By Abuchi Onwumelu
The Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Paulinus Ezeokafor, has admonished Christians and Nigerians to be active in playing their civic roles, especially as the 2019 general elections draw closer by shunning vote buying.
The prelate, in his 2018 Christmas Message titled, “Christmas: The Moment of Truth'', noted that in playing his civic role, the Christian would be fulfilling one of Christ's instructions which is to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.
'Part of a Christian's civic responsibilities is courageous witnessing to the truth revealed from of Old. Truth has a vindicating, liberating, and redemptive power, hence, truth saves,' he said.
Bishop Ezeokafor noted that a nation perished in corruption and injustice once her citizens were not courageous enough to call a spade a spade, and even unready to die in defence of the right cause; adding that a nation, on the other hand, survived and progressed once there were people ready to die on account of truth, so as to redeem the nation as Christ did.
Bishop Ezeokafor, who spoke ahead of the just concluded Christmas, noted that it was certain that during the period, a lot of political meetings and conventions would be held at various levels in preparation for the 2019 elections, as parties had officially concluded their primaries.
'As Christians who are celebrating the birth of our Redeemer and Messiah, Son of Truth and Justice, our actions and reactions with regard to election of leaders into offices should be formed and guided by the spirit of truth and of good conscience. It is part of our civic obligations to absolutely make conscientious contributions rather than being sentimental regarding electing good leaders imbued with fear of God and who have the prerequisite competence demanded of their office.
'Our PVC is our mandate and empowerment for this. It is, indeed, a great weapon necessary for the casting of our votes at this time, to wage war against bad leadership in the country. For without voting, one is powerless to effect changes and to contribute positively to the development of society.
'Neglecting to secure a PVC and to vote is sheer neglect of one's civic duty towards the State, and failure to give Caesar his due. We must speak to our consciences and see our active participation as a response to God's invitation to bear witness to Him among men and women of our time.
'As we celebrate the season during which we commemorate the birth of the true Son of God to redeem us from slavery to sin, let us cooperate with Him by conscientiously playing our civic roles, to see that we are really vindicated; and by so doing, we shall have set our great nation free from its present abysmal darkness,' he said.
Bishop Ezeokafor, who said that a Christian had the privilege of dual citizenship: a citizen of the Church and that of the State, noted that if the Christian enjoyed the rights and privileges of both citizenships, the Church and the State, he should also be concerned with the fulfillment of the dual responsibilities arising therefrom.
'This is the implication of the allusion: 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.
'Here, giving to God what is God's' refers to the fulfillment of a Christian's religious obligations for the upkeep of the Church of God on earth and propagation of the faith. Similarly, giving to Caesar what is Caesar's' refers to the fulfillment of a Christian's civic obligations for the upkeep of the State of which he is a part.
'Some misunderstand this saying of Jesus as meaning a call for us to play double allegiances, one to the devil (world) and the other to God. This is absolutely false! It rather means fulfilling our duties to both God and the State, by allowing our love and obedience for God to influence and direct our engagement with the State and other aspects of our lives in the world,' Bishop Ezeokafor concluded.
On issue of Vote buying, Bishop Ezeokafor said those who engaged in vote buying in the 2019 general elections would be committing a sin and needed to atone for their sins through confession, saying that 2019 would be a critical decision-making year for the country and must be taken very seriously.
'Vote buying is a sin, and those who do that must go for confession. It is a sin, sin in quote, I say in quote because you may say it is not among the 10 commandments by God. So I put it in a context so I can take responsibility for what I said.
'Even the one who received money to vote is also a sinner, and must go for confession, because if you did not demand, the politician would not give,' he said.