THE year 2023 is another election year in Nigeria in which it would present to the Nigerian populace and the Benue citizenry in particular, political gladiators and rebranded political actors seeking to remedy their dwindling political solvency and present themselves to the electorate to surrender their mandate of representation at various tiers of governance.
As a build-up to the D-day of elections, campaigns, horse-trading, consultations and political shenanigans would characterise the modus operandi of candidates and their loyalists in a desperate attempt to hoodwink and gain political patronage of the electorate, sometimes banana pills with unsavoury narratives are concocted to assassinate, malign and deflate the persona of a contending candidate. Promises are made at soap-box tops which ab initio are not meant to be fulfilled or delivered to the people and no feedback mechanism is put in place to seek for why such promises have failed or in any case when an attempt is made to interrogate the situation one is labelled with untoward invective and unpalatable descriptions. The leader that sought for his mandate from the people now becomes the new sheriff in town that cannot be questioned.
In the light of failed political promises as building bridges in the desert and making potable water available in our villages, the litany of delivering Eldorado to the citizenry is endless and leaves the populace fractured emotionally, dreams aborted arid mentally, decapitated in thought and reason, left to wallow in squalor and scavenge in hopelessness.
With the banal, bleak and total absence of a decent means of livelihood for the masses and the various labour unions castrated and emasculated into cataclysmic silence, the only radiating light at the end of the tunnel is the church which we see as the only moral voice, rudder of emancipation, compass of conscience that can arrest the deplorable situation. And the church herein referred too is the Catholic denomination.
In our clime, it is the single biggest investor in health, education and charity. These investments are meant to benefit the populace but in the face of mal-administration, gross incompetence and cosmetic development, the tendency is that these services provided by the church would be negatively affected and go to waste.
Bishop Hassan Kukah of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto has outlined the template for the year 2023 in lucid vocabulary that has aroused the inhabitants of the morgue to spill unprintable linguistic expressions on his cloak. He stated in unequivocal terms and I quote: “This conflict between Caesar and God is inbuilt in faith and is part of world history. Many religious leaders often measure their power by how close they are to Caesar, yet Caesar’s embrace is often full of thorns… The welfare of citizens constitutes the cornerstone for measuring the legitimacy of any political leader. As such religious leaders must focus more on issues of welfare, safety and security of ordinary citizens. They must raise their voice when these rights are being trampled upon. A leader must know when to call Caesar a fox and not a horse confer Luke Chapter 13:32.”
Corroborating this position, Rev. Fr. Moses Iorapuu, during the launch and public presentation of the book entitled; A Century of the Catholic Church in Tivland 1921-2021, on Tuesday 10th May, 2022 at the Multipurpose Hall, Holy Ghost Parish, Makurdi, opined that: “PDP, APC, SDP or any other one will have to look for a Catholic. We are watching if the game is not well played. We are only beginning. The next time we would decide every single thing and we say this is not because we want to make noise, the church had stood in the past firmly behind other candidates while ignoring the Catholic one. It was the same thing in the case of Suswam, it was the same thing in the case of Ortom, even when we had a Catholic but the good thing is we have always had a good understanding with the NKST, we also have a good understanding with the Anglicans. If we notice, these traditional churches provide schools and hospitals; this is the function of a government not the church; but the church is able to do this and we are glad that the Anglicans, the NKST and also the Pentecostals have come to understand that what the Catholic Church is saying is undeniable.
“These churches have chosen to stand for us because we had always stood by them. Therefore, after this, we want the Anglicans to start talking about a century of Anglican presence in Tivland, the NKST also to talk about a century of NKST presence in Tivland; any church that is established here and has paid attention to the indigenous people should be able to stand up and speak”.
For Prof George Genyi; “these churches took the bullets of the harsh social, environmental and economic conditions of the 19th and 20th centuries to lay the foundation of Christianity brought here by European missionaries… At a time like this, it is refreshing to read the heroic stories of the Catholic Church in its early trying years in Tivland in an attempt to plant the seed of faith for our forefathers for the benefit of future generations that of which all of us seated here are beneficiaries.”
With these well-structured submissions, its undeniable that the Catholic Church has contributed immensely to what is now known as Benue State and as such it is one to reason in conscience that the church should encourage its adherents that have stood out in their chosen fields of human endeavour to participate in the political competition with the sole aim of redeeming the chequered and shattered instruments of governance.
The challenge of fixing this broken situation is enormous and requires a collaborative effort to lift us out of the doldrums. 2023 beckons and the question is whether we have learned any lessons from our present positions. The next set of leaders in the state must be men and women of the Catholic faith that have distinguished themselves and possess the moral height, their intellectual and cerebral solvency not in contention and ready to listen to the strangulating circumstances surrounding the people.
Let’s all ensure we get registered and obtain our Permanent Voter’s Card to initiate the development that posterity would applaud us for and we would also stand out to be counted as knights that worked in synergy with the church. The Catholic Church’s position is introducing us to a new conversation; politics is about interest and you cannot provide education, health and other services to the citizens of a state and choose not to be interested in who governs it!
Tiav writes from Makurdi, Benue State capital.