Abuja, Nigeria, Feb 13, 2015 / 15:54 pm
Bitterly condemning "the ugly tide of corruption" in Nigeria's government, the Bishop of Sokoto has highlighted the challenges awaiting the next administration in the wake of an election postponed due to the violence of Boko Haram.
Presidential elections had been slated for Feb. 14, but were postponed until March 28.
In a memorandum sent to international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto – in Nigeria's northwest, said the next parliament must urgently confront a range of pressing issues that he said are destabilizing the nation.
"Years of corruption have diminished the sense of loyalty to the Nigerian state," the bishop wrote, calling on the new president "to rally citizens around the project of a national identity and national unity."
With about 170 million inhabitants, Nigeria has the biggest population of any country in Africa-and one just about equally divided between Muslims mostly in the north, and Christians in the south. Presidential election are pitting the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan – a Christian – against Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim.
The two also faced off for the presidency in 2011, when, after Goodluck's narrow victory, charges of vote rigging by Buhari triggered Muslim attacks on Christian communities that left 800 dead. The Buhari camp has denounced the postponement of the election, charging it is a tactic used by the incumbent to avoid defeat.
Bishop Kukah charged that the wealth derived from Nigeria's natural resources are not benefitting the population at large but is being concentrated in the hands of a few: "Despite the huge resources that the nation has received from the unprecedented sales in oil, there is hardly anything to show for it in the lives of ordinary citizens."
"The uncontrollable hemorrhaging of resources has led to the ubiquity of misery among the people," he added.
The bishop called on the election's winners to channel resources into education, job creation, and agricultural development.
Bishop Kukah also warned that continued raids by terrorist group Boko Haram had increased tensions between Nigeria's Muslims and Christians. He wrote that "the insurgency has depleted a lot of the good will among the various ethnic groups and further deepened the fracture between Christians and Muslims."
He also confirmed fears of a repeat of the violence that followed the 2011 election:
"Sadly, the federal government did almost nothing to redress these issues. No one was prosecuted and except for a few, the federal government did not deal with the issues of compensation for the majority of the citizens who lost property."
The bishop wrote, however, that "Nigerians are approaching the forthcoming elections with measured optimism, excitement but with a deep sense of caution and even trepidation. We are also encouraged by the concerted efforts towards ending the insurgency and we are glad to note the international collaboration."
"Taken together, ordinary citizens are hopeful that we could indeed have successful and peaceful elections."
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)