Poor Governance in Nigeria Turning Criminals into Heroes, Catholic Bishop Says

Bishop Godfrey Onah of Nigeria’s Nsukka Diocese. Credit: Nsukka Diocese

Lack of good governance in Nigeria has created heroes out of criminals, the Catholic Bishop of Nigeria’s Nsukka Diocese has said, adding that the country’s poor governance has caused the worst division along political and religious lines in the history of the West African country.

In his Sunday, July, 18 homily, Bishop Godfrey Onah highlighted issues of bad governance that have come to the fore in Africa’s most populous nation, including arrogance, high-handedness, injustice, discrimination and lack of fairness in the legal and political systems.

These vices, the Bishop said, “have turned criminals into heroes, and scoundrels, self-seeking delusionary megalomaniacs into saviors of the people.”

“This is because a government that should be uniting the people is separating them,” Bishop Onah said, adding that dealing with criminals who are terrorizing the people, especially along religious lines, is only helping to boost their importance among their followers.

“I advise those who are leading us, no amount of arrests, no amount of harassment and intimidation, no amount of occupation of Eastern Nigeria or western Nigeria by military forces will stop the struggle or the fight for self-determination,” the Bishop said, and added, “The more you oppress those areas, the more those who claim to be their leaders will become important.”


Drawing inspiration from the First Reading, the Local Ordinary of Nsukka condemned leaders causing division in Nigeria in the words of Prophet Jeremiah saying, “Woe to you leaders of Nigeria because you have scattered the people of Nigeria. This country is breaking up under your watch because you would not listen to the voice of truth and voice of reason and have compassion for the people.”

The Nigerian Bishop expressed regret that over the past few years, and as militants belonging to various groups continue to wreak havoc in the country, Nigerians in various parts of the country want to go their separate ways.

He cautioned against the growing urge for separation, and asked the people of God in the West African nation to learn from the infamous Biafra war in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed.

“Nigerians have always wanted to divide themselves,” Bishop Onah said, and went on to narrate, “Shortly before independence, the North wanted to be alone because what they feared would happen to them started happening in other places. At some point, it was the East who wanted to secede but eventually, it was the East who decided that they were going because they were not wanted. And the response was war. The Biafra war.”

“Today, everybody wants to go. Everybody,” the Catholic Bishop lamented, and posed, “Do the leaders ever ask themselves why?”

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“At no time in the history of our time have we been so polarized along ethnic and religious lines as we have had since 2015,” he further said, adding that nobody wants to leave where things are working well to where things are not working.

“Now everybody wants to leave. The westerners say they want to go. Those in the Middle Belt say they want to go. The North East wants to go. Everybody wants to go. Everybody wants to divide Nigeria,” the Bishop bewailed.

According to the Nigerian Bishop, dividing Nigeria is not the solution to the country’s numerous challenges.

He explained, “Division is not the solution. Separation is not the solution because if we separate, if we divide, if we balkanize Nigeria without conversion of hearts, we will carry our pockets of grumbling home.”

Bishop Onah called upon Nigerians to learn about South Sudan concerning division, saying, “Southern Sudan should teach us a lesson. In Sudan, the north was always oppressing the South, so, they fought for more than 20 years and eventually they got independence as Southern Sudan. After one year, they started fighting again.”


Making reference to the instability in South Sudan following the civil strife that started in December 2013 and the encounter between Pope Francis and South Sudanese leaders in April 2019, the Nigerian Bishop narrated, “Two years ago, Pope Francis called the two leaders of South Sudan’s two ethnic groups that are majorly Christians to Rome. An eighty-something-year-old Pope went down on his knees and kissed their feet begging them to reconcile but they are still fighting.”

“Our problems will not be solved by Biafra, no matter what anybody thinks,” the Local Ordinary of Nsukka said, and added, “It is not rocket science. How many leaders of Boko Haram have they killed? The more they kill the more others arise. And we don’t seem to be learning from that experience.”

According to Bishop Onah, any leadership that produces only division is a failed leadership. Such leadership, he said, “should have the humility of accepting that it has tried and failed to solve the problem.”

He pointed to the dire situation in many parts of Nigeria, saying, “We have so many IDPs in our country. Refugees in their own country. People who can no longer sleep in their homes yet others have been selected to protect their security.”

He said that amidst suffering, people find it easy to accept anyone who comes with a promise to redeem them from oppression, “even if he is only a business man or woman.”

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The only solution to the people’s agitations, Bishop Onah said, is good governance, justice and fairness. This way, he added, nobody will feel excluded and nobody will feel that only a particular ethnic tribe is important.

He further said that failure to address the people’s agitations will give rise to many “radical and deadly” leaders claiming to represent those who feel left out.

Drawing inspiration from the Sunday Gospel Reading where Jesus is described as the Good Shepherd characterized with compassion, Bishop Onah went on to say that Nigeria needs a compassionate leader who has the people’s welfare at heart.

“We talk of a leader who is firm, but is he also compassionate? Is he worried about the people and their welfare? Without compassion, we can’t lead anybody,” the Nigerian Bishop emphasized.