Nigerians are being progressively impoverished, ex-CAN president Onaiyekan laments
The Archbishop Emeritus of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja and former national president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has said the weak economy under the present administration has thrown millions of Nigerians into abject poverty.
Onaiyekan also declared that President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have no solution to the security challenges bedevilling the country.
According to him, the state of insecurity in the country is making almost every aspect of “our national life problematic”.
He, however, expressed optimism that notwithstanding the challenges, Nigeria is yet to reach the stage of total anarchy.
Onaiyekan stated this at the special Citizens’ Summit in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the National Association of Seadogs, popularly known as Pyrates Confraternity at the weekend in Abuja.
Delivering a keynote address on the state of the nation, Onaiyekan maintained that only a few people who are in and outside of government and are personal beneficiaries of the performance of the government may be quite happy with the present situation.
Noting that there is large-scale grumbling on the part of the vast majority of Nigerians, Onaiyekan observed that the ongoing political campaigns are replete with catalogues of failures of the government, even from candidates in the ruling party.
“This sense of dissatisfaction and grumbling is obviously not without reason”, the cleric stated.
He added: “The state of insecurity is making almost every aspect of our national life problematic. Worst of all is the fact that it appears that the state has no answer to how to keep our nation safe, while to do that is the primary obligation of any government.
“The situation of our social services that have been running down is affecting almost everyone. In particular, social services that are under government control have suffered major neglect, whether in education or health services, roads or sanitation. Often Nigerians have to fend for themselves. But there is a limit to how much individuals can cater for all their needs.
“There is also the growing poverty in the land. We are being told now that we are the “poverty capital of the world”. All the usual statistics point to the fact that Nigerians are being progressively impoverished. This is not just a matter of dry statistics. It is a question of quality of life and level of livelihood, right down to the basic needs of our lives. What do we eat? What shelter do we have? How do we take care of health needs?
“And undergirding all these negative factors is the major issue of mass pervading distrust of government on the part of citizens. It is certainly a major problem if people can no longer trust their government to be looking after their interests. The government will need to do a lot to regain this trust which is necessary for any government to function.”
On Nigeria being referred to as a failed state, Onaiyekan observed that many people, especially foreigners have been predicting that Nigeria will soon become a failed nation.
Rejecting such a prediction, the cleric said, ” I do not believe that we have reached that stage nor do I think that we shall reach that stage anytime soon. The flag of the nation is still flying even though it is dirty and tattered.
He argued further: “I am saying this because basic institutions are still functioning even though not at an optimal level. A bad or weak government is better than no government at all. I do not believe we have reached a state of total anarchy
“We still have a police force and armed forces and other security agents, once in a while performing their duties.
There is of course the proverbial Nigerian resilience, constantly managing to survive under conditions that would appear unbearable.
“We must not forget the many Nigerians who are working hard to plug the holes and fill the gaps left by bad governance. Most of them continue to do their duty with little or no recognition or reward. I believe these are those who are still keeping the rickety system standing”.
While noting that the negative impressions about the pyrates are based on ignorance of what they really stand for, he urged members of the association to try harder and present themselves in a more transparent and positive way to the public.
Speaking earlier, NAS Capoon, Abiola Owoaje, said the association since its creation has remained resolute in galvanising Nigerians irrespective of political interests, ethnic background and religious persuasion.
According to him, the Citizens Summit is one of the ways members of the organisation have been contributing their quota to national development.
“This special edition today provides another opportunity to compel each of us as Nigerians to reflect on our individual roles in working for the redemption and progress of Nigeria. Without exaggeration, the unity and development of Nigeria is a responsibility each Nigerian has a share. As an apolitical and non-religious organisation with principles of humanistic ideals, the opinion of the organisation remains strongly rooted in the unity, development and progress of Nigeria”, he stated.