WHEN CHILDREN BECOME COMMODITIES

WHEN CHILDREN BECOME COMMODITIES

More efforts should be made to interrogate cases of disappearing children, writes Olusegun Adeniyi

Early this month, police in Lagos uncovered a suspected ‘baby factory’ and rescued 19 pregnant girls aged between 15 and 28 in Ikotun area of the state. Brought to Lagos, the girls were impregnated and upon delivery, their babies were then taken from them and sold for prices ranging from N300,000 to N500,000 depending on the sex. And just last week, nine stolen children were traced by the police to, and recovered from, Anambra State. Aged between two and 10 years, the children were reportedly kidnapped from various locations in Kano metropolis before being sold to some merchants in Anambra. “The suspects confessed to have conspired among themselves and kidnapped various children from areas like Sauna, KwanarJaba, Kawo, Hotoro, Yankaba and Dakata quarters, all within the Kano metropolis,’’ said the Kano State Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Iliyasu.

The mental torture of not knowing the whereabouts of your child is something one should not wish anybody. That explains why the Yoruba would say, “‘my child is dead’ offers more comfort than ‘my child is missing’” because of the roller coaster of emotions. Yet Nigeria, according to the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), “has the highest caseload of missing people that the ICRC is actively searching for in the world. Nearly 60 per cent of the caseload were minors at the time they went missing.” The question now is, how many of these children were stolen from the streets by members of this criminal gang?

This is a new dimension to criminality in our country that is very disturbing. Sadly, because we like to create equivalences for religious and ethnic reasons, some people have turned this unfortunate tragedy of the stolen Kano children into a debate about how much media attention the issue is receiving as against the frenzy generated by similar incidences in the past. And with that unhelpful distraction, a wedge is being created on a serious crime we should all be fighting together.

In June this year in Jos, Plateau State, a 30-year-old mother, Mrs Mary Chukwuebuka, reported how she gave birth to a baby girl on 28th May, but three days later, the child was stolen from her at the hospital by a woman who posed as a doctor. In one of those rare cases where the police perform creditably, the child was found about a week later and the culprit arrested. “Paternity test, done through DNA, and the blood groups genotype testing, had all shown that the child belongs to the couple. They are the real parents of the child”, said the delighted Chief Medical Director of the hospital while handing the baby back to her mother. Not all such cases end that way.

So prevalent is the crime that the Network of Civil Society Organisations Against Child Trafficking, Abuse and Labour (NACTAL) last year urged the federal government to provide adequate security to forestall stealing of newborn babies in hospitals. The group’s National President, Mr Adaramola Emmanuel, who recalled how a day-old baby of deaf and dumb parents was allegedly stolen at a hospital in Kaduna, urged the authorities across the country to put in place measures to guarantee the security of newborn babies. The United Nations has since ranked child trafficking as the third most common crime in Nigeria after financial fraud and drug trafficking. According to the UN, which put the worth of the global child trafficking business at US$33 billion annually, no fewer than 10 children are sold in Nigeria on a daily basis.

However, the Kano incident should worry all critical stakeholders because it represents a dangerous dimension to the challenge. With children being stolen practically in their homes and sold across the country by some unscrupulous people, almost like merchandise, we have entered a new low. But it perhaps also provides explanation for why many children are disappearing in our country without any trace. While we must therefore commend the police for this breakthrough, it is important that they quickly conclude their investigation and bring the perpetrators of this most heinous crime to justice to serve as deterrence to others. We should also be thinking of creating support systems for the families of such victims.

It is sad that the Kano children have been reunited with their families without any assistance from the authorities, and I am not talking about money. In his piece, ‘The Leftovers: Life as the Parents of Missing Children’, Max Kutner recounted the experiences of several fathers and mothers whose children were missing, including those that were later found. A man whose son was abducted in 1998 at age four and was found 10 years later as a 14-year-old, said: “He’s largely a stranger to me, because after four or five, I never had the opportunity to get to know him, nor he me.” The emotion of the ordeal, he added, “becomes a deep hollow emptiness and a wound that never quite heals.”

Reunification experts, according to Kutner, say “parents are sometimes unprepared for how their child might look or act upon return.” In the case of the Kano children, there are already challenges with reports that they can no longer speak the language of their parents. Handling this kind of situation requires some form of expertise, so the parents need support. “When the child has been missing or exploited, and they come back together with the family, that’s when the really tough work starts,” according to Sheryl Stokes, a family advocacy specialist with the United States’ National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

It is also time we confronted the sordid practice where some girls are held captive until they give birth and compelled to give up their babies for money, which has become rather prevalent in our country. There is a way in which this social menace also connects with the Kano tragedy. Both are well organised crimes thriving among some desperate Nigerians who have come to regard stealing and selling innocent children as a business. Targeted are the most vulnerable of our society. For every child stolen from cities like Kano, only God knows how many have been kidnapped from the rural areas across the country.

There is another dimension to the crime that we should not ignore. Adoption of babies by childless couples or single mothers, which used to be a taboo in the past, is now very popular in our country, especially among the urban elites. While there are a few orphanages doing wonderful work for the society in this regard, I understand that the demand for babies to be adopted is far higher than these authorised orphanages can meet. Because of that, it sometimes takes month or years before couples who register for children get their dreams fulfilled. That is also what many criminally-minded people are capitalising on, in a bid to make money.

With the breakthrough by the police on the ‘Kano Nine’, efforts should be made to further interrogate the crime so as to get to the root of other such disappearances and those involved. The authorities must also do more to curb the antics of men who lure women into ‘baby factories’ for the purpose of transactional procreation. It is obvious that some Nigerians have been afflicted with a poverty of the mind that has made them to lose their humanity just to make money. If we don’t confront them together, they will imperil all of us.

Adeniyi is Chairman, THISDAY Editorial Board

Independence Day: We celebrate emptiness – Archbishop Obinna

Independence Day: We celebrate emptiness – Archbishop Obinna

Nigerians have been told to weep rather than make merry, because our country, which last Tuesday clocked 59 years since its independence from British Colonial rule, has nothing to show for it. Nigerians should instead fast and pray on this year’s Independence Anniversary Day.

His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna, Catholic Archbishop of Owerri expressed this view, last Sunday, September 29, while preaching the sermon at the Eucharistic celebration to mark the country’s 2019 independence celebration.

The prelate said that those great hopes cherished in the hearts of Nigerians as they won independence from Britain, on October 1, 1960 have not been realized till date, but instead, over the years, the country has been emptied of the greatness associated with her. “This is a day for weeping for Nigeria not a day for celebrating or eating and drinking unnecessarily because Nigeria is an endangered country, Nigerians are an endangered people. This is the truth, it’s difficult to travel across Nigeria today as we used to do in those days even within the same state, you are afraid you may lose your life. There is danger everywhere even though, we still travel.

The prelate who revealed that as a Junior Seminarian at the time the country gained her independence in 1960, he literally swore that he was going to use his talent to serve Nigeria and to help Nigeria become great,” said: “Today, it is not because of Nigeria that I serve. I don’t serve Nigeria because Nigeria deserves it. I serve Nigeria because God has given me blessings, talents and opportunities to serve his people in Nigeria.”.

Archbishop Obinna stated: “That is why we are being challenged that now we have the opportunity to rebuild Imo, we must avoid extravagance, extra enjoyment in a way that is distasteful…”

He said that God is placing this challenge before all of us in Nigeria and in Imo State, that we cannot continue living foolishly, eating and drinking recklessly when so many people are starving and dying of hunger.

The Most Rev Obinna regretted that there are so many programmes aimed at alleviating the poverty of the people but they have not gone an inch deep.

According to him, there is plenty in Nigeria but because of the way this plenty is being used, there is so much oppression, so much bitterness, so much kidnapping and so many killings.

He said that other countries provide social benefit scheme even for the unemployed, so that every month something could be given to those who don’t have access to the normal sources of survival. The prelate regretted that Nigeria lacks a good foreign image, as she is being rated the most corrupt country in the world, adding “If we bother about Nigerians internally, if there were love, peace and a sense of generosity across Nigeria, if we had self-respect, other countries would respect us.

He condemned double standards by our security personnel, stressing that neutrality should characterize their operations no matter the position held by anyone in the society, since no Nigerian is above the law.

The Osu-caste System: The unfortunate apartheid in Igboland

The Osu-caste System: The unfortunate apartheid in Igboland

Among the obnoxious, outrageous and devastating traditions and beliefs in lgboland is the ‘Osu-casste system’ which has in different places both in the past and present becomes a key of disunity, humiliation, infringements and isolation in the places where they are practiced. Osu-caste system according to OkaforJ.N, is an ideology of class domination that incorporates the beliefs that a particular class of people is to be disinherited and excluded from association, with others, either because they are themselves victims of ritual offering or they are descended from those who were victims. (Okafor, J.N., The Challenge of Osu Caste System to the Christians, Onitsha: VERITAS Painting & Publication Co.Ltd,1993,p.16). It can equally be viewed as people sacrificed to the gods in lgbo community. As such, different historical data underpin the origin of this obnoxious practice which is preponderant in the Eastern part of Nigeria; and we recall with nostalgia that in the past; the ardent supporters of the Osu Caste system would not buy whatever the osu merchants had for sale in the local markets and other similar discriminatory attitudes meted the so-called Osu. Moreover, during that period in review, some of them who were interested in politics were often denied the necessary support from the rest of the community of their residence. This is not only in relation politics but in almost all the strata of human development

Hence, this has greatly hindered the social development of such communities. Sadly, these characteristics of the Osu caste system are contrary to the modern world views.

Notably, there are misconceptions against the Osu; ranging from the fact that socializing with them would contaminate, pollute, and transform the ‘Diala’ into an ‘Osu’, that since the Osu has been dedicated to gods, it is a taboo to socialize with them. Yet, other stories have it that it is because they are ‘dirty’ or have ‘repulsive body odour’ and are ‘lazy’. These are all fallacious and inhuman presumptions calculated to poison the minds of people against others who are created in the image and likeness of God just like themselves. Laying credence on the above assertion and considering the circumstances and exigencies of our present time and society, one would conclude that it is baseless and unjustified; bearing in mind the industrious nature of ‘Osu’. Statistically, they are the most prosperous, be it in the economic, academic or industrial spheres and even in the known religious sectors of human endeavour. Axiomatically, it is a known fact that inequality, abuse of human and civil rights, absence of natural law, discrimination and absence of freedom are among the causes of conflicts in our society today.

Consequently, life in its natural state has the same meaning for everyone, but the Osu caste system seems to have changed the meaning of life for the group of people who are branded Osu. Presently, one could acquire the Osu caste status through inheritance and marriage. However, ostracism outside contagious diseases is very painful and this is what our brothers and sisters, men and women of prominence and high proficiency in their areas of enterprise suffer on the bases of an illogical principle. Thus, detrimentally affecting their communities of habitation, for their good endowments would no longer be a superlative benefit to the communities in question. Obviously, the Osu culture violates the civil and human rights of the people subjected to it Like the racial discrimination in the United States, the Osu caste system promotes an ideology of the supremacy of the ‘Diala’ over the ‘Osu’. On the other hand, racial discrimination occurs mostly between people of different skin colours or between people of different nationalities. It is unfathomable from the angle of ethnicity that such ideology still exists in the social history of our people. It is even outrageous how Christians react to this issue. A typical case was the response of Obi’s father when Obi wanted to marry Clara an Osu, in Chinua Achebe’s ‘No Longer at Ease’, “we are Christians, but it is no reason to marry an Osu”. (Achebe, C., No Longer at ease, London: Heinemann Education Books, 1974, p. 120).

Despite the efforts of our Leaders, both spiritual and temporal, particularly Archbishop Anthony J.V Obinna of the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, who has been a tireless advocate of social reform vis-a-vis this abysmal tradition, many of our people are still adamant to the wind of change aimed at disentangling them from this baseless notion. In as much as it is not as severe as it were in the past, there are still behaviours that tend towards stigmatization and antagonism on those tagged Osu. At this juncture, it is laudable to pinpoint that this ugly belief is deeply embedded m the fabrics of the core Igbo man, Christian or no Christian; that is the reason why people still respond like Obi’s father., even after the liberation brought by the gospel of Christ. What a show of shame! Furthermore, it is highly incomprehensible why some people would not be allowed to marry on the basis of Osu, whereas, no strong objection would be raised when they are courting. It is only when it comes to marriage issues, election to the Ezeship stool, building projects, and in many other traditional matters that this Osu phenomenon would come to the fore, thus putting enmity between brothers, friends, close associates, and even in families. Oh, what an unfortunate apartheid!

Actually, the heartache, pains, discomfort, agony and psychological trauma caused by this hydra-headed phenomenon cannot be over accentuated in a society such as Nigeria where there are no enforceable law to protect the human rights of citizens, an Osu person is often exposed to public ridicule, discrimination, dehumanization, etc. it is a truism that hatred and distrust between and among groups or nations are not recent concepts; they are realities that have been there right from the cradle of human existence. All over the globe, we see glimmers of hatred and segregation despite international laws that promote inter-personal and intercultural relations at all levels. In line with this, the Black in the United States suffered terrible discrimination in the hands of the whites which led to the ‘Rosa Parks incident’ that culminated in the ‘Black Demonstration’ and the famous Martin Luther King’s speech “I have a dream”. As we evoke with dismay, the terrible discrimination suffered by the blacks in the United States, we equally recall a similar case, the famous Apartheid in South Africa, where blacks suffered similar discrimination in the hands of the whites. Candidly, the social development of a nation must include, among other things, justice, fairness and equal treatment for its citizens. Accordingly, Lord Gordon Hewart in “Jackson’s The Chief’ asserts: “it is not merely in some importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”. (Dictionary of Quotations, Scotland, David Dale House Publishers, 2001, p.2O6). Hence, it behoves on every nation to provide and protect the civil and human rights of its citizen irrespective of birth, race, colour, sex, language, religion, political affiliation, property, and national or social region.

On another note, Osu-caste system is equivalent to the Western racism which the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blaire on his glowing tribute at the funeral of the former South African President, Nelson Mandela opined as immoral and stupid. Accordingly, he derided racism and equally drew the attention of his fellow whites to learn and renounce such immoral act.

Sequel to this, we need to eschew this Osu-Diala divide amongst us which was passed on over centuries by ancient and unreasonable traditions. It violates the fundamental human right of an individual or group of people.

 IZUAZU EUGENE C. Writes from Owerri; E-mail: chidiizuazu4@gmai.comTele: 07065106981

APC becoming corrupt politicians’ safe haven – CAN tells Buhari

APC becoming corrupt politicians’ safe haven – CAN tells Buhari

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) on Friday told President Muhammadu Buhari that the ruling All Progressives Congress was becoming a safe haven for corrupt politicians.

CAN, therefore, asked the President to make the war against corruption total and non-discriminatory in order to rid the nation of the corruption cancer which has eaten deep into her fabric.

The CAN leadership, led by its President, Dr. Samson Ayokunle, spoke in Abuja during a meeting with Buhari at the Presidential Villa.

“Like we categorically noted here during our last visit, the wish of the people is for the war against corruption to be total and without discrimination. Not a few believe that the ruling party is becoming a safe haven to some corrupt politicians in their bid to escape the trap of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,” Ayokunle told the President.

The leadership of the Christian body said Buhari must clear the negative impression that the anti-corruption was targeted at non-APC members.

It, however, commended, the government’s anti-corruption war, saying it had led to the recovery of some looted funds.

“CAN commends your boldness and courage in implementing the BVN and the Treasury Single Account system. There is no doubt that the two policies have greatly helped in sanitising the system,” it added.

On the 2019 polls, CAN asked Buhari to improve on the credibility of the 2015 polls that brought him into power by ensuring that next year’s general elections are freely and fairly conducted.

Specifically, the Christian body called for a Presidential Order directing the police and other security agencies to be non-partisan during the elections, adding that it was in Buhari’s interest to ensure that the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission surpassed that of 2015.

CAN stated, “A Presidential Order to the Police and other security agencies to be non-partisan, neutral and apolitical in the coming general elections, with a view to securing international respect and honour for our country in the comity of nations.

“The degree of desperation we saw in the politicians during the intra-party elections that took place recently do not give many people hope concerning 2019 unless serious steps are taken to let decency prevail. We appeal to you to make sure that the law enforcement agents and the election umpire do their work professionally without intimidation of voters, manipulation and any trace of violence throughout the period of elections.

“We believe that the survival and peace of Nigeria are greater than the ambition of any politician.

“We again request that your administration conducts free and fair election that will add to the accolades the country received from the conduct of the 2015 elections that brought you to power.”

On the security situation of the country, CAN raised concerns over insecurity in the country, saying the Buhari administration must double its efforts in bringing the killings in states such as Plateau, Adamawa, Benue, Zamfara, Kebbi and Taraba under control.

The leadership of the Christian body observed that as much as Boko Haram had been tamed to a large extent, the insurgents were still hitting “soft targets” and taking many lives.

It said, “The menace of bandits in states like Zamfara and Kebbi has become a nightmare, coupled with the unending killings by herdsmen in the North-Central geopolitical zone, especially in Plateau, Benue and Taraba states. Not only have these attackers killed hundreds of innocent lives on the Plateau, they are presently occupying homes of their victims in Gashish District of Plateau State.

“(The) appalling conditions in some of the Internally Displaced Persons’ camps are driving many into despair. Unarguably, the failure of the police to nip the activities of these criminals in the bud accounts for drafting of the military to quell civil insurrection.

It added, “Other criminal elements amidst us like kidnappers and hired killers are still perpetrating their havocs as if might has become right. It is not yet UHURU, and the long walk to bidding farewell to these criminal acts is fraught with tedious bends.”

Among others, CAN called for more intelligence gathering by security agencies and “a total overhauling of the security system with a view to replacing security chiefs who have overstayed their welcome.”

The body also asked for the setting up of a judicial commission of inquiry to look into the killing of the late Director of Administration of the Army, Maj. Gen. Idris Alkali (retd.), and the “circumstances surrounding the kidnap and killing of the paramount chief of the Adara Chiefdom in Kaduna State, His Royal Highness, the Agom Adara, Dr. Maiwada Raphael Galadima.”

It also made a call for all efforts to be made to secure the release of the remaining Dapchi schoolgirl being held by Boko Haram, Leah Sharibu.

On the continued detention of a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), and the Leader of the Shi’ites, Mallam Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, CAN appealed to the government to ensure that the rule of law was adhered to in their prosecution. – Punch.

A RESPONSE TO NON-CATHOLICS’ OBJECTIONS TO CATHOLIC TEACHING ON MARY’S PERPETUAL VIRGINITY

A RESPONSE TO NON-CATHOLICS’ OBJECTIONS TO CATHOLIC TEACHING ON MARY’S PERPETUAL VIRGINITY

By Prof. Michael Ogunu
(Coordinator of the World Apostolate of Fatima in Africa)

The Catholic Church teaches that Mary was virgin during the birth of Jesus. This teaching grew out of the understanding of the Church, enlightened by the Holy Spirit. It expresses the belief that at the moment of her giving birth to Jesus, through a special divine action, Mary did not lose the physical signs of her virginity. The Fathers of the Church would say that the womb of the Blessed Mother remained closed and intact, and that Jesus passed through the enclosure of her womb much as he passed through the walls of the room where the Apostles were gathered on Easter night with the doors bolted closed (cf Jn. 20:19).

The Church also teaches that after the birth of Jesus Mary never had marital relations with Saint Joseph, but preserved her virginity intact for the rest of her life. Certain objections have however been raised against this belief over the centuries.

Non-Catholics, especially fundamentalists (including Pentecostals) contend that Mary had other children because Mt. 1:25 says concerning her and Joseph: “He had no relations with her at any time before she bore a son, whom he named Jesus”. Some translations use “till” or “until” instead of “before”. Regardless of the word in English, the Greek word for “until” does not imply that that which did not occur up to a certain point, had to have occurred afterwards. For example: in 2 Sam. 6:23 we read: “And until the day of her death Michal, the daughter of Saul, had no children”. Could it be possible that Michal had children after she was dead? The problem for them (fundamentalists) is that they are trying to use the modern meaning of “till” (or “until”) instead of the meaning it had when the Bible was written. In the Bible, it means only that some action did not happen up to a certain point; it does not imply that the action did happen later, which is the modern sense of the term. In fact, if the modern sense is forced on the Bible, some ridiculous meanings result.

How about the raven that Noah released from the ark? The bird “went forth and did not return till the waters were dried up upon the earth” (Gen. 8:7). In fact, we know the raven never returned at all. Then there was the burial of Moses. About the location of his grave it was said that no man knows “until this present day” (Dt. 34:6) – but we know that no one has known since that day either. Or how about this: “And they went up to mount Sion with joy and gladness, and offered holocausts, because not one of them was slain till they had returned in peace. (1 Macc. 5:54). Does this mean the soldiers were slain after they returned from battle?

The examples could be multiplied, but there should be no need. It should be clear that nothing at all can be proved from the use of the word “till” in Matthew 1:25. Recent translations give a better sense of the verse: “He had no relations with her at any time before she bore a son” (New American Bible); “he had not known her when she bore a son” (Knox translation).

The other argument used by fundamentalists concerns the term “first¬born”. They say Jesus could not be called Mary’s “first-born” unless there were other children that followed him. This is a misunderstanding of the way the ancient Jews used the term. For them it meant the child that opened the womb (Ex. 13:2; Nb. 3:12). Under the Mosaic Law, it was the “first-born” son that was to be sanctified (Ex. 34:20). Did this mean the parents had to wait until a second son was born before they could call their first the “first-born”? Hardly. The first male child of a marriage was termed the “first-born” even if he turned out to be the only child of the marriage. This usage is illustrated by a funerary inscription discovered in Egypt. The inscription refers to a woman who died during the birth of her “first-born”.

Fundamentalists also say it would have been repugnant for Mary and Joseph to enter a marriage and yet remain virgins. They called married virginity an “unnatural” arrangement. Certainly it is unusual, but not as unusual as having the Son of God in one’s family; not as unusual as having a true virgin give birth to a child.

Why are fundamentalists, particularly those most opposed to Catholicism, so insistent that Mary was not perpetually a virgin?

Karl Keating in Catholicism and Fundamentalism says there are two reasons: One is dislike of celibacy for priests and nuns. They are aware that it is Catholic teaching that celibacy is to be highly prized, that there is much virtue and much common sense in priests and nuns giving up the privilege of marriage in order to serve Christ better. They know Catholics refer to the example of Mary when praising consecrated virginity. So, by undermining her status, they hope to undermine that of priests and nuns. By claiming Mary did not live her life as a virgin, they hope to make religious celibacy seem contrary to the gospel.

The other reason concerns Mary herself. In the Catholic scheme of things, she is certainly different from other women, so much so that “she is considered worthy of special devotion (not of course of worship, latria, but of a level of honour, hyperdulia, higher than other saints receive). Her status accounts for the attention paid her. Fundamentalists think that what she gets, by way of devotion, is necessarily taken from Christ. This is neither true nor logical, but they nevertheless think devotion to Mary must be discouraged if proper devotion to our Lord is to be maintained. One way to diminish her status is to show she was just like other women, more or less, and that can be done in part by showing she had other children. Their desire to do this tends to make impossible fundamentalists’ accurate weighing of the facts. Their presuppositions do not allow them to see what the Bible really implies about the “brethren of the Lord”.

Mary was always a virgin, both before and after the birth of our divine Lord. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign, behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

In the Liturgy of St. James she is called “Our most holy, immaculate, and most glorious lady, Mother of God and ever Virgin Mary”.

Theodorus, Patriarch of Jerusalem, said in the second Council of Nicea that “Mary is truly the Mother of God, and Virgin before and after childbirth; she was created in the condition more sublime and glorious than that of all natures, whether intellectual or corporeal”.

Mary’s perpetual virginity is also clear from the most ancient symbols of faith especially the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. It was also the constant belief of the Church both in the East and West.

The vicious cycle of corruption

The vicious cycle of corruption

In a recent discussion with a colleague of mine, he postulated that the richest countries in the world are not necessarily religious; meaning that prayer has got nothing to do with how people progress in the world. He argued that most countries with the highest GDP per capita are in Europe, Asia and America, and are characterized by atheism and secularism. In comparison, according to him, you find the worst of poverty in the world among the most religious nations like our dear country Nigeria.

In defining rich or poor countries, economists usually adopt Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measures, per capital measures, Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) measures, or a combination of these methods. While GDP may not provide a clear picture of the level of wealth or poverty of a nation because of the distorting effects of population size, currency conversion etc., GDP per capital adjusted for purchasing power parity is usually the most reliable yardstick to gauge the living conditions in a country. GDP is defined as the total value of goods and services produced within a country.

According to the Global Finance Magazine, “A more accurate picture of living conditions begins with dividing the total production by the number of people, to look at GDP per capita. Per capita GDP tells a little more about how much wealth might be available to each individual person”.1

The Magazine added that without adjusting for currency fluctuations or the varying cost of necessary items such as food, clothing and shelter, a true picture of living conditions would not emerge. Quoting from the Magazine, “To know whether a country’s citizens are wealthy, we want to understand how much they are able to buy. Thus, a final adjustment factor is purchasing power”.

In a report published in February 2017 and based on data from 2016 report of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Global Finance Magazine listed Qatar, Luxembourg and Macao with adjusted GDP per capital of $129,726; $101,936 and $96,147 respectively as the top three richest countries in the world. Others are Singapore ($87,082); Brunei ($79,710); Kuwait ($71,263); Ireland ($69,374) and Norway ($69,296) in the 4th to 8th position. The 30th position is occupied by Japan with a GDP per capita of $38,893.

Nigeria’s GDP per capital in 2016 was $2,458. According to Trading Economics2, this translated to 19% of world average. Although this may have been affected by the economic recession that hit the country in 2016, the highest GDP per capita since 2008 was recorded in 2014 at $2,563. The average for Nigeria from 1960 to 2016 was $1,648.

The top ten most religious countries in the world (in the order of highest ranking) include Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, India, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Oman and Turkey.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) which occupies the 5th position in the top 10 most religious nations, sits on the 9th position of the world’s top 30 richest countries. Logically speaking, then, my colleague’s argument that the world’s richest countries are not religious does not hold water. At least, the UAE is not an exception, but a proof of the fact that being prayerful does not preclude success. There are many factors that inhibit poor countries of the world from advancing in development and improving standards of living.

One common factor is endemic corruption which is an absolute denial of God, His will and His kingdom. Corruption is a breach of the virtue of justice because it denies others what is due to them. It goes against the virtues of charity, honesty and fortitude. It breaches the greatest commandment of God – love of God and love of neighbour (Mk 12:28-34). So why does the society face the menace of corruption?

There is, what I may call, the vicious cycle of corruption or the corruption loop. By this, I mean that corruption is the cause of even more corruption.

Recently, the Nigerian senate revealed that Nigerians spend about $1 billion (N360 billion) annually in foreign medical treatment. This, according to them, is because of the poor state of public and private health facilities in Nigeria. Policy makers have destroyed the medical services and reduced most of our former centres of medical excellence to mere consulting rooms or even just mortuaries. The rot in this sector is caused by corrupt practices in the form of diversion of budget allocations to the sector into private pockets, poor remuneration of medical personnel among others. These are clear forms of endemic corruption.

In a similar development, it was reported that in 2016 alone, Nigerians spent over $2 billion (N720 billion) as capital flight on education.  This is a reflection of the lack of confidence in the quality of primary, secondary and tertiary education in Nigeria. The cause of the defamed quality of Nigerian education products is the fact that, albeit with a low budget allocation to the sector, funds earmarked for education sector are not usually channeled appropriately to the sector as most of it are usually stolen for private use.

Selfishness, fear of the future and injustice are at the heart of corruption in Nigeria, and corruption is the root cause of Nigeria’s underdevelopment. This is exacerbated by the absence of strong institutions and systems to holistically address the ravaging corruption. The justice system is weak and itself immersed in stupendous corruption.

I am not a fan for the buzz phrase “strong institutions”. In my view, Nigeria as a nation has all the institutions (even more than necessary); has the laws and the enforcement systems to guarantee a big war chest to end corruption. But alas, the goat always eats the yam put in her care. In my interactions with various government agencies, I have seen the penchant of public officials to grab every opportunity to corruptly enrich themselves at the expense of the public interest. It appears some of them think that the nation is up for grabs and the resources will soon run out.

Why this penchant? The fear of the future plays a significant role here. Stolen funds will assist the Nigerian to assure him/herself that if he gets sick, he/she can afford foreign medical treatment since there are no assurances of any improvement in medical care at home. He/she would want to save up more money to ensure that his five children acquire foreign education since they have destroyed the local universities through embezzlement of funds allocated to such institutions, and destructive education policies. This is why I see this as the vicious cycle of corruption.

Now, what has our underdevelopment got to do with our prayerfulness? The proliferation of churches is not a measure of godliness. Those who worship God do it in truth and in spirit (Jn. 4:23-24).  We worship God when our attitudes, actions, and words declare that He is worthy of our praise. If we are good Christians, we will identify with the Christian virtue of justice, and charity and we will have love of God and of our neighbor. The absence of justice is evident in the “dog-eat-dog” syndrome we have seen in Nigeria.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted stated that3 “Justice is the virtue that enables us to assume our responsibilities and to give others their due”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1807) teaches that “justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and to neighbour… Justice towards men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good”.

I have a strong conviction that the only path to progress in our society is for us to return to God with all our hearts (Joel 2:12). As we celebrate the risen Lord, and emerging from the holy season of Lent, let us all seek God in the light of justice for all. If we don’t repent, we shall all perish. The ill-gotten wealth cannot save anybody. God is watching us, from a distance.

  1. gfmag.com/global-data/economic-data/worlds-richest-and-poorest-countries
  2. https:/Tradingeconomics.com/nigeria/gdp-per-capita
  3. catholicculture.org/culture/library

NB: Mark Oguh, a Fellow of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and a Financial Management Expert wrote in from St. Anthony’s Parish, Gbaja, Surulere, Lagos. Contact mark.oguh@gmail.com