ABUJA – Ahead of the 2019 elections, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has said Nigeria is deeply in great dilemma over who to vote as president in the choice between the two leading presidential candidates, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and incumbent Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Onaiyekan said this over the weekend while speaking on the topic: “The Church in Politics: Towards the election year 2019” at an event organized by Catholic Action – Nigeria in Abuja. The Archbishop said there was no reason to expect either of both candidates to perform wonders if elected having seen them in the past operate below par at the highest levels of government.
Addressing the lay faithful, he said: “Our dear country is deeply in a great dilemma as we move towards the 2019 election. It would appear that we are faced with the horrible tragedy of a choice between two well-known undesirable candidates. This is not only because both of them are Muslims but because we have seen both and we have no reason to be enthusiastic that they will do wonders.”
Onaiyekan further lamented that whereas there are over 90 political parties in the country, there seemed to be no viable alternative to the two mega parties.
“Where is the alternative? It is a pity that they cannot come together to form a viable alternative. In my opinion, this is mainly because of selfishness. Everybody wants to be President and wield power. No one wants to step down and join hands with others of like minds. We need to pray that there will be a way forward. We have to seriously tackle the evil of selfishness,” he said.
The Archbishop however maintained that the seeming absence of a viable alternative should not be an excuse for Nigerians to lose interest in the coming elections.
“If we do lose interest, others are busy working. All that it takes for evil to thrive is for the righteous people to keep quiet and do what they call ‘minding their own business’ which means doing nothing! The business of politics in the months ahead is the business of each and every one of us,” he noted.
Onaiyekan went further to say the church expects her members who are in politics to be guided by its social teachings.
He regretted that most Christian members of the political class rarely come to the clergy for advice; stressing that the church had a wealth of good ideas with regards to how human affairs ought to be run which the political class has failed to tap for national development.
He said: “We should not forget that we have a good number of Christians in politics. The problem is that they do not seem to make any good impact. In fact, we see them often at each others’ throats.
“They have lost confidence in the viability of Christian social doctrine. While they agree these doctrines are beautiful, they say that it does not work. They insist that in Nigeria of today, you cannot succeed if you want to be all the time good. We have often heard this, it’s about time we tackle it head-on. We should not give up hope. We need to find forums and opportunities for those in politics to meet regularly in order to be fed by the good nourishment of Church doctrine.
“We have a great duty in these days to conscientize our members. They should participate in taking position and voting wisely.
“The politician has a right to count on the encouragement of the church. Our role is to guide and to pray for them. At the same time, we need to mobilise to give massive support to positive political projects. This is no time to sit on the fence and stand aside complaining that things are going badly,” he said.
The Archbishop therefore advised all Nigerians to eschew selfishness and adopt a sense of solidarity, saying: “We need to change from deceit and lies to truth and honesty. We should be encouraged that it is possible for politicians to be honest.”