BEING A REPORT OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE HELD FOR THE PRIMATE OF ALL NIGERIA ANGLICAN COMMUNION, MOST REV. NICHOLAS D. OKOH AT THE CONFERENCE ROOM EPISCOPAL HOUSE, ABUJA ON TUESDAY, 2ND JULY, 2013.
(BY VEN. FOLUSO TAIWO AND NGOZI MADUOMA)
CORRESPONDENT: Before the state of emergency was declared in some Northern parts of the nation there was much debate on it until it was put in place. With the declaration, do you think there is any progress or success?
PRIMATE: Before the state of emergency was declared in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, some of us in the Church particularly felt that the government was being too lenient and their approach was not strong enough; because of the frequency with which Boko Haram was exploding bombs and killing people, we felt that the government should do more to protect the citizenry. So, with the declaration, I think that the government has made some remarkable progress. It is no longer Boko haram chasing the government but the government is now chasing Boko haram. I think that with a little patience and more commitment on the part of the security operatives and agents of government normalcy shall return. We are very much on course, because what are left now are isolated cases here and there particularly around the boundaries and far off places. The audacity of the group has been brought low, so I think government is succeeding in that direction.
CORRESPONDENT (Radio Nigeria): Sir, what we need in this country is peace and as government is trying to address the problem in the North, there is the oil bunkering problem increase in the South-South. What role do you think the religious leaders particularly the Christians and the Muslims can play to bring about peace in the country?
PRIMATE: The religious leaders have never gone on holidays, they have always been there doing one thing or the other to make peace. One, at the … level we try to speak with one voice to persuade people to follow government particularly in the areas where things are being done properly. We try to persuade government to look into the affairs of the people, where the people are having difficulties. So, if the people are at peace and the government is doing its own, we believe that peace will come. Certainly, the religious leaders by preaching, teaching and living peacefully among themselves will encourage the people to follow suit. If you are talking about organized gangs like Boko haram, OPC, Niger Delta militants, kidnappers and other groups in the society that are having problems with the society at large. What the religious leaders can do is the same thing anybody else can do. What I mean is that if you see any security threat, you make a report because if we say that it doesn’t concern us and all we do is to criticize then we go nowhere. In this case, everybody must be a policeman bearing in mind that if the land is not at peace we cannot even pursue our legitimate concerns. If as you were coming here the road was blocked, you will not be able to get here. So, it is the duty of every one of us to ensure that we assist the police and people gathering information and ensure that we support what is being done to bring about peace. In other words, you must not play politics with our security; it is never done in any country. Security is number one and if we all cooperate to ensure that our security is good and properly organized, then we will have time to do our politics, whatever party we belong to and whatever persuasions we may share. So, I want to say that to some extent politicians have played politics with the security issue in Nigeria and that is why it has lingered so much.
CORRESPONDENT (Radio Nigeria): In that respect, what advise will you give to the present administration on how to have permanent peace?
PRIMATE: Permanent peace is doubtful in human environment because no matter how you organize, take the issue of ASUU strike for instance, it is on again; the Pengasan is on strike, the polytechnics are on strike and if you watch the television around the world you will find people in Brazil, Egypt and all over the world demonstrating in one way or the other. It is an expression of grievances; hence we cannot categorize those ones as a total failure of government. And if that is what we mean by absence of peace, it is not quite correct. Absence of peace will mean something like total breakdown of law and order and I think we have not got there and we will not get there.
CORRESPONDENT: In the recent times Sir, the issue of rape in the country has become rampant. How do you think the religious institutions can help in this matter and what steps should be taken?
PRIMATE: That has had me worried too. In our last Synod, we mentioned the issue of rape as one of the problems of society that is on the increase. It has not been a normal thing in our society for people to rape, so my suggestion to religious leaders is that they should continue to preach against deviant behaviours and we must support the institution of marriage, family by which I mean man and woman so that we build a healthy society. Then again, we want to appeal to our girls to also cooperate in the fight against rape, by which I mean it is not to justify any crime at all but the tendency to expose and glorify nudity is not part of our culture. That a girl of honorable background will be displaying every part of her body for people to see; in that way people who have less self-control will be excited and they tend to take unacceptable actions and that could lead to rape. I even read of a university undergraduate from University of Lagos who raped a girlfriend and pasted her photographs with her name on the internet. This is absurd completely; our country has never been in this type of level of moral decay. So, I want to appeal to the religious leaders that we should continue to teach wholesome doctrine on good moral in the society; not just how we can make progress, get money or personal things that is not the essence of Christianity. So, we should intensify our moral teaching in the Church and do more also to get our girls to listen to their parents and the Church because if they dispense with the Church and religious bodies they have lost everything. Those people from outside are telling them that they need to be free by exposing their body. The consequences are already on such societies and if they bring such things here then we can’t see the end of rape because in those societies it is growing and it is just increasing in our society now which is a reflection of interaction with the international community.
CORRESPONDENT (Punch newspaper): Given all this moral decay in the society like rape, I want to know the position of the Catholic Church? On whether you subscribe to the use of capital punishment as a way to check these excesses?
PRIMATE: You go to Onaiyekan for the position of the Catholic Church. For me, personally because my Church has not yet met to discuss the issue of capital punishment, but let me give you a scenario and I will give you an answer. There is this issue of armed robbers invading a family, in the course of robbery they raped the mother of the family; not only that they drove a bottle into the woman’s private part and then killed her. Now, where are the human rights of this woman? Meanwhile, the armed robbers involved in that act have been executed and people are crying for the human rights of the armed robbers. So, for me anybody who has degenerated to that level of depravity deserves capital punishment.
CORRESPONDENT (Punch newspaper): In addition to that Sir, you are aware of the uproar that visited the execution of some convicted armed robbers in Edo state. It elicited condemnation from the amnesty international and some human rights groups.
PRIMATE: What I am saying is that the Federal government should not allow people to teach them morals in our country those people have their own morals in their own country. If somebody can afford to kill 79 people and they just sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment and they think that is acceptable to them it is okay and the man will be addressing press conference, eating fine and be going around spending state money and they think that is a good thing, it is okay. But here, I think it is not okay, for me it is not okay. So, the law of capital punishment for those who rightly deserve it should be enforced.
CORRESPONDENT (Daily independent): Sir, just a follow up on that question of capital punishment. My worry in this issue of capital punishment is that the more you try to punish evil, the more it thrives. For instance, when Buhari was in-charge, we had this firing squad case; people were being fired and yet they were still pick pocketing. To you, what can be done, because it is like the deterrents are not doing the work it ought to do? The more people are being killed, the more evil is on the increase.
PRIMATE: To answer your question, it is not true to say that punishment does not deter crime, because it does; and one of the differences between our society here and the societies outside is that we have so many laws which are not enforced. But, if you step outside and you go against the rules of the land, you will be arrested immediately and so if you see Nigerians outside they obey the laws and keep to the rules; whereas when they come back here, it is wild and disorderly because as soon as anybody approaches them to question why they did something wrong, they will say, “Do you know who I am?” Hence, they are left alone and therefore punishment must be effected and in any case that is the essence of government and the Bible supports it that those in authority are servants to government to effect punishment for vices against those who commit crime. So, government cannot abdicate from punishing crime because of amnesty international or whatever.