The church, right from the medieval times, performed the role of the main stabilising force in Western Europe. Not only did it provide religious leadership, it also offered the world secular leadership as well. Through the Roman Catholic Church, the Church satisfied the spiritual needs of the medieval society. The Pope, who headed the Roman Catholic Church, offered ordinary folks of the time earthly and spiritual comforts in troubled times. Since it was the largest landholder in Europe at this period, the Church also possessed wide-ranging and significant economic powers. It played a very dominant role in reviving, as well as preserving, ancient Greek and Roman texts.In Africa, the church was no less dominant in the lives of the people. It played a formidable role in speeding up the end of colonialism and was responsible for the stoppage of slavery and apartheid in Africa, especially, its role in pushing up the internal contradictions of colonialism which led to the nationalist struggle for independence. The modern church has even played a greater role, especially in the mounting secular challenges of the 21st-century, most significantly, the increasing attempt by science and technology to swap the place of faith and the role of God in the lives of the human being.
Yes, science and technology have eliminated the spatial gaps in communication. Technology, for instance, has found easier ways of either curing or reducing the pains hitherto suffered in terminal ailments. In spite of the above, however, technology has proven critically unable to fill the void in the life of the human being. As predicted in II Timothy 3:1 which says, “but know this, that in the last days, perilous times will come,” the perilous times are actually here and science and technology are profoundly incapable of providing solutions to the existential pains suffered by humanity. The perilous times are the existential void, agony and crises that man undergoes today. The pains man underwent decades ago are little compared to his challenges today. The Church is still where people frequent for solutions to these existential crises and where they get “spiritual fixes” whenever they get to inexplicable crossroads of their lives.
Overtime, governments were the pinnacle of hope of redemption for man and society. Today, however, governments, all over the world, are literally throwing their hands up in surrender. The perils and pains of society are proving intractable for secular powers-that-be, where man laid his hope. Unemployment has reached a crescendo that is unprecedented in the world; economic, health and social crises have proven really indomitable, in spite of coordinated attempts to tackle them. Hopelessness is becoming infectious like a pestilence and the world, which had made governments and technology its hope, especially since the renaissance period, is returning to the Church for the way out of its existential dilemma.
The above are also very true of the Nigerian situation. The situation is perhaps even worse. Economic and social problems in Nigeria are on the upswing, indeed in an unprecedentedly scary manner since the amalgamation of the country. Our children come out of schools every year to join an army of unemployed persons. In the bid to wriggle out of this societal hopelessness, our children take to drugs at frightening dimensions, making the rate of youth who take drugs today to climb to a pandemic level. Statistics of spousal abuses are becoming scary as pent-up angers and frustration about life are tearing husbands and wives asunder in homes. Never has the church faced this level of massive hopelessness and disenchantment of its flocks. Having encountered failure in looking up to government for remedy, the Church is the only hope of the people today.
Statistical data show that church members are more beggarly than they have ever been; in spite of the wealth of the Nigerian nation. Also, despite the unprecedented technological advancements made in the area of health, the number of church members who die of ordinary sicknesses and diseases and sundry other challenges are on the increase. The church is indeed the hope of the common man for remedy. The political society has dealt very unkindly with the church. Every time election is nigh, politicians who pretend that they are examples of that meek and temperate servant in the bible, come to the church to seek its partnership in securing power. Once they assume power, however, not only do they fail to advance the cause of the people who constitute the catchment area of the church, they put greater burden on the church. Thus, the church cannot but be interested in good governance and a better society. To seek a better society, the church must fortify its understanding of what the power equation in society is, what the challenges are and why it has become such a rocket science for politicians to give the people good life. I guess this lecture is one of the church’s attempts at understanding what the challenges of good governance are and the way forward for Nigeria.
Challenges of 2019 elections
In the build-ups to the Nigerian federal elections which will hold in 2019, there have been several fascinating and interesting scenarios which cannot but interest any student of history. Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has cried out that the growing number of political parties would certainly pose challenges to the commission in the 2019 general elections. According to the Chief Technical Adviser to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Bolade Eyinla recently, the 68 registered parties at present, which would translate into 68 party agents in each polling unit and 68 party names on INEC ballot papers, could pose a massive challenge of management to the electoral umpire. If this is added to the other challenge of INEC having to monitor the congresses, conventions and primaries of the 68 parties who are contesting for, conservatively, 1000 elective positions, the challenge could be imagined. As we speak, President Muhammadu Buhari has on his table the Revised 2019 Electoral Bill. He is likely to decline assent to the bill, in which case, the National Assembly, by a two-third of the two houses, can override it. In the bill, the National Assembly reordered the course of the proposed elections as earlier scheduled by INEC. INEC had proposed to have the presidential and National Assembly elections first on the same day and the governorship and State Houses of Assembly last.
(To be continued).
- Dr. Adedayo delivered this lecture at the Ibadan Anglican Church Diocese’s Clergy Seminar, held in Ibadan on March 6, 2018.