The political climate in Nigeria is inundated with political gladiators wooing the voting masses with persuasive campaigns as the 2023 general elections draws close.
This came to the fore at the 2022 Men of Valor Conference organized by Revival House of Glory Church (RHOGIC) at Wuye-Abuja when Dr Peter Obi, a frontline Catholic politician running for the office of president in the upcoming polls challenged the Nigerian populace to actually register so as to get rid of a bad and corrupt system.
Obi who was invited as one of three speakers at the conference spoke on the theme “Navigating the Corridors of Power: The Church and Politics.”
The former Governor of Anambra state declared that “It is time for us to close the Church and deal with these people.”
He made this assertion in response to a question that was asked by a panelist following his presentation namely, “In terms of reaching the youth and reaching people, what are your thoughts about how the church can mobilize young people?”
Speaking to the heart of “liturgy for life” which takes place after the “Go in peace, the Mass is ended, ” Obi who seems to debut a new culture of “Catholic Action” in Nigeria’s political trajectory maintained:
“It is a very simple thing. That’s what we are doing here. The church has to know that we’ve passed the time of praying. It’s not going to be solved by praying alone. It has to be solved by action. If you like, pray for the rest of your life. With this people? They will never go away. You must chase them away.”
The renowned economist and technologist insisted that beyond wishful thinking and praying away the nation’s troubles, worried that “They are not people you’ll remove by prayer” and emphasized that “It is time to act; not to pray.”
On how the current insecurity across the country has crippled almost every sector in Africa’s largest back nation, the Anambra-born noted “The people we refused to educate yesterday are the ones chasing us out of our houses today.”
He went memory lane to give a brief history of Christian-inspired political action saying “Do you know how Marcos left office in the Philippines? Marcos left office because on a Sunday, Cardinal Sin finished church service. Instead of saying ‘The Mass is ended let us go,’ he told everybody, ‘Follow me and block the presidential lodge.’ After three days President Marcos and his wife left. It is time for us to close the church and deal with this people.”
Commenting on the matter, a Nigerian based priest and writer who is currently a Doctoral Student in Theology at Notre Dame American University, Father Emmanuel Ojeifo remarked “For many years I have been interested in the question about how the church can positively impact politics and social development in Nigeria in an enduring way. Last Sunday at a zoom discussion with a couple of other priests, I made the point about how religion in Nigeria is diminishing personal and corporate social agency because we have resorted to using religion, in Eddie Iroh’s words, like a drunkard who uses a lamp post not for illumination but for support.”
Giving the Nigerian context, Father Ojeifo explained “Here’s just one example: How do Nigerian Christians end their commentary on the frustrations they are enduring? ‘God will help us.’ ‘May God save us.’ And yet we know that God will not come down from heaven and do for us what he has given us the wisdom and intelligence to do for ourselves.
“We can pray, fast, do crusades, hold vigils and revivals, go up to the mountain or come down to the valley, if we do not make the connection between faith and political action, we have not started.”
Going forward, the cleric suggested that “We need to wake up from the slumber of a distorted religious outlook that substitutes prayer for hard work. Prayer has its place; but prayer without action, faith without work, is dead on arrival.
“This is the time to dust our books on Catholic social teaching and put the ‘church’s best kept secret’ to good use for the common good of Nigeria and all Nigerians. This is for me the surest pathway to national rebirth.”
Taking concrete examples from other climes, the priest stated, “Jaime Cardinal Lachica Sin tried it in the Philippines and it worked. Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, John Paul II’s mentor, tried it in Poland and it worked. Cardinal Francois Xavier Nguyen van Thuan spinned it in Vietnam and lacerated communism’s backbone.
“Each of these 20th century churchmen paid a huge cost for bearing prophetic witness and mobilizing their people for change in their countries, but ultimately, they and their people won.”
Mr. Peter Gregory Obi CON is a businessman and politician who served as the Governor of Anambra State three separate times from 2006 to 2014.
After he left office in 2014, he became an advocate for good governance and a national political statesman.
In 2014, Obi decamped to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and in 2019, he became a Vice Presidential nominee for Atiku Abubakar in the presidential election but lost to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
In May 2022, he became the Labour Party nominee for President of Nigeria in the 2023 presidential election.
Commentators believe that the Obi-movement which has suddendly become a social media phenomenon among Nigerian youths would likely place Mr. Obi in a position that would give Candidates of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and All Progressives’ Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu a run for their money.