By Sam Eyoboka
AHEAD of Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, has accused the country’s leadership of not doing enough to address the underlying issues fanning insecurity and disunity in the country.
In his 60th Independence anniversary message to Nigerians signed by the Director of Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu, Archbishop Martins, while acknowledging the need for all to thank God for keeping the country as one despite her numerous challenges, regretted that not enough has been done in practical terms by successive leadership to foster a deep sense of patriotism and oneness amongst the various nationalities that make up country.
He said it was shameful that 60 years after gaining independence from the British, the country was yet to get its acts together; “we still lack the quality leadership needed to guide the country in the path of peaceful coexistence, economic prosperity and security of life and property.”
Hear him: “We thank God that we are alive to mark the Diamond Jubilee of our country’s independence. We are an independent country still searching for how to become a nation where no one is oppressed, and everyone feels a sense of belonging.
“In spite of all odds we have survived for 60 years and so we must thank God and praise the resilience of Nigerians. However, this year of our Diamond Jubilee has turned out to be one of the most challenging for most Nigerians.
“We were still battling with the effects of insecurities in the land when COVID-19 struck and made life impossible for those who lost their jobs and sources of livelihood. To make life even more impossible, there was an increase in the rate of VAT only to be followed by the imposition of stamp duty on house rent and Certificates of Occupancy.
“The dust raised by that had hardly settled when we were slapped with an increase in electricity tariffs which was followed a couple of weeks later by an increase in the pump price of petrol,” the Catholic Archbishop lamented.
Continuing, Archbishop Martins said “Life is becoming harder and harder for majority of Nigerians and government needs to take radical steps to ease the burdens they are carrying. Everyone, led by Civil Society Organisations and NGOs and the Labour movement, needs to do something in their areas of competences in order to bring the suffering of people home to government. If people must bear the burdens of the day, government must also show good faith by cutting down on the cost of governance.”
The Archbishop also reiterated his call for a major restructuring of the country along the path of true federalism in order to give the various ethnic nationalities a sense of belonging.
The Archbishop continued: “The landmark celebration of 60 years should make us reflect on the reality of our existence as a country. A cursory reflection shows that we are far below where we ought to be if we take into consideration the human and natural resources with which the country is blessed. It would seem that the structure of our country that was distorted with the advent of the military into governance has remained the obstacle to our growth.
“Selfishness and lack of regard for common good that covers all the different nationalities that make up our country has made it impossible for us to be the Federal Republic that we were meant to be at independence,” Archbishop Martins stated.
He added that it is necessary to continue to harp on the need to return to the original concept of Nigeria as a Federation that recognises the uniqueness of the federating units and gives each its right to govern aspects of its life while we remain one country, united in our diversities.
“The current structure, as many have rightly pointed out, has given too much power to the centre that the states and local governments have been reduced to appendages that
go cap in hand to Abuja to seek for their survival from the Federal Government. We must return to a true federalism in order to become the nation that we want to be,” he noted.
According to him, agitations for self-determination as being promoted by some groups would continue to grow as long as the nation’s leadership continue to pay lip-service to the genuine needs and desires of the people.
Archbishop Martins said: “Nigerians are indeed a special breed of people blessed by God. That is why we excel in almost all spheres of human endeavors at the international level. What we need here at home is an eenabling environment that would bring out the best in us. As it is, our best is yet to come.”
In conclusion, Archbishop Martins called on all citizens to pray for our country and her rulers that we may overcome the present challenges and remain a united country where no person is oppressed and all are proud to serve our sovereign Motherland.