Nigerian Cardinal Decries “docile nature of most Nigerians”, Urges Citizen Participation

John Cardinal Onaiyekan/Credit: Courtesy Photo

Nigeria’s John Cardinal Onaiyekan has expressed concerns about the tendency, among Nigerians, to continually complain “about everything” and challenged his compatriots to take seriously their “citizen participation” role.

Cardinal Onaiyekan who was speaking during the North Central Zonal Dialogue Conference in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, invited citizens of Africa’s most populous nation to a “renewal, restoration of minds, conversion” saying, “Attitudes and the concept of politics must change.”

“Our people have gotten used to just sitting and complaining about everything. They complain about the government and politicians, but they do not take their role of citizen participation seriously,” Cardinal Onaiyekan has been quoted as saying Tuesday, June 8.

Many Nigerians, the Cardinal said, “claim there is nothing they can do; that they are incapacitated and of course those who want to rule are very happy when citizens sit down and do whatever they are told to do.”

Such claims, the Archbishop emeritus of Abuja went on to say, “make the leaders very happy and they take full advantage of the docile nature of most Nigerians.”


“Nobody is exempt from politics unless you are irresponsible,” the Cardinal who retired as Archbishop of Abuja in November 2019 remarked, and added, “Every Nigerian has the duty to be concerned about what is happening in the country. You cannot just be only on the receiving end.”

He cautioned Nigerians against abdicating their responsibility as citizens saying, “It is when you have a good sense of citizen participation that people who emerge as elected leaders after elections can be put to task regularly.”

The 77-year-old Catholic Church leader who was elevated to Cardinal in November 2012 challenged his compatriots to “put the elected people on their toes.”

According to him, although the West African nation “is in a bad shape,” the country’s “situation is not hopeless.”

“I have a strong conviction that we can draw back from the brink of chaos,” the member of Clergy of Nigeria’s Lokoja Diocese said, and added, “We should not say that the nature of Nigeria is non-negotiable.”

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To rise from the current state of things, Nigerians have to restore trust among themselves and with the government, the Nigerian Cardinal said.

“We cannot do without the government and because the government is indispensable, it has responsibility to the people and to God,” he explained, adding that the country’s leadership should listen to its people and work toward unifying the citizenry.

“It is dangerous to split the nation into two, those for us and those against us,” the Cardinal cautioned, and added, “That division should stop after the election. Once election results come out, there should be no them against us. It is all of us together.”

To achieve such a unity, Cardinal Onaiyekan said, “There is a need for renewal, restoration of minds, conversion. Attitudes and the concept of politics must change.”

“We know that politics should be about service but many people enter into politics for the wrong reasons not to serve but to serve themselves. I do not know if they realize that when you swear by the Bible or the Quran and you take office you are putting yourself under the judgement of God,” he said.


He also called on Nigerians to embrace each other regardless of ethnic and cultural differences saying, “We have different religions, nations, cultures but we are brothers and sisters and must live as brothers and sisters.”