“Current wave of agitations all over country very worrisome”: Catholic Bishop in Nigeria

Bishop Callistus Onaga of Nigeria's Enugu Diocese. Credit: Courtesy Photo

A Catholic Bishop in Nigeria has expressed concerns about the level of anxiety across the West African nation saying the trend is politically “worrisome.”

In his homily during the second Plenary Assembly of the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Bishop Callistus Onaga identified insecurity as one of Nigeria’s “biggest problems.”

“Politically, the current wave of agitations all over the country is very worrisome,” Bishop Onaga said Sunday, August 22, and added, “There is an atmosphere of fear, heightened mistrust, obvious suspicion, cold war, amplified conflicts here and there.”

“The worsening insecurity in this land is one of the biggest problems that is existential and we cannot push aside,” the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu in Nigeria further said, reiterating that insecurity is “the greatest of all the threats to Nigeria’s existence as a single sovereign country.”

He made reference to news media reports saying, “Every day, the front pages of Nigeria’s newspapers and news headlines on television, radio, and the social media are filled with reports of abductions or kidnappings for ransom, terrorism, banditry, herders’ attacks and open grazing on people’s farmlands, reprisal attacks, political assassinations, and other opportunity crimes.”


“It is so bad that as we are here, a number of our school children and other abductees are still in the bush languishing in the den of self-determination,” the Nigerian Bishops said August 22.

Nigeria has been experiencing attacks from Boko Haram since 2009. Insecurity in the country has further been complicated by the predominantly Muslim Fulani militia who have been clashing with farmers over grazing lands.

In February, Catholic Bishops in the country decried the multiple crises that are bedeviling the nation and called for urgent action lest Nigeria collapses. 

“We are really on the brink of a looming collapse. The nation is falling apart,” CBCN members said in their collective statement February 23. 

They added, “The clamor for self-defense is fast gaining ground. Many ethnic champions are loudly beating the drums of war, calling not only for greater autonomy but even for outright opting out of a nation in which they have lost all trust and sense of belonging.”

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In his August 22 homily, Bishop Onaga said citizens of Africa’s most populous nation “are at a very dangerous stage and a very important state in many axes of our society.”

“Going forward, every Nigerian should feel a sense of belonging and feel safe wherever they are in every part of this country,” the Nigerian Bishop who has been at the helm of Nigeria’s Enugu Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in May 2009 said.

He appealed for an inclusive approach in the distribution of the country’s resources saying Nigeria’s wealth “should be deployed equitably and strategically to achieve the feeling of inclusiveness across the nation and to aid in calming the nerves of all those clamoring for self-determination.”

He also urged the government to go beyond “condemning insecurity in the most absolute terms” and instead, “design, promulgate and be seen to be really implementing result-oriented policies to arrest the insecurity problem.”

The Nigerian Bishop also noted the rise in paganism and called upon Christians not to give up on God. 


“The Church today is facing a resurgence of paganism which is spreading like wildfire especially among the youthful population,” Bishop Onaga said.

He explained, “Many have left and are still leaving the church to the pagan religion of their ancestors for reasons ranging from the search for material benefits for quick wealth, security or protection, deeper intimacy with ancestry world and an obsessive nostalgia to revive fetish cultural practices.”

Most of those leaving the church, he cautioned, “will relapse into full scale neo-paganism.”

“Some who do not totally abandon the church may attend church activities regularly but from time to time combine the practice of Christian faith with pagan practices or traditional rituals,” the Bishop who will turn 63 next month said.

“Unlike inculturation through which the Church adopts and promotes positive aspects of culture,” Bishop Onaga said, “Neo-paganism is sheer adulterous and superstitious breach of God’s commandment ‘You shall worship the Lord your God alone and Him alone shall you serve. You shall have no other God before me.’”

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He further said, “I appeal to our Christian people, particularly the young ones, don’t give up on God. Do not allow the difficulties or challenges of time to make you turn to evil ways and entangle yourselves in spiritual bondage.”

“God is larger than our problems. If we ever think that God cannot solve our problems, trust me nobody else can do it,” the Nigerian Bishop said August 22.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.