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In Nigeria, “silence no longer golden”, Bishop Says, Urges Citizens to Engage Government

Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe of Nigeria's Makurdi Diocese. Credit: Courtesy Photo

A Catholic Bishop in Nigeria has urged the people of God in the country to engage their government on the country’s challenges, cautioning against silence amid insecurity.   

“Silence is no longer golden in Nigeria. This is what I am urging you all to do in your various chosen professions; to speak up against injustices regardless of who will be offended,” Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe has been quoted as saying Thursday, July 29. 

The Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Makurdi Diocese who was speaking at a workshop for Catholic professionals in his episcopal see noted that while the government of Nigeria views criticism as hatred, it is particularly important for faith-based leaders to be vocal as they are meant to correct injustices. 

“It is not the question of APC (All Progressives Congress) or PDP (People's Democratic Party); it is a question of good governance instead,” Bishop Anagbe said in his message that was also posted on the Facebook page of The Catholic Star Newspaper, a publication of his episcopal see.

“The Church stands for justice and truth,” the Nigerian Bishop reiterated, adding that when church leaders speak, “it is to correct injustices.”

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He continued, “Those who think we hate President Buhari each time we complain about insecurity are getting it wrong. We don’t hate him. We are only reminding him of his campaign promises and the oath of office he took to protect Nigerians.”

The Bishop who has been at the helm of Makurdi Diocese since March 2015 highlighted situations when people under his pastoral care have become victims of insecurity.

Making reference to a 2018 incident when suspected herdsmen reportedly killed two Catholic Priests and over a dozen lay faithful, Bishop Anagbe posed, “When I complain about the killing of two of my Priests and seventeen lay worshippers in Mbalom, is that hatred?”

“When I complain about the displacement of parishes in my Diocese, is that hatred? When we call for the rehabilitation of internally displaced persons, is that hatred?” he further posed, and added, “Administration is not faith; whatever you do as a leader will be there for the people to see and there will be no need for face-saving arguments.”

Nigeria has been experiencing insecurity since 2009 when Boko Haram insurgency began targeted attacks with the aim of turning the nation into an Islamic state.

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Since then, the group, one of largest Islamist groups in Africa, has been organizing indiscriminate terrorist attacks on various targets including political and religious groups as well as civilians.

The insecurity situation in the country has been worsened by the involvement of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen, also referred to as the Fulani Militia, who have been clashing frequently with Christian farmers over grazing land.

In his July 29 message, Bishop Anagbe vowed to continue speaking against any form of injustices in Africa’s most populous nation. 

The member of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CMF) went on to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to “step up efforts towards arresting the enduring, unbearable insecurity in the country which is threatening social, religious and economic activities of the people.”

The Nigerian Bishop was speaking against the backdrop of government criticism of Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah following his July 14 address to the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, D.C.

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In his address, Bishop Kukah told the U.S. Congress that the failure of the Federal Government of Nigeria to address insecurity was either due to helplessness of disinterestedness.

“The whole country, especially the North, is invaded by armed bandits and kidnappers who attack communities at will. The fact that the government seems to be either helpless or uninterested in dealing decisively with these people has added more confusion,” the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese said during the July 14 virtual event.

Following this, Nigeria’s Presidency accused Bishop Kukah of spreading false information with the intent to discredit the administration.

Days later, the Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province in the West African nation came to Bishop Kukah’s defense saying he was unveiling “the truth about the Nigerian situation in order to ameliorate things.”

“We call on the Nigerian government to learn not to see criticism as an attack or a crime,” the Catholic Bishops said in their July 20 statement.

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