Rev. Fr.  Dr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua

Director: Mission and Dialogue

Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja


I am just wondering why some people knot the problems of Nigeria only to the wheel of greed, power and corruption. If we compare Nigeria with other countries in the world, we may be amazed at the dynamism of Nigeria in terms of natural and human resources.  Nigeria has displayed excellence in many areas in spite of her many challenges. I am amazed that Abuja is more beautiful than some capital cities in the Western world. What all these translate into is that there is real and raw energy in Nigeria with the capacity to do almost all that is humanly possible.

Unfortunately, this energy is sometimes misdirected towards the capacity for evil and crime. Consequently, if a Nigerian wishes to display intellectual capacity in doing what is good, he or she can do what Napoleon could not do. On the other hand, if a Nigerian wishes to display intellectual capacity in crime and evil, he or she would compete with Adolf Hitler. That means that Nigeria has a potential energy that could be directed positively.

But who is to do this?  How do we actualize this potential energy in the right direction? Perhaps we can attempt the basis by revisiting the formative stages of our children. The training and upbringing of a child in the past was the responsibility of the community. Today parents and teachers can no longer impart moral education on the children. Religious education and ethics have given way to technology. Unfortunately, many Nigerians are coping very fast the foreign style of life at the expense of African values which even the western world wish to emulate. Children of this generation need to be redirected to a space where they can learn how to love God, respect their parents and their elders. The freedom of the child should not take the place of discipline. Some parents go to the extent of saying: “I do not want my children to suffer the way I suffered’. In my own view this is a systematic destruction of the child. We seem to forget that he who spares the rod spoils the child.

When I was in primary school, our parents encouraged the teachers to even “flog” us when we misbehave. I remember an occasion when I did something wrong in the house, my own mother after getting my father to punish me still went to report me to the headmaster of the school to give me more punishment. In our college   days, the senior students were feared and revered talk less of the teachers and the principal. Today, this form of training has been thrown to the winds to the extent that we breed future criminals instead of training and forming future responsible leaders of excellent character.

The time has come for us to stop blaming our political leaders only for all the ills of our country. In times like this, every person should take a step into his or her heart to examine the individual contribution to the national growth. We must be ready to take individual blame for our sins of commission or omission in the collective growth of the nation. It is not enough to reduce the problems of Nigeria to poor governance and leadership only. We must continue to ask:   WHO IS THIS NIGERIA? If we can get a correct identity of Nigeria, then we can turn out a great nation. Perhaps that too can begin the answer to the enquiry into the possibility of a united Nigeria and the optimism that Nigeria can never disintegrate. Now the puzzle and examination of conscience:

  • Is it the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who exploits the students in our various institutions of learning before they are allowed to graduate?
  • Is it the state governors who misappropriate the funds of pensioners?
  • Is it the senate president who extorts money from our road users?
  • Is it the Inspector general of police (IG) who preaches inciting sermons in places of worship and turn religion into business centers?
  • Is it religious leaders who delay files in the civil service and deny the youths of employment to earn a meaningful living?

The point I am trying to make is that if the government seems to be failing, it is because some people put in some positions are not responsible and accountable. The political leadership should therefore ensure that people are put in positions based on pure merit and be courageous to remove those who are not performing up to expectation. This will serve as corrective measure and deterrent. We need to look back and see if we can identify the height from where we have fallen and the point where we exposed ourselves to this storming rain. Nigeria citizens need mental re-engineering, clear vision, change of negative attitude, redefinition of values, and aggressive recognition of professionalism of Nigerians in executing individual and national missions. Let each and every one of us take a serious challenge on what we can each do to make a better Nigeria. We need to reexamine our psyche, attitude, orientation and world view.

Many Nigerians are used to finger pointing. We find it difficult to blame ourselves or take individual responsibilities for our actions. We forget that when you point a finger at somebody, the remaining fingers point back to you. For instance, some members of the Nigeria World Forum and Nigerians in Diaspora (NID) have daily filled our email boxes with arguments and discussions on the killing of Cynthia Osokogu. The discussion so far seems to be a kind of inter-tribal debate on the issue that the killers are from Cynthia’s own tribe. My interest rather in such discussion would be the skill of “facebook” technology these Nigerian boys used in luring this girl to wherever they abused and killed her. The technological methods of these boys have nothing to do with tribe. These boys   have wonderful knowledge but lack wisdom to positively transform their potential energy to create rather than to destroy. It is easy to say that they were greedy but with the kind of knowledge they had could they not have been able to positively earn a decent living without killing somebody. Perhaps we can beam a search light on the kind of training these boys received from their parents and the institutions they received their formal education.  I have already published an article on the formation of conscience. That publication could lead to my next question: “What will the Federal Government do with these boys?” Will it just be enough to kill them or sentence them to jail? Can these boys be used as a case study to enquire the root causes of human abnormality in Nigeria? This is the same country where an Airport taxi driver could return a huge amount of money that was forgotten in his vehicle. A wise man indeed perhaps not with too much academic prowess! What a country of the ugly and the beautiful!