CATHOLIC Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos Archdiocese and Vanguard’s 2017 nominee for a Lifetime Achievers Award, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, had never hidden his disdain for misconduct of political leaders as he had always criticised them, sometimes at great risk to his personal life.
The fearless cleric has persistently admonished politicians to repent from their profane and sinful behaviours, which were at variance with the commandments of God.
Speaking when managers of Vanguard Media Limited visited him at his Lagos residence, the retired Cardinal defended the success story of schools that were returned to the original missions.
Okogie argued that the tragedy of the Nigerian situation was that very often square pegs are put in round holes, noting that “once you get the right people, this nation must change overnight.”
Continuing, the retired Prince of the Catholic Church averred that the nation was yet to witness progress within the education sector, wondering why politicians cannot emulate the efforts of missionaries and revamp the nation’s education system for the benefit of millions of Nigerian masses.
“For example, look at what Gov. Willie Obiano has been doing in Anambra State, but because some people know he is eligible to contest for a second term, they are now calling for his impeachment. You see Nigerians!” He frowned at the recent attempts by some Anambra citizens to instigate the state House of Assembly to impeach the governor as another election approaches pointing out that Nigerian politicians should play by the rules of engagement.
“It’s obvious to all now that this is not the kind of change people like Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, campaigned for. The man who was talking about change, change, change, this is not the kind of change they preached. At the inauguration of APC government, President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech was about change, but they have now played on his intelligence. This is my own view. They saw that this man who put him there may try to turn the table, so they looked for those who Tinubu doesn’t seem to like, and made them his enemies. When they now saw where he was going, they are now trying to bring the man back. If it’s not too late, I don’t know!”, Okogie further argued.
He noted that the focus of those who were supposed to herald the gospel was on money and wealth which had given rise to pride.
According to him, “Our heavenly father, when He was sending each and everyone of us to this world, didn’t send us empty handed. Every creature, human being especially was given talents right from our mother’s womb and in His infinite kindness directs it, otherwise you will not be what you are. Some people who think they know better than God, unfortunately try to jump into what God didn’t make them to be.
“Let’s take Nigeria for instance, 2019 is coming, there will be election, those who are not meant for it will go into it. Why? Not to improve the nation, not for the glory of God, but because of money,” he stressed. He commended the Vanguard Management for his nomination but noted, “I’m not worthy of this honour. Who am I?
“If you look at the wall there, you will see my motto; Faith, Courage and Love. That’s what guides me. Faith in God, courage, even if they want to take my life, I don’t mind, provided I’m speaking the truth, and then to love everybody. I don’t care whether you are an Atheist or a Muslim or whatever you are, as long as you are a child of God. That’s my principle in life,” the accomplished advocate of the oppressed masses, who once volunteered to die in place of a Muslim woman who had been condemned to death by stoning by an Islamic court for adultery, contended.
Okogie, a friend and companion of the voiceless, the marginalized, the helpless, and the poor thanked the management of Vanguard Media Limited in advance saying “I pray that God will continue to guide you because it’s not an easy thing to do. Journalism is not as simple as it sounds. It’s a very delicate job which most people don’t know. You can lose your life anytime. You can be made to say what you don’t want to say even by your proprietor.
“So, I think these days, we have to be very careful in Nigeria . When you look at the way things are going now, you know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible, that’s where we are heading to and may we not end there in Jesus name. Look at the way people are dressing. I took up a newspaper this morning, about four or five people killing themselves without any fear. One said I cut my wife into pieces because she annoyed me. And yet you go around the city representing churches. What are you portraying to the world? That you are holy? That you are a good nation?
According to the retired Cardinal who is not tired, “we (Nigeria) have lost our bearing. Giant of Africa, but we are nothing. Look at what happened to the Falcons. Look at the way they were treated because of money. The love of money is the root of all evil. That’s what is ruining Nigeria today.”
Proliferation of churches
Okogie, an infectious and charming personality with strict drive for perfection and zero-tolerance for mediocrity, very often tries his hands on humour. Continuing in his discussion, he told the Vanguard delegation: “In those good old days, I’m not that old though, I may not look my age, (laughter) when I heard that Pastor Enoch Adeboye said that his joy would be to have churches all over. Number one, does he think about traffic situation? In those days, in this same Lagos, you couldn’t have two churches on a street; but today, somebody will rent this house and the next thing you will see is church.
“Where are we heading to? It’s because of money. People are now gullible. I remember the trouble between Chris Okotie, Chris Oyakhilome and T.B Joshua. One was accused of dining with T.B. Joshua and the other said you are wrong, if you are a real Christian, you shouldn’t have done that and so on. Love of money.
“I’m not criticizing anybody please; because God can send anyone. Each and every one of us has the spirit of God. This body we are carrying is God’s own. Whatever you may be, whatever religion you may say you are professing, why must you be so wicked?
“Can you imagine a man who is being catered for, given everything he needs but he is still lying on the road begging for money. It’s not a laughing matter, it’s madness, first class madness. Now you are talking of corruption; I’m just speaking in general, were we not corrupt before, right from the time of Hubert Macaulay and co? But today, they don’t care anymore. Today it is Diezani, tomorrow it is someone else.
“These are things we have to be talking about. What kind of nation are we building? That’s why I’m comparing it to Sodom and Gomorrah. Look at the way we are going, there is no fear anymore. Look at Kaduna, are you trying to tell me that the name of Kaduna is no longer Kaduna as we all know and that it’s now Southern Kaduna? Why is the emphasis on Southern Kaduna? Is it because of certain group of people there that have now popularized the whole of Kaduna?” he added.
Continuing, Okogie said some people are not doing their jobs well in Kaduna, quote and unquote me. The mere fact that everyone in the world or Nigeria today is laying emphasis on Southern Kaduna, shows there’s something wrong there. How can you be hearing of one side, what of the other side? Why must the whole nation be focusing on Southern Kaduna every time? It’s wrong.
Our problem is not Boko Haram
“Listen to what the Sultan of Sokoto said. When we talk of herdsmen, who are the herdsmen? Are we talking about the herdsmen of those days? How come they have now become so notorious? This is not the age of a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye. No. We are just trying to destroy this nation.
“I am telling you Boko Haram is not only our problem; our problem is self centredness. We don’t care. Anything can go on as long as I’m not touched, that’s the kind of thing that is going on now. How many of our senators and those in the House of Representatives are ready to sacrifice their lives for this nation?” he said. “Tell me, how many of our leaders can make sacrifices for our country?”
In his random assessment of the state of the nation, Okogie also wondered what has happened to the recent 40-foot container seized by men of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A of the Nigeria Customs Service, who intercepted 49 boxes of 661 pump-action rifles along the Mile 2 Apapa Road of Lagos State which was cleared at the Lagos port.
“Where are 661 rifles today?” he queried, They said they seized thousands of bags of rice, where are they? We only read these news in the papers. We have to sit down and think. You are saying you have seized these guns, where are the guns till today? They have to give us progress report,” he noted.
Okogie also recalled the murder of a female evangelist of the Divine Touch Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Eunice Elisha, by suspects while she was preaching around the pipeline area of Kubwa, a satellite town of the FCT in July 2016. Reports said that Eunice, a mother of seven, was cut in the neck and stabbed in the stomach.
“Look at the poor woman who was preaching and was killed, then they said the suspects were arrested, the next thing we heard was that they were freed. Is that justice? It’s wrong,” Okogie lamented.