The chair of Romero Trust captured the heroic lifestyles of Archbishop Oscar Romero in a piece in which he took time to discuss the teachings of the illustrious cleric
President Muhammadu Buhari last week rebuked religious leaders for, in his words, poking their noses into political matters. He was certainly not abreast with the pride of place that a certain celebrated theologian Archbishop Oscar Romero has occupied in the pantheon of global history due to his profound deployment of the powers of personal examples and his consistent dispositions for speaking truth to power from his pulpits in El Salvador.
These weighty statements immediately sparked off a wild wind of controversies. Not necessarily because he made the comments to coincide with the top level successful fence mending mission in the home of Chief Obasanjo who recently openly rejected Buhari’s second term bid but for a variety of factors.
For some who took Buhari’s words with a pinch of salt, his comments lacked empirical support and foundation and is actually hypocritical going by his association for a long time with religious leaders of diverse affiliations.
From the benefit of hindsight too, the current president is known to have received high profile visitors from the two Nigeria’s dominant religious faith groups of Christianity and Islam. His repudiation of the religious leaders and his call on them to distance themselves from politics does not hold water.
Buhari is known to have made those scathing remarks against religious leaders against the backdrops of the media stories that trended in which two most respected religious leaders of both the Christian and Islamic faiths were seen negotiating truce between the erstwhile president chief Olusegun Obasanjo and his then erstwhile vice President Alhaji Abubakar Atiku.
Alhaji Atiku and Obasanjo have had running political battles since the days of their presidency during which time the then president almost dethroned his vice but for his resilience and his determined deployment of good team of lawyers who successfully secured a Supreme Court’s reprieve stopping his then estranged boss from sacking him from office when the then vice president defected to another party.
But as run up to the 2019 presidential poll hits up, the former Vice President who just picked up the presidential flag of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scored a significant milestone when his former boss who had parted ways with him was talked into reconciling with him (Atiku). This feat was occasioned by the interventions of Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah and Sheikh Abubakar Gumi.
Lest I forget, Nigeria’s most powerful and influential Pentecostal clergy Bishop David Oyedipo of the living faith church was indeed the third of the high powered religious celebrities that negotiated a successful truce between the two big political masquerades – Chief Obasanjo and Alhaji Atiku. Bishop Oyedepo is ranked by Forbes as one of the very few billionaire religious entrepreneurs in the World. He is extensively respected by millions of people all over the World. The deal ended up with a public endorsement of Atiku by Obasanjo even as the religious leaders smiled in approval. This move understandably caused tremendous political earthquake in the corridors of power whereby the current holder of the office of President Buhari, a retired military Major General a little lower in rank to Obasanjo desperately battles to retain his seat for a second and final tenure from 2019.
The media desk of President Buhari went haywire by carpeting all the important personalities that were seen at the venue of the historic political reconciliation which took place in the retirement mansion of the former president in Ota, Abeokuta, Ogun state. Not satisfied with the tirades released by his media boys, President Buhari went full throttle by criticizing religious leaders for mixing up politics and religion.
But only two days before this incident played out, president Buhari received in audience the head of the Deeper Life Bible Church Pastor Kumuyi even as his media team feasted on the photographs by circulating it in such a fashion as to create reactions from Christians who felt disappointed that one of the key Christian leaders visited Buhari and could not raise the issue of killing of Christians in North Central but was seen smiling from ear to ear. President Buhari fired his missile at religious leaders who get involved in politics but in a collective amnesia, his supporters forgot that he had only just received the pastor and other high profile Islamic
preachers who had gone to the Villa with the Kano state governor Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje on a goodwill visit.
However, in 2015, just before the election, a popular catholic priest in Enugu Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka had praised Buhari and urged Nigerians to vote for him. The then opposition candidate and current president expressed excitement at this endorsement. Mbaka was amongst the first sets of supporters that he hosted in the Presidential mansion in Abuja upon assumption of office. Away from the conversations around the criticism of religious leaders made by Buhari, what should worry us as Nigerians is the impact that the visits to Buhari make in the way the nation is administered. Is the nation governed in the fear of God and is equity and equality of all citizens being observed? What about the concentration of all strategic offices in the hands of Moslems and mostly Hausa/Fulani? This is exactly where the teachings and the power of personal examples displayed by Archbishop Oscar Romero should be internalized and externalized by the religious leaders in Nigeria. This is for the very reason that Nigeria currently is in turmoils and witnessing the type of human rights abuses and killings that took place in El Salvador when Romero who has just been canonized a saint, lived and worked as the voice of the poor. Julian Filochowski, the chair of Romero Trust captured the heroic lifestyles of Archbishop Oscar Romero in a piece in which he took time to discuss the teachings of the illustrious cleric which can be summed up as “option for the poor.”
Archbishop Romero was the voice of the voiceless poor. A life lived out in El Salvador, a Catholic country named after Christ the Saviour. A marksman’s bullet killed him in the middle of mass on March 24, 1980. No one was ever prosecuted. There was disbelief and despair across the land but especially in the poor communities amongst the simple rural folk and city dwellers he had loved so dearly, defended so courageously and for whom in the end he gave his life. In 1977 there was a Gethsemane experience for Romero. As he prayed beside the body of the murdered priest, Rutilio Grande, he realized that if he were to follow this through to its final consequences it would, as he wrote, “put me on the road to Calvary”.
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Onwubiko heads the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)