In the course of researching and gathering of useful materials for this edition, TERRIFIC HEADLINES came in contact with a document, whose contents ostensibly show that it was prepared by brilliant minds, who suggested to the government of independent Nigeria on October 1st 1960, issues that need to be addressed for Nigeria to accomplish the dreams of its founding fathers and those of the citizenry who looked forward into the future with great hopes and aspirations. It is captioned: The Joint Pastoral Letter of the PASTORAL LETTERS AND COMMUNIQUES……THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN AN INDEPENDENT NIGERIA. It is very interesting to note that most of the contents of the document still apply to contemporary developments in the country. It is being presented for reading, by people in positions of authority, and all those who desire a quick turnaround for a great country. The following key issues that are very well treated in the paragraphs that follow are intriguingly still very relevant today:
LEADERSHIP: Nigeria’s future lies especially in the hands of her leaders. To face the enormous challenges ahead, we need leaders who will seek the good of the nation as a whole, and who will put it before the good of a particular grouping or class or their own personal good, who will not shrink from the right course even when for a time it ceases to be applauded. We need leaders who are dedicated men. In national and international affairs, our leaders will command respect in the degree in which they manifest integrity in their deeds. We must pray God that He will all the time give Nigeria leaders who will stand for all that is best in her traditions, and who will give to the nation and the world an example of honourable living.
The Government Exists for the People: If the state exists as an association to enable men to pursue their temporal common good and if authority in the state exists to unify and stimulate men’s efforts, it follows that the scope of political authority (we usually call it the power of the state) is determined by that function. Hence: (1) authority is entitled to all the powers it needs to promote the general welfare of the people; (2) it has no power in those spheres that do not come under association for the common good, and so it must respect the functions of other societies such as the family and the Church; (3) in pursuing its ends and it must not use means that are intrinsically wrong. An understanding of the first of these points allows us to accept a positive notion of state action and to reject the laissez-faire liberal view that the state exists only to safeguard law and order and property.
SOCIAL PROBLEMS: UNITY IN DIVERSITY: Right from the start, it is well to recognise that Nigerian unity includes a great deal of diversity. The country is one state. But it includes many nations. Each one of the several large groupings in our multi-national state possesses a language and traditions that are its own; each people owns a certain group loyalty; and the members of each ethnic group have a natural tendency to associate with one another, even when they are away from their state of origin. It is because of the language and tradition that each one of them inherits and the kinship their members feel with one another that we have preferred to call the larger ethnic grouping ‘nations’- ‘tribe’ is no longer properly relevant as present-day description of our peoples. It is perfectly legitimate to suggest that the future development of Nigeria should respect the different national traditions of our people. However, above the fellowship of these particular traditions stands for greater fellowship of the state. Nigerians, especially the country’s leaders, must primarily look to the common well-being of all the members of the political community.
The next series of problems that Nigeria faces are grouped around the need to make economic progress and to improve social welfare. Any government that comes into power is now committed to improving gradually and steadily the standard of living. Very soon the extension of primary education will see hundreds of thousands of primary school leavers emerging into the labour market. Our economy must be able to absorb them into either industry or agriculture or we shall face a social crisis. It may well be that for our democratic system it is a race against time between the progressive raising of our standards of living and the discontent that may tempt some of our people to turn to authoritarian short-cuts. Much of our progress can be achieved only through making sacrifices and maintaining integrity. Those who lead in political and economic activity must take care not to let the gap between the standard of living possible to them and the one available to the masses of the people become greater still. Discontent may easily grow if luxury, whether in the shape of expensive cars or lavish parties, is flaunted before the eyes of people who believe that they have not enough to live on decently. Moreover, the excessive distinction between senior and junior service that we have inherited from colonial days cannot be allowed to continue. Salaries and allowances that were meant to attract personnel from abroad cannot be maintained in a society that intents to have a fair share-out of its national wealth. We are also worried lest those who draw salaries from the government should go on being favoured at the expense of the vast but as yet relatively less articulate section of the country composed of the farming communities. Last of all, we hope that in the course of the industrialization of the country, we shall avoid creating conditions under which vast masses of badly paid or unemployed labour live in our cities in desperately bad housing conditions. We at least have the opportunity to avoid the mistakes of the Industrial Revolution in Europe and elsewhere.
Education: General and Technical
As we become independent we are still short of trained staff for the civil services, for commercial enterprises and for technical enterprise in agriculture and industry. One fears that up to the present much of our education has had an excessively literary bias. We are glad to see that our governments are trying to alter the emphasis. We assure them that we will do our best to cooperate in founding technical and commercial schools and in training and finding staff for such schools. We might also add that the time has come to revise generally our entire educational system to find in better with the circumstances of the country. For too long our ideal has been based on models hastily imported from abroad. We have no wish to reject much of what has been imported. Modern Nigeria bears far too deeply the impress of Western ideology and technology to have that impress ignored or despised. But there is a great difference between accepting in our own way what the West has to give and accepting it without adequately assimilating and adapting it. A genuine effort to formulate a policy of Nigerian education that nonetheless meets the requirements of scholarship in any country will help to found a proper national self-respect. The greatest benefit of freedom is to foster a people’s self-respect. In building up an educational system that is properly adapted to the way our people think and feel and that meets the technical and commercial requirements of our own situation we shall also heal any injuries that the period of colonization has caused.
Some Evils: Bribery and Nepotism
We must adopt personal and social attitudes that are geared to our changing society in which impersonal service and a money economy have begun to dominate. Here we are faced by the twin evils of bribery and nepotism. Unless we take strong measures and unless we mobilize public opinion, we shall never stamp out these evils. We are faced, for example, with a widespread ‘dash-bribe’ system that is slowing up our economy, causing deaths on the roads and impeding efficient administration. We urge the governments to take decisive action in this grave issue. Those in official posts especially must be reminded that men who take bribes betray the trust of the nation. Bribery is a great sin that usually does injury to the poor. ‘Your often misdoing, your heinous guild, never think I am blind to it; innocence hated, the bribe taken, the poor refused their rights at the judgment seat’ (Amos 5:12) Nepotism too has its roots deep in all human nature and finds particularly favourable soil in our extended family system. We urge our Catholics to stand against these evils and to make sacrifices if need be to combat them. If each one of us remains upright in his own sphere and helps wherever possible to uphold social integrity, we should soon rid our society of defects that injure its honour and hinder its advance.
A Thirst for Justice and Progress
When we have finished mentioning tasks that lie before us, we must insist that the nation will grow in overcoming difficulties and in resolving problems. In all this effort we have many resources to call on among our people: a people who possess a passionate sense of justice that will not suffer for any long time gross or glaring inequalities in the share-out of the country’s wealth; who will allow no system of state totalitarianism to take root because it is contrary to those traditions that in times past compelled chiefs to heed the advice of the community – the ideal of equality expressed in the proverb ‘a child who washes his hands can dine with the elders’; who desire intensely to make progress and who consequently will not go on accepting the rule of any government that is not clearly on the side of progress. Qualities of this kind will enable Nigeria to avoid on the one hand totalitarian methods of rule in the course of making a way ahead, and on the other the lethargy that leaves some nations to wallow without ambition amidst decay. The Catholic Church gladly takes her place among those members of the nation who want to use all good human means to further the material and spiritual advance of Nigeria. And at the same time, the Church will take her place alongside those who are vigilant for the freedom of the people and who stand by the human rights written into our Constitution.
In finishing this section, we want to insist that the key to Nigeria’s future lies especially in the hands of her leaders. To face the enormous challenges ahead we need leaders who will seek the good of the nation as a whole and who will put it before the good of a particular grouping or class or their own personal good, who will not shrink from the right course even when for a time it ceases to be applauded. We need leaders who are dedicated men. In national and international affairs our leaders will command respect in the degree in which they manifest integrity in their deeds. We must pray God that He will all the time give Nigeria leaders who will stand for all that is best in her traditions and who will give to the nation and the world an example of honourable living.