Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos
By Odinaka Uruakpa
Nigerian leaders have not done enough to address the underlying issues fanning insecurity and disunity in the country. This is contained in Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins’ 60th Independence anniversary message to Nigerians, signed by the Director of Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu.
Acknowledging the need for all to thank God for keeping the country as one despite her numerous challenges, Archbishop Martins noted that not much has been done in practical terms by successive leadership to foster a deep sense of patriotism and oneness among the various ethnic groups that make up the country.
He said it was shameful that 60 years after gaining independence from the British, Nigeria was yet to get her acts together, adding that the country still lacked quality leadership needed to guide the country in the path of peaceful coexistence, economic prosperity, as well as security of life and property.
Said he: “We thank God that we are alive to mark the Diamond Jubilee of our country’s independence. We are an independent country still searching for how to become a nation where no one is oppressed, and everyone feels a sense of belonging. In spite of all odds, we have survived for 60 years and so we must thank God and praise the resilience of Nigerians.
“However, this year of our Diamond Jubilee has turned out to be one of the most challenging for most Nigerians. We were still battling with the effects of insecurities in the land, when COVID-19 struck and made life impossible for those who lost their jobs and sources of livelihood. To make life even more impossible, there was an increase in the rate of VAT only to be followed by the imposition of stamp duty on house rent and Certificates of Occupancy.
“The dust raised by that had hardly settled, when we were slapped with an increase in electricity tariff, which was followed couple of weeks after by an increase in the pump price of petrol.”
Noting that life is becoming more difficult for Nigerians due to the hike in the price of essential commodities, the archbishop called on the government to take critical steps to ease the pain of the people.
Noted he: “Life is becoming harder and harder for majority of Nigerians and government needs to take radical steps to ease the burdens they are carrying. Everyone, led by Civil Society Organisations, NGOs, and the Labour Movement, need to do something in their area of competences in order to bring the suffering of people home to government.
“If people must bear the burdens of the day, government must also show good faith by cutting down on the cost of governance”.
The Archbishop also called for restructuring of the country along the path of true federalism, in order to give the various ethnic groups a sense of belonging, stressing that the 60th Independence anniversary celebration of the country should be a time for sober reflection for citizens with regards to their existence as a country.
Remarked the cleric: “The landmark celebration of 60 years should make us reflect on the reality of our existence as a country. A cursory reflection shows that we are far below where we ought to be if we take into consideration the human and natural resources with which the country is blessed. It would seem that the structure of our country that was distorted with the advent of the military into governance has remained the obstacle to our growth”.
The archbishop said that selfishness and lack of regard for the common good of each of the different groups that make up the country had made it impossible for Nigeria to be the federal republic that the country was meant to be at independence.
Said he: “It Is necessary to continue to harp on the need to return to the original concept of Nigeria as a federation that recognises the uniqueness of the federating units and gives each its right to govern aspects of its life while we remain one country, united in our diversities.
“The current structure, as many have rightly pointed out, has given too much power to the centre that the states and local governments have been reduced to appendages that go cap in hand to Abuja to seek for their survival from the federal government. We must return to a true federalism in order to become the nation that we want to be”.
According to him, agitations for self-determination as being promoted by some groups in the country, would continue, as long as the nation’s leadership continues to paid lip-service to the genuine needs and desires of the people.
While noting that Nigerians are indeed a special breed of people blessed by God as they excel in almost all spheres of human endeavors at the international level, the archbishop said that what citizens needed here at home was an enabling environment that would bring out the best in them.
Observed he: “As it is, our best is yet to come”.
Archbishop Martins called on citizens of the country to pray for Nigeria and her rulers, so that they could overcome the present challenges and remain a united country where no one is oppressed, and all are proud to serve their sovereign Motherland.