A stalwart of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, has said that for Nigeria’s democracy to grow and become a model to be emulated across the continent, politicians must desist from attacking clerics when they speak truth to power.
He said they must also stop encouraging their followers to do so.
Dr. Okonkwo, who made the call in a statement released to journalists in Abuja by the Dr. Obiora Okonkwo Media Office, and signed by him, said the recent attack on the Archbishop of Owerri, Most Reverend Anthony Obinna, by persons said to be supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state was embarrassing and condemnable.
Archbishop Obinna was recently embarrassed by a mob allegedly aligned to APC and the government of Rochas Okorocha, during a funeral service in Owerri North, Imo state.
Okonkwo said that though Archbishop Obinna has said he was not physically assaulted by the mob, “the development is still worrisome as it portrayed a situation of insecurity for clerics when they speak truth to power”.
He said the church is known to tell truth to power adding that the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has been consistent in speaking truth to leaders of the country since 1969. He said politicians should get bounded copies of all communiqués of the Bishop’s Conference since 1969 to see how consistent they have been in speaking truth to power.
“Whatever admonishment that Archbishop Obinna made to the political leadership in Imo state is consistent with the position of the Catholic Bishops during their visit to President Muhammadu Buhari which, from all indications, he took in good faith. It can also not be inconsistent with the homily of Cardinal John Onaiyekan at a holy mass that opened the first plenary of the Catholic Bishops Conference for 2018 held at the St. Gabriel Chaplaincy in Abuja in February.
“So, it is not only an assault on Archbishop Obinna, but an affront on all Catholic bishops and Catholic faithful for anyone to rise to challenge, or even seek to disrupt a church proceeding, because he disagreed with the truth which the Bishop is telling those in power.
“Our people should learn to fear God and respect his precepts. It is on record that the same Archbishop Obinna, who is under attack today by agents of a political party, has always spoken out against unjust government policies and decisions, including those of previous administrations in the state.
“If the message he preached then was sweet to the ears, how come it is now sour? The problem cannot be the Archbishop or the church. The problem lies in those to whom the truth has been told. They have to refrain from attacking ordained leaders of the church when they tell them the truth, or, even allowing their followers to do the same”, Okonkwo added.
He also urged those who may have offended the church in Imo state by the unwarranted attack on Archbishop Obinna, to use the opportunity of the Lenten season to seek forgiveness and reconcile with the church.
“This is lent. It is a period of reflection, reconciliation and forgiveness. I urge those behind this ignoble act to take advantage of the Lenten season to seek the face of God in confession and reconciliation”, he said.