The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigerian, CBCN, has called on President
Muhammadu Buhari not to see calls for the restructuring of the country as
calls for division.
In a communiqué titled ‘Statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of
Nigeria on the State of the Nation,’ and issued Thursday, in Akure, the
Ondo state’s capital, the bishops who gave an all-inclusive appeal to
Nigerians to protect the country’s democracy and rule of law equally
enjoined President Buhari not to make Nigerians think they are sliding
back to dictatorship. The communiqué read thus:
Less than two years ago, from His throne, the Lord looked down upon
Nigeria with mercy and compassion and then showed us how much He loved us.
Against all odds, even when as a people we had almost given up on
ourselves and the international community looked on, we were able to
conduct one of the most peaceful elections in our history.
1. When Nigerians voted for General Muhammadu Buhari, they demonstrated,
beyond the pale of religion and ethnicity, that they indeed wanted to turn
a new page in a history replete with broken dreams.
2. We hoped that drawing from past experience, the government would rally
our people around to confront the behemoth of corruption that had
destroyed the very foundations of our society. Again, after we
successfully contained Boko Haram’s murderous escapade, we had hoped that
our nation would witness a massive programme of national rebirth and that
the President would work and assemble a cross section of patriotic
citizens from diverse backgrounds to commence a programme of national
rebirth and reconstruction.
3. One-sided appointments into public office have displayed a tendency
towards a form of sectionalism that we have found difficult to associate
with the high moral credentials of the President. A hurricane of violence
by herdsmen and other agents of death has left in its wake a landscape of
blood and destruction.
Political violence, corruption, kidnappings, armed robbery, ritual murders
and all ills of the past, are still very much present and we seem to be
progressively sinking deeper into the mud. Our people are now ravaged by
disease and hunger. The result is the rise in the curve of violence both
by the state agents and non-state actors among our own people.
We recall that in his address to us, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, on
11 February 2015, General Buhari as a Presidential candidate stated among
“Government has no business preferring one religion to the other. The role
of government is to protect lives and properties of citizens and to
respect and protect their constitutional rights.
One critical right that every government must seek to protect is the right
of citizens to exercise their respective faiths, Christians and Muslims or
others, in a lawful manner without fear or hindrance and to prosecute
those who use religion as an excuse to destroy homes, schools, and places
When governments fail in that duty, they must then assist in the
rebuilding of the structures including destroyed places of worship and
giving full restitution to property.”
5. As things now stand, most Nigerians do not see a government committed
to attaining these stated objectives. Furthermore, we find the calls for
the expansion of the scope of Sharia law in public life at variance with
the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution. In view of all this,
to restore confidence of our people in Nigeria, and to reverse the feeling
of hopelessness and distrust, we make the following appeal:
To the People of Nigeria:
6. These are difficult and trying times for us as a nation and a people.
We salute the courage and resilience of the majority of our people who, in
the face of provocation and suffering, have continued to live by our
traditional and genuine religious values of compassion and solidarity.
While we must renew our commitment to the fact that God loves our country
and that His promises never fail, we must stand together and remain
We equally commend the courage of our young people, who, at various
levels, sacrificed so much in the hope that this would mark the beginning
of a new era. We call on them to resist all attempts to turn them into
instruments of the destruction of the very legacy on which they have built
As Scripture says: “We glory in our sufferings, because we know that
suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, produces character; and
character produces, hope. And hope does not put us to shame” (Rom 5: 3-5).
To the Political Class: 7. It is a tragedy that over sixteen years after
our return to Democracy, the political class has still not come to terms
with the fact that politics is a noble vocation. Political parties ought
to be platforms for the realisation of the lofty goals of nation building
and human development.
Unfortunately, far too many politicians in our country have continued to
use politics merely as a platform for self-enrichment, oppression and the
pursuit of goals that are totally at variance with our common good,
collective wellbeing and aspirations. The result is that ordinary citizens
have lost confidence in the political class. They have also become more
vulnerable and many have resorted to violence as a means of self-
protection and personal wellbeing.
We wish to state firmly that the debate about the restructuring of our
country should not be seen as an act of rebellion or as a call for
division. It should rather be seen as an expression of our people’s desire
that the political class return to the fine principles of democracy such
as true federalism, negotiation and consensus building as means of
achieving a more equitable distribution of the resources of our country.
To this end, we urge the entire political class to rise beyond party and
sectional interests and loyalties and to heed the yearnings of Nigerians.
Only in this way can we possibly reverse the dangerous slide towards
To the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria:
9. We call on our President to wake up to the fact that most Nigerians are
today disillusioned by the frittering away of the high hopes which they
invested in his resolve to turn things around. The President can no longer
safely ignore the very strong allegations of a rise in nepotism and
sectionalism in federal appointments. This has further deepened the
feelings of alienation and the rise of centrifugal forces that are
threatening the foundations of our unity.
Nigerians have been shocked and traumatised by the rampaging criminals
who, without let or hindrance and under various guises, have gruesomely,
raped, kidnapped and mutilated innocent citizens across the country. In
the process, they have vandalized and destroyed homes, farmlands, oil
installations and sacked entire villages and communities.
The President should remember that his primary duty and responsibility is
the protection of lives and property. Without this, nothing else has
meaning in any society.
An appeal and a Prayer:
11. Finally, we acknowledge that our current woes did not begin with this
administration. We also support the President’s genuine resolve and
efforts through the various government agencies to tackle corruption.
Nonetheless, we reiterate that this must not be at the expense of civil
liberties and the rule of law. The President must ensure that Nigerians do
not feel that our country is sliding back into dictatorship.
We acknowledge the deep sense of genuine commitment of our people to live
by the tenets of their various religious beliefs. True religion has to do
with the relationship between human beings and God, which in turn guides
and nourishes correct relationship among people. However, unfortunately,
religion in our country seems to have been hijacked and held hostage by
some charlatans who continue to exploit religion to further their
ambitions and interests. We therefore urge our people to be more
discerning in their spiritual quest. Government should make sure that
these charlatans, no matter their claims, are not allowed to hide behind
the mask of religion to continue to commit crimes. May God the Father of
mercy and compassion, bless our country Nigeria and turn our hearts
towards His will.