72 killed today in Benue State, 56 abducted and 28 killed in southern Kaduna yesterday, 55 missing in Jos attack, 256 girl-students abducted in Katsina, 20 killed in South East, Amotekum intercepted three trailers loaded with AK-47, swords and charms, with 38 foreigners inside, etc. etc. etc.
This has been the type of pieces of information making the news every day in Nigeria, and yet, except two or three ecclesiastical voices we hear from the North and South, many others seem not to be aware of what is happening, and one wonders what type of Shepherds they are. In some Christian Churches, Sunday last, May 8, 2022, was designated as Good Shepherd Sunday.
Some people are of the view that many of those in the top echelons of the Church are more interested in maintaining a friendly Church-and-Government relationship than in proclamation and defence of truth, justice and protection of human life.
For example, sometime ago, more than twenty youths who were just holding a meeting or praying (Vigil) in Igbo-land were gunned down in cold-blood, and not even a voice from either the religious or political sector was hard in condemnation of such brutish and primitive mass murder.
If this is to be the case, we are opening our hands to embrace the catastrophe that would befall all of us, sooner than later or later than sooner. Daniel Coleman, in his book, Social Intelligence (2006, page 309), referring to the Rwandan genocide, warns:
Several features make such violence more likely: when the targets are unable to speak up to defend themselves, and bystanders those who could object, or people in nearby countries say and do nothing. If others are passive when you first harm the victims, the perpetrators interpret that silence as an endorsement And once people start the violence, step-by-step they exclude their victim from the moral realm.
Then there is nothing to hold them back.
Ervin Staub, the author of The Roots of Evil has proffered practical solution to preventing forces of violence, who are often propelled by hatred and selfishness, from achieving their vicious hearts desires. Antidotes to hatred, he says, is objecting openly to the architects of hatred politicians (both domestic and foreign), bigoted religious men and women, etc. by the victims.
Often prophets or harbingers of evil that is definitely going to come upon the people are spitefully dismissed as alarmists, pessimists or bearers of evil news meant to divide the people. In 1966, Major Alex Madiebo was seen as such by Major General Aguiyi Ironsi when he flew all the way from Kaduna to Lagos to warn him of the plot to overthrow his Government by Col Yakubu Gowon and other Northern Military officers. Ironsi, as a very wise Igbo man, ardent believer of One-Nigeria (truly, we are all brothers and sisters of one Father and Mother called Nigeria) and patriotic Nigerian, called in Gowon, his second, and asked Madiebo to repeat the secret he confided on him. When Ironsi asked Gowon if what he heard was true, he lied and denied the reality of such a plot.
Nwa-nnunu Mgbama (a little bird that reveals the secret) has come in different guises to awaken Nigerians of different ethnic nationalities of what they would sooner than latter be facing. This bird has come in the guise of all very crucial political, military, security, economic, legal etc. positions being subjected to the control of one particular ethnic and religious group, yet, many are still sleeping.
It has again come in the guise of RUGA colonies being planned to be established in the 36 states of Nigeria, yet, many are saying, my friend, do not mind this bird, let us go and drink. The revealing bird has also come in the image of the executive order that everyone should submit their guns whether licensed or not, while no such order was seen to affect Fulani herdsmen carrying AK-47 in different parts of Nigeria.
Nwa-nnunu Mgbama has in so many ways revealed herself; the executive eyes about turn, and most exquisitely, by admitting thousands of repentant Boko Haram members into the Nigerian Army so as to go back and fight their other Boko Haram members, and by continued daily killings or abductions of tens or hundreds of innocent Nigerians, and yet, many of us are, like imbeciles (sorry) still moping and nodding. What a people, what a generation? I recently watched a WhatsApp video of a 10 year old boy (a Professor and Philosopher) who gave an interesting lecture on Africa Must Think.
Informed by his knowledge of Rwanda, Daniel Coleman has drawn our attention to the significance of speaking out as a good antidote to a planned genocide and desire of some people in this country to enslave the rest of us by forcefully making us Citizens of the Islamic Republic of West Africa. We do not know what has gone wrong with the majority of the Nigerian lawmakers in the National Assembly. Christian priests, pastors and Bishops of all denominations in every part of Nigeria, and Muslim men and women of goodwill, should now, at least, get up and speak up against all forms of evil in society committed by state actors and some other people.
This is not playing politics as Government sycophants try to whitemail those who speak out, but rather performing their political or prophetic duty to their people, humanity and God. Bishop Hassan Kukah (Sokoto) and Bishop Godfrey Onah (Nsukka), are not the only Catholic Bishops in Nigeria. Similarly, Bishop Ikeakor (Amichi), Bishop Obi (Nnewi), and Bishop Chukwuma (Enugwu) are not the only Anglican Bishops in Igbo land.
The victims of malicious conspiracy, especially in Southern Kaduna and Middle Belt have told me in a dream that they are still waiting to hear a big ecclesiastic prophetic voice from Yoruba land. Yes, admitted, the Church is working hard, and has, for more than 40 years been praying for Nigeria in distress, yet, it is not enough to be just, but to be seen to be just.
Outside the shores of Nigeria, if Jesus Christ of Nazareth is a superhuman we cannot march, and so emulate, Cardinal Sin, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Bishop Helda Camara, and Rev. Martin Luther King Jnr. and their counterparts in Nigeria, mentioned above, are excellent examples for emulation.
Obviously, religious ministers should endeavour to cultivate friendly relationship with the Government of the State, but there are times, they must speak the truth to state power, for this is a substance to their vocation as Gods ministers, and servants and shepherds of the people.
I have come to realise that vicious and wicked leadership can only be sustained by irresponsible followership, sycophants and praise-singers.
As Christ has told his followers, a good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep. When we cannot protect the lives of the sheep we took an oath to tend, feed and protect, especially, in times of danger, we should not consider ourselves to be shepherds but parasites, living sumptuously on the suffering, agony and death of the sheep, the people.
Am I theologically and doctrinally right, or wrong? Yes, for evil to triumph, what is required is that those who should speak out shut up their mouths. Lest we forget my first and very important question: Can we stop the worst Rwanda in Nigeria now?
Father Ezeani, a Catholic Priest, can be reached on E-mail: [email protected]