THE DILENMA OF A POLITICALLY MINDED PRIEST

Whoever looks at what is happening within the rank of APC both at the national level and state levels especially in Imo, Ekiti and Osun States needs no logical demonstration to conclude that the political crisis is heightening every day. Not only that, PDP has come out in a big way as an opposition party. It is already a clash of the titans. The fake certificate saga and the minimum wage battle are not to be overseen. Politicians are still decamping from one party to another. The kingmakers are hawking their wares and heads are rolling. Every eye is fixed on the event of 2019. The roadmap is blurred and the traffic situation unclear. Whatever be the case, something is going to happen in 2019. It could be a continuation of the present regime or an emergence of a new alternative with the hope of bringing the light and salvation longed for by the populace. It could also be a mere change of baton in the race while the status quo remains. Whatever be the case the outcome affects not only the power contestants but the common people. In fact, the latter are those that suffer it more. The smart losers in the contest could easily devise a way of reconciling with the head that wears the crown at last. It could be the normal game of defection. Then, the masses are out to bear the consequence of the aftermath. On this ground, I present the thesis that the journey to 2019 is for all. Nobody should remain apathic about it. The final decision will affect our common destiny and each person will feel it depending on his social status and political creed. In the light of this, it is therefore our common duty to work together for a better tomorrow.   

At this point permit me to say we all are active participants in this game called politics. However, some clever politicians have decided to use the nonpartisan politics of the Church as a weapon against the Church trying to silence and cripple her in her prophetic mission. Priests who are politically minded are constantly reminded today to leave politics and focus on their pastoral work. That is a stupid statement (pardon my language). If the gospel is to permeate every fabric and crevice of our human existence, then politics will not be an exception. We are political animals using the language of Aristotle. The Church exists within the society and the political decisions affect her as well. A priest is not immune from civil law. Economic recession affects him as well. He is also threatened by insecurity in the land. His parishioners are also politicians. They too need the message of salvation. Why then are priests always reminded that they are not supposed to dabble into politics? It is always a game of the crafty. The same people that move from Church to Church and from prayer ground to another seeking the support of the worshippers and the endorsement of the man of God to the point of recognising him as a prophet inasmuch as they receive his endorsement are the same that will call him an impudent intruder when he speaks against their ill. The dilemma in which we have found ourselves.

Sometime in summer this year the Catholic Bishops´ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) issued a communique to priests warning them not to use any of the Church´s temporal goods or properties to campaign for any political candidate. The reason according to them is because the Church is apolitical.That adjective “apolitical” has raised a lot of argument among Nigerian priest scholars and students in Europe. There are different ways of understanding apolitical;

  1. It could mean not having interest in politics; a kind of political apathy.
  2. It could mean an aversion topolitical affairs.
  3. It could also mean having a neutral and unbiased stand on a political issue.

Judging from the content of the communique I think that the last meaning is ad rem. However, nonpartisan political would have been the best diction. Some politicians since then have been quoting this document to us priests whenever we engage them in an argument. Some are even “scandalised” that we are discussing politics at all. Some have threatened to report us to our bishops if we do not desist from such acts. Our dilemma. Now I put it succinctly clear that the Church is political. The organisational structure of the Church is a consequence of a longstanding politics. The Nunciatures all around the world are an ecclesiastical equivalence of embassies and consulates; Church´s own version of a diplomatic ministry. I have once written of the involvement of popes in world politics. Priests have contributed a lot in community developments. They have built hospitals and schools, organised free medicals and set up scholarship boards. All these are for the good of the many(poloi) who live in the society (polis). A priest is therefore a man of politics. How come that the leadership of this society whose face the priest works day and right to renew will not be of concern to him? Why should he not cry out when the leaders are spoiling his good work? Our dilemma is too great and sometimes we fashion the very sword that kills us. 

I am a priest. I am politically minded. I am interested in politics but I am nonpartisan. I have never campaigned for any candidate and I will not. However, I will always exercise my franchise and this extends to condemning a dictatorial regime and voicing out the type of leader I want. I promised obedience to my superiors on the day of my ordination. They have spoken I will obey. I will never use any of the Church´s properties to support any candidate. However, I will not keep silent in voicing out the ills of a regime which I have once described as a reign of the beast. There is a type of president I don´t want next year. I don´t want a president who has no respect for human life. I detest a president who is too tribalistic at the detriment of the common good. I will never vote for a president who is insensitive and has no plan for the country. May it never be my portion a president who spends the country´s money on health trips outside the country while the health system in Nigerian is comatose. God forbid a president who engages in witch-hunting in the name of fighting corruption. I detest a president who has no respect for the dignity of women. On the other hand, I want a president who is visionary and proactive. I want a president who has respect for human life. I want a president with a clear blue print to lead us out of recession and fortify security. I want a Godfearing president, a president who puts national interest before his tribe and family. I want a president with a listening ear and not one who calls young people lazy. I want a transparent leader who will also restructure the country, bring offenders of the law to book and choose the efficient people to work with him. This is my wish for Nigeria in 2019. Together let us vote out a dictatorial government trying to silence the prophetic voice of the Church. On bended knees and with PVC in our hand let us pray and work for a new Nigeria.

 

Stanley Ekwugha Isch

A Nigerian Schoenstatt Priest

Doctoral Student on New Testament Exegesis in Hochschule Valledar, Germany.

 

 

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