A COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF IBADAN ECCLESIASTICAL PROVINCE AT THE END OF THEIR FIRST MEETING FOR 2019 HELD AT THE JUBILEE CONFERENCE CENTRE, OKE ADO, IBADAN ON TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2019.
We, the Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, comprising Ibadan Archdiocese, Ilorin, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo and Osogbo Dioceses, after our first meeting for the year 2019, having prayerfully deliberated on matters of importance to the Church in Ibadan Province and our country, Nigeria, issue the following Communique:
1. New Year, New Praises
We welcome the New Year with thanksgiving to God, the Giver of all life and all good things, who has kept us going as a Church and as a country. We acknowledge that in spite of the troubles and trials which we may see all around us, the mercy of God continues to be manifested in the affairs of our Church and country. Our Province in particular has been spared most of the gruesome violence and mayhem seen in other parts of Nigeria. For all his graces and blessing which have brought us into the New Year, we thank God. We therefore call on all God's children to live a life of sincere gratitude and praise, worthy of true children of God at all times. When we live as God-fearing people, our lives find a new direction and our fears and anxieties diminish. May the New Year 2019 bring to us and to our country, new blessings that will enhance our unity and all-round development as God's people.
2. The National General Elections and Nigeria's Future
National elections at various levels in Nigeria are here again. Given the high expectations of Nigerians and the not-so-positive experience during past elections, having a better performance at the forthcoming exercise assumes monumental importance for Nigeria. Most countries of the world improve from election to election and are reaping tangible benefits and dividends in economic growth and integral human development. Our country must not be different but aim at taking its rightful place in the comity of nations. We must therefore learn from and improve on our past mistakes and hold elections that are not only truly free and fair, but also that are seen to be so. The current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari must deliver on its promise not to unduly influence the work of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which must also improve upon its good effort so far by according all contestants at all levels, equal importance and equal opportunities. The security agencies must do their duty without fear or favour, to prevent and curb every act of thuggery and violence which can intimidate the electorate or compromise the elections. Since their performance can affect the credibility of the elections, they must not be partisan but carry out all their activities in the overall national interest of the country.
3. Educating The Electorate
Information, they say, is power! We urge all our churches, communities and institutions to provide platforms and resources for our people to be informed and to inform one another about their civic rights and duties towards the forthcoming elections. Politicians seeking elective office must be encouraged to use such platforms and opportunities to correctly and clearly inform the people of their intentions and programmes so as to enable them carry out conscientiously, their civic duties. It is also important to note that there is life after elections. To this end, we must strive to equip our people with skills and strategies for holding our politicians to their word, even after they have been elected.
4. The Role of the Electorate
We urge all eligible Nigerian voters to collect their Permanent Voters Cards and vote conscientiously. It is the clearest sign of patriotism and our rights as Nigerian citizens also come with those sacred duties. We must reject and oppose any form of vote buying and selling and manipulation for the sake of our country and for generations yet unborn. Thankfully, most Nigerians believe in God and this must be even more evident during these elections if our prayers will be answered. We must all respect the sanctity of human life and work for the triumph of the truth. We must never forget that God will judge and reward every one of us for every choice and action we make in life.
5. Christian Witness During Elections
We hasten to remind all Christians in Nigeria that they have a huge responsibility to carry out during this period. Every Christian is called, especially at baptism, to witness to the truth and to be the light of the world. Christians must therefore make a positive difference in Nigeria as a fulfilment of their divine mandate. According to the apostle Paul: “People must know us as ambassadors of Christ….and what is expected of an ambassador is to be found trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:1-2). We therefore enjoin all Christians, whether as candidates canvassing for votes or as individual voters, Christians of all walks of life like journalists, artists, poets, artistes and others to remember their Christian duty and vigorously and actively oppose injustice, falsehood and evil in all its forms, especially during the forthcoming elections. By doing this, they do nothing more than build a good legacy for generations to come and bring about God's kingdom of love.
6.The World Youth Day and Catechesis
We congratulate all our youth on the successful celebration of the 34th World Youth Day programme held in Panama, Central America, from January 17 to 27, 2019. It is a programme initiated by St. Pope John Paul II to inspire, unify and educate young people in the Church. It is a call to them to be evangelizers to one another while making Jesus their best friend. The youth are challenged to seek knowledge of the faith through ongoing catechesis and study. Our country and the entire world have much to gain from such noble endeavours. “Who will ascend to the mountain of the Lord and who will stand in his holy place, the innocent of hand and the clean of heart”(Ps. 24:3)
6. A New Bishop For Ijebu-ode Diocese
We congratulate Msgr. Francis Obafemi Adesina, formerly a Priest of Osogbo Diocese, Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province and Rector of our Regional Major Seminary of Ss. Peter and Paul, Bodija, Ibadan who has recently been appointed Bishop of Ijebu-Ode Diocese by the Holy Father, Pope Francis. We greet the retired Bishop of Ijebu-ode, Most Rev. Albert Ayinde Fasina, and the entire Diocese for this historic event. The Episcopal Ordination of the Bishop-elect has been fixed for Thursday, 25th of April, 2019 at Ijebu-ode. May the good Lord bless the new Bishop, the Diocese and prosper the entire Church in Nigeria.
7. Call To Prayer And Action
We urge Nigerians to continue to pray to the Almighty God for whom all things are possible. However, it is when we are productive that our prayers are blessed by God. Thus, before, during and after the elections, we need to sustain our prayers for inspiration, strength and courage to carry out our thoughts, decisions and actions. In the words of Pope Francis, “good politics is to be at the service of peace” and peace is always the result of deliberate action and work. According to the Bible: “If my people who bear my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my presence and turn from their wicked ways, then I will listen from heaven and forgive their sins and restore their country” (2 Chron. 7:14). Such is our hope for Nigeria through the next elections in our country, by the grace and mercy of God Almighty who lives and reigns forever and ever.