“Cardinal John Onaiyekan, the former Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, has cautioned Nigeria’s political class about underestimating the patience and resilience of the Nigerian people.
Onaiyekan delivered this warning in Abuja on Monday during a meeting with a delegation from the Initiative for Fostering Unity in Diversity, Youths and Nation Building (IFFUIDYANB) at his residence. He expressed concern about the lack of response from Nigerian leaders to pressing issues, particularly those affecting the younger generation.
The cardinal emphasized that the country’s elites should refrain from believing that Nigerians’ resilience makes them vulnerable to exploitation at any time and in any place.
Describing the situation in Nigeria, Onaiyekan stated that the country is treading dangerously close to chaos.
“Sometimes, we take two steps forward and four steps backwards. But, it is a game that we should not be counting on,’’ he said.
According to Onaiyekan, the thinking of some people about the resilience and patience of Nigerians to absorb all kinds of difficulties might, in fact, be wrong.”
He said, “There is so much that is being said about the resilience of Nigerians that we have unlimited capacity to absorb shocks. But this may not be the case forever.
“I have for more than 30 years been preaching all over the world that Nigeria is a special country where Muslims and Christians live together.
“But the belief by some elites that Nigerians had elastic capacity to absorb every form of difficulty is a dangerous gamble.”
Recognizing that individuals who are instigating unrest in the nation exploit the endurance of Nigerians to persistently deny them their rights, the religious leader emphasized the necessity for immediate action from political figures to forge a different trajectory for the youth and discourage the growing phenomenon of brain drain, owing to the “Japa Syndrome.”
Onaiyekan said: “The question is, how long shall we continue on this path? The youths are anxious to work.
“They are not happy to be unemployed, underemployed or mis-employed.
“When I see able-bodied young men and women hawking groundnut, I tell myself: this is wastage. They should be producing.’’
The cardinal said that it was worrisome that people who should act to make a difference for the people, especially youths were keeping quiet and doing nothing.
He pleaded with well-meaning Nigerians to make an investment in youths a priority to engender a better future for Nigeria.
Onaiyekan, however, commended IFFUIDYANB members for making visible efforts at ensuring the unity of Nigeria by aspiring to bring youths together to forge a common future.
“We now have “Naija Unity House’’ where we plan to bring youths across religions and across tribes all over the country to discuss Nigeria.
“We have had a series of governments that seemed not to be so concerned about youths and the explanation for this is simple — selfishness and wickedness. It has nothing to do with tribe or religion.
“There is no lack of initiatives and I am sure IFFUIDYANB is not the only kind of NGO with this kind of initiative.
“One would have expected the political class to drive this kind of initiative,’’ Onaiyekan stated.
The leader of the delegation, Mr Steve Ebo, said that the group was concluding plans to hold a reality show for youths in the country in the near future.
He said the aim of the show was to bring a number of Nigerian youths together under one roof for a serious discussion on the future of youths in the country.
Ebo said that the show, which would commence soon, would last for more than 30 days and that it would feature eminent personalities, who would take housemates through salient national issues.
According to him, the show is aimed at fostering unity, promoting peace and supporting good leadership as well as peaceful co-existence among youths.
“What are the aspirations and intentions of our founding fathers? What is the way to get this country united?
“Can we go above where we are today, how can we unite as youths to make this country a better place?’’
Ebo said that the event would afford youths an opportunity to air their views on what they wanted from Nigeria, adding that it would showcase 37 youths, selected from the 36 states of the federation and the FCT.”