Be open to criticisms, Catholic Bishops tell Buhari
The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has told President Muhammadu Buhari not embark on any form of propaganda against religious leaders who disagree with his administration.
The bishops also urged him not to spend time trying to blackmail anyone who criticises his government, saying Nigerians speak out because they don’t want their country to fail.
This is as the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, has said that the proliferation of self-help security organisations in the country was an evidence of deficiency in the security architecture of the country.
The CBCN argued that Nigerians do not need to be card-carrying members of a party before speaking their minds on burning issues in the polity.
In a statement, yesterday, by its President and the Catholic Archbishop of Benin City, the Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze, CBCN said the high level of insecurity in the country has led to daily loss of lives and property, adding that any country where students were no longer safe in schools and farmers not safe in their farms does not have a future to look up to.
Akubeze said: “Nigerians are tired of hearing of bandits taking youths in the university and executing some of them, while others are kept to be used to bargain for ransom.
“In the midst of all these, the Presidency recently stated that some religious leaders and some Nigerian politicians are plotting to destabilise the country.
“The spokesperson for the Nigeria Army noted that there is no plan by the military to take over democratically elected persons. While we reject any call for the destabilisation of Nigeria or military takeover, we nonetheless say to the Federal Government of Nigeria – we speak out because we do not want Nigeria to collapse. We are not speaking out for the APC government to fail. We are speaking out so that Nigeria will not fail. APC is not the owner of Nigeria; Nigeria is owned by Nigerians irrespective of political affiliation.
“APC government must learn to listen to every Nigerian, both political actors in other parties and non-political actors in Nigeria and the Diaspora. It is not out of place to call for a security summit in whatever form it may take as long as it leads to the unity, peace, justice, progress and protection of Nigerians.
“The Federal Government must be transparent with every Nigerian in the struggle to revive our economy, industrialise the nation, objectively deal with corruption and significantly reduce the high level of insecurity and unemployment.”
Akubeze urged the Federal Government to convene a meeting of all stakeholders to have a sincere discussion on the way forward, stressing that such discussions must seek how to implement the much talked about restructuring and devolution of power down to the local council level.
He added: “In every democracy, the welfare of the citizens is of great concern to the President. From time to time, presidents address the people and give an account of the state of affairs in the country. Presidents of countries grant interviews to the media who are the watchdogs of democracy. But in Nigeria, we hardly hear directly from our President. Most of the time, we hear from ‘the Presidency’. Nigerians did not elect presidential media spokespersons. Nigerians do want to hear directly from their President and hear words that are matched with actions.
“To every religious leader, let us not use inflammatory words that distort the real message we are sending to this government. We must be united in the fight for our common destiny as a people. It must be clearly stated to the Federal Government that if they continue to ignore the constructive criticisms and recommendations of Nigerians from every sector, the country will collapse and become ungovernable. Since we returned to democratic rule on May 29, 1999, after several failed military dictatorship, many Nigerians who experienced the brutality of the military are aware that a return to such days is not the prayer or desire of Nigerians.”
Speaking at an interactive session to herald the World Communications Day in Abuja, yesterday, Kaigama called on the Federal Government to do the needful to checkmate terrorism, banditry and kidnapping in different parts of the country.
He urged the Federal Government to open up debate and dialogue across political parties, religious and ethnic lines on the issues at hand in order to find lasting solutions to them.
Kaigama identified insecurity as the greatest challenge facing the country at the moment, adding that Boko Haram has ravaged the land while the herdsmen/farmer menace has festered and developed into banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and brutal killings.
He said: “As many Nigerians cry out, the Presidency and the Congress in the United States have signaled to us to put our house in order. The House of Lords in the United Kingdom had debated the Nigerian security situation. Nigeria is said to be the third country most impacted by terrorism. We call on the government to do the needful in ensuring that terrorists are checkmated, criminals rounded up, bandits dismantled and kidnappers put out of business.”
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