By Dr Ugoji Egbujo
The bishops are fed up. They want the president to resign and return to his farm in Daura. They had met him two months ago, in February. They were sad but polite then. Now they believe righteousness lies in being brutally frank.
He has failed woefully, they have concluded. He has refused to rein in clannishness. He has failed to confront vigorously the herdsmen terrorism and its concomitants ravaging the middle belt. They believe he has condoned and perhaps encouraged evil.
It’s heartwarming to hear bishops speak up against evil with anger. That is what Christ wanted of them: to go about castigating and dismantling the works of the devil. A president who cannot secure the lives and properties of citizens must look for another job. The bishops have found some courage, at last. They gagged and punished a priest who spoke against the looting of the treasury by President Jonathan’s government. Perhaps they are no longer shackled by religious sentiments.
Perhaps the bloodshed has crossed a red line. Fulani herdsmen, or their impersonators, invaded Mbalom, Benue State, a few days ago. They murdered two catholic priests and 15 parishioners on the altar. It was a solemn early morning mass. That straw should break every camel’s back. Mass murders attributed to violent Fulani herdsmen have become so rampant that mourners no longer weep. There are no tears left. The Federal Government has mouthed outrage but dwelt in ambivalence. It has found neither anger nor effective empathy. It has failed to characterize the assailants. Its chosen containment strategies have gone from being tepid to being stagnant.
The government has flirted with the idea that its opponents could be responsible for the upsurge in violence. The Federal Government has jumped from theory to theory, from climate change to Libyan crisis. The body count has been rising resolutely. But it has not lent the government sober reflection. Let’s assume the enemies of the government have a hand in the crises. Would that make it less the responsibility of the government to contain the violence?
The duty of the president is not to cry and mourn. The bereaved and displaced persons do not need tears. The president has to find the murderers, and hand them justice. He has to stop further violence immediately. He has to compensate and resettle victims. The president inflames tensions when he compares death tolls in Zamfara with Benue. The quality of the crises in Benue and Taraba is different from that in Zamfara. When massacres can be given religious interpretations they are particularly dangerous. The president should know.
Our strong president speaks about this violence with calm incoherence. Little wonder the Bishops now think the mass murders and the security lapses are lines of one script. The bishops can be pardoned for their new distrust of the president. The president’s timidity against the herdsmen can make the dumb speak.
The bishops have voiced a frustration that has spread across the nation.
But I wish the bishops were truly what Christ wanted them to be. I mourn the impotence of our bishops. They are supposed to command mountains and they will move. They are supposed to inflict curses on the enemies of God. But they point fingers and trade insults now. They are supposed to speak peace and it would be established by heaven. But they are here as tense, as fearful, and as helpless, as all of us.
I wish the weapons of warfare of these bishops were not carnal. If we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness then these bishops have work to do. If they understood their commission we wouldn’t need to rely on the violence of unbelievers—sticks, machetes and guns—to defend ourselves. I wish they could send leprosy to hinder all those slaughtering innocent women and children in Benue. I wish they had not given themselves to flesh and mammon, like the rest of us.
The bishops are angry. They are thirsty for peace. I wish they could declare a thing and it would come to pass, like Apostle Peter. Then they would not need to write President Buhari to resign. They would only pray. If the Bishops were what they should be, they would be more than enough to secure Benue.
I write as a Christian. Bishops should not join the congregation in open, feeble lamentations. When they weep, like Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, something supernatural should happen.
I have not asked the bishops to resign. Their tenure is secure. They will remain bishops for life regardless of their effectiveness. I cannot ask the bishops to resign. I don’t have the moral authority to do so. Ours is wishy-washy, nominal christianity. So the weapons of our warfare are propaganda, sticks, guns and bitterness.
We must defend ourselves against harm. But since we are inhibited by sin, and can’t render effectual prayers, we must rely on our hands not prayers. We must do it like the world. Our bishops and us. We will use whatever we can use. Peter used a knife. Christ stopped and condemned him. But we have no Christ here. Okay, we have Him but, we don’t have Him. We have no faith. So we cry like babies.
If only we had one Elijah. But it’s okay. We have big cathedrals and very many archbishops. They are all spirit filled but they emit no fire. So the church blames the government for the rot and spread of evil. The church, the new pacesetter in mundanity and vanity.
I actually wish our bishops could see tomorrow. I don’t mean vague prophecies. Or at least think about tomorrow. Because I don’t want to see the day when all Muslim clerics would meet and ask a Christian president to resign. I wouldn’t like to witness Muslim clerics directing their faithful to demonstrate against the sloppiness of a christian president whom they think is foisting a Christian agenda on the country. Our country is flammable.
I am uneasy about religious leaders taking to any kind of freedom fighting that could foster divisiveness. If the bishops could decree a thing and it came to pass, we would not have come to this sorry pass. Clerics must speak out against evils, but national unity must always be on their mind.
I wish our bishops could do a few of what Pharaoh’s magicians did. They could have simply kept their communique in their pocket and scared the violent herdsmen away, by turning their sticks and guns into vipers and cobras. I wish our bishops had spiritual bows and arrows. I wish they lived by faith.
I wish our big bishops were ….Bishops.