One of the things that the Nigerian Church has always been accused of, is her nonchalant attitude towards politics. In fact, she had always sat on the fence, claiming not to interfere with political activities. Such attitude has no doubt caused more harm than good, as any cleric that opened his mouth was reminded that he should be praying, and not speaking about politics in Nigeria. The clerics who speak up or out on Nigerian politics were often forced to keep silent and to desist from criticizing political decisions. The few moments that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria spoke out, they did so in somewhat timid, or even embarrassing, tone. In these years of democracy in Nigeria, apart from voices like that of Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop Kaigama and Bishop Hassan Kukah, many other prophetic voices were quenched and those who tried to go contrary to the widely accepted sit-down-and-observe decorum were either intimidated into silence.
However, the silence was broken in the case of this year’s election. It all started when a well-known Enugu Diocesan Priest, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, in his normal courageous manner, violated the seeming “silence code” of Nigerian clerics, by crying out against the way the nation was governed; the abandoning of the kidnapped Chibok Girls by the Federal Government; the insecurity in the Country, etc. His intervention made generated a lot of noise! While many people thought him too audacious, many personalities of the Nigerian Church distanced themselves from his openness. However, he did not feel intimidated, as he continued his prophetic denunciation of what he sees as wrong in Nigeria. Social media platforms relayed his words, and the Nigerian Church was awoken from her slumber.
Hence, during her last Meeting, the Catholic Bishop Conference issued a serious communiqué on the expectation of Nigerians. At this particular point, the political parties read the handwriting on the wall, and both the presidential candidates of the two prominent parties were forced to visit the Nigerian Catholic Bishops. During their visits, the bishops made it clear to the candidates, that the nation expects a lot from them.
Today, for the first time, we have had an election which could be said to have been very close to free and fair, and the Nigerian Church and her ministers had directly or indirectly contributed to it. It is no doubt a revolution in our history. The Church is expected to make use of this opportunity to take her place in Nigeria as the conscience of the nation, and conscience formator of Nigerian citizens.