Getting the new Anglican Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace, Dr. David O. C. Onuoha, was not an easy task, but when our man, Chidi Nkwopara, succeeded in pinning him down to this interview, he turned out to be a newsman’s delight. He spoke on a number of matters of national concern. Happy reading.
Rape appears to be Nigeria’s new face of social malady. What are your views on this?
The incident of rape in Nigeria has reached such an alarming proportion that something urgent and drastic must be done to save our nation from becoming the modern Sodom and Gomorrah. Babies, small girls, ladies, mothers and even grandmothers, are targets and victims of this evil act.
Again, the growing cases of incest keep one wondering what this nation is turning to. That a man will constantly and regularly ‘enjoy’ sexual relationship with his daughters without any twig of compunction, reveals the regrettable and pitiable level to which the society has degenerated.
We insist that these are moral deviations and no normal human being has any justifiable reason whatsoever, for involvement in them.
How should the nation tackle this?
In addition to other measures, any case of rape that claims the life of the victim should, on conviction, attract capital punishment. Those that did not result in the death of the victim, should have the aggressor emasculated, so that all through the remaining days of his miserable life, he will not go beyond mere wishes.
As a church, we shall be swift in excommunicating any of our members who is found to be guilty of this evil act. Government should also address the problem of unemployment in this nation as a way of fighting crime.
Most of those who indulge in this crime, may be under the influence of drugs, which they always take to momentarily forget their sorrows and misery. Job opportunities for them all, will definitely reduce the chances of accepting the ones the devil offers them.
Has corruption truly come to stay in Nigeria?
Your guess is as good as mine. While we acknowledge the modest efforts the Federal Government and its agencies are making to fight this cankerworms called corruption, it does seem that this endemic disease has not reached this present height in the history of this nation. We do not know exactly where the problem lies, whether in the law of the land or the operators of the law or both.
However, what we do know is that the traditional method of social control, stability and cohesion has not been incorporated in fighting corruption. It is certain that the war on corruption will not be won unless the family is involved.
The present practice of taking the accused to the court, where extant rules and procedures in the administration of criminal justice, appear to be on the side of the accused will continue to make victory over this problem elusive. It has been stated that what protects, promotes and sustains public morality in Africa, is not the guilt culture, but the shame culture.
It is the fear of shame and not the guilt of the shame that prevents people from committing crime, after watching someone found guilty, taking round the village in inglorious dance steps. In my area, we call it “igbambembe”. The act of igbambembe becomes a tool for moralizing the young ones against bringing shame to the family by committing crime.
Our position is that a person convicted of corruption, should suffer along with beneficiaries of the crime – his wife or husband and children. If upon conviction, the wife or husband of the convict, as the case may be, with their children are prevented from getting employment, appointment, contract or holding any public office, for a period of about 20 years, it will now be the family that will prevail on their father or mother, holding public office to shun corrupt practices.
Won’t this run against the person’s fundamental rights?
I am aware that the issue of fundamental human rights, runs counter to this proposal, but it is morally apposite that if the children or wife or husband of a successful thief enjoys the loot with him/her, there is nothing wrong with them sharing in the suffering when the deal turns unsuccessful.
Can you please, give us your view on CAMA law and the stability Nigeria.
For many years now, the stability of this nation had been under constant threat. The war on insecurity is far from being won as terrorists, insurgents, bandits; herdsmen are having a field day.
Rivers of blood are flowing everyday. The call to reorganize the security architecture for better results, has consistently fallen on deaf ears, while the report of discontent and low morale in the rank and file of our security agencies, is yet to be addressed.
The foregoing could explain the disbelief, surprise, outrage, bewilderment and confusion that followed the signing into law of the Company and Allied Matters Act by Mr. President. The usefulness or appropriateness of this law, at this particular time, in this country, is yet to be seen.
If this law is meant to check the excesses of the new generation churches, as it is being presented, is this the right time to present it? However, if the fear that it is targeted at softening the ground for the promotion of Islam or the advancement of a particular ethnic group in Nigeria, then there is cause for worry.
We appeal to the President, in conjunction with the National Assembly, to repeal this law, or at least, suspend it in order not to worsen the already bad security situation in the country.
We plead passionately with those in authority in this country, to see what can be done to reduce anger, frustration, tension and much suffering in the society.
Including hikes fuel and electricity?
The effect of Covid-19 compelled many nations of the world to introduce policies aimed at cushioning the effects of the pandemic on its citizens, whose livelihood have been adversely affected.
It is sad that it is in this period of excruciating hardship that Nigeria is introducing a hike in the pump price of petroleum products and electricity tariff. Again, most of the tenants in the country are either unemployed, underemployed, underpaid or their salaries, emoluments of their pensions being owed many years in arrears.
That it is in this period that the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, is introducing what it calls Stamp Duty. This introduces six percent increase on all tenancy and lease on all property in Nigeria.
It is true that this is as provided under the Stamp Duties Act Cap, Section 8 Laws of Nigeria, 2004, as amended. FIRS should be cautious in introducing or bringing this law into effect now, especially as it affects house rent. Government should convince itself that its primary responsibility is to make the citizens feel happy and secure. To continue to torment them on every side amounts to a colossal failure on the side of government, on the social contract it has with its citizens.
Have we learnt any lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic?
The Covid-19 pandemic has been seen from multiple perspectives and given varied interpretations. To some, it is a scourge from the pit of hell, while to others, it is God’s judgment on the world for sin, a sign of the end time. That this tiny virus that can be killed by mere soap or alcohol based sanitizer, has claimed millions of life, remains a mystery.
This pandemic successfully paralyzed every activity in the whole world. The total lockdown that ensued quarantined everyone to their homes. Those that have houses in London, New York, Dubai and other choice places in the world, could not access them. All the billions of money stashed in banks abroad, became a non-issue as survival became the main concern of everyone.
However, this situation revealed a major problem with this country called Nigeria – the poor state of medical facilities! While hospitals in other climes were equipped enough for their presidents and prime ministers to receive adequate medical attention there, our own could not boast of ordinary personal protective equipment, PPE, for those in the front line of the battle against this virus, not enough ventilators and other medical equipment in our health facilities.
The main lesson from Covid-19 for Nigerians flying abroad for the treatment of ordinary headache, is that the opportunity for that may not continue forever, as there may be situations that will not warrant movements. It therefore lays a huge burden on Nigeria to develop and equip the health sector, to be able to measure up well, with other parts of the world. Here, we advocate for the emergence of a five-star hospital in every state in this country, in the next three years. Government should create the enabling environment for private sector participation in this initiative.
May we also plead passionately that every effort should, as a matter of urgency, be made to halt the migration of our medical personnel to other parts of the world. There is no doubt that we have all it takes to make this nation a choice destination in medical tourism.
There must be the political will therefore, to turn our fortunes in the medical sector around and make the environment very conducive to attract our sons and daughters back home to do the exploits they are reputed for abroad here.
More still, Covid-19 has shown that it is possible for food not to be imported into Nigeria. Therefore, the initiatives and efforts of the Federal Government for food sufficiency, should be encouraged by all.
Again, this pandemic has also revealed the futility of owning houses in major cities of the world. That they have not accessed them all this while, should reduce the quest for owning properties abroad, which is a major factor fueling corruption in Nigeria.