AN ADDRESS ON THE OCCASION OF THE 60TH INDEPENDENCE DAY OF NIGERIA (OCTOBER 1, 2020) BY MOST REV. DR AUGUSTINE O. AKUBEZE

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All Bishops, Priests, consecrated persons and the lay faithful of Nigeria
Dearly beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
URGENT CALL TO SAVE NIGERIA AT 60 FROM TOTAL COLLAPSE
1. INTRODUCTION
On behalf of the members of the CBCN, I greet all Nigerians on the occasion of the 60th Independence Day.
 I thank everyone who complied to our request for prayers for Nigeria, especially the solidarity prayer after the Angelus for an end to the barbaric killings of Christians in the Northern part of Nigeria. I thank you all in a very special way for prayers offered for Southern Kaduna which has had too many unfortunate cases of killings of innocent people. Prayer remains our most potent weapon as Christians. Prayer changes the hardened hearts of people to realise the common humanity we share. We are grateful to Bishops and priests who particularly educated and led their faithful in these prayers. We encourage all of you to continue to say the prayer for Nigeria in distress. Nigeria is still very much in great distress after 60 years of independence.
2. STATE OF THE NATION AT 60
Ordinarily, we as a nation should be rejoicing on this occasion of the diamond jubilee of Nigeria’s independence. But how can we celebrate when many of our people cannot afford to eat? How can we celebrate when we watch daily, the killings of Nigerians by the insurgents? How can we celebrate when Boko Haram is still holding some of the Chibok girls, and Leah Sharibu is still being held captive for over three years because she refuses to denounce Christ? How can we celebrate when Covid-19 has crippled an already poor Nigerian economy? How do we celebrate when the Federal Government, without any prior clear warning, allows the epileptic electricity supply tariff to be increased and at the same time removing the fuel subsidy? It is difficult to ask Nigerians to celebrate when many Nigerians with a minimum wage of N30, 000 are asked to provide for their families in the light of the hike in fuel price and the increase in the electricity tariff.
It is just unimaginable and inconceivable to celebrate Nigeria at 60 when our roads are not safe; our people are kidnapped, and they sell their properties to pay ransom to criminals. Nigerians are experiencing an invasion of their farmlands by armed Fulani-herdsmen; a group well organised and already designated as the fourth deadliest terrorists’ group in the world by the Global Terrorism Index. Nigerians from almost all geographical regions seem to agree that we need to start working on restructuring. The present political party leading Nigeria (APC) campaigned to attend to the issue of restructuring, sharing of resources, and a constitutional amendment if Nigerians voted them into power. It is somewhat regrettable that the Federal Government of Nigeria has not kept to its electoral promises. State Governors, Senators, Federal House of Representative Members must all work towards ensuring restructuring of Nigeria. Nigeria is almost at the verge of total collapse.
Many Nigerians have observed the rate of Federal and State borrowing with colossal interest to be paid back, and that presently we are servicing our debt with a significant revenue of the country.
The rate of unemployment is growing, and there seems to be no clear plan to fix the economy as well as help the private sector to grow so that many of our youths can be employed. The inadequate facilities in many of our public tertiary institutions are further hampering the intellectual and human skill acquisition of the graduates from these institutions. An overall review of the State of the nation clearly shows we are legally independent but factually dependent upon our financial lenders. We are yet to reform our electoral act to the State of ensuring that Nigerians are genuinely interested in voting and that the votes will count in determining those who lead us.
3. HOPE AMID CRISIS
Having outlined some of the significant challenges facing the nation after 60 years of self-governance, we still call on Nigerians to be hopeful. One may wonder what could be the source of this hope? The source of our hope is in God who never fails. Human beings may fail us, but those who put their hope and trust in God will always be delivered. With hope, faith, and charity, let us pray and work for the good of Nigeria.
To all Catholics, we say, let your faith be the compass that guides your daily decisions. Let your faith influence the values you promote. If all the more than 22 million Catholics in Nigeria decide to allow themselves to be moved by their faith-based conviction, Nigeria will be transformed. If all the Christians and Muslims in Nigeria truly follow the dictates of their religions, we will have a Nigeria that will be the envy of other nations.
Another basis of our hope is rooted in the ingenuity of many Nigerians. We know that there are still very many patriotic Nigerians. We know that human resources in Nigeria are greater than natural resources. The fact that we keep hearing of Nigerians who are doing well in academics, sports, and other areas, once they leave Nigeria, tells us that God has wired in the DNA of Nigerians the potential and capacity to be successful. If not, how do you explain the fact that most medical doctors who are Africans in the USA are Nigerians? How do you explain the tremendous successes of Nigerians in Europe and America? It is all because the environment allowed them to bring into realisation their God inbuilt talents. Nigerians are one of the most dynamic people on earth. This is the foundation upon which we must hope even amid this national crisis at 60.
4. CONCLUSION
Those who put their trust in God are never disappointed. We call on all
Nigerians to trust in God. Let us continue to pray for a transformation of Nigeria. We must begin this transformation from within, from ourselves. Each one of us must learn to eschew every form of corruption, indiscipline, praising of corrupt leaders or giving of awards to those who have bankrupt Nigeria. We must stop the praise-singing of politicians who have failed us. We must stop patronising mediocrity. We must begin to reward hard work. To suwive as a nation, we must have a collective desire to build the country.
 Selective appointments that do not reflect the ethnic and religious diversity of Nigeria is a recipe for disaster. The minimalistic approach to the quota system is a disservice to the nation. Any serious Government would want every part of the nation to know that they are part of the stakeholders in decision making in the country.
 Nigerians are not asking for too much; they are just asking for justice, fairness in appointments of people to Federal offices.
Finally, dearly beloved in the Lord, let us not despair in the face of these daunting challenges and crisis facing our beloved country. Let our love move us for God and our fellow neighbours. To all Catholics, I say, let us fly to the patronage of the Holy Mother of God who does not despise our prayers. May Christ help to transform us, for us to transform Nigeria.
 May God bless Nigeria. May Mary, the Queen of Nigeria, intercede for Nigeria already consecrated to her Immaculate Heart on October 13, 2017, in Benin City. May we continue to pray and work for the development of
Nigeria. God bless Nigeria at 60. Amen.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
+Augustine O. Akubeze
Archbishop of Benin City and President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference Nigeria
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