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State of the Nation: Nigeria returning to jackboot — Cardinal Olubunmi-Okogie

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…says nation’s democracy in danger

 

Octogenarian Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi-Okogie says he is worried that Nigeria is on the precipice and gradually returning to jackboot.

 

“Our democracy is in danger because of corruption and dictatorship,” he said.

 

A disconcerted former Catholic Archbishop of Lagos said the nation’s hard-fought and-won democracy was being taken back to military dictatorship where there is flagrant disobedience to the rule of law.

 

“The painful and sad reality we face is that we live in a country where leaders are very distant from the led. We need leaders who are neither blind to the suffering of the people nor deaf to their cries.

 

“Leaders who listen to the people, leaders who have the courage to be humble, and who are therefore ready to admit that they are wrong when they are wrong.

“In a democracy, those who govern are chosen by the people to represent the people. And if they are to represent the people, they must listen to the people. Not only do true democrats listen, they also are not afraid of dissenting opinions.

 

“They do not arrogate to themselves the power to accuse, arrest, prosecute and convict. But can we candidly say we have democrats at the helm of affairs in this country at this point in time?, he said.

Okogie barred his mind against the backdrop of unrestrained disobedience to court orders by President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General in a statement entitled, “Corruption and Repression.’’

Persecondnews recalls that Cardinal Okogie was the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and from 1994 to 2000, he chaired the Bishops’ Conference in Nigeria. He was proclaimed Cardinal in 2003 by Pope John Paul II.

 

Also during his service to God and the priesthood, he had volunteered to die in place of a Muslim woman who was condemned to death for adultery by stoning by a Nigerian Sharia Court during President Olusegun Obasanjo administration when Sharia was introduced in some parts of the North.

 

He said felt agitated and embarrassed about statements being pushed out by the President’s spokesmen recently on the developments in the polity.

Eighty-three-year-old Okogie asked: “How can we claim to live in a democracy when presidential spokespersons tell us the presidency is always right?

“It is important to remind our political leaders at the federal, state and local levels of government that they cannot enforce laws if they cannot obey the law.”

 

On the disobedience of court orders and invasion of courtrooms by government’s security agents, the Edo-born cleric said: “If the executive disobeys court rulings, and if it intimidates and humiliates the judiciary, then we are back to the era when a military junta made laws and interpreted them without any regard for fundamental human rights.

 

“We have returned to a sinful past when citizens could be abducted and locked up in detention without trial under the pretext of acting in the interest of national security.”

Pointing out that repression of dissenting opinions was a major factor that led to the collapse of Nigeria’s democratic First Republic, Okogie stressed the need to protect the nation’s democracy.

 

“But Nigerians do not want military rule anymore. Having experienced two painful bouts of military dictatorship, two periods in Nigeria’s history when men in uniform, trained and paid to protect the land and its people, visited untold brutality on the civilian population, we all must resolve to be responsible for protecting democracy in this country.”

 

The Cardinal recalled that it was during the military rule that Nigeria was plunged into an avoidable civil war because the political actors failed to adhere faithfully to democratic principles.

Their failure to do so provided opportunistic elements in the Nigerian Army with an excuse for mass murder,’’ he recalled.

“Innocent lives were lost before and during that war. A month to the 50th anniversary of the end of that war factors that led to the war are being reawakened.’’

 

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