‘COVID-19 has provided us opportunity to make fresh start’
Archbishop Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba, the 5th Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), told journalists, including NKECHI ONYEDIKA-UGOEZE, that Nigeria’s political class has fueled corruption, insecurity and crisis in the country.
How do you see you’re taking over the leadership of the Anglican Communion at a time the country and the world are witnessing a major health crisis?
THE context in which we took over the leadership of the church was very challenging, being the time of the outbreak of COVID-19 and the lockdown, which was later relaxed.
Before then, we have had issues of banditry, insecurity, kidnapping and other security issues. Apart from that, there is also an economic dimension, but on every side, our nation, Nigeria, and the world are facing a very difficult time.
Youth unemployment and restiveness create a lot of issues to handle and no government, no matter how resourced and empowered, can handle all these issues on its own. There is need for patriotism and collaboration between the government and the people. We all need to work together to deal with these issues.
Also, corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of society. In Nigeria, what are our national ethos that must be guarded? All we know are the issues that divide us; once you talk about religion and tribe, everybody flares up. We have a group of elites who are self-centred and looking for what they will get.
So, the Nigerian problem is so multi-faceted and hydra-headed that it is difficult to proffer any lasting solution, because there is no one answer for all our problems, as it is spiritual, ethical, political and otherwise.
Be that as it may, it is not time to blame Party A or Party B; we are all culpable, including the religious, political and even the traditional leaders/rulers. Among us, the religious leaders, the massage we are preaching is not the authentic word of God, as some have deviated from the word of God and see the religious practice as a way of making money.
We compete in the cars we ride and private jets we fly in, despite that some of our members cannot eat three square meals in a day and we keep giving people hope that is no hope, instead of calling people back to the foot of the cross, to the Lord Jesus Christ.
We need repentance, even Prophet Amos preached it, saying: “Let those selling the poor for a pair of sandals stop it. Let those who are looting the treasury get out of it. Let those who are kidnapping stop it.”
We have fueled envy, greed and materialism, instead of the fear of God and people are so much after what they will get at all cost. When the prophets have not prophesied as from God and the preachers have not preached the truth that will set men free, when the princes have ruled with partiality and greed and those who are in our palaces are unjust, you cannot expect society to function properly.
We believe that at such a time as this, the Lord is calling us to repentance, from Aso Rock to our kings and palaces, our politicians, the governors and religious leaders.
We need to turn away from our wickedness and begin to be concerned about the people. Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. When our democratic process is manipulated to favour the political class, and the vote of ordinary citizen do not count, the politicians will not feel the sense of being accountable to their constituencies.
How many of them really know what is happening in their constituencies? Because they have rigged themselves into positions of authority and power, so you cannot expect them to have a sense of accountability.
When you look at the situation in Nigeria, at times it looks hopeless, but with God, there is always hope and a way out. I believe that this COVID-19 has brought us to the basics of things, that the lives, food, clothing, housing and health of the people are the things that matter.
All those people who have a fleet of cars, for two months, the cars were not warmed and the jets didn’t fly and people were forced to stay with their wives and children. Can we not now build-up from the family? Can the government make policies that will favour the nuclear and extended family and build up the community from scratch?
Our health and educational sector, as well as infrastructure, show that we have not been doing what we ought to do. I believe that COVID-19 has provided us with the opportunity to make a fresh start, where the welfare of the people should matter, and rebuild the family at the family altar.
Our survival starts with the nuclear family, so let us focus on those things that will better the lives of the people and the community. This is an opportunity for us to rebuild those organs and infrastructure that will help us have a strong society.
Thank God that the response of Nigeria to this COVID-19 has shown us that together, we can resist the worst onslaught. We have learnt to support one another through palliatives and we need to build up that system to ensure that the weak among us are also taken care of, whether in the church or community.
As we build the micro, there also need for us to look at the bigger picture, the macro. The issue of justice and development should be looked at critically.
Do you think we have foundational or leadership problems?
All the things I have been talking about are issues of foundation. If you are asking whether we have foundational problems, in terms of leadership, yes, because our concept of leadership is faulty, though those who fought for the country’s independence came with an open heart, in which everybody mattered and every tribe was a part of the whole system.
But we have come to a point where it is the winner takes it all. It is now the survival of the fittest and we have emphasised things that divide us instead of things that unite us. So, stealing is not evil so long it is my own person who did it and he brings it home. Favouritism is not partial so long it favours me. Federal character in employment and appointments does not count so long it favours our own group.
We have a fundamental problem; it is not a question of whether we have the policies, as Nigeria has a wonderful constitution and policies, but the problem is implementation. The implementation is riddled with selfishness, greed and insensitivity to the feelings of others, especially those who are weak. That is why the battle has always been to get into power, whether by hook or by crook because when you get there, you control the resources.
Thank God that the oil price is also falling now, this shows us that the things we have neglected must be given attention. Issues like agriculture, industrialisation and looking for alternatives are the things that count now. The situation in which our federalism becomes one in which we come to the centre and grab the reigns of power and resources of the country and start distributing it is fraught with problems.
We need to rethink how we should exist as a country and how to use the resources we have to the advantage and good of all.
Are you advocating for restructuring?
Not the politicised restructuring, because even the politicians who are advocating for restructuring have their own agenda. I am advocating for true federalism. Entire Nigeria is overwhelmed with insecurity to the point of demonstrations in some part of the country.
For example, instigated communal problems are escalating. The Tiv and Jukuns are fighting and it is right now spreading to other tribes that are basically Christian. By last week, Taraba was boiling. All these have caused women, children and poor people to be suffering.
Go to Zamfara, thank God the governor had to depose some of the emirs for being the brain behind the attacks on their own emirates. Look at what is happening in Katsina State and other places, you cannot enter and conquer a town except the son of the town joins you to tell you the secret roads.
Where the people are their own problem, how will you solve such a problem? For some time, we have this problem of herdsmen and banditry, which has been so pampered. The truth has not been told, you are only treating the symptoms, but the real issues are not being tackled, so how do you expect that we will solve the problem?
Nigeria’s problem is deeper than what we are seeing. The youths that are demonstrating, they may be expressing their opinion, but did you hear the response to their demonstration? Is it a response to people who are aggrieved, insecure and being killed?
Instead of saying we have seen the problem and we are tackling it, every time what we are hearing is that Nigerian Air Force has neutralised, even if it is fighting with another country, shall we keep on neutrialising without finishing with the battle?
Some people are gaining from it. Nigeria’s problem is so hydra-headed that you don’t know where to start. What you are seeing is not the real thing; we have a problem, but we are so insincere, our political leadership has not really come out to truly deal with the issues.
Nigeria’s problems are mostly caused by the ruling class; if the ruling class will get it right, Nigeria will not have a problem.
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.