Nigerian Cardinal Warns of Looming Anarchy, Urges Compatriots to Build United Country

Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, Archbishop emeritus of Nigeria's Lagos Archdiocese. Credit: Courtesy Photo

A Nigerian Cardinal has warned of an imminent anarchy in Nigeria owing to security challenges and corruption that he says continues to bedevil the West African nation.

In a message dated Wednesday, June 16 on the occasion of his birthday, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie calls on all Nigerians, especially those in authority, to retrace their steps and to build a prosperous nation where no one feels left out.

“The need for us to retrace our steps has never been so urgent. Starring us in the face are prospects of anarchy,” Cardinal Okogie who retired as Archbishop of Nigeria’s Lagos Archdiocese in May 2012 says in a message shared with ACI Africa.

He adds, “At this time, we need to build a prosperous nation where there are no second-class citizens.  A politics of exclusion exploiting our ethnic, regional and religious diversity for selfish interests cannot help us.  We all have to work together to rescue our country from the hands of the forces of retrogression in darkness.”

The Cardinal who turned 85 bemoans the growing political, economic and security challenges in Africa’s most populous country, which he describes as “a failed state.”


“It is evident that Nigeria has practically become a failed state,” he says, and adds, “A country fails when it is no longer able to protect its citizens from harm and secure their welfare.”

The Cardinal says that Nigeria has become a hostile country where citizens no longer feel safe and are seeking refuge elsewhere.

“A country fails when instead of being a harbor of refuge for its citizens, it turns out to be a cauldron of fire and sorrow that consumes its citizens. A country fails when instead of reassuring its citizens by actions and policies, that the future is secure, it becomes a case of most people planning to flee the country to other climes where their governments are truly functioning. Such is practically our case today. One whose house is on fire should not take to the streets dancing,” Cardinal Okogie says in his June 16 message.

The Cardinal says that Nigeria’s situation has deteriorated over the years and has become worse during the current administration headed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

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“While it is true that our problems did not start under this administration, they seem to have worsened economically and politically in these past six years,” the Cardinal says.

He makes reference to President Buhari’s suspension of Twitter in the country, a decision he describes as “rather hasty” and says that the current administration lacks a coordinated response to criticism.

“The sad part is that there is no articulate coordinated response from the government to stem these downward trends, apart from the usual ‘playing the ostrich’ and throwing tantrums when they are criticized, like the rather hasty suspension of Twitter,” he says.

Nigeria’s government earlier this month suspended Twitter access in the country two days after the American microblogging and social networking service removed a tweet from President Buhari that threatened to punish secessionists.

The Nigerian President is said to have blasted suspected militants in the volatile southeast of the country. President Buhari made reference to Nigeria's bloody civil war from 1967 to 1970, in which insurgents attempted to set up an independent Biafra state for the Igbo people. he threatened to treat those misbehaving today in the language they understand.


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.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.