BEING A STATE OF THE NATION MEDIA ADDRESS BY MOST REV. DR. ALFRED ADEWALE MARTINS, THE METROPOLITAN ARCHBISHOP OF LAGOS ON THE OCCASION OF HIS 5TH YEAR ENTHRONEMENT ANNIVERSARY HELD AT HOLY CROSS CATHEDRAL, LAGOS, 4TH AUGUST, 2017.
My dear people of God, it is with a heart full of joy and gratitude to the Almighty God that I welcome you to yet another media briefing marking the 5th year anniversary of my enthronement at the Archbishop of Lagos. On a day such as this, what more can I say than to continue to give thanks and praise to the Almighty God who in His benevolence has called me to serve in His vineyard. May His name be praised both now and forever. Amen.
Thanks be to God
While this is not an occasion for self-adulation, one cannot but say without any atom of doubt that the good Lord has been good to me, right from my infancy, my education and my call to the sacred order of priesthood. He has been my strength, the rock upon which I stand throughout my fourteen years of service as pioneer bishop of Abeokuta diocese between 1998 to 2012, and has been my help and inspiration since the past five years as Archbishop of Lagos. It has not been all rosy though, but His grace has been more than sufficient for me, a sure source of solace at all times. So, like the psalmist I ask rhetorically, ‘How can I repay the Lord for His goodness to me..?
Gratitude to All
I wish to recall with deep sense of gratitude, the great sacrifice made by the early missionaries who left the comfort of their abode to journey down here to spread the gospel of salvation. Their pioneering efforts no doubt helped build the solid foundation on which the Catholic Church in Lagos Archdiocese now stands. Aside opening up parishes for nurturing the spiritual needs of the people, these missionaries assisted in the foundation laying and nurturing of frontline educational institutions like St. Gregory’s College, St. Finbarr’s College, and numerous others. They also delved into the provision of primary health care service, building of vocation centres for skills acquisitions and running of Rehabilitation Homes for the physically and mentally challenged, including the most vulnerable in the society. These very important social services provided by the Catholic Church and which we have consolidated upon over the years have helped in no small ways to complement Government’s effort in impacting on the lives of the people, particularly those at the grass root. By the grace of God, the Church here in Lagos Archdiocese shall continue to assist in its own little way in ensuring that the welfare of the people of God are not jettisoned.
Further, I wish to recognize and appreciate the important roles played by my three predecessors in office since the creation of the Archdiocese on 8th April, 1950. They are Leo Hale Taylor, SMA (1950-1965); John Kwao Aggey (1965 – 1972) and His Eminence Anthony Cardinal Okogie (1973-2012). Whatever modest achievements we may have recorded these past five years would have been impossible without my climbing on the shoulders of these three great men of God. I pray the good Lord to continue to grant eternal rest to Archbishops Taylor and Aggey. On his part, His Eminence, the Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie who incidentally ordained me in the year 1983, has remained an inspiration to us here in the Archdiocese. We shall continue to celebrate him even as we pray the Almighty to grant him many more years on earth, good health, sound body and mind through Christ our Lord. Amen.
In addition, I wish to express my immense gratitude to my co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord – the priests and religious working in our Archdiocese for given me the much needed cooperation these past five years. My four Episcopal Vicars and the fifteen Deans that make up our Archdiocese deserves special mentioning. I must confess I have enjoyed a very cordial relationship with you all and pray that this spirit of fraternal love bequeathed on us by our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, will continue to grow from strength to strength through Christ our Lord. Amen. The lay faithful, members and leadership of the various lay societies and organizations in the Archdiocese enjoy a special place in my heart. Without their support I would have been unable to function effectively. They deserve special commendation for receiving me very well and cooperating with me through accepting the various innovations we have introduced so far. They have indeed been wonderful. My prayer is that as they continue to worship God in spirit and truth through the instrumentality of our Mother Church and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, none of them would be found wanting on the last day, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
State of the Nation
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, as is customary for a day such as this, allow me to say a word or two about the state of affairs in our great nation Nigeria. I am compelled to air my view once again for the fact that we are still far from where we should be as a nation. Many of us have been talking yet it seems as if those in the helms of affairs are either not listening or have decided to feign ignorance. But we cannot stop talking. Like I always say, we all have a stake in this nation and so we cannot just fold our arms and allow things to degenerate.
State of Our Health care
President Muhammodu Buhari have been out of the country for medical care for almost three months now. Since then, much have been said and written over the consequences or impact of his long absence on the political and social-economic well-being of our nation. While it is also not in my place to question the manner and the nature of his ailment and the way it is being managed by his handlers, I wish to state here that it is time we begin to equip our local medical facilities in line with international standards in order to help halt medical treatment abroad which is gulping large portion of our scarce foreign exchanges. To this end, I propose that the House of Assembly should commence the passing of a Bill that would make it mandatory for all serving government officials to patronize our nation’s health facilities. The positive impact of this is multifaceted. First, it will ensure that our health institutions are properly funded and managed in line with the best global practises. Secondly, it will reduce capital flight and also provide more jobs for our health professionals. In addition to this, there is need to strengthen the National Health Insurance Scheme so that as many Nigerians as possible can have access to quality health care at minimal costs, thereby strengthening our Primary Health Cares and Tertiary Health Institutions.
Payment of Salaries
It is gladsome to note that the second tranche of the Paris Loan Refund has been given out to the various state governments for the purpose of paying worker’s outstanding salaries, pensions and gratuities. We want to make a passionate appeal to all affected governors to please ensure that this fund is well utilized for the purpose for which they are meant. A situation where they are diverted for other purposes is not acceptable. When workers are paid, they are happy and hopeful for the future and life expectancy would rise.
We have reached a point in our national life where it is known by everyone that corruption is the number one enemy. We can never grow as a nation if we continue to tolerate corruption as a way of life. The other day, I read of a Senator who moved a bill for looters to be granted amnesty. This, in my opinion, is quite condemnable and should be rejected by all right thinking men and women. Corruption in whatever guise must not be condoned or tolerated. Unfortunately, too, it appears the resolve of this administration to fight corruption is not bearing the much needed fruit because of the failure of Nigerians, both the leadership and followership, to buy into it. We cannot speak of fighting corruption if our laws continue to offer havens for looters. We cannot claim to be fighting corruption when our judicial system is incapacitated and our legislatures are only out to protect their own interest and those of their cronies. Until we resolve to put in place institutions that will help bring sanity into our national psyche, we shall continue to wallop in state of degeneration.
Economy in Comatose
Only yesterday the Minister for Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma was reported as saying that the economy was already moving out of recession. I do not know the indices he used in reaching this conclusion. Let me state here that the average man in the street is not concerned about technical matters. What he wants is to be able to afford meal as at when due and take care of his family. The truth of the matter is that Nigerians are gradually receding to a state of atrophy where nothing grows any more. They are losing hope by the day. I am still waiting to hear of reduction in the cost of food stuffs, house rents and social services. It is only then shall we be convinced that the economy is truly getting out of recession. In the mean time, I want to appeal to the Honourable Minister to stop insulting the sensitivity of Nigerians by taking practical steps that would bring smiles on the faces of the masses. My appeal also goes to the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosu, to, for once, think of ways of cushioning the pains of the masses rather than making more rigid pronouncements that would compel the already impoverished masses to part with their meagre earnings without enjoying corresponding services.
Away To Cultism
At this stage, my heart goes out to the families of those who have lost their loved ones as a result of cult-killings by suspected Badoo boys in Ikorodu axis of Lagos State. It is very sad that cult activities are still thriving in our society despite the efforts of government. We appreciate the effort made by the Police and the local Vigilantes who recently discovered a shrine somewhere in Agbowa and the arrest of a man alleged to be the chief priest. We call on them not to relent but to go all the way to identify and arrest the sponsors of these cult-related killings believed to be instigated by the get rich syndrome. We also wish to urge government to endeavour to get to the root causes of cult related killings, one of which is unemployment. Also parents have a lot of work to do in training their children to be God-fearing and morally upright.
Challenge For New LGA Officials
Only recently Lagos State conducted elections into the various local governments and developmental council areas in the State. I want to appeal to the new Chairmen to ensure they offer quality service to the people. Accountability and probity should be their watch word. We also call for the autonomy of Local Governments being the closest form of government to the people.
Call For Peace & Unity
We continue to call on the various stakeholders in this our great country to exercise restraint in the choice of words and the various agitations going on. We must avoid all hate speeches and avoid taken steps that would be inimical to peace and unity of this country. All men and women of good will must stand up to condemn divisive tendency and root for our collective well-being as a nation. Like I always say, there is more to gain when we are united than divided. I must also appeal to the Federal Government to explore all means of fostering peace and harmony across the country. Dialogue always provide a good platform through which all disagreements can be resolved amicably.
Building a Just Country
I wish to call on Nigerians not to despair. God is on the throne. No matter how difficult it may seem, we are not alone. Yes, things are hard, but they can also get better. If we persevere and do those things that would move us forward. There have been much clamour for restructuring of this country. I also believe that the time has come for this. I must commend the FG for setting up a committee to look into the nature of the restructuring, though I would have wished the composition is broadened. However, it is a step in the right direction. They should please listen to divergent voices also and see how the interest of all the various groups in the country can be properly represented in our journey towards building a better Nigeria.
Let us not give up on this mandate. With great effort and perseverance there is nothing we cannot achieve. We must also not rule out the power of prayer. Prayer is the unseen force that clears all the unseen negative forces holding this nation in captive. The bible says it is not by power or might but the spirit of the Lord. What we are going through is not ordinary. Victory can only come when we unite as a people against all the negative forces holding us down. This we can do by speaking out and hold our leaders accountable. Let us not keep quiet when we see evil influences at work in our homes and offices. At our places of worship, let us not forget that it is not enough to pray, but to act according to the tenets laid down for us by God Almighty who has willed that we live lives to the full.
My prayer for all Nigerians is that the good Lord will grant us the zeal and determination to work for the continuous unity and peaceful co-existence of this country called Nigeria. May God help us. Amen.
+Alfred Adewale Martins
Metropolitan Archbishop of Lagos
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