FORMER Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, has said that the bane of development in sub-saharan Africa is what he described as “crisis of governance.”
According to him, a careful appraisal of Nigeria’s experience as a country shows that it faces serious challenge in the area of governance.
Okogie spoke yesterday in Lagos as a guest lecturer at the Auditorium of the Christ Apostolic Church’s 16th edition of Pastor Solomon Odunaiya annual memorial lecture organised by the Young Men Christian League (YMCL). He spoke on “Governance and religious conflicts in Nigeria today: what role for the Church?”
The revered cleric stated that Nigeria is bedeviled by a host of demons. His words: “To mention a few, our country is bedeviled by a host of demons such as institutionalized corruption, which has reached a demonic stage, disregard for the rule of law and due process, electoral misconduct, terrorism, kidnapping and lack of transparency and accountability on the part of public office holders.”
He pointed out that in spite of Nigeria being a secular state, Nigerians are highly religious, though it is yet to translate to Godliness due to the choices and activities of some Christians.
Cardinal Okogie stated that religious conflict usually arise out of tension or struggle between two groups over something.
“From a careful observation of religious conflicts over the years, we can summarise the causes of religious conflict in Nigeria as: stereotyping or the wrong perception of other people’s religion or faith, wrong religious orientation, low literacy level of many of the violent religious adherents, selfishness on the part of religious personalities, pervasive poverty, intolerance, government involvement in religious matters or politicization of religion.
“Other causes include failure to teach religious pluralism, lack of respect for sacred things of other religion, violation of another’s freedom of association and worship, intention to dominate others and the fear of domination by others as well as wrong notion of martyrdom,” the cleric said.
According to him, the leadership has also failed to sensitive the citizens and build national goals and aspirations that transcend religious leanings.
Okogie described religion as a double-edged sword which can promote social harmony and growth as well as a motivation for violence. He said: “While religion can serve, and indeed continues to serve as a powerful instrument for social harmony and growth, paradoxically, however, misuse of religion can bring about disharmony or serve as a motivation for violence. “In fact, our common experience is that religious bigots or fundamentalists often attempt to legitimise violence in the name of God, which is evident in acts of extreme violence such as terrorists attacks in the name of ‘holy warfare’ that supposedly carries great reward for the perpetrators.” He enjoined the Church to continue to promote peace, inter-religious dialogue, discipleship, organise pre-election debate and encourage good people to go into politics, among others. Okogie who lamented that many Christian youths lack training warned the Church to refrain from partisan politics, be wary of compromise and conspiracy of silence, promote mutual tolerance and inter religious dialogue and above all, lead by example.