Dr Nwankwo Tony Nwaezeigwe, PhD, DD. Institute of African Studies/Dept. of History & International Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, recently regaled us with stories about how the 2015 election was won and lost as well as the roles played by certain people, especially some within the political class and some clergymen. Notable in his condemnation for the loss suffered by Goodluck Jonathan was the Catholic Church as well as a few bishops of the church.
Going through his treatise on the happenings around the pivotal election of 2015, it is easy to be deluded into thinking, or seeing the piece as an historical account of the critical events that led to the conduct of that election which saw to the ouster of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, and its replacement by the Muhammadu Buhari presidency. That conclusion is lent credence to by the fact of the writer’s present academic accomplishment: He is an historian. But due to the factors of our human foibles and proclivities, it is sometimes the better way to render historical accounts more accurately by approaching it from the standpoint of an observer of historical events rather than a participant. It is only natural for a person to put himself above the fray and extricate himself and allies from guilt and failures as he renders an historical account of an event in which he participated in. Dr Nwaiezeigwe is very much a participant in the events he discusses and his biases are very evident, not on the basis of his assertions, but on the basis of his inability to back up some of these assertions with evidence.
The take off point of the writer’s piece is the alleged meeting by certain northern political leaders and leaders of thought in a grand conspiracy to ensure that President Goodluck Jonathan never returned to power. Dr Nwaezeigwe makes it sound criminal and a high crime that in a democratic political environment people would meet to plot the removal of a president through an electoral process. It is absolutely unnecessary to question this gathering of northern political elites of both PDP and APC extractions. Politicians of all shades and hues meet all the time to hatch conspiracies against their known enemies and the people in general. In the context of the socio-political contradictions in Nigeria, it has been established that the primary motivation of the average Nigerian politician is the personalization of political power for the purpose of personal and licentious economic empowerment to the detriment of his constituents. These individual politicians, united by a common creed constitute a class that thrives on the manipulation of the country’s ethnic, religious, and geo-political fault line for the purpose of political power acquisition, consolidation, and retention.
While it is clear that Dr Nwaezeigwe is trying to create a favorable historical image of the tenure of Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, former president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), he seems to believe that the only way that can be creditably done is by identifying a veritable enemy responsible for the publicly perceived failures of the former CAN president. He identifies that enemy as the Catholic Church in Nigeria which he claims, played a role inimical to Christian unity for the purpose of ensuring the return of a Christian president to power regardless of his perceived performance on the job. It is exactly this primitivity and parochialism of thinking that is responsible for the Buhari ascension to power and the subsequent and continuous decline of the Nigerian state under perhaps the most inept and competent political leadership in the annals of our country’s history.
But the history university don was not finished with his opprobrium against the clergymen. Without any shred of evidence, he goes into the minds of Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, and Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama to discern that they were working to further the interests of the Caliphate to the detriment of their own interests. His treatment of Cardinal John Onaiyekan is interesting. He accuses him of envy for losing the CAN presidency to Oritsajefor, thus necessitating his opposition to Oritsajafor’s CAN presidency. His clincher was that John Onaiyekan’s primary allegiance is neither to his Christian vocation nor to his Yoruba roots, but to the Caliphate – all these without evidence, or, perhaps what he adduces as evidence is his reported claim that Cardinal John Onaiyekan talks about the scholarship he, a Christian was given by the late Sardauna, Sir Ahmadu Bello, which he eventually opted out of pursuing in order to join the Catholic priesthood.
Dr Nwaezeigwe’s sectarianism is palpably evident. He has carved up Nigeria in an “us versus them” situation and appropriated Goodluck Jonathan as president of Christians rather than president of Nigeria, made up of Christians, Muslims, Animists, Believers, and Unbelievers.
It is obvious, at least from their public pronouncements that the Catholic Church believes in a country where the Christian, as well as the Muslim, Believer and Unbeliever would have equal say and be treated in a fair and just manner because of thefundamental belief and knowledge that social justice is the basis of peace and development. That the Catholic Bishops Conferences over the years issue state of the nation statements critical of the failures of governments in providing for a better life for the people regardless of the geo-political coloration of the occupier of the presidency is not in doubt. This has been a regular occurrence right from the period of military rule, right down to the present dispensation following the now 21 years of unbroken democracy.
There are fault lines quite all right in Nigeria, a phenomenon that the political class has always profited from and manipulated to keep the people permanently divided - a division that is critical to the ability of the class to remain in charge of the massive exploitation, oppression, and looting going on in government. While previous governments had gone about leveraging on these fault lines in very subtle manners, none has been as brazen, as insensitive, and as irresponsible as that of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. None has deliberately widened the divisions and enhanced the ‘we versus them’ mentality with the absolutely nepotistic approach to governance adopted by the president.
It is precisely because of these naked exposures and enhancements of our existing fault lines by the Muhammadu Buhari administration that the CBCN did not spare its fiercest rhetoric in the 2018 address to the president in which the body pointedly told the president to resign if he could not protect the lives of his citizens and in fact, accused him of being responsible for the security failures in the country. They said of the president:
“It is clear to the nation that he has failed in his primary duty of protecting the lives of the Nigerian citizens. Whether this failure is due to inability to perform or lack of political will, it is time for him to choose the part of honour and consider stepping aside to save the nation from total collapse," They also urged thePresident, Buhari to, “stop presiding over the killing fields and mass graveyard that Nigeria had become”
As for Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, his verbal missiles against the government in recent times have been no less vitriolic. Speaking after another round of perennial killings in the country, the bishop declared:
“No one could have imagined that in winning the Presidency, General Buhari would bring nepotism and clannishness into the military and the ancillary Security Agencies, that his government would be marked by supremacist and divisive policies that would push our country to the brink. This President has displayed the greatest degree of insensitivity in managing our country’s rich diversity. He has subordinated the larger interests of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen and women.”
He continued further:
“Today, in Nigeria, the noble religion of Islam has convulsed. It has become associated with some of worst fears among our people. Muslim scholars, traditional rulers and intellectuals have continued to cry out helplessly, asking for their religion and region to be freed from this chokehold. This is because, in all of this, neither Islam nor the north can identify any real benefits from these years that have been consumed by the locusts that this government has unleashed on our country.”
How much more scathing and acerbic can any religious body or bishop be in not shying away from the admonition by St Pope John Paul 2nd that we must “never fail to call evil by its name.”
It is unfortunate that the history doctor from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, adopted an ahistorical posture in his writeup in trying to shore up the image of Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor. At the same time, while acknowledging that our present socio-political realities have now afforded us the opportunity of knowing just how terribly bad Goodluck Jonathan’s successor, Buhari and his APC are, it does not also exonerate the Jonathan government and his PDP, of blame in the massive corruption and looting that also took place in his government.
As for the rabid desire by certain political elements in the north to retain national political power by all means, the question should be to what ends?
Their pretenses and hypocrisy have been laid bare by the unfortunate present circumstances in the northern region. Mind blowing poverty, the level of illiteracy, leading to the tag of the region possessing the most out of school children in the world, as well as the now intractable acts of violence occasioned by terrorism, banditry, and marauding herdsmen are clear signals that the acquisition and exercise of political power by the north all these years have not provided a better life for their people. This failure by the northern political establishment is not an indication that southern political elites for that matter are far better. They have also proved incapable of elevating governance beyond the atrocious level that we are all witnesses to.
Lastly, the issue of the Caliphate burial of a cow according to Nwaezeigwe is an issue that might not occupy the mind of an academic but that of a religious adherent, since spiritual truth and knowledge exist on another plane. It would appear that in order to embrace the reality of the burial of an animal for the purpose of the political destiny of the country, the academic has had to step away from his academic realm into the spiritual. Therein lies his statement that:
“Any problem generated from a spiritual conclave can only be solved in like spiritual manner. Anyone therefore hoping to resolve such a problem by physical means is only playing the Ostrich.”
What the good academic doctor fails to tell us, having realized that an aggressive spiritual warfare must be fought and countered by an equally fierce spiritual response is why those close to Goodluck Jonathan who wanted him to remain in power did not bury their own cow. Or cows for that matter.