Religion & Beliefs
*Divergent views have severally been
canvassed by Nigerians on why the nation
has virtually remained stagnant in the past
50 years. Our Correspondent, CHIDI
NKWOPARA, cornered the Anglican Bishop
of Okigwe South, Rt. Rev. David Onuoha,
and he bared his mind about the Nigerian
project. He also spoke on a number of
other issues. Excerpts.
What is your view on the vexed issue of Islamic
banking in Nigeria?
It is a time bomb that is about to explode. This
nation is secular in nature. It is a constitutional
stipulation that no religion should be adopted as
a state religion. The fact remains that Christians
cannot claim to be the sole owners of Nigeria.
Muslims and African Traditional Religion
practitioners cannot equally claim to be owners
of Nigeria. If that is the case, foisting or
attempting to foist the religious practices of a
particular religion on this nation is a time bomb
that will explode.
What really is Islamic banking?
Islamic banking by that name also means Sharia
banking. There is no way this nation can still be
one when it starts operating two legal systems,
our Constitution and Sharia. If this happens, then
Nigeria is as good as forgotten. All we are saying
is that Islamic banking is not in the interest of
this nation. If they are proposing a non-interest
banking, that is a different thing altogether. Let
the CBN come out with the defined policies of
non-interest banking and make sure that it is not
a religious thing. Definitely, certain percentage
of the gain that will accrue from the system will
go to further the cause of Islamic religion. I don’t
know how the Christians can, without knowing it,
contribute to the funding of a religion that is in
all intents and purposes against his own faith.
What is your advice?
We call on the Federal Government to
immediately intervene and stop this attempt to
islamize this nation through the Sharia banking. I
also want to call on the CBN governor, Mallam
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, to resign because we no
longer have confidence in his ability to stem the
tide of confusion that will arise. Honestly, Sanusi
has derailed and he should resign.
How do you see the spate of bombings by the
Boko Haram sect?
It is very unfortunate that Nigeria is witnessing
what we used to hear about Afghanistan,
Pakistan and Iraq. That such things are
happening in Nigeria today is very unfortunate.
Does religion teach violence?
Religion is for nation building. Religion promotes
values in a society. Religion is for the good of
the society. Any religion that encourages
violence is no religion at all and should not be
allowed to continue as a religion. Honestly,
government must stand up now and ensure that
this ugly development does not continue. It is
most unfortunate that Nigeria is witnessing such
a thing in this day and age. Again, there should
be the political will to put an end to this. There
are people sponsoring these extremists. It is not
enough to set a commission of inquiry, which
will submit a report and it will end there.
Government should go a step further to identify
the masterminds, the sponsors and deal
decisively with them. We must do everything to
stop it now otherwise it will stop Nigeria. That is
my view on this issue.
We recently concluded another round of
elections. Where do we go from here?
Let us start this way. Our dear nation celebrated
her 50th independence anniversary last year.
Not too long ago, leaders were inaugurated at
the state and national levels to pilot the affairs
of the country for the next four years. It is only
right to expect that this is the administration
that will lay the foundation for the growth and
development of this great nation as we begin
the second 50 years, leading to our centenary
celebration. The crucial issue here is whether it
is going to be business as usual. In the face of
abundant human and material resources with
which we are richly blessed, are we still going to
tempt and provoke God with all those attitudes
and behaviour that hinder the realization of His
blessings for us as a nation? Are we still going to
sow to the winds as we did in the first 50 years
of our nationhood? These are the solid issues
that should occupy our attention.
What do you think is wrong with Nigeria? Is it in
Quite frankly, there is nothing wrong with the
entity called Nigeria. This is a land of blessings
and infinite opportunities. These have, however,
remained elusive. Definitely not because we do
not have good laws or intelligent people to
harness our potentials for the good of all. It is
the hardness of heart that has made corruption
in its ramifications, pervasive, permissive and
pernicious. It is the same that has dried up the
milk of kindness in most people that wanton
destruction of lives and property have sadly
become the order of the day in this day and age.
So, where do we go from here?
I prescribe a new heart. This is what all of us
need to unlock our potentials and blessings both
as individuals and as a nation. A new heart is
possible. My plea is that we walk and pray
towards this goal. This is the key to our
individual and collective survival. Let us resolve
not to hold on to those old ways and practices
that offend and provoke God. Let us approach
both our religious and civil obligations and
duties with a new heart that is sensitive and
responsive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
We must as a people march towards our own
promised land, convince ourselves that this call
is for our own benefit and advantage. A changed
heart leads to a change of attitude, style,
orientation, values and concept. It is a necessity
for peace, progress and out-pouring of God’s
blessings. It makes possible for one to
rediscover oneself and retrace one’s steps back
to God. It is only when this happens that safety,
fulfill-ment, satisfaction and restoration are
guaranteed. The prodigal son is a good example
here. His change of heart made it possible for
him to realize his misadventure, saw the danger
he was in and enabled him take the right
decision that restored all his rights and
privileges as a son.
Let us take a quick look at the last election.
What is your view on it?
First of all, I salute President Goodluck Jonathan
for his courage and discipline in not meddling
with the functions of the Independent National
Electoral Commission, INEC. We pray that he will
use this opportunity to make this country a place
where every Nigerian will be proud to call his or
her nation. Similarly, I congratulate Prof. Attahiru
Jega and INEC for a job well done. The conduct
of the 2011 general election has been adjudged
credible, free and fair. It is true that there were
some flaws and irregularities, yet INEC tried
very hard to maintain the posture of an unbiased
umpire, the sordid activities of some bad eggs
within the Commission notwithstanding. We call
on the Federal Government to give Prof. Jega
and all the committed members of his
Commission the opportunity to continue in office
and at least conduct the 2015 general elections.
This plea is very necessary because the
experience gained from the just concluded
elections will be of immense benefit in our
search for true democracy.
What is your take on the mad rush for wealth by
public office holders?
This is a good question. This has been our
problem. Our nation woke up some time last
year to hear the chilling revelation that 25 per
cent of Federal Govern-ment’s overhead cost is
spent on the National Assembly. When you put
two and two together you will realize that more
or double of that percentage would go to the
executive arm of government. We have all
watched with disbelief, the repeated increase in
the salaries and allowances of political office
holders in this land, so much so that the monthly
take home pay of a senator is more than a
school principal’s or medical doctor’s pay in 10
years! This is not only ridiculous but also very
shameful and embarrassing.
Is this why politics has become a do-or-die affair
You are perfectly right. Political offices and
positions are the easiest and fastest means of
personal economic well-being today. This is no
longer news to all of us. One wonders why this
should be so in a nation where more than 80 per
cent of the populace live below poverty line. We
do not know if the only work the Revenue
Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission
does is to continually increase the wages of
political office holders. To have the wages of a
section of the society regularly increased when
other sections have to go on strike to receive
attention is immoral and uncharitable.
What is the likely effect of this on the rest of us?
It sadly creates the impression that the duties of
political office holders are more important than
those of university lecturers, the medical
doctors, school teachers, the police and a host of
other public servants. This is very wrong and
misleading. The perpetrators of this injustice
cannot justify their act in any way.
What then do you advice?
Government will do well to merge this
Commission with the National Income and
Wages Commission so as to have one body
regulating the wages of all those who serve this
country in whatever capacity. This will make it
possible for justice and fair play. Secondly,
government should review the wages of political
office holders downward to reflect the economic
realities of the time. Government should also
reduce drastically, the number of political
appointees, so as to conserve funds for the
improvement of the infrastructure and other
programmes that will improve the lot of average
Let’s look at Imo State. What is your view about
the recent hand over of schools to their original
The immediate past administration of Chief
Ikedi Ohakim made good his promise of
returning schools to their original owners. These
schools were confiscated by the defunct East
Central State government at the end of the war
in 1970. Anglican Boys Secondary School, Onicha
Uboma and Girls Secondary School, Ezeoke Nsu,
have been returned to the Diocese of Okigwe
South. As a matter of fact, I do not know whether
to rejoice or weep at this development. This is
because while they took over the schools with
good infrastructure and neat environments, they
returned to us thick forests with more than 90
per cent of the infrastructure irredeemably
dilapidated. We call on the present
administration to review the whole situation and
work out a modality of making these institutions
conducive for human habitation and learning
before perfecting the handing over process.
Boko Haram: It’s sad Nigeria is becominganother Afghanistan – Bishop Onuoha
Religion & Beliefs