Rev. Fr.  Dr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua

Director: Mission and Dialogue

Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja

I do not know how many people will agree with Socrates, the ancient philosopher ofAthensthat “no person does evil willfully. For those who killed Jesus, He prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23, 34).St. Paulwrote to the Romans: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7, 15). In civil law, a suspect is not called a criminal until there is enough evidence that the crime under investigation was committed with full knowledge and volition. The human person is so complex that science has not been able to comprehend the dynamics of the totality of human actions. Even Medical Science can not boast of a complete knowledge of human anatomy. Many factors are involved in the analysis of human actions and acts of man. For instance, conscience is formed by environment, culture, religion and education. These define the world view and horizon of a person. These also determine the level of reception of a person in dialogue. Theologically, true Conscience is the voice of God in a person. It enables a person to judge between good and evil. It helps a person to identify and respect natural laws and civil laws that are derived from divine laws. In psychology, Conscience is the police of the mind that reminds a person of right and wrong while in spirituality conscience is like a guardian angel that directs a person to know the difference between virtue and vice. There are different types of conscience:


  • Right/True conscience is good and well formed. It accepts what is good and rejects what is evil.
  • Erroneous / False conscience is the power of the mind to wrongly decide that something is lawful whereas it is not.
  • Certain conscience is a state of mind that lacks   prudence to change a decision even when it is clear that the action is wrong. This may lead to conservatism as in the case of some people who often refer to the holy books to defend their actions.
  • Doubtful conscience is the inability of the mind to take a decision.
  • Tender conscience is the power of the mind to form correct judgment based on reason.
  • Lapse conscience is the error of the mind to take wrong actions lightly.
  • Pharisaic Conscience is the act of the mind to see sin in every action. The mind can not act because everything is sinful and the actions of others are critically judged.
  • Dead Conscience is the power of the mind to do evil without remorse. It is a complete lost of the sense of feeling for human value as in the case of a “Kakos” in Greek mythology.

Very often we hear some people say: “my conscience is clear”. The immediate question should be whether this clear conscience follows the principle of wisdom and love that naturally corrects whatever injures oneself or another. Does this clear conscience promote the principles of courage, empathy, commitment, acceptance, understanding, love, joy, peace, and liberation? Does this conscience has the  noble qualities of love, respect, charity, compassion, reconciliation, uprightness, brotherhood, generosity, hospitality, humility, forgiveness, patience, perseverance, politeness, gratitude, service and sincerity? According to Dr. Vincent E. Rush, “when you violate a value that is residing in your innermost judgment, you commit psychological suicide because you lose your self-respect. And when you lose your self-respect, you have lost it all. If love is giving, if love is sharing, you have to believe you are somebody in order to give”.

The formation of character and conscience begin from the very day of conception. The condition of a pregnant mother has a lot to contribute to the formation of the child. Pregnant mothers react differently to the environment and persons. There are some who are easily irritated and easily get angry. This according to some psychologists sometimes affects the fetus. It has been discovered by some empirical psychologists that even the period of birth has a lot of influence on the baby. For instance, if a mother is in the process of giving birth, clasps her legs while the head of the baby is already coming out, the baby is likely going to suffer some psychological defects like:

  • The baby will grow up to be afraid of narrow spaces. That means that the baby will not be able to pass through a tunnel. Such a child may not be able to pass a military test and consequently may not be able to be a valiant soldier
  • The baby will be afraid of heights. That is to say, may not be able to live in a storey building or climb high mountains.

In the early stages of life, the external manifestations that are stored in the memory of a baby could have some positive or negative effect when the baby becomes an adult. There are some people for instance who would not like to see certain faces. This faces are hated and absolutely detested. What could be responsible for this? It is likely that a person with a similar face must have done something terrible to the person when he or she was a baby. There are others who do not want to associate with people from a particular tribe either because they have had ugly memories of the tribe or heard from others negative stories of the tribe in question without proper enquiry. There are people who detest certain actions no matter how noble and interesting. It is likely that the person must have received these actions as a child in a very ugly or violent passion. For example, there is a story of a lady who detested and hated sex with passion. When ever the husband approached her for sex, she screamed and shouted: Rapist! Rapist! Thief! Robber! It was later discovered that when she was 12 years old, armed robbers raped her violently. That painful experience gave her a negative impression of sex and men.

There are some personality disorders that can appear in childhood and later become obstacles to dialogue. Some of the causes of these personality traits may be attributed to inheritance as in the case of children raised in an aggressive environment. Consequently, we should know that a lot of issues are involved in dialogue.  We have often been confronted by many people that we have not started dialoguing with the real people. What I understand by REAL here are those who are actually involved in violence for whatever reason to narrate their grievances. For instance, the Federal Government of Nigeria’s amnesty programme in the Niger Delta should include in their  scheme some scientific capacity to identify the different personality traits and behavioral pattern of the ex-militants as a case study to know why some Nigerians behave the way they do.  The prisons should not only be reduced to punitive actions. Reformation of prisoners should have facilities for counseling and psychotherapy. That means that every prison should have the services of psychotherapists, clinical psychologists, logo- therapists, clerics and crafts experts.

Perhaps we can take a scientific and critical look with a sense of empathy at the terrorism in the Northern part ofNigeria. It is important to take a critical look at the environment where these violent activities are being carried out.  A proper therapy on the terrorist suspects under arrest should be carried out with an attendant mechanism that would be capable of healingNigeriaof terrorism from the root. Terrorism is not just a political and religious problem but an aspect of abnormal personality that needs a psychological and clinical attention.  This is the time forNigeriato dig deep into her intellectual wealth by identifying Nigerian professors and experts in the various forms of human sciences to healNigeriaof human abnormalities that is crippling the nation.