"Protest, talk, shout, use media, do so positively but don’t destroy": Nigerian Prelate

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Nigeria's Abuja Diocese speaking during the celebration of the 90th anniversary of Holy Ghost Parish in Makurdi Diocese Sunday, November 1, 2020.
Credit: Diocese of Makurdi/Facebook Page

An Archbishop in Nigeria has emphasized the need for peaceful protests amid reports of looting and destruction of property in the nationwide youth-led demonstrations.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama who was in Nigeria’s Makurdi Diocese on Sunday, November 1 outlined some constructive ways of protesting, including engaging the media and “making noise.”

“The best thing is to protest, talk, shout, use the media and do so positively but don’t destroy. Keep making noise. Noise can bring down a whole government. But when you start to attack people, kill people, destroy public facilities I tell you, you are losing it,” Archbishop Kaigama said.

Protestors can express their displeasure in the status quo saying “We don’t want this, we don’t want that,” the Archbishop said, adding that while demonstrators can “move on the streets,” they need to “be peaceful and orderly.”

Making reference to peaceful protests in the streets, the Nigerian Archbishop said, “Stay there for two days or one week whatever, I tell you will see the change that will come about. Just go without making too much trouble.”

Archbishop Kaigama who is the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Abuja Archdiocese was delivering his homily during the celebration of the 90th anniversary of Holy Ghost Parish in Makurdi Diocese, which is within the Ecclesiastical Province of Abuja.

He went on to reflect on the beginnings of the youth-led demonstrations in Nigeria against claims of harassment, kidnappings and extortion by the police in general and the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in particular that were conducted under #EndSARSprotest.

“The first act of the protest by young people was highly commendable because they exposed the rot in our society. They pointed out where things are bad and where our leaders need to stand and correct things,” Archbishop Kaigama recalled. 

He expressed his support for the EndSARS protests that started as a campaign to end police brutality saying, “What the young people were clamoring about recently was very genuine. Young people came together to say something is wrong with our society and we must do something about it.”

“You complete school no work; you want to drink water, they charge you highly;  that the brutality that they were suffering in the hands of law enforcement officers was enough,” the Archbishop recounted some of the grievances the protesting youth put across.

He added in reference to the youth who were part of the inaugural #EndSARSprotest, “They are tired and they wanted the world to hear them. So, they came together and they used the endsars protest as the takeoff point.”

Archbishop Kaigama regretted that some people infiltrated the protests, destroying its initial purpose. 

“Those bad ones are the ones that make me sad,” the Nigerian Archbishop said, adding that looting and destruction of property is like taking “one step forward and three steps backward.”

He explained, “You go around destroying hospitals, police stations, offices. You are destroying yourself because they are going to use the money they could have used for something else to rebuild those things you destroyed.”

“Even those big men, if you destroy their houses, they are still going to take money from the common purse to rebuild their houses. You are still the loser,” he further explained.

In his homily November 1, the 62-year-old Archbishop also said the #EndSARS protests were ignited by the failure of political leaders in the country to listen to calls by Nigerians to end corruption in the country.

“Let us not pretend that there is no problem in the country. Let us not behave like the ostrich that buries its head in the sand and behave as if there is no danger. There is danger! The brutality we are suffering in the hands of the police was enough, and the youths have said it,” Archbishop Kaigama observed.

He went on to note that the youths have also highlighted what members of the Catholic Bishop Conference have been talking about, expressing the hope that the protests awaken the political will in the leaders and every other person to act.

Through the protests, Archbishop Kaigama said, the youth have highlighted issues of “education, water, infrastructure and corruption,” which the country’s Bishops have been talking about “each time we met since 1960.”

“Stop corruption so that the wealth of this country can go round. We kept saying that but people didn’t listen,” he said recalling previously issues statements by the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and added, “Now, the youths have come and they say so forcefully. I hope it wakes us up. I hope that the next political dispensation will live up to the task.”

He lamented the direction Africa’s most populous nation is taking through its leadership saying, “We have been driven by daily selfish, materialistic, self-centered interests. We have been driven by religious sentiments, tribal sentiments, partisan political sentiments and that is why we can’t grow.” 

“If everybody was to apply all the values we have been taught in school and in the family, Nigeria will be a better place,” the Archbishop further said and continued, “But when we go out there we say everybody is doing the same thing, corruption; if we cannot beat them we join them and that is our problem.”

The Local Ordinary of Abuja also expressed concern about the persistent violence between the Tiv and Jukun tribes saying, “Instead of using the small time we have to do things like fishing, farming and enjoying ourselves we are fighting and fighting and it takes us nowhere.”

Making reference to the recurring violence,  he posed, “For how many decades have we been fighting now? Nobody can say he/she has gained anything. Rather we have suffered tremendous losses.” 

“This world is not our home, the time we have is very short. We are just passing through. Why not use this time well. Embrace your brother, embrace your sister. If we fight and we fight and we destroy each other we are only destroying ourselves,” he emphasized.

Making reference to the readings of All Saints Day marked on Sunday, November 1, Archbishop Kaigama sought God’s intervention to help His people understand that “we are brothers and sisters and that in heaven there is no tribe, there is no religion, it is only for those who have done well.”

“Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called sons and daughters of God. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. So, let us be peacemakers, let us be pure in heart so that we can see God,” Archbishop Kaigama said, making particular reference to the Gospel reading.


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