Cardinal Okogie says that he has seen Nigeria evolve over the years since the country attained independence from the British in 1960.
“We have witnessed how a promising country has rapidly deteriorated because of politics of selfish interest,” the 85-year-old Cardinal says, and asserts, “Drawing a sad conclusion is inevitable: Nigeria has not lived up to her promise at and since independence!”
He says that men of God in the country have had to bear witness to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in a country whose people have been subjected to maltreatment and are denied basic human amenities despite the country’s rich natural resources.
Shepherds of the people, the Cardinal observes, have a moral and religious obligation to speak in the face of injustice visited on God’s children by successive governments in Nigeria.
“We witnessed injustice during the First Republic. It did not get better during the first bout of military rule lasting 13 years,” the retired Archbishop of Abuja who was elevated to Cardinal in October 2003 says.
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He poses, “How can we forget the bloody coups and the war into which young military officers plunged our country, a war whose wounds are currently being reopened by mismanagement of Nigeria’s rich resources?”
Cardinal Okogie observes that though Nigeria has been blessed with crude oil, not many people in the country have benefitted from the sales.
“Many public office holders act as if the land, its people and its wealth belong to them. Nigeria’s riches are squandered while millions of Nigerians live in abject poverty, many going to bed hungry,” the Cardinal laments.
He says that the country’s second civilian dispensation was interrupted by a second period of military rule with violations of fundamental human rights, adding, “Now, twenty-two years after the departure of the military, a supposedly democratic dispensation is yet to bring the dividends to the average Nigerian.”
“How can we forget, in the course of our history, a misguided and disastrous policy of taking over schools by the military and their civilian friends inflicted wounds on education in Nigeria?” the Cardinal poses, and adds, “As we all know, when education is wounded, the society feels the pain.”
On his birthday, Cardinal Okogie dedicates his life to the serving of Nigeria, pledging his commitment to a country in which all will live in harmony.
He says, “At 85, I rededicate my life towards building a better Nigeria, a Nigeria where we shall live together in harmony despite our diverse ethnic, regional or religious affiliations; a Nigeria where no one is placed at any advantage or disadvantage because of where he or she hails from. That is the Nigeria posterity deserves from us. This is an urgent call. May God help us all!”
The Cardinal has expressed gratitude on the occasion of his birthday, saying, “To have attained the age of 85 is not a human accomplishment, rather God’s Amazing Grace. For this reason, I render thanks and praise to the Almighty God, Creator and Sustainer of our life, for the gift of longevity.”
“To say that the past 85 years have been eventful is to state the obvious,” the Nigerian Cardinal says.
He continues, “From years of my childhood in the Lafiaji neighbourhood of Lagos… through 50 years of Episcopal ministry, thirty-nine of those years as Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos, the Lord has been marvelous in all His ways. To God be the glory.”