Let’s Foster “merit over mediocrity” in Nigeria’s 2023 Elections: Catholic Archbishop

Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama after the opening Mass of the 3rd Abuja Catholic Archdiocesan General Assembly at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral. Credit: Abuja Archdiocese

The Archbishop of Abuja in Nigeria has cautioned the electorate in the West African nation against mediocrity during the 2023 general elections, and advocated for “merit”.

"Merit over mediocrity is the only approach that will save our country, that is, when we elect good leaders who are genuinely patriotic, experienced, competent and sincerely God-fearing,” Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama said on Thursday, September 22.

Archbishop Kaigama who was speaking during the 3rd Abuja Catholic Archdiocesan General Assembly at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral of his Metropolitan See emphasized the need for the electorate to examine the values of the political candidates. 

“We must begin to take self-serving considerations off the table when it comes to politics!” he said during the assembly that was attended by Apostolic Nuncio in Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Fillipazzi, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), and senior government officials, among others.

The Nigerian Archbishop added, “What is very crucial now is the search for good leaders who are able to promote what is right, what is honorable and fair and what advances the common good; leaders who are passionate about advancing the growth, progress and stability of Nigeria.”


In their search for “good leaders”, Archbishop Kaigama challenged the electorate in Africa’s most populous nation “to see themselves as fellow citizens, united in vision and destiny despite their ethnic or religious differences.”

Political “mediocrity” is manifested in “politics of bitterness, unhealthy personality clashes, and manipulation that have become deeply entrenched in our country,” he said.

“The inability to realize meaningful change in our socio-political and economic environment is as a result of the culture of corruption and very poor governance, coupled with untamed political, religious and ethnic sentiments,” the Nigerian Archbishop said.

The 64-year-old Catholic Archbishop who started his Episcopal Ministry in April 1995 as Bishop of Nigeria’s Jalingo Diocese regretted the fact that tribalism is entrenched in the citizens of the West African nation.

 “A typical Nigerian prefers a bad leader from his/her tribe than a good leader from another tribe,” he said, adding that such self-centeredness in the politics of Nigeria “is the genesis of our problem. Little wonder, political positions in Nigeria have become fiercely contested.”

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Archbishop Kaigama expressed the need for “a complete change in the way we do politics” and urged political parties in the country to “be forthcoming on how best they are to address the issues bedeviling our polity like insecurity, deteriorating public health and education, the current inflationary trends, resulting in high living conditions.”

“Politics in Nigeria is considered as a business and is superior to probity!”  the Catholic Archbishop who has been at the helm of Abuja Archdiocese since November 2019 said during the September 22 event.

He explained, “We tend to elect our worst and leave out the best and seem to view elections as a matter of ethnic and religious alliances. This should be disturbing to all well-meaning citizens.”

Archbishop Kaigama recognized the role of the Church in the Nigerian society and the place of Christians in the politics of the West African nation.

“The Church’s obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of society is part of the mission given to us by Jesus Christ,” he said, and added, “it is not a must for all Christians to be involved in politics, but should be aware of their responsibilities in public life to play politics well.”


While members of the Clergy, and women and men Religious are not permitted to participate in partisan politics, they have the responsibility to “encourage lay people to be part of creating just governance and policies,” the Archbishop said. 

Church leaders have the duty to encourage the Laity to participate in the elections, including acquiring the voter card, and voting for morally upright political candidates in line with the Social Teaching of the Catholic Churc. 

In participating in the elections by voting, Archbishop Kaigama said, “we are all fulfilling our calling to sanctify the society. You can’t complain about the government if you don’t vote and you do your Christian faith a great disservice by abstaining from voting.”

Turning his attention to the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Nigerian Archbishop expressed optimism in the promise of transparent and fair elections.

With the passage of the electoral bill, Archbishop Kaigama said in his September 22 keynote address, “INEC is promising to ensure transparency, probity and fairness. We hope they keep to their word.”

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Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.