What I told President Buhari to do about Nigeria’s ‘sickness’ – Popular Archbishop

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Outspoken Catholic Bishop of Owerri Archdiocese, Archbishop Antony Amarachi Obinna, has reminded President Muhammadu Buhari of their discussion about the state of things in the country.

The revered clergyman, who made this disclosure in a recent interview with Daily Sun, also spoke about his alleged involvement in the last street protest by Biafra agitators amongst other issues.

Read excerpts from the interview here:

Sir, May 30 happened to be the Biafra Day, all of a sudden we discovered that you were at Nkpor. It was captured in such a way that identified you with the Biafra struggle. What happened actually?

Well, the Immaculate Congregation of Reverend Sisters fixed the burial of their sister on the 30th of May – one Reverend Sister Innnocentia Eherem. This reverend sister had worked with me in archdiocese of Owerri for 10 years and worked very effectively. So it was a duty I owed her to be at her funeral at Nkpor, Onitsha where their community is located.

So when I left Owerri on the morning of the 30th with Reverend Sisters and the laity it did not cross my mind or the mind of any one of us that we would run into any Biafran protesting group. But we did notice as we reached Ihiala some signs of unrest. When we reached Obosi the bus that had travelled ahead of me with the Catholic priests turned back. And I asked him what was going on and he replied that some young people either IPOB or MASSOB had blocked the way. I said let’s continue. So when we reached the roadblock and I came down. And as soon as they saw me, they said “Oh, it’s Bishop, its Bishop. Allow him.” They allowed me and my people and we went down to Nkpor, to the community of the funeral. The Archbishop of Onitsha said the mass and I preached the homily and eventually we finished the burial.

We entered our cars and buses to get back to Owerri through the route we came by. But on getting to the major road there was a large crowd of young people with bonfire going on and obstructing the traffic. So I had to go down to seek for leave to pass. When I came down, once again some of them recognized me saying, “It’s the Archbishop; it’s the Archbishop…” And I told them please we want to pass. One of them asked them to make way for us. In fact, they knelt down and asked us to pray for them, which I did.

We then moved on to meet another roadblock. This was much bigger than the first roadblock and I said we’re going back to Owerri, kindly let us pass. They told me that the police was on the other side with their armoured car and tear gas. I told them I wanted go and see the police and seek clearance to pass through. They said they would follow me and I told them please don’t follow. I just want to get to the Police alone.

Well, they were able to obey. The police allowed me to pass in spite of the menacing presence of armoured cars and policemen in battle gear. I reached them, spoke to the commanding officer and he told me the tension was very high and that I should turn back and look for another way to get to Owerri. So it was at the point of coming back that these young people besieged me and started talking about Biafra. They complained that the church and the CAN were not speaking up. I told them that this was not the kind of environment where I can speak up even if I am interested. The struggle you people are doing for the survival of Nigeria – it’s not here that I should speak.

I told them that as Igbos they should know what I’ve been doing beyond the issue of Biafra. After all, I established the Odenigbo lecture series as part of my being an Igbo patriot. Some of them went on, threatening that now you would leave us here; there were no jobs and we’re not eating. Now you’re a big man and you would enter your car and go back to Owerri and leave us here.

So at that point I realized it was no longer a friendly outing and I turned making way to my car. They were talking and shouting until I got into my car to realize that my driver had been hit on the chest by one of the boys.

Are you serious?

Yes, my driver is around. By the time I reached Owerri, one of my priests was hospitalized because the boys threatened him and hit his car – he is Father Chijioke Kada. I had to preach at his parish next day and he had to be brought from the hospital. He had high blood pressure that led to his almost having a stroke. So there was no way I planned, even if I passed through them, there was no intention of simply joining them in the protest march. So what you saw in the media was an exaggerated sense of hype for which reason I had to put up some disclaimer about what they claimed. I didn’t go for any pro-Biafra protest. It doesn’t mean that I am not concerned or interested in what the young people are saying. But it’s wrong that some people said I came from Rome to join them or from Owerri to join them in the protest march. It’s a complete lie!

Some of them complained about unemployment. Look at the state of the nation – everything seems to be in disarray. We have Boko Haram, Niger Delta agitations and the Biafran agitation in the South-east. What are you going to advise the Federal Government about these?

As far as I am concerned all these unrests in the Niger Delta or in the South-east and so on are an indication that Nigeria is a sick nation. And the sense of patriotism is not there. I’ll say that is the reason for Biafra or the uprising for Biafra or the uprising for the Niger Delta. That is the reason. If we get Nigeria right and there is a noble sense of patriotism; noble sense of belonging in which every person, every segment of Nigeria counts and feels that it counts, then there won’t be all these agitations. That is why our leaders must go back to the drawing board and ask themselves this question; “Do we really want to be one Nigeria?” Is it the one Nigeria where we’re killing each other; afraid of war all the time and across the board. The leaders need to sit down and make up their minds if they don’t want one Nigeria, then let us separate peacefully. We can be good neigbours.

In a recent interview I had, I must have spoken this wise too. It is wonderful to have one loving, peaceful, patriotic Nigeria. If it’s not going to work out, for goodness sake, let us be honest with ourselves and say we cannot live together because we have too many religious, ethnic interests. I know we can go beyond this if the leaders become patriotic and being less self-centered, using resources to build up industries and factories to absorb the young people who are agitating. That has always been my position and I will continue to say that.

In essence you’re calling on the different ethnic groups to come together and renegotiate the existence of Nigeria?

We don’t have true federalism as yet, we are still practicing the unitary system of governance with a command structure. So the national confab was an attempt to restructure and redesign Nigeria. This has not been taken seriously. I’m sure that if the 2014 National Conference was taken seriously I’m sure many people have said it’s the solution to Nigeria’s problems. True unity, true federalism in Nigeria has always been canvassed.

All those ethnic nationalities participated in the conference. I mentioned this to General, I mean President Buhari when I visited him with other bishops. I told him that we should chart a now course, let’s make Nigeria more unified. Let’s end all these ethnic, religious differences, let everybody be brought to the table and let’s find the best way to make Nigeria one. Some have suggested turning the six geopolitical zones to a confederal structure. So let’s look for something that can help us live in peace and harmony. Somebody going to the North-east, North-west, North-central etc will feel at home; the same with anyone from the other zones going to any other zone in the country should feel at home.

In 1985 when I came from the United States with the patriotism I had in my heart I decided to tour and know my country. When I was in the United States I tended to know more of Europe and America. So I traveled from the East went through Benue, made it to Niger State and from there I headed down to the South-west up to Lagos etc. In short, I made a round trip of Nigeria. That time I felt a great sense of happiness that I was able to know a little more about Nigeria.

But today, to travel across Nigeria is a nightmare because we don’t trust each other. There are alarming signals of unrest and insecurity and we’re being alerted. The other day, just close to the Cathedral here, talking about Irete, a small town, raised an alarm about an invasion that was coming to them and they didn’t sleep the whole night. And some of them even left town. So these are the kinds of things happening with us.

As somebody put it in the paper recently he said this is like a slow civil war, a low-key civil war that is actually real. We don’t feel happy with the state of the nation and it is kind of worsened with these events that have come as a response to the failure of leaders to lead this nation aright so that there would be a sense of belonging. Once the leaders are alive to their responsibilities you don’t need to meet them personally but you will identify with them. See the effects: the effects have failed economically, politically, religiously, morally and socially. So that’s why I feel this matter should be taken up. We should really take a look at how we’re relating with each other. We’re so much polarized, we’re alienated and the children are not having it easy because they can feel and see the alienation between the North and South, between one ethnic group and the other.

Of course, they should be taught to cherish their ethnic identities. This is what I call ethnofilia – the positive love of one’s ethnicity, which is also the basis of religiofilia – the deep love of one’s religion so long as that love of religious identity does not lead to killing or brutalizing anybody. Because any religion that kills or brutalizes anybody has become a criminal religion and it becomes unjustifiable as every human being has a fundamental right to life, which the constitution guarantees and must defend because it’s a right given by God.

The post What I told President Buhari to do about Nigeria’s ‘sickness’ – Popular Archbishop appeared first on Nigeria News today & Breaking news | Nigerian newspapers.

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