Metropolitan Archbishop Emeritus of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, has said Nigeria has not reached a state of total anarchy, stressing that the country’s flag was still flying though it was dirty and tattered.
The cleric stated this on Saturday while delivering a keynote address at the 70th anniversary and commemoration lecture of the National Association of Seadogs (NAS) with the theme, ‘The State of the Nation’.
Onaiyekan said it was also difficult to understand how the country got to where it is today and how it needed to turn a better page for her development.
He noted that he had no intention of going into details about the problems facing the nation, adding that the rays of light in the clouds should not be ignored.
The cleric said there might be a few people who are in and outside of government who might be quite happy with the present situation, stressing that this might be because they are beneficiaries of the performance of the government.
Onaiyekan pointed out that he believed there was large-scale grumbling on the part of the vast majority of Nigerians.
He noted that the ongoing political campaigns for the 2023 elections are replete with catalogues of failures of the government, even from candidates in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
He was of the view that this sense of dissatisfaction and grumbling was not without reason.
He said the state of insecurity was making almost every aspect of national life problematic.
He argued that the worst is the inability of the state to prove an answer to how to keep the nation safe.
His words: “The situation of our social services that have been running down is affecting almost everyone. In particular, social services that are under government control have suffered major neglect, whether in education or health services, roads or sanitation. Often, Nigerians have to fend for themselves. But there is a limit to how much individuals can cater for all their needs.
“There is also growing poverty in the land. We are being told now that we are the “poverty capital of the world”. All the usual statistics point to the fact that Nigerians are being progressively impoverished. This is not just a matter of dry statistics. It is a question of quality of life and level of livelihood, right down to the basic needs of our lives. What do we eat? What shelter do we have? How do we take care of health needs?
“And undergirding all these negative factors is the major issue of mass pervading distrust of government on the part of citizens. It is certainly a major problem if people can no longer trust their government to be looking after their interests. The government will need to do a lot to regain this trust which is necessary for any government to function.”
Despite the above glooming scenario, Onaiyekan noted that he could not say that everything was all bad with the nation.
He added: “Many people, especially foreigners, have been predicting that Nigeria will soon become a failed state. I do not believe that we have reached that stage nor do I think that we shall reach that stage any time soon.
“The flag of the nation is still flying even though it is dirty and tattered. I am saying this because basic institutions are still functioning even though not at an optimal level. A bad or weak government is better than no government at all.
“I do not believe we have reached a state of total anarchy. We still have a police force and armed forces and other security agents, once in a while performing their duties.
“There is of course the proverbial Nigerian resilience, constantly managing to survive under conditions that would appear unbearable,” he added.
Speaking further during the panel discussion session, Onaiyekan said the decision of the APC to field a Muslim-Muslim ticket was political.
The cleric reiterated that while the ruling party was entitled to take such a decision, it should also be prepared to bear the consequences of the political decision.
But, in a counter-argument, a former Chief Imam of Apo Legislative Quarters Juma’at Mosque, Abuja, Sheikh Mohammad Khalid, said Nigeria was sick and needed a healer irrespective of his religion.
He said having succeeded in fielding a Muslim-Muslim ticket, the campaign ought to have shifted to the issue-based campaign, saying instead of security, healthcare system, and education, among others, the country was still discussing religion.
Khalid said the politicians forget their religious differences when looting the country.
“Nigeria is sick; we need someone who can give Nigeria appropriate drugs to recover. Therefore, you will not ask that doctor what is your faith?” Khalid said.
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja