In anticipation of the official start of the electoral campaigns in preparation for the 2023 elections, the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja held its third general assembly which had as its theme, Witness in politics: the role of the Catholic faithful. The Assembly attracted delegates including clergy, religious and laity from all parishes in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The Archbishop, Bishop Ignatius Kaigama, his Auxiliary, Bishop Anselm Umoren and Archbishop Emeritus of Abuja, His Eminence, Cardinal John Onaiyekan were present throughout the three-day event.
The sessions were addressed by speakers from a variety of backgrounds, whose articles elicited passionate and passionate reactions, as one would expect in such a political gathering.
The environment was insightfully inspiring and the attendance reflected a sincere desire of the people to achieve the level of awareness that can lead to an outcome good enough to achieve the goal of effective political leadership and good governance that stems from it and which is the aspiration of all Nigerians. The topics discussed were as varied as the origin of the speakers.
However, there was a consensus of opinion that the church and politics are not isolated from each other. The church, for its part, understands the purpose of politics and often always takes the lead in supporting credible political processes.
In this spirit, he has pledged to partner with government at all levels, although this will not be done for the purpose of seeking material benefits but to pursue a divine mandate of witness to the world. Likewise, and without compromising its spiritual inclinations, the Church has made it clear that it will resist any mechanism used to drown out its role as the voice of the voiceless, as this would be seen as a disservice to the common good of the people and of humanity.
Reaffirming its attachment to the unity of the country as well as its aversion to the state of insecurity, banditry, the unbearable level of unemployment in the country, the delegates were unanimous in their position that despite the numerous failures of governance, the he church continues to nurture and will continue to nurture hope for a democracy that will usher in a renewed era of social justice, equity, peace and prosperity.
Calling on Nigerians to greater political responsibility, the Church affirmed her duty to urge citizens to participate in decisions about what happens in society by adopting the approach of contemporary social, economic and political issues rooted in the particular Christian identity, being aware of their own specific vocation within the political community and defending distinct points of view by honest methods.
The Church took the opportunity provided by the Assembly to express its reservations about the penchant of politicians to exploit the divisions that exist along religious, ethnic and class lines to further their electoral interests. In particular, he lamented that the culture of vote buying, facilitated by high levels of poverty, has been used as a tool not only to win elections but also to perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
It is in this perspective that the delegates agreed that it is up to clergy, religious and laity to encourage each other to counter the poverty, ignorance and despair that constitute the incentives to engage in electoral malfeasance. They also pointed out that every vote sold is a beautiful future mortgaged.
In the newspaper’s view, the church’s stance on low voter turnout was, on balance, laudable as it expressed concern that such a disposition on the part of the electorate would be decidedly a setback for the political participation even as it underlined that democracy rests on the foundation of the unfettered participation of the people.
Building on this understanding, the church was optimistic that increasing the number of registered voters in all geopolitical zones will result in better voter turnout. Delegates surmised that Nigerians have suffered the consequences of previous voter apathy and should know better than to perpetuate it.
It is in this light that they called on all citizens, regardless of their religious affiliation, to become consciously and actively involved in electoral processes at all levels. Everyone must ensure that they are in possession of their Permanent Voter Card (CVP) which will allow them to vote on election days with a firm and clear conscience to elect credible leaders who will bring the real dividends of democracy.
Predictably, in our view, the Church has called for increased prayers, especially among Catholics, for free, credible and transparent elections next year. In this regard, he implored the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure the political fairness and transparency necessary to cement the trust placed in him by Nigerians.
As a newspaper, we are excited about the church’s commitment to remain open and willing to work with affected governments and their agencies, the electorate and security officials to ensure peaceful and credible electoral processes in the next electoral cycle.
In our view, it is pertinent to underline the urgent need for all political actors to refrain from the politics of money, manipulation and divisive practices. Young people, in particular, must refuse to be recruited for political thuggery and other undemocratic activities designed to induct selfish and incompetent aspirants to public office. Delegates agreed that the days of lukewarm attitudes towards politics must be accepted as over. They also agreed to continue with enlightenment campaigns to educate Catholics, in particular, that the time for political action has come.