With a piece of advice – that Nigerians should remain hopeful for a bright future – and prayers for the President, the May 29 inauguration activities began yesterday in Abuja.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo delivered the message of hope, saying “the future of our nation is bright”.
Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese Cardinal John Onaiyekan prayed for President Buhari to:
- be liberated from bad advisers and unhelpful associated; and to
- see the wisdom in bringing onboard every segment of the nation for an improved sense of belonging
Prof. Osinbajo and Cardinal Onaiyekan spoke during the 2019 Presidential Inauguration Interdenominational Church Service in Abuja. The theme was “Setting the nation on higher levels of peace and development in the fear of God”.
The Vice President maintained that Christians are to take the lead in giving hope to others.
He said: “Our days will be better and better. This is the reason I am so confident; our ministry is that of reconciliation.
“We must not permit anyone to take advantage of the fault lines. Our country stands at the threshold of phenomenal greatness, the end of the story light and joy.
“We begin with darkness and confusion but the end of our story is bright, the future of our nation is bright.”
The message was delivered by the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, representing the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Augustine Akubeze.
In a message titled: ”Let us choose life not death taken, from Deuteronomy 30:19, he pointed out that God has set before the nation light and darkness, but that Nigeria should choose light for peace and development.
He thanked God that Nigeria has remained in peace despite the build up to the 2019 general elections.
According to him, it is now time for all Nigerians to pool their efforts towards tackling the security and other challenges facing the nation.
He also noted that it is not time to be pointing accusing fingers as this will not carry Nigeria far.
Warning that the ranks of the poor were swelling in the land, Cardinal Onaiyekan said it had led to increased anger and criminality.
But, in his view, “all hope is not lost; it is an opportunity for the country to change its ways, especially as God has blessed Nigeria with resources.”
Nigerians, he said, must have a change of heart from the top to the bottom.
He warned that Nigerians should be on guard against those who seek to manipulate religion for their selfish interests, saying they should not be allowed to destroy the nation.
Noting that Nigeria has been dancing on the brink of chaos, Cardinal Onaiyekan spoke of the need for drastic change of government system.
He said: “First, we have to thank God. It is the Christian thing to do in all circumstances (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We thank God that, despite much fears and anxieties, we have arrived at this stage in relative peace. The last elections have left behind thick clouds of acrimony that are still to clear. We are still waiting for the final verdict of the tribunals, on which we now rely, in all spirit of peaceful contest, guided by the rule of law.
“We thank God who has led us thus far. This is no time for celebration of victory or for lamentation over defeat. Rather, it is time to pool efforts together, with the grace of God, to tackle the serious challenges before us.
“At this moment, we would do well to acknowledge our failure to do things in the right way. Here the words of the psalmist should challenge each of us: “If you Oh Lord should mark our guilt, who would survive?
“The blame game of pointing accusing fingers at others will not carry us far. For a positive change to take place, we must all be ready for a sincere change of heart, from the lowest to the highest, but especially at the highest levels. Empty boasts and bare-face denial of the realities around us cannot build a nation.
“We are in the house is God, and before God we must tell the truth. The Lord Jesus has told us that ‘The truth will make us free.’ The truth is that our nation is not in a state for us to rejoice.
“The ranks of the poor are swelling by the day, hopeless and helpless, as they watch in frustration the affluence of the very few cruising in a different world. Such wide socio-economic disparity has led to anger, tension, violence and outright criminality in the land. All is not well.
“But all is not lost either. As we embrace a new term of government, it should be for us a new opportunity to change ways and review habits of governance, for a better Nigeria. We can and we should do this. God has endowed us with adequate resources to achieve this, resources that we unfortunately turn into crises and problems. Ethnicity and religion are two cases in point.
“In our emerging global world, we should be building on our long experience of living together across ethnic lines, if we are not to allow ourselves to be left behind in our fast developing modern world.
“We are living in a world where many are abandoning faith in God, at great cost to humanity now and in the future. We do well to commend ourselves for our generally high level of religious fervor. But if this is to translate into a righteous nation, we must all seek the will of God for good human relations.
“This cuts across our religious differences and affiliations. Religion is good, but not enough. It is useful, and can even be worse than useless. If it does not promote good human behaviour. (James 1: 27). We can not deceive God. We may, by our human failure, give religion a bad name. But God will always be the Holy and Righteous One.
“Religion evokes strong emotions that ought to be deployed for solving the ills of our nation, not compound them. Those who manipulate religion for their selfish political interest end up destroying religion and harming the nation.
“Our constitution is not perfect. But it’s basic provisions about freedom of religion are valid and must be scrupulously respected by all, especially by those who control state instruments of corrosion.
“The greatest of God’s gift to us, life itself, is in danger all over our land. Gunmen- and women – unknown and known – have been sowing death, destruction and misery almost everywhere. Property, well-being, harmony and peace are endangered by generalised insecurity.
“Before God, this is the truth and not political propaganda mounted to discredit the government. The nation must be mobilised to join hands to face the disaster looming over all of us,” he said
He added “Again, here we must tell the truth. For too long, we have been seeing what seems to be a policy of polarisation of the nation along primordial fault lines of ethnicity and religion. The result is that we have been indulging in the risky game of ’dancing on the brink of chaos’.
“We do not know for how long we can continue to get away with this. But the handwriting on the wall is quite clear for all who care to see. It is sad that no condition is permanent; certainly not the present state of our nation.
“In this new term of office, there is need for a drastic change of government system, if our nation is to be saved from imminent chaos. The sad fact is that many have already lost all hope in the future of this nation. According to them, we are to get ready for the worst.
“Frightful conspiracy theories are making the rounds in the social media., shaping and twisting the attitudes and minds of many people. In this situation, the serious warnings from well-intentioned wise elders should not be ignored, less still denigrated without due respect.
“There are, we hope, many more people who still believe in our ability to build a united nation under God, and thus to realise the dream of our constitution. Doing nothing but complaining and pointing accusing fingers at others is to wait for the worst to happen.
“The positive and responsible option is to stand up to be counted and get involved in building the nation of our dreams. The Lord has put before us a choice between death and life. He urges us to choose life, for our own good and for His greater glory.”
Cardinal Onaiyekan prayed “for the wisdom and the courage to regain and strengthen our sense of national cohesion, in the midst of dangerous rumours of war and chaos, from within and from outside our national borders.”
He said: “We pray that all those whose duty it is to keep us safe will do their duty, with no more excuses or compromises.
“We pray for Mr President. May he live up to the Christian and Muslim principle that all authority and power belong to God, and must be exercised under his will. May he be liberated from bad advisers and unhelpful associates.
“May he see the wisdom of bringing on board every segment of the nation., for an improved sense of belonging, without which the problems of the nation. Will not be successfully addressed. God has given us a beautiful nation and wonderful people. May he give us the wisdom and the good will to make a success of it.”
Former Head of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon urged Nigerians to continue to love the country and defend it in whatever way they could.
The first scripture reading was taken by Justice John Isoho from Habakkuk 3:16-19
The second scripture reading was taken from Revelations 4:1-11 by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.
Intercessory prayers were said for the nation, the President, Vice President, other executive members, the legislature, the judiciary and the unity of the church.
There were also special renditions by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Mass Choir, the Nigerian Tenors, and NCCN Mass Choir.
At the service were the wife of the Vice President, Dolapo, former Senate President Ken Nnamani and Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha.
Also there were the Service Chiefs and other dignitaries.