Talk to Protesters “as a father, as a shepherd”: Bishop to Nigeria’s Government Leaders

Demonstrators protesting against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria.

A Bishop in Nigeria has expressed his reservations about the way the country’s leadership treated those who part in the during the demonstrations against police brutality.

In his homily on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Sunday, November 22, Bishop Godfrey Onah of Nigeria’s Nsukka Diocese said that Nigeria’s government leaders ought not to have approached the protestors against the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) as criminals.

“Talk to them as a father, as a shepherd, bring them back, this country is better united,” Bishop Onah said during Holy Mass, which he presided over at the recently-dedicated St. Theresa’s Cathedral of Nigeria’s Nsukka Diocese.

He cautioned that branding the #EndSARS protesters as criminals “will radicalize them more” and addressing himself to the country’s leadership, the Bishop said, “Sacrifice your pride, sacrifice your convenience, and sacrifice your comfort. They may be wrong, they may have been foolish; that’s alright, they are the sheep you are the shepherd.”

“Don’t mind what anybody tells you, bring them back,” he emphasized.

On October 20, the Nigerian government deployed members of the army to curtail the demonstrations alongside the declaration of a 24-hour curfew in the country’s largest city, Lagos. Several people were reportedly killed and others severely injured at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State on that fateful day.

“Now you are in that position because God has considered you better gifted than them (protesting youths.) Now do something right,” the Bishop of Nsukka said, addressing himself to those in government.

In his 28-minute homily, the 64-year-old Nigerian Prelate decried divisions in Africa’s most populous nation and wondered, “Where are our leaders and shepherds in Nigeria today? We are scattered. This nation is too fragmented. God said gather my people.”

“People are seeking too much of their parochial and selfish interests,” he observed and continued, “God is appealing to us today on the Feast of Christ the King ‘If you are in any position of authority, you are acting in my name. Take care of my people. Look for the scattered sheep’.”

Bishop Onah went on to bemoan the holding of the country hostage by bandits and terrorists noting that despite the government’s reassurances that the situation is under control, “we know that is not true.”

“Cultists and bandits have taken over some states in this country and there are many cries now more than ever before for splitting this country into separate units and some people are there playing politics with the lives of Nigerians,” the Bishop lamented.

He told those in leadership in Nigeria, “God is telling you today, ‘Look, get up and go after my sheep, I have entrusted them to you.’ Go and look for them and bandage the wounded.”

The Bishop appealed to Nigerians to strive towards a better nation saying, “Show your faith by your life, by your service to your brothers and sisters, by denying yourself some comfort so that others may enjoy some comfort as well.”

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