Paul Samasumo – Vatican City.
Nigeria’s Catholic Bishops say assertions from President Buhari’s office accusing “disgruntled religious and past political leaders” of plotting to remove the President from office forcibly are a distraction and unnecessary propaganda. In a statement seen by Vatican News, the Bishops advise President Buhari to improve the economy, security of Nigerians and to embrace criticism.
A security summit
“The Presidency recently stated that some religious leaders and some Nigerian politicians are plotting to destabilise the country…While we reject any call for the destabilisation of Nigeria or military takeover, we nonetheless say to the Federal Government of Nigeria, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, there is no need to focus your energy, time and resources in any form of propaganda against religious leaders who disagree with your performance. There is no need to spend so much of your time trying to blackmail anyone who criticises your Government,” said the Archbishop of Benin City and President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, Augustine Obiora Akubeze.
Archbishop Akubeze added, however, that given the serious security and economic challenges facing the country, “It is not out of place to call for a security summit in whatever form it may take as long as it leads to the unity, peace, justice, progress and protection of Nigerians,” stated the Archbishop.
Military pledges loyalty
Last week, local media quoted Nigeria’s Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, saying that security agents had unveiled evidence linking some “disgruntled religious and past political leaders” to a planned undemocratic change of Nigeria’s leadership.
Before Adesina’s statement linking religious leaders to the alleged coup, the country’s Department of State Services (DSS) also made similar claims. The recent happenings in Abuja perhaps explain why Nigeria’s military generals recently pledged loyalty to uphold Nigeria’s constitution. They said as military, they are subject to civilian rule and warned all military personnel to stay away from politics.
The Nigerian Bishops further criticise President Buhari’s penchant for speaking to the nation through spokespersons.
“In every democracy, the welfare of citizens is of great concern to the President. From time to time, Presidents address the people and give an account of the state of affairs in the country. Presidents of countries grant interviews to the media who are the watchdogs of democracy. But in Nigeria, we hardly hear directly from our President. Most of the time, we hear from “the Presidency.” Nigerians did not elect presidential media spokespersons. Nigerians do want to hear directly from their President and hear words that are matched with actions,” said Archbishop Akubeze.
Calming the storm
Some clerics and religious leaders, in Nigeria, reacted sharply to accusations of a coup plot causing Archbishop Akubeze to try and calm the storm.
“To every religious leader, let us not use inflammatory words that distort the real message we are sending to this Government,” advised the Metropolitan prelate of Benin City.
The economy and insecurity
General Muhammadu Buhari was first elected as President of Nigeria, in 2015 promising to improve the economy, tackle corruption and enhance the general security of the country. Buhari is currently serving his second and last term in office. It ends in 2023.