Nigeria is grappling with a myriad of problems, ranging from insecurity, dwindling economy, political violence, among others. Concerned citizens and stakeholders have continued to speak on these issues, while also proffering solutions to achieve a better country.
In this interview with VIVIAN ONYEBUKWA, Catholic Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos, Most Rev Alfred Adewale Martins, bares his mind on the forthcoming elections and how the electorate can elect credible leaders in 2023. He also spoke on insecurity, urging all to join hands to end the ugly surge, stressing that security is everyone’s business.
As the 2023 general election approaches, what’s your advice to Nigerians?
Nigerians should engage with issues that are pertinent to the survival of the nation rather than ethnicity and religion while casting their votes. The forthcoming general election is a make-or-break kind of election as it presents an opportunity to make amends as a nation. Nigerians have a duty to take seriously this coming election. We must engage ourselves with the issues that are pertinent to the survival of this nation. We can’t be doing the same thing, year in, year out, and expect a different outcome. We must break free from what we’ve been fed with over the years and do something different. When they come to their campaigns, listen very closely to what the politicians have to say. Ensure that they are not just repeating the same old things that they use to say, going the same route that they are used to. Taking people for a ride and completely neglecting them. We must show interest in the ongoing political activities. We must listen to what they intend to do and how to go about it in order to ensure peace returns to the nation. Many of them are just repeating the old promises. We must listen to how they want to ensure insecurity is overturned and peace returns to Nigeria. If we have a leadership that gives everybody a sense of belonging wherever they are, we won’t be where we are.
In which manner and way should the politicians go about their campaigns?
Nigerians are under severe pressure from different angles, security, economic, and social. Indeed, we are at a very strong serious crossroad in our nation, and, there, we expect that those who intend to occupy political positions in our country should be aware of what are the real issues that Nigerians are facing. They should not only be aware but also have solutions to these problems that Nigerians are facing. When they are campaigning, it is important for them to tell us exactly how they intend to solve these problems. Economic problems are there. What kind of texts are they going to take to solve the problem? And which kind of people are they going to recruit in order to resolve this problem. Security issues are there, too. They need to tell us exactly what they are going to do. For the voters, I think it is important to remind ourselves that the voter’s cards that we have are the powers that we have to make a difference. Therefore, anyone who agrees to sell his or her voter’s card, is obviously mortgaging, not only his own future, but the future of his children and generations to come. In any case, if you sell your card, it means that you have no right to complain if the politicians don’t do what is good for us. I also want to encourage people to go and collect their cards. I was looking at the newspapers and there are millions of voter’s cards that are yet to be collected. So our people should pick their cards and be ready for when the elections come, and simply to ensure that you do not allow a bag of rice, or a can of oil, to be the determinant of who we vote for. Let us vote for people who truly have plans in salvaging this country. Please, let us do what is necessary to get our voters cards ready so that we can join and do what is necessary. Yes, we may not have the kind of federal republic that we have now. We want a new structure, but this is what we have now; I ask that we should not allow anything to stop us from doing the needful as far as elections are concerned.
Youths are usually used by the politicians to cause mayhem during elections. What can you tell them?
Any young person who is being recruited to participate in thug activities needs to ask whoever is recruiting them, where is the name of their child, cousins, and family members? If they don’t have the names of their family members, that is why they should not allow themselves to be used for the destruction of life. If the youths allow themselves to be used, they are mortgaging their own future, because democracy is supposed to lead to a better life. So, if they are allowing the wrong people to get into office by acts of thuggery, the young people are mortgaging their future, and not preparing a rosy future for themselves.
What’s your take on INEC?
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should ensure that all eligible voters are able to vote, especially as it relates to people who may have moved locations. There is a strong temptation for us to say that our past efforts at voting did not make our day-to-day lives better; so, why do we need to waste our time again? The temptation is to throw up our hands and surrender, but I urge you not to do that. Challenges to our national and individual lives should not stop us from making the due preparations to take part in the election that is to come.
As you noted, the state of insecurity in the country is becoming alarming. What do you think is the cause?
The heightened situation of insecurity and kidnappings is worrisome, which can be traced to a lack of good governance over time. One can’t sleep with two eyes closed, even when you are at home; on the roads, you are wondering what’s going on. Wherever you are, there’s just not that peace of mind that one expects to get in a country such as ours. This I believe can be traced to the fact that our country has been devoid of good governance over time and we’ve not had the kind of leadership that assists the people to have the peace of mind that we desire.
How can religious leaders help to ensure that there is security in the country?
Generally, the job of securing the nation belongs to the security forces —Police, Army, Civil Defence, etc. It is their primary duty, and we expect that, with all the training that they have, the equipment at their disposal, they can secure the situation. However, we know that security is a task that the citizens have to cooperate by giving information to the security forces, and the security should ensure that the information that people give are not used against them, but rather used in order to secure the nation better. Religious leaders can only simply appeal to their followers to volunteer information when they have, and also themselves to be alert for whenever there is any sort of unusual movement, and unusual persons around, so that, together with the security forces, they will be able to secure it.
The 2023 budget has been sent to the National Assembly. What can you say about it?
We don’t have the full details of what President Muhammadu Buhari, has presented to the National Assembly for approval. But we expect that the National Assembly, being the representatives of people, should be sensitive to various problems that Nigerians are facing. The area of education is one that should not be neglected anymore. Nigeria is spending so little on education, and so much on governance. I think it is the wrong way around. We need to spend more money in ensuring that we educate our young people, rather than spend more money oiling the wheels of the government. I believe it is necessary for a reversal. Again, of course, security is there. If those ones have been taken care of, the members of the National Assembly should do oversight over the implementation of the budget when it is eventually passed.