In the past weeks, I have explored the state of the Church in various countries, thereby reinforcing why the Church in Nigeria needs to safeguard its political authority, particularly in contemporary society. Today’s post explores why we must exercise moral caution as we engage in politics.
Being a state governor differs largely from being the president of a country because the latter is much more complex. Across the world, politicians who did well at the local level struggle to fulfil their manifestos at the national level because the competing interests at the national level are enormous.
During his presidential election campaign in 2019, Joe Biden said Saudi Arabia would be a “pariah state” because of its human rights record, suppression of free speech, and particularly because of the butchering of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi embassy in Turkey. Yet, Joe Biden, as President of the United States, visited Saudi Arabia in June 2022 when the Russian war in Ukraine skyrocketed the energy prices in the US. Simply put, Joe swallowed his words. This is the reason for today’s post.
The Catholic Church in Nigeria is largely but unofficially supporting Peter Obi for the presidency. The reason is not primarily because Peter is a Catholic but because, considering all the variables expected of a leader, including good health, he is the overall best candidate among the leading contestants. Peter Obi did very well as the governor of Anambra State and his goodwill for a better Nigeria is second to none. However, being the president of Nigeria is a different ball game because of the multi-ethnic and religious nature of Nigeria and the numerous competing interests at the national level which could sabotage his administration.
Therefore, as priests and religious, we must exercise caution in our public support. There are two reasons for this. The first is the political backlash if the opposition wins. The examples of the Philippines and Nicaragua discussed in the last weeks are very clear.
Second, our moral authority is at stake. As I have explained severally, the Church only has moral authority; an authority which is already threatened by our abuse of authority over people, our past offences particularly, sexual abuse, and the return to traditional religion, which some erroneously describe as “the rise of neo-paganism in Nigeria”.
We are too big to wriggle ourselves out of it because politics is not governed by morality but by interests (economic, political, religious, and social). The blame would further undermine our moral authority as well as our political authority.
Moreover, we cannot claim that it does not matter. Politicians know how to fight dirty and they can use anything to do so. We have seen how priests and bishops are abused and arrested in the Philippines, Nicaragua, and other countries. Nigeria is not immune to that. Let’s imagine the Catholic Church in Nigeria being dragged on social media and at political rallies. We have seen a bit of it with the case of clearance at burials and backlash against our beloved brother, Fr Ejike Mbaka. Of course, these are accompanied by religious apathy or disinterest alongside their implications on the Church’s economic sustainability and long-term mission of saving souls.
Yes, the situation is dire and we cannot only be preaching to people who are hungry and are killed just because they went to Church. We need to do something and that we must do. Yet, as we do that, let’s be cautious of our moral authority as an institution. Once lost, it is very difficult to regain.
Ka Chineke mezie okwu🙏🏾