Anaweokhai O. Valentine
Most of the problems we face today as a nation are the effects of the sins that cry to God for vengeance such as willful murder or homicide (Genesis 4:8-12), Sodomy (Genesis 18:20-33), Oppression of widows and orphans (Exodus 22 :21) and cheating laborers of their due (Deuteronomy 24 :14-15). Homicide here includes the mindless killings and loss of innocent lives taking place daily in the country as a result of armed banditry, insurgency, terrorism, abductions, ritual killings, electoral violence, anti-cult rivalries and brutality. Oppression of widows and orphans includes laws, policies, initiatives and efforts aimed at silencing, subjugating and suppressing the poor, weak, helpless, homeless, nobodies, old, vulnerable, uneducated, minorities and uninformed. All these are efforts to take undue advantage of other’s naivety and vulnerability.
Cheating laborers of their due include intentional and deliberate refusal to pay workers of their wages, salaries, pensions, gratuities and emoluments as at when due. It entails unnecessary delaying and withholding of monies and allocated funds meant for the people and diverting them for selfish ends. All these, we experience every now and then. Through acts like this, the soul of our great country is being sapped. The body of the nation is being disemboweled. The future of the country looks uncertain. People are daily denied of their basic means and sources of survival. For me, this is a new form of genocide, holocaust, massacre, extermination, and cleansing of a people’s sense of humanity, sanity and dignity). Just restructuring may not redeem and salvage the present situation. We need to embark on a long, transformative, onerous and national journey and program of reconciliation, reparation and restitution.
When the dignity, freedom, value and rights of the average Nigerian seem to have been stolen and mortgaged by those who were supposed to protect and preserve them, one can understand why in the midst of all the problems on ground today, it appears that no one is doing anything about it or worse still, that any good thing can come out of the country any longer. It is bad enough that deplorable situations are now turned into comic relief and we laugh over them. The common slogan nowadays is ‘God help us’, ‘It is well’. There are people who are more or less suffering from what could be called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). How can we move on from here? What do we do? We need to turn to God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
In all of these, it is very evident that religious leaders have a great role to play in bringing about reconciliation, reparation and restitution. The religious leaders of the various blocs within the Christian and Muslim communities must join hands with the traditional leaders and civil authorities to seek ways of implementing and executing them, according to their peculiar religious, civil and traditional customs and practices. They need to be well planned out, over a period of time. They should form part of religious and moral education, instructions, homilies, sermons, rituals and catechesis at places of worship and learning.
However, on her own part, the government must intensify efforts to promote religious, moral, values and civic education in schools at all levels. We are all in this together. No one is exempted. Everyone has a significant role to play along the way. Almost every Nigerian fits into the Christian, Muslim and traditional umbrella. To build a nation, you must enthrone virtuous people into leadership positions. People who have the fear of God, grown in virtues and strength of character. You must allow people who have the requisite skills and knowledge to occupy leadership positions. These values, virtues and characters can be acquired and gained from such a spiritual exercise and program of reconciliation, reparation and restitution.
I trust these solutions because they aren’t so much dependent on the skills, knowledge, competence and works of human beings but rather on the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. They are effective by the grace and power of God through the Holy Spirit. As we play our specific roles, we must allow God to do His own work. Based on this, I look forward to a time when people would become highly mindful of stealing and dipping their hands into public funds to satisfy their selfish wants rather than public interest.
When people who have stolen and embezzled through corrupt practices in the past, would return this ill-gotten wealth not because of the sledge hammer of EFCC or ICPC, but because they, on their own, have accused themselves, by themselves, and felt the need to make refunds and restitution, then there will be hope. When people would be attracted to public offices and elective positions for genuine purposes of service and development and not out of greed or self-aggrandizement, then we have arrived. Until we are truly reconciled to form an authentic whole, then, there can be no united country. The unity we claim, will only be delusive and illusive. Until we make due reparation, then our indivisibility is fallacious. And until we make the necessary restitutions, our oneness is questionable. Until then, the journey is yet to begin and truly, like Prof Jega said, what tactic is there left to try?
Fr. Anaweokhai Valentine is a Priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State Nigeria ([email protected])