The Incumbent Bishop of Nsukka Catholic Diocese, Most Rev Godfrey Igwebuike Onah

By Prisca Sam-Duru

At a time like this in Nigeria when tension is high, when hostility amongst the different peoples that make up the country is at its peak, and every aspect of the country is in shambles, it’s difficult for people like the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka, Most Rev. Professor Godfrey Igwebuike Onah, to keep quiet.


Such people, whose voices represent those of the voiceless, are not bothered whether authorities and their supporters would come after them, so long as they speak the truth.
The past few days in Nigeria have been marked by heart breaking incidences that leave many wondering if truly Nigeria is becoming a failed state.


Lamenting the situation of the country, following the murder of a student of Shehu Shagari College of Education Sokoto, Deborah Emmanuel, for alleged blasphemy by an irate mob, Bishop Onah in a viral video said, “I would have preferred to lock myself in the chapel to weep and to pray for my nation where darkness has descended.

“To weep and pray for my Church that is being stifled out of existence in the world and also in Nigeria; to weep and pray for Deborah Samuel who was killed because she found herself in a part of Nigeria she thought was home but it wasn’t; to weep and pray for my brother and friend, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, the world acclaimed voice of the voiceless who has now become soft target for those same voiceless people who see him as part of their problem rather than as part of the solution.

“To weep and pray for the poor miserable murderers of Deborah who have been left uneducated and unemployed deliberately so that they can be manipulated, brainwashed and instrumentalised for political ends by religious bigots and political egoists; to weep and pray for people who should be leaders, religious leaders who enjoy being ambivalent in the condemnation of evil when it is perpetrated by one of them; to weep and pray for our political leaders under whose watch this nation has crumbled and they keep looking for whom to blame for the mess in which they have put all of us”.


Continuing with his sermon, the renowned clergy said “I would have preferred not to be standing before you here now, to tell you about love. The liturgy of today instructs every Christian, every Christian preacher to reflect on the essence and meaning of Christianity and the love we should have for one another”.

But the big question he reasoned is, “How can you preach love in Nigeria? How can you preach love in a country where violence has become a rule; where hatred and intolerance have become norms rather than exceptions, where corruption has become culture and a tradition, where impunity has become law, where the government feels so helpless that it is now appealing to religious leaders to talk to non state actors so that they will not make the security situation in our country worse.

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”Those were the words of the Vice President of Nigeria when he was speaking to all Catholic Bishops of West Africa gathered in a meeting in Abuja. He addressed us two Tuesdays ago. And we were wondering how a presidency could publicly admit that they have lost control, that they have left the ground so free and the country so lawless and so stateless that non state actors take over the entire country; not only in Sokoto and Kaduna and on the highway between Kaduna and Abuja, or between Abuja and Lokoja and Nsukka but, throughout the country.


”How can you preach love in Nigeria; in a country where those who want to follow the rule of law, are regarded by the rest as weak? How can you preach love in Nigeria, in a country that claims not to have any state religion but constantly places a religion in an unhealthy advantage over others?”


He decried how corrupt politicians squander our national wealth to the detriment of the people.


”How can you preach love in Nigeria where a few people have collected what belongs to everybody and they are doing with it whatever they please? How can I tell the Nigerian students to love their neighbour, love their country, their leaders when their parents have paid their school fees and they are sitting at home in a country, where the ruling party within a space of less than two weeks, can rake billions of naira collected as fees for presidential nomination forms. And the same ruling party is unable to finance our education properly such that our teachers are at home and our students are roaming the streets”.


He does not spare the Academics as well, for their shameless roles in pushing unqualified and unpatriotic individuals to the corridors of power, to the ruin of the entire country.
”How can you preach love in Nigeria where members of ASUU, hear me well, members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities in Nigeria have collaborated with INEC, to install misfits in power in this country because they have collected money?


”All the electoral officers who installed the present ruling class in Nigeria are professors of our universities and members of ASUU. And INEC chairmen for many decades have been members of ASUU. Now, whom are we blaming? “How can you preach love in Nigeria, in a country where forgiveness is regarded as weakness, in a country where, when you bring the light, you are accused of exposing darkness; in a country when you love you are seen as being stupid. I would have preferred to stay at home and weep and pray for this country, but I can’t”.

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