By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja

The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, His Grace Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, says Nigeria must change from politics of sentiment to politics of issues, particularly solutions to the country’s challenges.

He also said that Nigeria still has potential for greatness, but the people must choose merit over mediocrity as they take elect new leaders in 2023.

According to him, it is the only approach that will save our country from the brinks of collapse.

Kaigama made this known in his keynote address at the 3rd Catholic Archdiocesan General Assembly, in Abuja on Thursday.

The theme of the meeting is ‘Witness in Politics: The role of the Catholic faithful’.

The Catholic Archbishop stressed that the next political dispensation should be about transparency, accountability and responsibility in office.

He said: “The politics of bitterness, unhealthy personality clashes, manipulation, etc., have become deeply entrenched in our country. The inability to realize meaningful change in our socio-political and economic environment is as a result of the culture of corruption and very poor governance, coupled with untamed political, religious and ethnic sentiments.

“To reverse this unfortunate trend, there is the need for a complete change in the way we do politics.”

He argued that if the primary purpose of politicking was to win elections, then the justifiable end was to govern well.

“The political parties should, therefore, be forthcoming on how best they are to address the issues bedeviling our polity like insecurity, deteriorating public health and education, the current inflationary trends, resulting in high living conditions, etc.

“Unfortunately, we have lived for so long under politics understood as manipulation, exclusion, greed and graft. Politics in Nigeria is considered as a business and is superior to probity.

“The popular assumption is that if the Fulanis are in power, they are ‘eating well’ while the Yorubas and the Igbos are losing out, so they have to simply endure and wait until it is their turn.

“A typical Nigerian prefers a bad leader from his/her tribe than a good leader from another tribe. This, I believe, is the genesis of our problem.

“Little wonder, political positions in Nigeria have become fiercely contested. It is perhaps only in Nigeria that when a person is given a political appointment, he behaves hysterically as if he has won a big lottery.

“We must begin to take self-serving considerations off the table when it comes to politics. Merit over mediocrity is the only approach that will save our country, that is, when we elect leaders who are genuinely patriotic, experienced, competent and sincerely God-fearing.

“We tend to elect our worst and leave out the best and seem to view elections as a matter of ethnic and religious alliances. This should be disturbing to all well-meaning citizens,” he lamented.

Kaigama explained that the Catholic Church is engaged in politics cognizant of the fact that it involves the use of power for the welfare of the people.

On the imperative of mass voter turn-out in the forthcoming general election, Kaigama maintained: “By voting, we are all fulfilling our calling to sanctify the society. You can’t complain about the government if you don’t vote and you do your Christian faith a great disservice by abstaining from voting,”

“It is not the job of the Bishops or priests to enter into partisan political debates, but to encourage lay people to be part of creating just governance and policies.”

The Archbishop insisted that the Catholic Church will continue to speak truth to power; noting that it has consistently been voicing against inequality, injustice, oppression and lack of fair play in our nation, including the political arena.

Nevertheless, he pointed out: “What is very crucial now is the search for good leaders who are able to promote what is right, what is honourable and fair and what advances the common good; leaders who are passionate about advancing the growth, progress and stability of Nigeria.

“The question has to be asked, about when Nigerians will begin to see themselves as fellow citizens, united in vision and destiny despite their ethnic or religious differences. The fact of the matter is that there will never be a time in Nigeria when there are only Moslems or only Christians.

“That Nigeria has the problem of achieving national integration is not in doubt, but all hope is not lost.

“We must learn to accept this fact, live with it and move on. Unless we begin to understand and accept one another more sincerely, we will never be a country at peace.”

Also speaking, the President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Archbishop Daniel Okoh, said Nigeria is currently passing through challenging times that require all hands be on deck in order to salvage it from descent into a state of anarchy.

Okoh said, “The image of Nigeria has gone so low that every citizen is perceived as either a thief or a beggar who has nothing to offer but this is not true.

“It is our individual and collective responsibility to negate such perception by conducting ourselves in our daily lives in the light of the values that we learnt from our Lord, Jesus Christ.

“In politics, Christians must occupy our space and participate as the light in darkness; resisting all forms of intimidation. Those of us who engage in partisan politics must remember that we need to provide leadership in showing these right values so that we can influence good governance that will bring about a peaceful and prosperous nation.

“In order to keep up with the tide of events, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) inaugurated a Political Strategy and Action Committee to encourage Christians to participate in politics amongst several other things.”

Also, a former Governor of Rivers State, Sir Celestine Omehia, disagreed with the beliefs in many circles that all politicians are evil and not principled.

However, he suggested that the Catholic Church should develop a code of conduct for politicians within its fold.

He said, “I don’t believe that all politicians are evil as many supposed them to be. I don’t believe that all politicians are not principled. No, it’s not correct.

“I will be stating the obvious if I say that, the Catholic Church cannot be isolated from the general Nigerian society since members of the Church are also members of the political class.

“Your Grace, I also belong to both sides. The question now is, what am I expected to do to be a fitting and proper representative of the Catholic faith in politics?” he queried.

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