CORRUPTION: YES, THE CHURCH HAS FAILED -CATHOLIC BISHOP
Rev. Father Jude Arogundade was recently ordained as the Catholic Bishop of Ondo Diocese. Shortly after his ordination, the clergyman in an interview flayed the protracted crises in Jos and indicted some politicians. Excerpts:
Despite the fact that some Christians are in power, corruption still thrives in the country. What is your take on this?
This is true. There are many Christians in politics that are good and ready to do the right thing as well as very dedicated and selfless. We also have many of them too who are just out there to cause problems, make money and loot the treasury.
The reality is that politics in this country is not being played with honesty by most politicians. The people who are killing and taking other people's lives because of votes cannot mean well for this country. In other words, their purpose for going into politics is to make money and again, the government is the problem.
My experience in the United States, particularly in New York where I lived for 12 years revealed that the salary of the Governor of New York is less than the salary of the primary school headmistress or headmaster. If he takes a kobo more than what he should take, he will end up in jail. So, in a country where the salary of a senator is more than that of 100 professors, where then lies the fairness?
Government is the problem and until Nigerians realized this uneven distribution of wealth of this nation, we would continue to have the case of people killing themselves to get into power to be rich.
The Nigerian political system is the most violent and the desperate politicians are the ones who usually win elections. But until we begin to have good, honest and dignifying ones to contest and be allowed to win elections peacefully, we will continue to struggle.
Still on corruption, some of the indicted politicians still come to church immediately after serving their jail terms. Don't you think the church should enforce some punitive measures on them as a deterrence to others?
To some extent, the church had been complacent in standing its ground against some (Christian) politicians who are corrupt, dishonest and indicted. But generally, the church may not come out sometimes to tell you what they were doing. But we often call our members to order, some of them know our stand in the Catholic Church.
We have called many of them at one time or the other. The church is a place to receive mercy, it is an avenue to receive mercy. The church's duty is to seek salvation of everyone. Therefore, the church is not in a position to say, Oh, you these politicians, you are down forever, and you are going to hell. No! We are to interact with them and counsel them, saying oh, we know you are bad to some extent. But we know that you can still be better and we would try every means to make you better. We are to keep encouraging them, talk to them and admonishing them to change for the better.
Of course, there are many Christian politicians who are in jail, but that does not mean every Christian politician is like that. There are still very many good ones and those of them who are in trouble, sometimes, we talk to them. They know what we stand for. But we cannot just go to anyone and force them, saying you have to be good. That is beyond our limit, the church has to preach the good news. It is now left for anyone to either accept or reject it.
Considering the pervasiveness of crime in the society today despite the proliferation of churches, won't you say that the church has failed in its responsibilities to the nation?
The Catholic Church will always preach the truth. I don't know much about the stand of other churches. The fact is that the Catholic Church has always stood its ground even when some of our past leaders who were dictators held sway in this country. The records are there in some of the past communiquÃ©s issued by the Catholic Bishops from their meetings. We have always stood our ground and told the government that we were no longer ready to sacrifice decency for mediocrity or any actions that are not acceptable to any civilized society.
But in a society where there is no organized system, where the people can copy good behaviours and live according to the beauty of a decent society. There is really nothing any church can do to bring the youth back to the right path. But nonetheless, the church still has to play its role. No doubt, some of our youths know the truth, but the system as it is in our society today, has no reward for the truth.
In other words the system has no reward for honesty, hard work, but it rather rewards those who are smart enough to use some very dubious means to get to the top and to make money. Unfortunately, all we care about in this country is to eulogise somebody who is rich and run after him or her not minding how he or she acquired the wealth. But if we begin to reorientate our people, to show them the path towards honesty, dedication and dignity, we will achieve a lot.
The crisis in Jos, Plateau State, is very complex. It is tribal, religious and social. The people of that part of the country have their culture and they have their dignity. I think the tension that is going on around there is about culture and the people who are trying to take over other people's lands and political life and the people have been resisting them by all means. Now, it has resulted into confrontation, killings, bombings and other forms of violence.
My belief is that things should not be allowed to descend to that level. In this country we cannot afford to descend to that level. In this country we cannot afford to forcefully convert someone to become either a Christian or Muslim. But we must live together and respect one another. The government in Nigeria has no courage. In fact, the government is not the solution, but rather, they are the problem. You and I know that the government is the problem.
This is an election year and as a Christian leader, what is your impression concerning the current political situation in the country?
The political situation has been very rough right from the beginning of Nigeria's history to the present day. But the truth is that every society be it developing or the developed ones like America, Britain has its history. It was worse in America and Britain when they started during their early days, especially if you read the British history you will realize the hardship and other forms of lawlessness they went through. But when you look further into the history of Nigeria you will discover that things have also been changing.