“I want to, first of all, thank God almighty who has kept us all living till this moment. Strange as it may sound, I like to thank our colonial masters who brought us together despite our diversity, for all the effort that they put into ensuring that our country has all the good things that a people should have to launch itself into a modern state.

Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah

It is also time to thank all those brave and selfless missionaries who laid the foundation of our modern civilization by providing us with high-quality education even before the colonial masters arrived in our country.

We must appreciate the context of colonialism and the fact each deriving philosophy was the exploitation of our resources and we must conceive that they laid the foundation for extracting our resources for the development of their own country. Their interest was buried in the womb of the country they created.

However, today, we have destroyed the institution that the colonial administration created, and we have distorted the image of our own development.

On October 1st 1960, when we became independent, our joy clearly knew no end. It was my first year in primary school. We all turned out as neat as we could afford to, to hear our headmaster talk to us about the terrible white men who had come and stolen our land.

I didn’t understand this because I never saw anyone stopped my father and other members of my community from going to their farms. I didn’t understand this because we were playing around freely with no hindrance.

I saw no policemen around, so I talked to myself, which land did these white people come to steal? I had seen only two white men in my entire life, both of them where priests, even though I did not know fully what a catholic priest was, but, they were good men, and we were told that they came from a very far country, and we knew from their skin that they didn’t look like us.

In fact it is said that when one Tiv man saw the first white man, he ran to his house, fetched water and started pouring water on the white man because he thought the poor man had fallen inside fire. The priest I saw had been to a church and a school in our village, and that was the first building that I saw that was not thatched with grass.

It was impossible for me to understand how any white man could be so wicked to steal our land. The teacher talked about the new song we later realize is called an anthem, which we were supposed to sing in praise of our dear country and our freedom, even though I did not see anything that was new. I had no idea about what was being said in the song, and all we did as children was to try and murmur something.

The greatest treasures were the little flags and cups that were distributed to all of us. Holding the first cup in my life and holding a little flag, seemed a great contradiction to the headmaster’s portrayal of the white man as a thief. We soon learned the name of our new prime minister Abubakar Tafawa Belewa, the man who came to be known as the golden voice of Africa.

In his speech on October 1st, the Prime minister announced that ‘our new day has arrived’ and he promised to dedicate his life to the service of his country. The Prime minister also noted that our country had emerged without bitterness and bloodshed. He also stated that; ‘building our nation proceeded the widest space and it has been through and Nigeria now stands on a well-built foundation’.

Barely six years later, we murdered him, he became a symbol of blood sacrifice that has now drenched our country and turn it into a sea of blood arising from the civil war, the endless circles of coming out of bloodletting which has now become part and parcel of our governance structure.

Successive leaders have not come to terms on how to end the culture of deaths. Today our country is littered with very sharp pieces of broken promises.

As we look back today watching our country drift in a wide sea of uncertainty, we are compelled to ask with the psalmist: ‘from where shall come our help’. But the same psalmist tells us that: ‘Our help shall come from the name of the Lord’.

After 60 years of bloodletting, blood has become embedded in our culture of existence, so, where do we find the inspiration to celebrate 60 years of independence.

Of course, there is enough blame to go round, we can blame the British, our politicians, the military, but, none of these changes anything, it is fate of nations to go through the furnace and crucible of suffering, no nation dropped from heaven.

Under the banner of religion, Europe fought a war that has come to be known as the 30 years war, beginning with the fight between catholic and protestants, later strained on for 30 years, between 1618 and 1648. The world lost millions of men and women in two wars propelled by human greed.

The first world war between 19140-1918, the second 1939-1945, fleeing from the commitment army in 1934, Mao the thong, led his people from the famous long march, strengthened what many has said in history between 4000 and 5000 miles, between 1934 and 1935.

It’s almost like trekking from here to London, and we remember, Mandela’s biography titled long walk to freedom is a metaphor for the struggle against white domination.

My dear brothers and sisters, the journey to greatness requires more than just good people, it requires more than just goodwill, it requires more than just hope, the journey has to be led with men and women with vision; with tested character, prepared to lead their people to a goal that may not necessarily be attainable or achievable, but encourage them to march towards the attainment of that goal.

It is against this backdrop, that every year a nation celebrates its independence, just like a man or woman celebrating his or her birthday or wedding anniversary, each anniversary calls on us to do introspection, how far have we travelled on the road that we set for ourselves.

It is easy to say that we have been an unlucky country, because, the evidence is glaring, indeed, one of our presidents marveled by how NIGERIA that has taken so much beating was still standing, unable to collapse.

In spite of the huge resources after 60years, today, as citizens, we cannot feed ourselves. Today, after 60 years, our people are not safe. Today after 60years, our nation IS STILL IN DARKNESS.

Today, after 60 years we cannot communicate with one another by means of roads, railways. Today, after 60years, our nation has become at best deathtraps, where ordinary citizens are hunted by marauders and murderers.

What we inherited from the British, were either stolen, broken or thrown away. The nation is now a wasteland littered with white elephant projects conceived and abandoned but all paid for. Governance at best in Nigeria has become not a call to service but a criminal enterprise for self appropriation and self-improvement.

No nation has ever taken a shortcut to success, not because those nations have not tried, but, simply because there are no shortcuts to success.

The military, perhaps even worst than the colonial administration destroyed the very foundations of our democracy, the foundations of our bureaucracy, the foundations of our public service, by introducing a culture of arbitrariness and lawlessness in which violence was the only means to power.

A combination of these set the foundation for corruption as the worst manifestation of the total lack of accountability. To be sure, when General Abdusalam broke with the military tradition of clutching to power in 1999, he did lay a foundation for the return of our country to democracy, and we thank God, looking back, that after 20years, we have conducted 5 back to back elections, even with most controversial circumstances and despite the violence, after 16years of being ruled by one political party, the nation decided that it was fed up with their arrogance and blatant thievery and looting mentality that have become the political culture of the time.

The citizens of Nigeria made a radical and unprecedented turn, thus in 2014, the unexpected happened, namely: a sitting president in Africa will concede defeat against the role of play, even when the tally of votes had come in.

The nation, well across ethnic-religious, ethnic, and class line, believed our worst nightmare was over. The incoming president had campaigned on a rich menu of promises, promising to bring back the Chibok girls, to end corruption, to end Boko Haram, to end poverty, to unite our country.

Indeed, he had ushered in so much lofty hope to uphold the constitution when he said in his inaugural speech on May 29 2015 ‘I belong to everyone and to no one’. We all took these promises, and we looked up in hope to a man who had campaigned on the key philosophy of integrity and character.

Today, the tide has woefully turned, the president has turned his back to almost all the key promises he had made to all Nigerians during the campaign. Today, our country now looks like a boiling pot in which everyone is trying to escape.

Nepotism had become the new ideology of this government. In following this ideology, it is estimated, and is very interesting that this statement was made by a northern Muslim journalist that the president has handed over 85 percent of key appointments to northern Muslims, and ensured that men of his faith hold tight the reins of power to the most critical areas of our national life, such as the national assemble, and the security agencies.

In chapter 2 of our constitution under fundamental objectives, and directive principles of state policy, the constitution states clearly in section 13 and I quote ‘it shall be the responsibility and duty of all organs of government, and of all authorities and process, exercising legislative, executive, Judicial powers to conformed, observed and applied the provisions of this chapter of the constitution, from the president to the least office holder’.

The constitution which is the political bible that holds any country together, of which political heads swear by and to uphold the principles, section 14 subsection 1 says and I quote; ‘The federal republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice’ those are the 2 critical pillars on which the federal republic of Nigeria hangs, of which we measure the success of Nigeria by the quality of Nigeria and social justice.

Article B follows by stating and I quote; ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of the government. That means that, the president, governors, chairman of local government in this country as their primary responsibility, the obligation to ensure that their people are safe and like a mother and her child, their people don’t go to bed hungry.

These are the test by which we can measure the faithfulness, the commitment of the president of the public office holders in Nigeria.

Subsection 3 of the constitution of the states; ‘The composition of the government of the federation or any of these agencies, and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there is no predominance of persons from a few states, or persons from other groups in that government or any of its agencies.’ This is the constitution and every person holding office swore by, not to monopolise power.

However, by adopting nepotism as a primary ideology, clearly, unable to secure our country and our people, President Muhamadu Buhari is in flagrant violation of the constitution that he swore to uphold. And the evidence that adduced is not my thinking, but what our constitution states.

Today, our sense of unity is severely under threat and test. Our common citizenship has been fractured and diminished; the principles of social justice, fairness, egalitarianism on which our constitution stands have been assaulted, violated and diminished.

Nigerian citizens feel collectively violated. There is clearly a conflict in narratives and understanding, between the principles and ideologies contained in the constitution, the manifesto of the APC as a party on which the president campaigned on the brutal realities of Nigeria today.

It is seen that it was in anticipation of this dissonance that the president built a firewall around himself by participant selection of security chiefs based on religion, region or ethnic base. It could be the reason for the adoption of the same principles in the national assembly as we have it today, wherefore, for the first time in the history of our nation Senate president, the speaker of the house and their deputies and majority leaders are all of the same region and faith.

Perhaps, this consciousness would never have arisen, and I Am making the point therefore that this is a clear violation of the constitution and in other clans, these are clear grounds of division, because the president fails to uphold, live by the principles of the constitution, it remains for the national assembly to surpass the limit of that claim against the brutal realities that Nigerians face today.

The president has been quite diligent and focused on the pursuit of an agenda, that is clearly alien to the aspirations, hopes, and dreams of our people across religion. We have nothing yet to talk about Islam as a religion, Christianity as a religion, Nigeria as southerners, easterners, northerners, the width and breadth of the country is hurt.

It is about the choice made by an individual, the vision that he pursues does not conform to the aspiration the founding fathers of the country, the latter, and the spirit of our constitution. Nigeria was nothing like this before. How long will this lie last before it melts in our faces? We are living a lie and we all know it. The motor of our country is unity and faith, peace, and progress.

Today, my dear brothers and sisters, where is Nigeria unity, our faith in Nigeria, peace and progress in Nigeria. Let us remember the world stood still and stood shoulder to shoulder with Nigeria and expected great things from Nigeria.

And if you read the speech if our prime minister, both on October 1st and what he presented in the United states, you can see very clearly that indeed Europe and America where ready to accompany Nigeria to greatness. On the 5th of December 1960,

Time Magazine did what it had never done namely; it placed our prime minister as man of the year. No black person had ever been conferred with that honour before. Today, where are we?

Finally, at the end of his speech 60years ago, our beloved prime minister thanked the missionaries for the great work they did in Nigeria, We the catholic church in keeping with that tradition have remained relentless and are still on our duty post following the legacy of those who had gone before us, we still stand committed to providing education and health services across the board, with no consideration of ethnicity and religion, that is the legacy the catholic church is proud to uphold which is the legacy followed when at the setting up of covid19 committee.

The Catholic Bishops provided all our health centres across Nigeria to be used for the treatment of COVID. That spirit of the pursuit of the common good has been our principle as catholic, and this is why our president appeals to the entire Catholic community and we devoted the last 39 days, ending today, 40 days of committed prayer to God, and we know God will not abandon us.

We as a church remains committed to the betterment of this country, but, it is clear to point out that this country is not benefitting the majority of its citizens. Today, after 60years it is a period to renew our vows, but it is doubtful that the majority of Nigerians will respond to summon of being called to renew their vows to Nigeria, they will ask which Nigeria? Because it has not been fair to its citizens, and it has been more manifest in the last few years.

We all face a dilemma, which is, our national day just a day for celebration, or a day that we can be called upon singing God song in Babylon. How can we sing a song of joy, when our daughters, Chibok girls are still in captivity, when Leah Shuaribu is still not accounted for. How can we sing a song of joy when sponsored murderers are still running across our land, when it is almost evident that this year all poor farmers cannot reap, because they did not sow.

Mr President, I want to appeal to you, our country is now literally a pool of blood, please, reset the clock before it is too late.

I pray for you that you turn your attention from those hypocrites who see the failure of the Nigerian state as politics; we see it as a matter life and death.

This is not the Nigeria we dreamt of Mr. President that you fought in a war and tried to give your life. But, we hope in God as Nigerians, and I say to Nigeria, let us stand in hope, love, and confidence, and renew our faith in God.

God bless you and our country – Vanguard