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Nigerian Politicians “unwilling to drink from the cup of suffering”: Catholic Archbishop

Archdiocese Ignatius Kaigama of Nigeria's Abuja Archdiocese. Credit: Archdiocese of Abuja

After winning elections, politicians in the West African nation of Nigeria distance themselves from their respective electorates, “unwilling” to address the challenges of the people they were close to when vying for positions, a Catholic Archbishop has said.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama who was presiding over Holy Mass Sunday, October 17 said members of the political class make promises that they do not fulfill. 

“Before elections, politicians will swear, promising heaven and earth to share in the social concerns of their people, but after having won, they see the people’s complaints for an improved life as a nuisance. They are unwilling to drink from the cup of suffering the people are drinking,” Archbishop Kaigama said in his homily

As the 2023 elections draw closer, the Archbishop regretted that Nigerians are likely going to once again be subjected to listening to promises that may never be fulfilled.

He said, "This reality is not far from us, where many will be driven by desperation to occupy juicy positions of leadership.”

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In his homily during the Eucharist celebration at St. Luke Kubwa Parish of Abuja Archdiocese, the Nigerian Archbishop noted that while power is not evil, the seeking for power "in the wrong spirit" of status and the need to command over service is a problem.

“The readings of today urge us to reflect on the theme of sacrificial leadership with Jesus as the model par excellence. Whether in the Church or in the civil society, sacrificial leadership can qualify us for a place in the kingdom of God,” Archbishop Kaigama said.

He continued, “The eagerness of politicians to occupy strategic positions does not amount to the eagerness to serve the teeming youths, people with disabilities, widows, orphans, senior citizens, women discriminated against, children, etc., but to be served and to command power.”

The Archbishop of Abuja went on to caution politicians in Nigeria against autocratic leadership, which he said goes against Christ's teaching.

He said, “Jesus calls us to do the opposite: ‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant.’"

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"A good and commendable example of sensitivity to the people’s wish is the Senate rescinding its earlier decision against the electronic transmission of election results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure credible polls," Archbishop Kaigama remarked.

Senators in Nigeria voted against electronic voting and transfer of results in July. Late last week, the country’s Senate reversed its decision on the electronic voting and transfer of results. 

In the homily, the Nigerian Archbishop called on leaders to learn from Jesus' humility "to wash the feet of those they serve without lording it over them by exercising authority in a tyrannical manner." 

Nigerians need to practice servant leadership for the benefit of their nation, he said, and added, “To make Nigeria better, and our religious practices relevant, we, who claim to be religious, must embrace the life of service in the spirit of truth and holiness, and learn to wash the feet of one another. Lord Jesus, grant us such a spirit in Nigeria.”

The Nigerian Archbishop also cautioned against the “mentality of nepotism and favoritism.”

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“We must all shun the mentality of ‘not what you know but who you know’. This mentality of nepotism and favoritism has unfortunately become noticeable in appointments, recruitment and admission into important institutions,” Archbishop Kaigama bemoaned.