From Obinna Odogwu, Awka
The Archbishop of the Province of the Niger and Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Alexander Ibezim, has called on the government at all levels to urgently address the myriads of problems afflicting Nigerians.
He said that aside from the insecurity in the country, hunger is dealing seriously with the people.
He advocated that the local government system should be strengthened, pointing out that would help to tackle the problem of insecurity in the country. Excerpts:
The Department of State Security (DSS) warned high profile Nigerians to be more careful this period as terrorists, bandits and their likes have made them objects of target. About 24 hours later, a lawmaker was killed in Kaduna by bandits and a monarch kidnapped in Imo State. Looking at the bad security situation in Nigeria today, do you not think that the Federal Government has failed this country, security-wise?
When it comes to the issue of security, we have to be careful because security, inasmuch as the government is in charge of security, but it is also the duty of everybody to be part of security. That is why the way Nigeria is, it is important that everybody must play a role. Traditional rulers must play their role; presidents-general must play their role; and this reminds me; that is why the local government structure is very important in Nigeria. You find out that for a long time when the local government collapsed in Nigeria, a lot of things started going very negatively because for government to be effective there must be a structure that is close to the people. You may not know how a system shoots itself in the leg. And we see what is resurrecting in Nigeria. Staying in Abuja to give order is not enough to solve the present day problem in Nigeria. So, I advocate that Nigeria as a nation should go back to the local government structure. There is a need to strengthen the local government because it is very close to the various towns and communities. And even create more. And so, it becomes a corporate affair or matter because when you stay in the state capital and then the police commissioner is in the state capital and the governor is also in the state capital, then.… You need to be close to the people in order for security to be effective. And that is what we see happening all over the country today. So, there is a need to revisit areas that have been neglected. And the earlier that is done, the better it will be for our nation.
During the meeting of the Joint Council of Knight (JCK), the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of all Nigeria raised the alarm over an alleged plot to Islamize Nigeria. He, however, made it clear that that agenda would fail. Do you agree with him? Again, do you see the insecurity in the country as part of that strategy being deployed to Islamize Nigeria?
I am not a security officer. There are questions that the people in security will answer better. What I know is that persecution in this country did not start today. It started long ago. Inasmuch as we watch trends of events, it is when you don’t nip something in the bud when it starts in a little way then it grows, naturally. That is why I advocate that we don’t allow problems to overstretch before we start solving it. When you see a little problem beginning to arise, let us be focused. And that was why I advocated for this local government structure; effective local government structure, state police. Assuming now that the state has police, and the state police are in every local government area, tell me why we will witness what we are witnessing today. But some people can be afraid of state police because they think that if there is a state police, a particular region might decide to declare that they’re not part of the country, but you see that such fears cannot arise; the reason being that we have watched ourselves, look at us, since independence we are still where we are. So, if you see that something is not working, you adjust to something that will work. So, if you are a family and then a particular method is not working in your family, will you be watching and die with that? And then your children will inherit that method. So, that is why we have to be very careful. So, the earlier we do the correct things, the better for us so that our nation will be a healthy place.
But Your Grace do you share in the opinion of the Primate concerning the alleged plot to Islamize the country?
If the Primate has said so, he knows why he said it. Once the Primate speaks, he speaks on our behalf, okay?
A lot has been said about the fuel subsidy and the Federal Government’s plan to increase the pump price to over N300. What view do you hold about fuel subsidy removal and other issues surrounding it?
The way to survive in Nigeria; if you keep on looking at the government and its policies, then you will die of high blood pressure. But as a church leader, I am even appealing to the government. We are very close to the people. Unfortunately, some legislators are not really close to the people. We in the church, we are the ones that are really close to the congregation. When you see a large congregation, about 2,000 people are sitting whereas 1,800 are hungry among the 2,000. It doesn’t make sense. So, they have to review that fuel subsidy stuff. They must look at it. In the markets, things are now very costly. It does produce what we call a multiplier effect. Once you add that money or you remove that subsidy, then everybody will start adding money to their products and services. Now, a bag of cement, I learnt, has gone up to N4,500 in this Anambra State. Can you imagine that? Does it mean that people like you cannot build a two-bedroom house? The point I am trying to make is that the government must find a way, even before they start doing certain things, it is not only consulting the legislators, let them ask us. We are closer to the people. We pray for them. In this Anambra State, I know how it pinches. A lot of people, a lot of families are suffering. So, when they do it and there is a mass revolution and then people begin to stay on the main road and say that they will not leave until things change, they start appealing to us to tell people. But this is the time to do the right thing. They shouldn’t allow the prices of things to get worse than what it is now. In fact, they should find a way to bring those prices down. Inflation must come down. Whatever metrics they will use, let them go and device it. After all, if the citizens are not there, who are you governing or ruling?
Governor Willie Obiano is rounding off his second term in office. It does appear that a lot of people are assessing his government based on their political leaning. But as a man of God, we want to know your assessment of that administration that is winding down?
There is nobody that is perfect. Willie Obiano is going to complete his eight years exactly on March 17, 2022. There are areas he has done well and we must commend him for that. Don’t forget that we are now enjoying the international cargo and passenger airport he built. So, if there are areas that Governor Obiano has not done well, I think that he has compensated with that international airport. You can imagine the state that produced the first president of Nigeria, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe of blessed memory; the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, and others. So, are we not qualified to have an airport since 1960? Even, are we not qualified that Onitsha will have a seaport? We have suffered. The suffering now is becoming generational suffering, so you transfer it from one generation to the other. So, God has used Governor Obiano to break that jinx. So, our people can fly out from our airport here in Anambra State. And it is something to behold. When the Elders’ Council visited that place, we walked round the airport and it was well built. It is one of the best airports in Africa and we are very proud of him. I commend the governor for such. He has left a legacy. And so, I appeal to the people, for the areas he has not done well, let them use that airport to forgive him. And also in the area of security, I think in the area of security, even though we were battered, but we were not killed. They should address areas that are touching the people. The incessant killings within Awka and its environs, government should look at it and pacify the people. I appeal to the people to please love one another. I am talking about it as a church leader. All those various groups, I am appealing to you; I am also praying for you, that God may have mercy on you. It’s a special appeal. So, I appeal to Ndi Anambra, the areas the governor has not done well, we pray for the incoming government, let them consolidate on those areas, build more roads, solidify those roads and then create jobs for our youths and then everybody will be happy.
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