“To remember nature, spend a day with the Shepherd; to remember yourself, spend a day with nature. Your mind is your Shepherd and if you have a wise Shepherd you will be safe throughout your life.”
– Mehmet Murat
Nigeria is really at her worst perilous time. Her hard earned democracy has now been swapped for gun trotting and arsonists feast in front of the ballot. Abuja, the nation’s capital, grinds to a solemn mood of deprivation and regrets. Across the states like Bayelsa and Kogi, citizens feel raped, naked and deprived of their constitutional and democratic rights. In that mixed up, laureates, intellectuals and tribal gangs that led Nigeria to the slaughter house have all taken the back seats, dazed by their own manufactured poison chalice and choked by the silence of the graveyard.
Still, it is in times like this that St. Paul in 2 Timothy imbibed us to endure for a moment and constantly keep our faith and hope alive, and wait patiently for the victorious crown. Paul in many instances also spoke about the workings and calling of a good Shepherd. Who, entrusted with the onerous task of safeguarding the flock, strive to guide, guard and protect all for the overall good. Today, the summation of all these teachings aptly captured the crowning and installation of Most Rev. Ignatius Ayua Kaigama as the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Metropolitan See. Kaigama’s appointment by the Catholic Pontiff, His Holiness, Pope Francis 1 after the meritorious service of His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan came at the nick of time.
Kaigama is coming at a time; the Catholic Church in Abuja, spearheaded by Onaiyekan had conquered many grounds even as new challenges spring up. Yet, the new Archbishop is in a familiar turf. The position of the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja is not merely a plumb post for evangelism and canonical sermons; it affords the occupant the moral duty and vintage position to be the unassailable voice that speaks truth to power. From the cradle days of late Dominic Cardinal Ekandem, to Onaiyekan, there has been no holds barr about the compelling duty to hold those with the levers of power in Abuja to account.
And because Abuja has sort of become a capital where only the rich gets spoil by stupendous national wealth and the paraphernalia of office, at the expense impoverished masses, the Abuja Church has strategically and always so, filled the void in defence of the poor. Kaigama’s track records, working with the poor, fostering inter-religious cooperation and peaceful co-existence all combined to make him a good fit. And although, Kaigama is ascending the leadership of Nigeria’s most strategic Ecclesiastical Province in a climate of discontent and political paralysis, his years of experience will surely help him to navigate the throne for the benefit of all.
At the Twelve Apostles Cathedral, Karsana, Kubwa Expressway, Abuja where Kaigama will be installed, Onaiyekan has a left a befitting legacy that will ever remain timeless in the annals of history. Kaigama will only focus on the beautification and aesthetics of the Cathedral, while concentrating on other areas of development. Those areas and gaps are legion: ranging from education, healthcare, humanitarian services, spiritual ad physical empowerment of members and many more.
But beyond being a voice and part of the critical compass that shepherd the church, Kaigama has his hands full already, even to the brim. Granted, the Abuja Church has become massive and wide spread, there is also the need to deepen its roots among the Gbagis(Gwaris) in the FCT and its environs. More so, the quest to build and consolidate on institutions is also imminent. Chief among them is the need for the Abuja church to intervene in rescuing Veritas University.
Being the host of Veritas University – a Catholic institution of learning, it is incumbent on the Abuja Metropolitan See to uplift the status of the university to global standards. There is need to improve the present infrastructure, funding and even manpower. The urgency of intervening in Veritas University arises from the fact that as a Catholic University in the nation’s capital, it is germane that the school becomes a strategic centre for scholarship, leadership training and the education of the children of the laity and the self development of the religious. Though the current management is doing its best, in its present condition, it’s doubtful if Veritas University can truly live up that billing.
While the Catholic Church remains a good example in the provision of quality education as exemplified by the Irish Missionaries in old Eastern Nigeria and other parts of the country, the proliferation of schools and their governance system leaves much to be desired. There should rather be a centralized system that regulates the establishment and running of schools, instead of each parish running her own show.
On healthcare, beside St. Mary’s Hospital, Gwagwalada, the Abuja Church has not done enough in the area of providing quality healthcare facilities as seen in other dioceses in the country. This is one area that requires the church’s intervention. It will go a long way to benefit the church and her members. It will also not be out of place if the church considers setting up skill acquisition and empowerment centres. This trend is already taking roots in some dioceses around the country. For instance, in Ogoja Diocese under Bishop Donatus Akpan, there are already entrepreneurial centres with bakery, factories and other ventures in line.
Of a truth, in putting forward these critical areas of needs, it does not in any way justify the abdication and dereliction of duty by government and the Nigerian political class. Or is it an attempt to rope in the church where the state has failed woefully. It is rather an intervention that the church needs to make, and urgently too – all for the sake of the downtrodden.
Instructively, Kaigama as the new Shepherd is more than capable and can be said to be a blessing to Abuja, for the laity, religious and the nation at large. As an intellectual and administrator, he has the requisite capacity to perform beyond expectations. We can therefore affirm that the church does no wrong – particularly in this instance and specifically in the choice of Kaigama as Abuja Archbishop.
Obi writes from Abuja