Monday, 10 December 2018



Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua


Whenever the lyrics of the National anthem are echoed, the Nigerian citizens are reminded of their pledge to “serve our fatherland” as “one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.” In 1960, this building project of one nation was taken over by those who thought that the human beings who were amalgamated from different empires and tribes would have a common national identity. It was presumed that Nigeria’s independence was the end of slavery and colonialismUnfortunately, Nigeria is still gasping for breath like a patient on oxygen and life support machine. The national identity remained fractured into Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo and other tribes that have been labelled ethnic minorities. The civil war slogan, “to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done” indicated that this project to build and grow one Nigeria has not been feasible. The civil war should have taught the ruling class in Nigeria that the gun cannot kill an ideology and the yearning for human dignity. This can only be achieved through justice, equity and peace. 


It appears that the drive to rule in Nigeria is not ideas that last forever but material wealth that is very transient. This could be the reason why Late Prof. Dora Akunyili who led the Ministry of Information and Communications in the “Rebranding Nigeria Campaign” died without realizing her dream. Another sword in the heart of Nigeria is ethnicity and abuse of religion. During the political campaigns in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari lamented that religion and ethnicity have eaten deep into the core of Nigeria. He said: “Wicked propagandists continue to spread vicious lies about me for political gain, including claiming that I once asked Muslims not to vote for Christians. This must be the height of absurdity. How could I ever say that, when whoever voted for me would be voting for the Christian running with me on the same ticket? And how could I ever say that of Christians when my own holy book, the Qur’an, tells me that in the entire world those that are nearest in love to me are those who believe in Jesus Christ? I ask, who, intending to win any election, ever does that? How can I choose southern Christian running mates (Chuba Okadigbo of blessed memory, Pastor Tunde Bakare and Pastor Yemi Osinbajo) and with them by my side make such silly utterances” (


The immediate past Presidents has expressed his frustrations in his recent book: Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, My Transition Hours, Kingwood, Ezekiel Books, 2018. Just a few quotations may drive home our points in searching for this one nation: “It takes conscience to use power as a shield and ego to use power as a sword” (Page 2)“When some individuals preach oneNigeria in public, those who know them better in private simply chuckle. One Nigeria, where there is equity, fairness and justice is what I believe is best for the people of this country” (Page 17)“In Nigeria, during football matches involving the national teams and foreign teams, both Christians and Muslims sing and dance to the tune of the same music. That is patriotism. In politics, I am yet to see such patriotism” (Page 20)“Until African politicians consider their countries’ interest first in whatever they do, the continent will continue to lag behind. Politics should be about the people and not about fighting to occupy offices (Page 26).


One then may be right to ask: “If the search for one nation hasbeen so difficult, why this search for one nation through the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC)? My answer would be that we must not give up on Nigeria. We must keep trying until we get it right. The preamble to the Constitution of NIREC islike a compass that points to the direction of our quest“We, the representative of the two Principal Religions - Islam and Christianity in Nigeria, having voluntarily decided by ourselves to come together to form an association on the 11th day of September, 1999, and the association having been inaugurated on the 29th day of September, 1999, guided by our divine revelations and the dictates of our CREATOR, determined, within the context of our religions, to forge Inter-Religious harmony and concord, having firmly and solemnly resolved, within the confines of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to live in unity, harmony and peace for the welfare, security and prosperity of our peoples and our Nation under God, do hereby make, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution to guide and direct our collective endeavors.” With this declaration, I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of our Religious leaders in this resolve grow and promote an ideal nation. 


would love to take my office as Executive Secretary of NIREC as a mission given by God through the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and the Executive of NIREC. I would love to do all that is humanly possible and leave the rest for God who has not abandoned Nigeria. Article 3 of the Constitution of NIREC points to a direction that can help our mission with the following aims and objectives: To honestly and sincerely understand the true teachings of the two religions; promote dialogue between Christians and Muslimsinculcate moral, ethical, social and cultural values of the two faiths for the rebirth and rebuilding of a better society; to provide a forum for mutual co-operation and promotion of the welfare of all citizens in the nation; to create fora and channels for the peaceful resolution of any friction or misunderstanding that may arise from time to time; to serve as an avenue for articulating cordial relationship amongst the various religious groups and between them and the Government; to assist the Federal, State, and Local Governments of Nigeria and the Populace by emphasizing and accentuating the positive roles religion should play in nation building and development; to serve as a forum to achieve national goals, economic growth, national unity and promotion of political stability; to consider and make recommendations to the Federal and other levels of Government on matters that may assist in fostering integral and spiritual development of Nigerians; to make recommendations on such other matters as the Federal and other levels of Government may from time to time refer to the Council and to network with organizations of similar aims at home and internationally, for the furtherance of the objectives of the Council. 


I believe that NIREC can reposition Nigeria if the membersprefer the common good to selfish interest. NIREC Secretariat should be a home for every Christian and Muslim. Given that the NIREC office is situated in the Federal Secretariat, the staff of NIREC should begin simple dialogue by engaging the staff of the Federal Secretariat in a way and manner that the Federal Secretariat could be a model of what a nation should be. At resumption of office as Executive Secretary of NIREC, I visited the Imam in charge of the Mosque and the Police officers in the Police Station at the Federal Secretariat. I also visited the Chapel and the Mosque where the staff of the Federal Secretariat meet to pray. The people I met expressed the need to work together as Nigerians to harvest peace, progress, justicefreedom, contentment and all that can give happiness to humanityWe could take NIREC to the grassroots by visiting the differentStates with the message of building a nation. If the Nigerian government could provide an office space for NIREC, then the council could work to discover the God given capacity that could be explored to put smiles on the faces of every Nigerian. May this our search for one nation through NIREC not be in vain!


Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua is the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) (




Thursday, 6 December 2018



Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua


On the 20th of October, 2011, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, called an extra ordinary meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) to discuss the state of the nationIn that meeting, he called on the Religious leaders to use religion to promote peaceful coexistence in Nigeria. President Jonathan counseledthat the pulpit should not be used by Religious Preachers to promote hate speeches as that could lead to violence and killing of innocent citizens. This concern of President Jonathan was taken seriously by the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council and became part of the agenda of the meeting of NIREC at Ilorin on December2011.The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) also warned against hate speeches by political aspirants, party faithful and other stakeholders during political campaigns (


Even with the warning of INEC and the statements by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) that religious leaders should not be partisan or show preference for a particular political candidate, the 2015 elections had records of some Men and Women of God who took over the political space akin to the professional prophets of the Old Testaments of the Bible. Some Religious Preachers became either professional Seers for some politicians or campaign agents for the highest bidders making money a form of deityNow, the game has started again and some professional prophets are already giving their agenda for prophesies and oracles to declare who will win the 2019 elections. This political and religious commerce is so shamefulhence we must take seriously the counsel of the incumbent President as reported in the front page of Guardian (Saturday, December 1, 2018) that Nigerians should not politicize Religion.The President observed that there are those who seek to divide Nigerians with religion for their own advantage. 


The relationship that had existed in Nigeria between Religion and Politics could be perceived as a kind of symbiotic and mutual extortion. This relationship has nothing to do with Inter-Religious conflict but the impression given is that Christians and Muslims are struggling for leadership position to outwit each other. In this context, the call by the former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and President Buhari should reposition religious leaders to give hope to Nigerians instead of trading on politicians with the sales of fake prophesies, miracles and visionsReligious leaders must not forget this prophesy of Ezekiel: “Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own imaginations (Ezekiel 13:3). Religion and politics has a historical relationship for the wellbeing of the citizens. Thereligious and political leaders have complementary roles to work as agents of God, the King of kings to create happiness and joy for humanity


The religious leaders have the vocation to promote mutual relationship between the people and those God has chosen as political leaders. This relationship is captured in Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1). The governing authorities in Paul’s letter are the ideal leaders who are conscious that they areelected by the people for the people. A true politician is a fellow citizen with the people and servant of the citizens. The Prophets directed the kings to serve the people in justice. They encourage the kings who were truly servants of the people and rebuked the kings who exploited the people. The true prophets did not relate to the kings for material rewards. The prophets did not make themselves act as if they were God. They only acted as God’s agents for the good and welfare of the people. Their mission was to lead the kings and the people to the vision of the true God. History could prove that it is difficult to separate religion and politics as long as the politician seeking a political office belong to one religion or the other. 


Both the Religious leaders, Secular leaders and the citizens must seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. By so doing, every other thing will be given to them (Matthew 6:33). God changes times and seasonsGod alone deposes kings and raises up others to replace them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning (Daniel 2:21). The people through credible elections are therefore God’s instrument to choose a credible leader or to remove a bad leader. Consequently, whoever sell votes or take part in electoral fraud is betraying the gift of God in  him or her to share in the king making role of God. For God to use any government to save a nation, the people must reject the devil who want to rule the world through his agents. Some people believe that to be successful in politics, the politician must belong to a secret cult of Satan. Our politicians can prove this wrong by putting God first in their political career and ambition. The politicians must prove that they are called to be Saints and Nationalists.


It is sad that some people are still obeying Satan by promising to change stones to bread for the people who have no wisdom to respond that “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Some people today desire a religious or political ruler who can show that he or she is powerful and can do extraordinary things like jumping down from the top of the pinnacle instead of tellingSatan, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” So many now obey the devil who promised them the wealth and luxury of the world saying, “All this I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me.” Unfortunately, many do not have the faith like Jesus to say, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only(Matthew 4: 1-11).


A government can give meaning to the life of the citizens bydoing the will of God with the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). The political history of Nigeria has shown that promises are like butter with which some politicians prey on the electorate as if they were eating bread. Nigerians must not be deluded to think that a change in government will transform the nation into paradise. What Nigeria actually needs is a change of attitude and interior conversion to be better human beings who care for the common good. Jesus lived by words and example in correcting the pagan world. The apostles continue in this spirit by giving clear evidence to the gospel’s transforming power with their witness of life and responsibility to government (Romans 13:1–2). 


The mission of the Church is to change the hearts of the people by words and actions. The Church must be a model in transforming the hearts of people by ensuring that the politics within the Church is ideal and worthy of emulation by the secular world. Otherwise, the voice of the Church would not be strong enough like the true prophets to correct the ills of the society. The Church must be a model through ecclesiastical governance to have the moral courage to preach against the sins that are putting the citizens in pains and penury. Political partiescannot be the Saviour of any nation as long as inter-party differences promotes hatred between brothers and sisters. The salvation for all mankind has been manifested in Jesus Christ. May God through our human cooperation, give peace and rebirth to Nigeria in distress. 


Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua is the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) (