After a meeting with Catholic Bishops at the villa on Thursday, the spokesman of the president Femi Adesina released a statement with the last two paragraphs dedicated to highlighting what the bishops shared with Buhari.
What Adesina released:
Of the whole address by the bishops presented by the Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Kaigama, this is the only takeaway presented by the presidency in its statement:
In his remarks, Archbishop Kaigama pledged that the Catholic Church in Nigeria would continue to support the Buhari administration and make its contribution to nation-building through prayers, admonitions and assistance to needy Nigerians.
‘‘As the voice of the people, we shall continue to highlight the plight of our people and play our prophetic role of sensitising the government, thus promoting good governance, national unity and cohesion,’’ Kaigama said.
That was all. It sounded odd that the Catholic Bishops conference would get the opportunity of addressing Pres. Buhari in these worrying times for the country and have the above as their main points. So we looked up the full speech and found that – of course – the presidency’s version was just spin, totally disregarding the crux of the message brought by the bishops.
Here’s what the Catholic bishops actually said:
1. Of lost goodwill:
“There is no doubt that when you came into office, you had an enormous amount of the goodwill of Nigerians, since many saw you as a person of integrity who would be able to bring sanity into a system that was nearly crippled by endemic corruption. Nearly three years later, however, one has the feeling that this good will is being fast depleted by some glaring failures of government which we have the moral duty to bring to your notice, else we would be failing in our duty as spiritual fathers and leaders.”
2. Too much suffering in the land:
“Your Excellency, there is too much suffering in the country: poverty, hunger, joblessness, insecurity, violence, fear… the list is endless. Our beloved country appears to be under siege. Many negative forces seem to be keeping a stranglehold on the population, especially the weaker and defenseless ones. There is a feeling of hopelessness across the country. Our youths are restive and many of them have taken to hard drugs, cultism and other forms of violent crime, while many have become victims of human trafficking. The Nation is nervous.”
3. Too much insecurity in the land:
“Just as we seem to be gradually emerging from the dark tunnel of an economic recession that caused untold hardship to families and individuals, violent attacks by unscrupulous persons, among whom are terrorists masquerading as herdsmen, have led to a near civil war situation in many parts of the country. We are saddened that repeatedly innocent citizens in different communities across the nation are brutally attacked and their sources of livelihood mindlessly destroyed. Property, worth billions of Naira, including places of worship, schools, hospitals and business enterprises are torched and turned to ashes. We are still more saddened by the recent massacre of unarmed citizens by these terrorists in some communities in Benue, Adamawa, Kaduna and Taraba States which has caused national shock, grief and outcry.”
4. A government that is incapable or unwilling to act:
“What is even more distressful is that the government, whose responsibility it is to protect the life and property of every citizen seems either incapable or unwilling to do this. The silence of the federal government in the wake of these horrifying attacks is, to say the least, shocking. There is a feeling of helplessness among the people and the danger that some people may begin to take laws into their hands. We therefore earnestly urge the government to take very seriously its primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of its citizens and ensure that such mindless killings do not reoccur. Herdsmen may be under pressure to save their livestock and economy but this is never to be done at the expense of other people’s lives and means of livelihood.”
5. NO to cattle colonies:
“We would like to add our voice to those of other well-meaning Nigerians who insist that a better alternative to open grazing should be sought rather than introducing “cattle colonies” in the country. While thinking of how best to help cattle owners establish ranches, government should equally have plans to help the other farmers whose produce is essential for our survival as a nation.”
6. Kidnappers on the loose:
“In a similar vein, daredevil kidnappers, who at present are having a field day, with a feeling of invincibility, must be made to understand that there is a government in this country. Government should invest more in equipping our Police Force with modern high-tech devices that will help them track down and arrest these criminals and make them face the wrath of the law.”
7. Unfairness in political appointments:
“The Federal Character Principle is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria… Disregard for this Principle in some federal government appointments as well as perceptible imbalance in the distribution of federal amenities has created the loss of a sense of belonging in many parts of the country, hence the constant cries of marginalization, agitation for secession and calls for restructuring.”
PS: Yeah, the bishops concluded their presentation by pledging to continue to support the effort of the government in nation-building. The bishops also said they will “continue to highlight the plight of our people and play our prophetic role of sensitizing the government, thus promoting national unity and cohesion. On the long run,Government under your watch must do all in its power through good policies to restore confidence that government is for all and sundry. Our collective efforts must be seen in the desire to return to the fine principles of democracy such as true federalism, negotiation and consensus building as means of achieving a more equitable distribution of the resources of our country.”