compelled to pay more taxes and higher banking fees. Their salaries are peanuts while the servants they thought they elected are receiving fat salaries. For the sake of morality and integrity, this country must reduce the salaries of its political officeholders.
The truth is, at 59, our country is wounded, bleeding and dying having being nailed to the cross of governmental inefficiency and falsehood. We and our leaders must quit the path of deceit. Our president and governors, ministers and commissioners, members of National and State Assemblies, our judges and legal practitioners, we religious leaders, and we citizens—we all must take responsibility for healing this country. And a special word for media aides of our leaders in every tier of government: bear in mind that insolence and falsehood do no service to Nigerians. You are not paid to insult Nigerians for daring to hold views that diverge from those held by those who appointed you.
You do not serve Nigeria by insulting Nigerians on behalf of your principal. History will remember every lie you told in the name of the government. Never will the God of history forget any of those lies. Therefore, bear this in mind at all times: only the truth can save Nigeria. At 59, we pray using words of the second stanza of our national anthem: may God guide us and our leaders right. May God be merciful to Nigeria and grant that we know the truth, love the truth, and make ourselves available for the truth to save us.
•By His Eminence Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie wrote from Lagos.