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Rt. Rev. Msgr. (Dr.) John Kanebi Asuquo Aniagwu is Vicar General, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Episcopal Vicar Ikeja Region and Parish Priest of St Leo’s Catholic Church Ikeja. In this chat with Nigerian Catholic Reporter, he talks on the problem of unemployment, the power sector, job creation and poor funding of education in Nigeria. He also counseled Christians on how to vote in credible leaders into offices and how to cope in a distressed economy.

What would be your recommendation to Christians in the face of the present economic crunch in the country?

Christians should keep on praying to God that He would turn our situation around and that the economy would improve. We should also pray that the managers of our economy will do the right things with our resources by channeling resources where they would benefit the masses more. Specifically more attention should be paid to job creation to ensuring that people are gainfully employed.

Another area that requires the urgent attention of the managers of our economy is the power sector. Electricity is a key factor to development. If we have steady power supply, a lot of people can be self-employed. They can create their own businesses, production will increase, and industries will grow and employ more people.

It is quite unfortunate that a lot of parents are out of jobs today. Many of them cry to us here every day for all manner of assistance especially in the areas of provision of school fees for their children and wards, payment of house rent; sometimes for things as basic as feeding, which is heart wrenching. We cannot do much as a Church. We do not have the type of resources that are available to government to be able to help these people. We do the little we can, but I must confess that we can only do very little.

One would wish that governments at all levels would channel our resources towards meeting the needs of the people in the two areas that I have mentioned – power and employment.

What is your advice to the youths?

Youths cannot do anything when there are no opportunities for them. There are very limited opportunities for them to get employment, or to gain admission to higher institutions. We can only plead with them not to react in negative ways by going into crime.

In a situation like this when opportunities for young people are severely limited, the temptation for them to go into crime is very strong. It is very easy for some unscrupulous people to recruit them into fraudulent practices or into more criminal practices like armed robbery, kidnapping and even cultism.

For the ladies they could be swayed into prostitution. Our youths should do all they can to resist the temptation. They should stick to the straight and narrow path until it should please God to improve the conditions of living for everyone. They should not use their skills in the faces of the challenges they are facing to deviate into criminal activities. They should continue to resist all temptations and look up to the Lord.

But like I said, it behooves on those who are in charge of the economy of our nation to create an environment where the youths can be gainfully employed. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. If our young people are not gainfully employed it can be very difficult to get them to stay on the straight and narrow path.

The truth of the matter is that the opportunities for young people to be gainfully employed are very limited. Some go as far as obtaining Master’s and Doctorate degrees and yet there are no employment opportunities for them. This is unlike in our days when there were employment opportunities for us even before we finished school.

What is your advice for those who run our educational institutions?

Good education is necessary for the development of people and nations. Government owes the duty of providing basic education to the people. UNESCO has even provided that for any nation to develop, it must as a matter of routine commit at least 26% of its annual budget to education. Nigeria is not meeting this commitment and therefore education is suffering.

If leaders and rulers can devote more resources to education then there will be better education in the country especially for the poor ones who cannot afford private education. People who can afford private education either in Nigeria or abroad have no problem but it is the masses who cannot afford private education that are having problems. As a result, they attend schools that are poorly equipped and poorly staffed. The result is that when they come out they are not educated. They are actually illiterates.

It is for those in authority to commit adequate fund to education. The nation can afford good public schools that are properly equipped and employ the right staff.

How should Christians react in the face of this kind of challenges?

Christians should pray that God will intervene in our affairs by giving us the right kind of leadership, as we pray in the Catholic Church – “leaders who care for us and who would lead us in the path of peace, prosperity and progress.” Nigeria has never been blessed with such leaders. As Christians we should go on praying that God would give us such leaders in the immediate future, not in the distant future. As Christians, our greatest weapon is prayer.

During elections, Christians should go out and vote massively to see whether they can elect credible leaders. The sad thing here is that in Nigeria so far, our votes have never been allowed to count. If they are going to give us free and fair election we should go out and vote according to our conscience – for leaders that can really help solve our nation’s problems, forgetting ethnicity, language and even religion.

If we have a broad minded person contesting for Presidency that we believe will not be a religious bigot, I wouldn’t mind voting for him even if he is not a Christian. But if it is someone that I see may want to favour Islam over Christianity, I will not vote for him.

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