Tension in LACMO as election holds September 28

Tension in LACMO as election holds September 28

…Fears of Imposition of Candidates may Mare Process
…Aigbokhaode calls for caution

There is mounting fear that after about one year of anxious waiting for the election of officers to pilot the affairs of the Lagos Archdiocesan Catholic Men Organisation (LACMO) for the next four years, the election may be marred by speculated imposition of candidate and domination of key offices by a certain deanery.

This is as the outgoing president of the organisation, Mr John Aigbokhaode, has cautioned members who are interested in elective positions and deaneries who want their members to occupy strategic offices to adhere strictly to the provisions of LACMO constitution.

LACMON Extraordinary General meeting for Elections has been scheduled for Saturday, 28th September, 2019 at St. Leo’s Catholic Church, Ikeja.  Starting with Mass by 10am, the meeting is to be hosted by the Vicar, Msgr. John K Aniagwu.

A notice released by the public Relations Officer of the organisation, Mr Uchenna Ezeoke, “Each Deanery is expected to participate with 10 delegates only, for the elections. A list of the delegates should be forwarded to the secretariat of the ADC CMO endorsed by the Deanery Coordinator and Chaplain, in the Deanery’s headed paper on or before Sunday 22nd of September, 2019.”

“Please note that delegates whose names have been submitted cannot be swapped. The Deanery will have to make do with the remaining delegates in case of the absence of a nominated delegate,” he went further to worn.

It will be recalled that the election which was to hold late last year was postponed due to tensions generated by speculated imposition of key officers by some influential individuals in the organisation and hijacking of key offices by Maryland Deanery which has produced all serving Presidents of the Organisation since inception.

This allegedly led to a hasty review of the constitution of the organisation a few weeks to the scheduled election in 2018; an action firmly resisted by some key individuals and deaneries led by Isolo and Apapa Deaneries. Isolo Deanery is reputed to be the most populous deanery in the Archdiocese with 17 parishes.

It was the tension generated by these allegations in 2018 that led to the extension of the tenure of office of the John Aigbokhaode led administration by one year in order to quell the ensued tension.

With the election rescheduled for September 28, 2019, nothing seem to have changes as the fears that marred the 2018 election seem to have resurrected.

Although secret alignments, horse-trading among individuals and deaneries; and campaigns have been going on, open campaign of bitterness, rancour and acrimony came into manifestation on the popular Catholic Men Community social media platform, recently, prompting some words of caution from the President, Mr John Aigbokhaode.

His words: “My attention was drawn on Saturday to some postings on this platform and I had to call the authors privately and counsel them against such post. However, by yesterday evening when I returned to the platform I was amazed by the degree of degeneration I met with some bordering on blasphemy. 

“I am surprised that because of our desire to have it our way, we chose to rubbish the integrity and reputations of those we elected to serve us in the EXCO of LACMON. They’re no longer people with any level of responsibilities but those who either misinform or just take dictation from the Chaplain.

“This platform is for passing information and Shall NEVER replace the official meeting and communication channels of CMON. Where decisions of an organisation are not in line with your expectations, you turn to your representatives for explanations. The statements being posted here indicates that such has not been done. Every leader present in the last EXCO meeting will feel insulted by the kind of language and postings I have been reading.

“CMON is not a political or cultural organisation. There are provisions in our constitution that guides activities of the EXCO and there are provisions that empower the Chaplain and the Archbishop. When we speak without looking at those provisions we are campaigning, and that is not allowed on this platform.

“If you want to query the decisions reached please follow the right channels. If you want to Campaign please go and create your own platform because we will remove anyone that brings up that issue here again. 

“Election dates have been fixed and there’s no official communication from the EXCO giving any list of Candidates or barring any one from contesting. Similarly, it will be irresponsible of any leadership of an Organisation of this nature if they don’t have an idea of the kind of people they want to see as their leaders. Anyone is free to aspire to lead an organisation, and should therefore put machinery in place to satisfy their ambitions. Nothing the EXCO has done that prohibit this.

“But know it that this platform is not available for campaign or as an alternative to our Parish, Deanery, Archdiocese EXCO and General Meetings and we will remove anyone that decides to turn it to such,” the President cautioned.

Although some deaneries are maintaining that the Presidency of the organisation should be zoned to them, Mr Aigbokhaode maintains that the man who would be intrusted with piloting the affairs of the organisation must be “A level-headed person who is as soft as wool and tough as steel. He must be a stinker for good corporate Governance. We must continue to practice it at the centre and enforce it down the hierarchy.”

Reacting to the confusion and bickering that trails CMO elections, former National President of the organisation, Chief Ernest Emeka Asoegwu said, “This has to do with the nature of the persons in office, the way they think and reason. Any right thinking person that finds himself in a position of leadership should see it as an opportunity to serve and it is an opportunity that rarely comes twice. The first things that should occupy the minds of leaders are why they are in office and what legacies they would leave behind. A leader who leaves office should be remembered for the right reasons.”

“But most times what is noticed is that many leaders when they are about leaving offices would want to impose their friends on the organisation as leaders, many of whom would not be able to perform. But if an incumbent allows the people to choose the best among them, some of those challenges will not be there. All the bickering – wrangling, backbiting, squabbling – that go on with elections are natural. It happened even among the apostles of Christ when they talked about who was the greatest. Every leader must remember that verse of the Bible that admonishes that to be a leader one must be a servant.

“Any leader who sees himself a servant would not want to do anything wrong or commit any fraud while in office. Fraud does not always have to do with misappropriation of funds, but may involve stepping on toes, breaking of laws, amending the constitutions to favour preferred candidates etc. All these are fraudulent activities. Hastily amend the constitution on election guidelines when a leader is about leaving office is fraudulent. A leader who is leaving office can draw his guidelines and make recommendations on constitution amendment in his hand over notes for incoming administration to consider, but not hastily implementing it. Any leader who sees the need for constitution amendment while in office should start the process early enough and not at the tail-end of his administration. That leads to suspicion and confusion,” Chief Asoegwu went further to say..

He enjoined members to always endeavour to choose the right candidates for any given position.

“A man who cannot move himself cannot move others. A good leader must have the drive to create programmes that will touch the lives of members positively. Ones record of achievements at the parish level is what should be considered when selecting him for an office at the deaneries; and up to dioceses and provinces,” he stated.

Catholic Bishops celebrate Owerri Archdiocese

Catholic Bishops celebrate Owerri Archdiocese

By Chidi Nkwopara Owerri

The Imo State capital, played host to no fewer than 25 Catholic Bishops, including the Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, and hundreds of priests, tthe religious and lay faithful.

They were all in Owerri for the silver jubilee celebration of the inauguration of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province and installation of Most Rev. Dr. Anthony J. V. Obinna, as the Metropolitan of the Province, comprising Orlu, Okigwe, Umuahia, Aba, Ahiara and Owerri.

This date, in the previous years, was celebrated as the Owerri Archdiocesan Day. Put simply, the Owerri Archdiocesan Day is an annual event, which primarily recalls the 1994 elevation of the Catholic Diocese of Owerri, to an Archdiocese, and to the position of Metropolitan See within the Ecclesiastical Province.

While establishing the Owerri Archdiocesan Day, Dr. Obinna emphasised what he called “the inculturative thrust” of its programme of activities.

His words: “Given the need to welcome the Good News of salvation, into the intimacy of our lives and Igbo culture, special prominence would be given to the Igbo language, through an annual series of lectures by Igbo scholars, in the Igbo language.

Photo: Representatives of the Catholic Bishops in a group photograph with Governor Emeka Ihedioha and some government functionaries, in Government House, Owerri.

Archbishop Obinna also opined that the symbiotic relationship between true worship of God and the cherishing of genuine human values, which the festivities and the lectures seek to orchestrate, is thereby anchored and strengthened.

On arrival, one of the first port of call was the Government House, where representatives of the Catholic Bishops, paid a courtesy call on Governor Emeka Ihedioha.

The Governor used the opportunity to not only welcome his guests to Owerri, but also assured them of their safety, throughout their stay in the state.

For Governor Ihedioha, it was a thing of joy that the Archdiocesan silver jubilee celebration came in his time as Governor of Imo State.

He reiterated his promise to govern the state with the fear of God, as well as upholding the rule of law, accountability, transparency and independence of the three arms of government.

Preaching the sermon that can rightly be said to summarize the feelings of the Bishops at a concelebrated Pontifical Mass, the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka, Most Rev. Godfrey Igwebuike Onah, said that today, Nigerians expect so much of their Bishop’s.

His words: “In the darkness and gloom that have enveloped our country, many are looking expectantly at the Church for a ray of hope, however faint. Whether it is about the perceived Islamiztion and Fulanization of the country, or about the current effort of the Federal Government to stifle every form of opposition, people are asking: What is the Church doing? And by the Church, they simply mean Catholic Bishops.

“But I ask: What else can the Bishops do that they have not done already? The Bishops have prayed and continued to pray for Nigeria. The Bishops have spoken clearly and consistently against bad governance, from the time of military dictatorship, when the voice of the Church was the only one that could not be silenced, till today, when military dictatorship has returned in another form.

“The Bishops have expressly stated that this country is in trouble. The Bishops have told the government repeatedly that the only way out of this catastrophe that is about to happen in this country is justice and fairness: respect for those parts of the Constitution that are just and fair; amendment of those parts of the Constitution that were so framed as to favour parts of the country, either geographically or religiously.

“This country is experiencing deterioration on a daily basis and our people are loosing confidence in themselves. There is a decay of infrastructure and near total collapse of security. All these have been pointed out by the Catholic Bishops on several occasions. What have the Bishops not said?

“At the peak of insecurity in this country, the Bishops candidly advised the President to resign since he could no longer provide protection to the lives and properties of Nigerians. Repeatedly, the Bishops have engaged every president of this country.

“But what about our Christians, including our Catholics, who are in government? There are card-carrying Catholics in all the political parties that have ruled Nigeria since the return to democracy. What have these Catholics or Christian members of the ruling parties done to translate into concrete action the indications that the Bishops have given? Bishops have marched the streets in prayer and protest. Bishops have taken the government to court in some states. The only thing that we have not done and will never do is to incite our people to violence, because that would be wrong.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria needs to know that our youths are losing confidence in the peaceful and non-violent way we are proposing. And I will like to state clearly that today, out of respect for Archbishop Anthony Obinna, who has been foremost in speaking out in defence of good governance both in his state and in the country, that the current Federal Government of Nigeria will hold itself responsible if it refuses to listen to the voice of reason and the calamity we all fear will befall our dear country.”

Continuing, Bishop Onah said that the Islamization and Fulanization project has gone beyond being a hidden agenda, for it is now being implemented openly and with impunity.

“But then, there is a limit to the extent to which the people can be oppressed without their reaction to the oppression. We therefore appeal to all those in government at different levels in this country, to remember that they are there to serve all the people in Nigeria”, Onah said. The celebration was rounded off with the Odenigbo Lecture, delivered by a university don, Rev. Fr. Longinus Chinagorom.

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FG seeks collaboration with India over on skills acquisition

FAITH AND POLITICS

FAITH AND POLITICS

By Very Rev. Monsignor Livinus Ukah

The Christians who live in today’s world always bear in mind what Jesus said “If you want to be a disciple of mine, you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me”. The political climate at Jesus time was very intense and polarized. To work in a polarized world needs faith-filled people, strong like Jesus to help to dismantle social structures that dislocate humanity.

We know how the early Christians suffered in carrying the ‘’Cross’’ dying for truth and living amid mysteries of human life. They spoke eloquently in the midst of evil and alienation of people. Their concerns for the people and eloquent testimonies and lifestyles could breed explosive social discontent for those who want to remain the same in governance and continue to oppress the people. Governance should be therapeutic; heal people, caring for the people by making sure that there is peace and food in the land. 

We must know that the church is superior to the state because its authority comes from God but the church and the state should work together because the church has special vocation from God. So the church and the state should cooperate to enforce more moderate, realistic and moral demands on the society at large.

The church’s divine authority is immense that it can coerce a government that lacks moral compass. The responsibilities that lie on the Christians are many and so they must first of all be just in their lives and must confront issues of injustices in the society.  They live and liberate the oppressed. Where secular authority violates human rights and jails people unjustly the church must speak.  Christians filled with faith must know that no power is allowed to violate human rights or is allowed to make draconian laws that upset God’s plan for his people .What is happening in Nigeria is  atrocious, insecurity everywhere. Muslims should cooperate with the Christians to bring peace and justice to mankind. 

Indonesia has the largest population of Muslims in the world but the live in peace with people. Why not us in Nigeria?

Christians are called to raise their voices against injustice in the society, eliminate injustice, reduce poverty and bring peace. They should make sure that people are allowed to participate in the economic, political and cultural life of the country. It is unfair for any individual to prevent one from participating in politics. Catholic Priests are not allowed to participate in partisan politics because of its duplicities but other churches allow their pastors to join politics but we have never seen them perform better than ordinary politicians in politics. We want people who can bring value to the system and create hope for the people. 

Politics is not meant only for the elite and money bags. Human society must be regulated properly to have harmony and avoid violence. Security of life must be assured Christians must always use the Gospel values to sanitize the society to make sure that social justice is maintained. Seriously, the Christians must make sure they do not sell their rights to proclaim the values of Jesus at political positions but speak to power that the dignity of human persons is safe-guarded in the country for there is constant abuse of human rights all over. They should change the unjust structures as the early Christians did and not minimize the value of justice. Our faith should not be dormant and we should use our faith values to fight in the social world.

Christian faith can help to restore humanity heading to ruin. It can bring justice to humanity by calling evil by its name.

The Catholic Church and I

The Catholic Church and I

George Ibechozo on Facebook

I am a dyed in the wool Catholic. I was born in it, baptized in it as an infant and grew up in it. I went to a Catholic primary school, sang in the choir and from there went to a Catholic secondary school. In the university, I remained a Catholic! At sixty something years and still counting, I have remained in there: an ardent Catholic!

Now one of the very things that has kept me here as a Catholic is the intellectual foundation of this church. More than anything else, the survival  of this gathering over a thousand years, sometimes mired in stress, antagonism, backbiting, dictatorship, coups, outright power tussles etc. can only be traced to the Church’s intellectual foundation. Make no mistake about this: the Catholic Clergy throughout history has been led by brilliant people. The likes of me are fascinated by brilliant people and not the wishy-washy characters that shout about Holy Ghost fire!

Now: “for thou art Peter, upon this rock…” As usual, those reading this may jump into their own interpretation. But I have mine, a solid one. The rock is the solid foundation of structures! When you build a structure, there is a process, a method. In this case, the foundation is “the Word”. And this word is intellectual. Hey am I making sense here? Haha ha! It is this intellectual creativity of “the word” that my Church is built. And it saved it. This is also why the United States of America has remained a world power. More than 200 years, the piece of writing known as the constitution of the union has remained the solid rock of American democracy! Talk about the word: “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….”  Hey this was God’s instruction from the very beginning?

Now from what I am noticing these days, the Catholic Church is fast losing this intellectualism. Some young priests behave as if they underwent a crash programme to become ordained! These priests who operate mostly in the villages in the midst of poverty want to outdo the so called “Pentecostal” pastors in theatrics and hypnotism! Last Sunday I beheld, spell bound, as a young priest displayed the abracadabra of a magician: ordering the congregation to clap for Jesus, wave, shout, kneel, and mutter in the spirit, groan…Holy Ghost fire! He led his congregation through a long spell of chanting, and so called spirit search and the poor things were shouting approval urging him on! The Mass that should not take 1hr, 30 minutes was dragged to 4 hours!

But my question is this: if the “Pentecostal” mode of worship is now the in thing, why dont we go to where the thing is properly done? This poor imitation looks to me very counterfeit. Very soon people like me will stay away from “Aja Missa” and look for where the shouting is awesome and original!

Researchers say malaria can be eradicated by 2050

Researchers say malaria can be eradicated by 2050

A team of researchers, in a new report, have said that the world could be free of malaria by 2050.

The researchers added that wiping out the disease-causing parasite would probably require extra annual funding of about $2bn.

They noted that the British Broadcasting Corporation’s claim that the world had already made huge progress against malaria since 2000 was largely due to widespread access to ways of preventing mosquito bites, such as treated bed nets and better drugs for treating infected people.

One of the study authors, Dr Winnie Mpanju-Shumbusho, said, “Despite unprecedented progress, malaria continues to strip communities around the world of promise and economic potential. This is particularly true in Africa, where just five countries account for nearly half of the global burden.”

The report, published in The Lancet, was commissioned by the World Health Organisation three years ago to assess its feasibility and how much it would cost.

Another study author, Sir Richard Feachem, said, “For too long, the eradication of malaria has been a distant dream, but now we have evidence that malaria can and should be eradicated by 2050. This report shows that eradication is possible within a generation.”

Feachem, however, warned that it would take bold action to achieve this goal.

“Eradication of malaria by 2050 will require current technologies to be used more effectively and the development of new ways of tackling the disease. This could include the game-changing potential of gene-drive technologies,” the report says.

The Chairman of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, King Mswati III of Eswatini, said, “Malaria eradication within a generation is ambitious, achievable and necessary.

“The struggle has been constant to keep up with the malaria mosquito and the parasite, both of which are evolving to evade the effect of malaria interventions. We must make sure that innovation is prioritised,” he said.

The report estimates that about $4.3bn is spent on the treatment and prevention of malaria every year at the moment. It will need $2bn a year to rid the world of malaria by 2050.

The authors also noted the cost of business as usual, in terms of loss of lives and the constant struggle against the malaria parasite and mosquitoes getting more resistant to drugs and insecticides.

Bishop Oyejola Advocates Harnessing the Gift of Youth for Common Good

Bishop Oyejola Advocates Harnessing the Gift of Youth for Common Good

Harnessing the gifts of youths can be very beneficial to the evangelization of the mission of the Church and the common good of humanity, if properly utilised, the Catholic Bishop of Osogbo Diocese, Most Rev. John Oyejola has asserted.

Bishop Oyejola who is the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) Youth Committee Chairman made this remark when delivering the keynote address at the four-day workshop seminar organized by the Youth Office of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN). The programme was part the Nigeria Church response to the outcome of the report of the 2018 Synod of Bishops on Youth, held in Rome; and the subsequent Apostolic Exhortation on the synod – ChristusVivit, by the Holy Father, Pope Francis.

The programme which took place at the Archbishop Obiefuna Retreat Centre, Awka, Anambra State, with Young People, The Faith and Vocational Discernment as its theme; was attended by delegates of all the youth group of the Church in Nigeria, and presentations made of various related topics to the team by experts in different fields of human endeavour. Speakers at the programme included the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Most Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah whose paper was premised on Thoughts on Catholic Youths participation in Nigerian Politics.

Noting that the unique resources of the youth can help define their roles in creating a good future for the Church, the Bishop Chairman expressed the desire for the maximisation of this special gifts of the youth for the benefit of the Church and the common good. Bishop Oyejola contended that: “If well managed, the talents, enthusiasms and vigour of the youths can be veritable tools in the hands of the Church to achieve magnificent things for God.”

He however pointed out that: “The problem most times is that the potential of young people in the Church are overlooked and dismissed on the grounds that they are impetuous, ignorant and unworthy of serious responsibility”; adding that if the youths are well guided, “God can use their impetuousness and “ignorance” to achieve great things.”

The bishop stated further that what the Church presently needs is to learn new and better ways of journeying with young people, listening and reaching out to them, without being judgemental and empowering them to make positive contributions to the mission of the Church as well as in their lives. He added that they must be encouraged to embrace a life of holiness and hard work and make them effective agents in the spiritual and pastoral life of the Church, particularly as agents of evangelization among their peers.

While advocating the need for everybody involved in the Church to acknowledge the special gifts the youths possess and put to them to use,  Bishop Oyejola who outlined the ten most challenges facing the present-day youths, urged them  to be closer to God in prayer and take their faith seriously; be disciplined and  be morally upright. His words: “A person without a sense of values will be worthless in the society.  At this point in our national history, things are extremely difficult, you must not be tempted to give up until you overcome all the challenges in your path to greatness.” The bishop added: “As noted by a wise man: “You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself.” To succeed in any noble venture you have to take 100% personal responsibility for everything you experience in life.” 

Nigeria needs Justice, fairness – Bishop Onah

Nigeria needs Justice, fairness – Bishop Onah

…Says “Islamization and “Fulanization” project already in implementation

The Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Most Rev. Prof. Godfrey IgwebuikeOnah, has said that Nigeria needs Justice, fairness and good governance to surmount her challenges. He said Christians in Nigeria, especially Catholic faithful, must exhibit the Christian virtue of selfless service to humanity and avoid power tussle which he said is setting the people apart.

The Catholic prelate, who decried what he described as a partial constitution drafted to favour a certain part of the country, also said that the “Islamization and “Fulanization” project has gone beyond being a hidden agenda, for it is now being implemented openly and with impunity.”

Bishop Onah gave the statement during a Homily preached at the Silver Jubilee Thanksgiving Mass of Most Rev. Anthony John Valentine ChiedozieObinna, Archbishop of Owerri, at Maria Assumpta Cathedral, Owerri on Thursday 5th September 2019.

According to him, Archbishop of Owerri has been in the forefront of preaching against injustice and bad governance in the country.

He said although the Christian bishops have never failed to respond to the call by the people to always speak up against injustice and bad governance, but the people themselves must equally exhibit selfless service to humanity just as Jesus enjoined all Christians to always do.

He said Archbishop Obinna always stands on truth and also preaches truth, fairness and justice despite persecutions.

According to him, “Archbishop Obinna uses every means at his disposal to proclaim the liberating truth of the Gospel – (welcome or unwelcome) in season and out of season, reproving, rebuking and encouraging his brothers and sisters, always with patience and sound teaching (cf. 2 Tim 4: 2). He has been heckled and harassed even in the Church while at the service of the truth for the benefit of God’s people.”

Below is the full homily:

“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves… I am among you as one who serves” (Lk 22: 25-26)

Today we join the Bishops, the Clergy, the members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Laity of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province in giving thanks to God for his many blessings in the past 25 years since the creation of the Province.

Understandably, the thanksgiving celebrations have been planned in stages, in order to give us time to pause awhile and reflect on the various dimensions of the great things the Lord has done for and in his people in this quarter of a century.

Today, our attention is focused on the blessings we have received in and through the person, the life and the ministry of our Archbishop and the Metropolitan of Owerri Province, Archbishop Anthony John Valentine ChiedozieObinna.

Our thanksgiving reflection today, guided by the Word of God that has just been proclaimed to us, intends to be a simple reminder that the Bishop, like every Priest and Deacon, is ordained to serve; it equally intends to invite all of us to thank God for the various ways in which Archbishop Obinna has sincerely tried all these years to lead the People of God through service.

Although we sometimes sing the “Ecce sacerdosmagnus” for living and serving Bishops (the hymn was originally the introit for the Mass of pastors and confessors who are already saints), given that the text is in the past tense, it would seem that the proper time to sing it would be after the death of the Bishop. For it is only then that it can be affirmed that “in his days he (did what) was pleasing to God” (“onye mere ihena-asoChinekemgbe o na-achi”).

Our prayer is that those who will be there when the lifeless body of Archbishop Anthony Obinna will be lying before the altar will then be able to sing “Ecce sarcedos magus” with a clear conscience, as did the homilist at the funeral of the Servant of God, Bishop Michael UgwujaEneja.

Looking at the life of the majority of Christians down through the ages, one is often left to wonder how seriously we take our own religion. If one were to summarize in a few words what Christianity is all about, one could say that it is a way of life characterized by love, which is expressed through self-sacrificing service of neighbour.

Unlike the other religious leaders of his time, our Lord Jesus Christ taught and demonstrated that true worship of God does not consist in keeping a set of rules or performing determinate ritual actions, but rather in loving God and neighbour, to the point of giving one’s life for one’s friends – “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love… Greater love has no one than this that one gives one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15: 9-13). All the teachings and actions of the Church are meant to make people embrace this way of life and live it out in action.

It is therefore sad to note that some of the Church’s administrative and pastoral actions, which are meant to bring Christ’s Gospel of love nearer to the people, like the creation of new Ecclesiastical Provinces, Dioceses and Parishes, as well as the appointment of Bishops and Parish Priests, often turn out to become causes of struggle, quarrel, intrigues, slander, divisions and “genetically transmitted” resentment. On a Jubilee day like this, we have a sacred responsibility of asking ourselves why this is so.

What have we as Christians done with positions of leadership, whether in the Church or in the larger society, that has made people forget that such positions are for service? What body language, what manner of leadership, from Bishops has lead people now to talk of “struggling for the bishopric” or some priests positioning or posturing to be made bishops (even though that is a futile exercise)? What have we done with our positions of service that now makes even members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life (Religious Priests, Sisters and Brothers) struggle and manoeuvre to be made Superiors General? People hardly ever struggle to serve.

The struggle is usually for power and personal gain. It is my opinion that those who struggle and campaign to be made heads of the various bodies in the Church (clerical or lay) should never get it, because most likely, such persons are not seeking the positions in order to serve but for some other personal or selfish reasons.

Christians have carried the same attitude over to public life. How many of our public servants are really servants in the true sense of the word – including the Christians in public service? Are our civil servants actually serving us in public offices? Not minding that minister is just the Latin word for servant, how many of our ministers really see themselves and act as servants – including the Christians among them? “The leader among you must be the one who serves.”

The late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua appeared on the Nigerian leadership horizon like a meteor. When at his inauguration as the 13th President of Nigeria he promised to be a servant-leader, Nigerians were ecstatic and immediately fell in love with the man. It was as if he had introduced a concept never heard of in Nigeria. Yet, more than half of Nigeria’s population is Christian.

Had Nigerian Christians never read this passage from today’s Gospel before Yar’Adua? «The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves… I am among you as one who serves» (Lk 22: 25-26).

Of course they had. But perhaps they never thought it applied to them, nor did they see it lived out by other Christians in leadership positions. When therefore we Christians pay only lip service to our own values, their adoption by others, or by the secular society, challenge us to self-examination and personal as well as collective conversion.

As Msgr. TheophilusOkere once observed, the driving principles of the French Revolution and Communism, namely, justice, freedom, equality and universal brotherhood, are all core Christian values, which Christianity somehow failed to adequately implement. Thus he affirms: «It took the French Revolution and its philosophers to get society as society, serious again on these values, preached for ages without effect by Christianity. [And] it took the rude shock of Karl Marx’s atheistic materialism to force the attention of the world on the crying need of justice for all.

Though both movements “failed”, that failure is rather an indictment of the one, moral force equipped and mandated to effect these programs in the world». This is food for thought on our style of leadership today. If our people are surprised and excited when they see a leader who is a servant, then we have reasons to ask ourselves questions about our own style of leadership.

Let it be said that leading through service of neighbour is neither easy nor a way of life that can be adopted in a once-and-for-all manner. No. It is rather a painful life-long process, that is learned only by kneeling at the foot of the Cross, contemplating the victimhood of Christ’s priesthood.

The context of the dispute among the Apostles in the Gospel reading of today was the Last Supper, the first Eucharistic celebration, and very close to the Passion and death of our Lord. The Apostles had just received the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time and Jesus had just told them that he was about to suffer and to die. And they started disputing among themselves over which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.

In such a solemn and sad situation, in which one would have expected them to be worried over the sort of their Master, they were rather struggling for positions of power and importance. What an embarrassment! What a shameful thing for these most intimate friends of the Master! What a patient Lord and Master we have! Rather than express his disappointment at the behaviour of his friends, he patiently taught them that their greatness should be in service.

It was not easy for the Apostles to learn and practise this. It will not be easy either for the successors of the Apostles or for any other Christian. When therefore we notice that many of us in leadership positions are not servants of the people, we should realize that we are only earthen vessels holding divine treasure. That notwithstanding, we have to keep trying to learn and internalize this principle; for without diakonia, our priesthood loses its very essence. Without the diaconate, we cannot be either Priests or Bishops.

Since leadership through service is not easy to find, we have good reasons to celebrate and to thank God when we find a good specimen of it. Ordained Bishop 4 September 1993 (26 years ago at the age of 47) and appointed Archbishop only 6 months later (while he was still trying to figure out what being a Bishop meant, AmarachiObinna chose for his episcopal motto: “To serve God and His people.”

Before his episcopal ordination, Fr. Anthony Obinna was fully immersed, after a thorough specialized training, in the diakonia of the truth as a lecturer at the AlvanIkoku College of Education, Owerri. There he was engaged in the service of divine truth: seeking it, loving it, embracing it and bringing it to others through education. This, says Pope St John Paul II is a special service to humanity (Fides et ratio, 2).

And since his elevation to the episcopal office, his dedication to this service has intensified to the point of becoming a consuming passion. Anthony Obinna is in love with the truth and seeks it diligently at all times, through prayer, meditation and study. Yes, he is a man of prayer (“a call for prayer: can we say the Rosary?”), a seasoned intellectual and an avid reader with a seemingly insatiable thirst for knowledge. This prepares him in adequately for the special service of teaching the people of God and of proclaiming the truth as a prophet. This is highly needed in Nigeria at this moment.

 Today, Nigerians expect so much of their Bishops. In the darkness and gloom that have enveloped our country, many are looking expectantly at the Church for a ray of hope, however faint. Whether it is about the perceived Islamization and “Fulanization” of the country, or about the current effort of the Federal Government to stifle every form of opposition, people are asking: What is the Church doing? And by the Church they simply mean Catholic Bishops. But I ask: What else can the Bishops do that they have not done already? The Bishops have prayed and continue to pray for Nigeria. The Bishops have spoken clearly and consistently against bad governance, from the time of military dictatorship, when the voice of the Church was the only one that could not be silenced, till today, when military dictatorship has returned in another form.

The Bishops have expressly stated that this country is in trouble. The Bishops have told the government repeatedly that the only way out of the catastrophe that is about to happen in this country is justice and fairness: respect for those parts of the Constitution that are just and fair; amendment of those parts of the Constitution that were so framed as to favour parts of the country, either geographically or religiously.

This country is experiencing deterioration on a daily basis and our people are losing confidence in themselves. There is a decay of infrastructure and near total collapse of security. All this have been pointed out by the Catholic Bishops on several occasions. What have the Bishops not said? At the peak of insecurity in this country the Bishops candidly advised the President to resign, since he could no longer provide protection for the lives and property of Nigerians. Repeatedly the Bishops have engaged every President of this country.

But what about our Christians, including our Catholics, who are in government? There are card-carrying Catholics in all the political parties that have ruled Nigeria since the return to democracy. What have these Catholic or Christian members of the ruling parties done to translate into concrete action the indications that the Bishops have given? Bishops have marched the streets in prayer and protest. Bishops have taken the Government to court in some States.

The only thing that we have not done and will never do is to incite our people to violence, because that would be wrong. The Federal Government of Nigeria needs to know that our youths are losing confidence in the peaceful and nonviolent way we are proposing. And I would like to state clearly today, out of respect for Archbishop Anthony Obinna who has been foremost in speaking out in defence of good governance both in his State and in the Country, that the current Federal Government of Nigeria will hold itself responsible if it refuses to listen to the voice of reason and the calamity we all fear befalls our dear country.

The Islamization and “Fulanization” project has gone beyond being a hidden agenda, for it is now being implemented openly and with impunity. But then there is a limit to the extent to which the people can be oppressed without their reacting to the oppression. We therefore appeal to all those in Government at different levels in this country to remember that they are there to serve ALL the people of Nigeria.

To our Christians I would say what I have said repeatedly in other occasions, that a Christian people cannot be Islamized, until it has first been de-Christianized. And we are now de-Christianizing Nigerian Christians and even Christianity itself by the convenient, self-made or customized form of Christianity that is now very popular in Nigeria; a Christianity devoid of the cross, suffering and service. We are also de-Christianizing Christianity by the promotion of fetishism and neo-paganism in the name of culture.

United with and configured to his Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit and power (Acts 10: 36), Archbishop Obinna uses every means at his disposal to proclaim the liberating truth of the Gospel – (welcome or unwelcome) in season and out of season, reproving, rebuking and encouraging his brothers and sisters, always with patience and sound teaching (cf. 2 Tim 4: 2). He has been heckled and harassed even in the Church while at the service of the truth for the benefit of God’s people; persecuted and prosecuted (even by presumably cradle Catholics) for condemning the anti-Christian and antihuman social evil of the osu (and ohu) caste system in Igboland; dubbed a partisan politician for defending the right of the people to good governance; labelled a tribalist (even by some colleagues) for underscoring the importance of language in the promotion and evangelization of a people’s culture. It easy to imagine him at some moments like St Paul: «pressed on all sides, but not crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not abandoned, bowed but not broken» (2 Cor 4: 8-9).

But, Amarachi, you cannot give up at this point. It is too late. You would lose your identity. Anaghiamu aka ekpenanka. Like St Martin Bishop of Tours you can only pray thus: «Lord, if I am still needed by your people, I will not refuse to serve. Your will be done». (Lee m Dinwenu; ekwuputagomikpenkwumotoGi). Yes, his people and YOUR people still need you.

They still need your perceptive and discerning mind; they still need your clear and irrepressible prophetic voice. We know that it is not just years but the weight of responsibility that has shrivelled your charming face, bent your elegant frame and shaven your head without water.

But you must plod on! For the Spirit of the Lord God is upon YOU, because the Lord has anointed YOU to bring good tidings to afflicted Nigerian people; he has sent YOU to bind the broken hearted and disillusioned Igbo youths, to proclaim Christ’s liberty to the captives of wicked ancestral and cultural beliefs and practices and the opening of the prison to those Christians who are bound by their false beliefs; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour to those in positions of authority who make a difference through service-leadership, and for those who persist in causing Nigeria and Nigerians further distress, even while devoutly saying the “Prayer for Nigeria in Distress” – the day of vengeance of our God.

Without forgetting the other forms of service that you must render to God and his people, never relent on your diakonia of the truth. And may God who began this good work in you bring it to completion, so that at the end, when he calls you to himself, your people can sing without contradiction: “Ecce sacerdosmagnus, qui in diebussui, placuitDeo.” Ad multosannos!”

Awka: Priest Leads Protest over Bad Roads

Awka: Priest Leads Protest over Bad Roads

The Parish Priest of St. Joseph Catholic Church Achina in Aguata LGA, Rev. Fr. Vincent Nwokoye, recently led residents to protest the deplorable condition of roads in the area.
Nwokoye said if nothing was done urgently the area would be eaten up by erosion.

He said Achina, Onneh, Agbudu, Umuomaku, Ogboji and Enugwu-Umuonyia communities were on the verge of being submerged.

The priest called for intervention by both the federal and state governments to save the church and the community from imminent danger.

He said, “The erosion is so much that it is gradually encroaching into the church’s property, including the primary school and the parsonage.

“Attendance to church activities has also reduced drastically following the impassable condition of the road.”

Another speaker, OtitochiOkeke, described the two roads connecting the communities as strategic for the evacuation of agricultural produce.

He called on the state governor, Willie Obiano, to save the people of the area from threat to their lives and property.

He said, “The Achina-Onneh-Agbudu-Ogboji Road which was awarded by your administration in 2014 is in a very deplorable state, with gullies developing at various points. “Also, the Ezira-Umuomaku-Enugwu-Umuonyia-Achina Road which you flagged off in 2015 is in dire need of attention as no work is ongoing at the site.”

FCMB Introduces Revamped Agro-Commodity Trade Finance Facility to Boost Agriculture

FCMB Introduces Revamped Agro-Commodity Trade Finance Facility to Boost Agriculture

Leading financial services provider, First City Monument Bank (FCMB), has introduced an enhanced agro-commodity trade finance facility for agribusiness operators. The development marks another bold step by the Bank to expand and deepen its support to the agricultural sector, its value-chain and the overall growth of the Nigerian economy.

The revamped facility is designed for agro-commodity merchants with supply contracts to multinationals, large corporates and processors of agro-commodities. Targeted commodities are cocoa, cashew nut, sesame, ginger, palm Oil, grains (maize, sorghum, soya beans, paddy rice). Under this new FCMB trade finance facility which is structured in the form of a working capital, the minimum amount that can be accessed by a qualified customer is N100million, while the maximum is N2billion.

Explaining the rationale behind the introduction of the facility in an enhanced form, the Divisional Head, Agribusiness of FCMB, Mr.KudzaiGumunyu, said the Bank recognises the gap that exists in agribusiness financing as well as other challenges faced by operators, including farmers, in the sector.

According to him, ‘’we realise there are millions of agro-traders and processors across the country that need credit at convenient and affordable rates, considering the level of attraction the agric sector has garnered. Our decision to introduce a revamped agro-commodity trade finance facility is part of our intervention in the agribusiness space to ensure agribusinesses and other stakeholders are empowered with the requisite funds and enablers to boost production and marketing of agricultural commodities. Commodity producers and traders stand to immensely benefit from this facility, because it is a veritable and convenient opportunity to access funds that ensure cash flow is available for maximum output. We urge all to take advantage of this offering’’.

He assured that FCMB is focused on being a strategic partner in the agric sector to drive the diversification of the Nigerian economy, food self-sufficiency, employment and export earnings.

Highlighting FCMB’s contributions to agribusiness, Mr.Gumunyu said the Bank had sustained the tempo of support through numerous cutting-edge initiatives through innovative products. He said FCMB in 2018, provided lines of credit that peaked at 8 percent of the Bank’s total loan book to the agric sector with the intention to improve on this this milestone.

FCMB has consistently proved its mettle as an inclusive and impact investment lender and as an institution that accords agribusiness top priority. For instance, the Bank facilitated and guaranteed the procurement of fifty (50) tractors by the Tractor Owners and Operators Association of Nigeria (TOOAN) Ventures from the Bank of Industry. The tractors were handed over to the Association recently at Ilero town, Oyo State. In addition, FCMB is in partnership with several local and international institutions, such as CBN, BOI, DBN, FMO, International Finance Corporation, USAID, AFD and AGF to provide funding and other classes of support to the agric sector.

Recently, the lender signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI). The memorandum is aimed at deepening agency banking, financial inclusion and savings culture in the informal and agribusiness sectors, starting with five states, namely Kaduna, Kano, Nasarawa, Ogun and Oyo. The plan is to reach 2 million farmers nationwide by the year 2023.

First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Limited is a member of FCMB Group Plc, which is one of the leading financial services institutions in Nigeria with subsidiaries that are market leaders in their respective segments. Having successfully transformed to a retail banking and wealth management led group, FCMB expects to continue to distinguish itself through innovation and the delivery of exceptional services.

Pope Francis urges Mauritius to shun ‘idolatrous economic model’

Pope Francis urges Mauritius to shun ‘idolatrous economic model’

Pope Francis on Monday urged Mauritius, a prosperous magnet for tourists and a global tax haven, to shun an “idolatrous economic model” that excludes the youth and the poor and damages the environment.

The Argentine pontiff’s visit to the idyllic Indian Ocean island began with a mass attended by an estimated 100,000 faithful, ecstatically waving palm fronds and cheering “Francis, Francis”.

While the island is a beacon of stability and relative prosperity, Pope Francis honed in on the struggles of the youth, who face growing inequality, unemployment and the scourge of drug abuse.

“It is a hard thing to say, but, despite the economic growth your country has known in recent decades, it is the young who are suffering the most. They suffer from unemployment, which not only creates uncertainty about the future, but also prevents them from believing that they play a significant part in your shared history,” said the pope.

“Let us not allow those who deal in death to rob the first fruits of this land,” he said, referring to drug dealers.

According to a Mauritius Drug Observatory report in 2018, the smuggling and use of drugs such as heroin, cannabis, cocaine and methamphetamine, has grown in recent years.

He continued this theme in a later address at the presidential palace, warning that the country’s system of economic growth sidelined the young.

Since independence in 1968, Mauritius has developed from a poor, agriculture-based economy, to one of Africa’s wealthiest nations and financial services hub.

It has increasingly come under fire for helping global companies avoid paying taxes — often in poor African nations — and was in 2015 placed on a European Union tax haven blacklist.

General unemployment is low compared to the rest of the continent at 6.9 percent in 2018 according to the World Bank, but is high among the youth at 22 percent and inequality is seen to be rising.

Pope Francis urged Madagascar “not to yield to the temptation of an idolatrous economic model that feels the need to sacrifice human lives on the altar of speculation and profit alone, considering only immediate advantage to the detriment of protecting the poor, the environment and its resources”. According to the World Bank, one of the greatest challenges for the island is adapting to the effects of climate change — which has worsened tropical storms and floods affecting it.