By Sam Eyoboka
The Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, on Wednesday, acknowledged that every nation has its peculiar challenges, but said Nigeria’s problems cannot be addressed by the kind of leadership we have at this point in time, and so the country was on a deathbed.
In his 60th independence message to Nigerians entitled: “A change of heart for Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary”, the Catholic priest maintained that Nigeria is sick unto death, arguing that “you cannot fix a country by using propaganda. Neither can you facilitate development by criminalising expression of dissenting opinions.”
According to Cardinal Okogie: “Close to four decades ago, during the struggle to rescue democracy from the hands of Nigerian soldiers, Nigerian Bishops composed a prayer: ‘Prayer for Nigeria in Distress’,” pointing out that an immediate response to that prayer was the end of military rule on May 29, 1999.
Continuing, Cardinal Okogie lamented that 21 years later, “Nigeria is still in distress. We await the long-term response to our prayer. Sixty years after we got our independence from Britain, Nigerians and those who love her know that this country is in dire need of redemption.
“It would be utterly dishonest and cruel to say Nigeria is in good condition. Nigeria is sick unto death. Yes, Nigeria has always been in difficulty. But that is no excuse for allowing the current state of affairs to remain. Things ought to be getting better, but getting worse.”
On the constitution, he said: “Nigeria needs to be rescued from the 1999 Constitution. That Constitution sets up government in a way that is unfair to the people of Nigeria.
“It is an irony that a foundational document such as a country’s constitution, a document that ought to facilitate and protect our land and our well-being, sets up Nigeria in a way that facilitates insecurity, poverty and insurgency.
“Nigeria needs to be rescued from the big, expensive and overbearing but uncaring government that has emerged as a result of this Constitution. Only the political elite can benefit from this Constitution.
“The poor masses of Nigeria cannot. That is why the first line of resistance to restructuring is constituted by those who benefit from the Constitution.”