“Unfortunately, many of us have given up, giving the government the benefit of the doubt as things are going wrong,” said the 77-year-old Onaiyekan.
Terrorist groups are allegedly operating freely and in an overlapping manner, despite the government sending several security agencies to counter their actions.
“The nation has now reached a state of deep crisis. No roads as are safe. Schoolchildren are up for kidnapping in their institutions. Not even staying in our houses are we safe, since the criminals attack villages, killing, raping and taking hostages in their dens,” said the cardinal.
Nigeria’s rising insecurity traces from the Boko Haram insurgency, which terror still rules in the northeast of the country. Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a militant group allied to international terrorist groups is gradually replacing Boko Haram, and the emergence of new groups can be seen.
With the insecurity, conspiracy theories are running wild across Nigeria, according to the cardinal.
Onaiyekan explained the “remotely feasible theory” has gained credibility because the government failed to convincingly explain the current challenges. This has triggered deep mistrust between the government and the people, and between the various ethnic communities.
“The distrust has also affected the good relations of the religious communities in Nigeria,” said the cardinal.
Many people feel marginalised and oppressed due to their ethnic, religious or other identities. They also underline the rampant impunity, with people getting away with all forms of injustice, because of their status or bad laws and constitutional provisions.
Against this backdrop, Nigerians are agitating for radical change on the country’s governance, under “restructuring or review of the constitution,” according to Onaiyekan. Some are going further to demand a brand new constitution or outright secession from the federation.
Meanwhile, gaining momentum also is a clamour for greater justice by religious leaders and civil society organizations, with the strong and vibrant labour movement taking on the government over various issues. Strikes around essential services have been staged, but the government has allowed them to fester for months, giving an impression that it does not care about its people.
“In the Nigerian context, it is easy to ‘stand for justice.’ What’s more important and difficult is to ensure that justice is done eventually,” said Onaiyekan.
He explained that a common and strong voice—one that speaks for the common good of all Nigerians—is urgently needed. On this front, efforts are being made to bring the people together for a national dialogue.
“We can hope that there will be more such meetings to provide a forum for frank and free discussion of national issues,” said Onaiyekan.