The Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos Archdiocese, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, has again, come down hard on the Muhammadu Buhari administration, accusing it of insincerity and insensitivity to cries of hunger in the country.
Speaking in an open letter to the President, Okogie said that Nigerians not only hunger for food but also for good leadership, peace, security and justice.
His words: “Last year, when you assumed office, the chant of ‘Change’, your campaign slogan, ushered you into the Presidential Villa. Today, cries of ‘hunger’ could be heard across the length and breadth of our vast country. Nigerians hunger, not only for food, but also for good leadership, for peace, security and justice. This letter is to appeal to you to do something fast, and, if you are already doing something, to redouble your effort.”
He added: “May it not be written on the pages of history that Nigerians died of starvation under your watch. As President, you are chief servant of the nation. I therefore urge you to live up to the huge expectation of millions of Nigerians. A stitch in time saves nine.”
The Archbishop Emeritus also took a swipe at the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), telling president “You and your party promised to lead the masses to the Promised Land. You offered to take the enormous task of leadership upon yourself. This is the second year of your administration. Nigerians are waiting for you to fulfill the promises you made during the campaign.”
Though Okogie commended the introduction of Town Hall Meetings as medium to communicate government’s activities to the citizenry, he faulted the manner of speeches and level of insincerity exhibited by public officers at the meetings.
According to Okogie, the president and his officials must be seen to converse with Nigerians and not trick them: “Even if your administration has no magic wand at least give some words of encouragement.
On this same score, please instruct your ministers, and insist that they be sincere and polite at those town meetings. Their sophistry will neither serve you nor Nigerians.
“Mr. President, if you want to leave a credible legacy come 2019, in all sincerity, please re-tool your administration. Change is desirable. But it must be a change for the better. Let this change be real. Change is not real when old things that we ought to discard refuse to pass away.”
Pointing the way forward, Okogie advised that the President needs to take a critical look at his cabinet, the policies and programmes of his administration, and at those who help to formulate and execute them.
He also frowned at the manner with which Buharit appointed public officials describing it as sectional: “It is true that commonsense dictates that you appoint men and women you can trust. But if most of the people you trust are from one section of the country and practice the same religion, then you and all of us are living in insecurity.”
Invariably, Okogies blamed the terrible state of the nation’s economy squarely on the political class pointing out: “We can no longer blame the turbulence on past administrations. You know quite well that some of the officials of your administration served in previous dispensations. Blame for what we have been experiencing is in fact bipartisan in character.”
Therefore, he suggested that the entire political class needs to come together, irrespective of party differences, to acknowledge its collective guilt and to seek ways of saving the sinking ship that our country has become.
According to Okogie, the time to revitalize moribund industries, reinvigorate our agriculture, make our country tourist and investor friendly, and enable our young men and women to find fulfillment by contributing to the common good, is now.
The Archbishop, however, called on immediate restoration of the rights of individual universities to use their own criteria to admit students into the institutions of higher learning.
“It is a gross violation of the principles of federalism and academic freedom for the Federal Government to insist that only a federal parastatal can decide on who gains admission into our universities. It is the role of the university senate, not of government bureaucrats, to decide on who gets admitted and who is awarded a certificate,” Okogie stressed.
He urged the president to listen to the legitimate cries of fellow citizens if he cared to succeed.
“Mr. President, pardon me if I sound like a gratuitous counselor. I owe you the truth and nothing but the truth. In my life as a public figure and a religious leader, I have offered my counsel, for whatever its worth, to quite a number of Presidents in this country.
“I do this because I desire that you succeed. For the success of the leader is the success of the citizens. If there is no solution to Nigeria’s problem there may be endless war.
“You strike one town, you gain it, and you come again to regain it. Remember that you cannot put a crown on your head. It is the people who put it on you. Otherwise one day, you will get tired of it,” he warned.