REV. FR. BATHOLOMEW UZOMA, is the Cathedral Administrator of Corpus Christi Cathedral, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He is also Director of Communications Catholic Diocese of Port Harcourt. In this interview with CHUKWUDI EJIMOFOR, the clergyman explains the significance of Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Lent and Easter seasons to Christians and non-Christians. He describes the country as a ‘failed nation’, while warning on the deleterious effects of violence, and cultism as the country inches towards the 2019 general elections. EXCERPTS
What does Holy week, Palm Sunday and Easter periods portend to Christians and non-Christians?
As Catholics, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of lent. Lent is the period we remind ourselves of the 40 days period Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and praying before he embarked on his public ministry. And we do same during the season of lent. During the Holy week, we remember the last week Jesus spent on this earth before he died. In the Catholic Church, Holy week begins with Palm Sunday. On that day, we remember the triumphant entering of Jesus Christ into the City of Jerusalem, that was shortly before the Passover was celebrated in the year 33 AD. His mission in Jerusalem was a mission to die. So, Palm Sunday is the beginning of “Passion week,” a week of suffering, and pains. And what makes the week holy? In the Catholic Church, the Bishop, during that week, blesses oil to be used for baptism, consecration of Churches, confirmation, and ordination.
On Good Friday, we celebrate the day Jesus innocently died on the Cross of Calvary for the remission of our sins. He humbled himself, became a servant leader and he died for us, and before he died, he declared: “”It is finished,” meaning that he has completed his mission of working out Salvation for the world.
Today we are Christians because Jesus died on the Cross. If Jesus did not die or he died, and did not rise again, we wouldn’t be called Christians. It would have been the case that one man came, and he was so popular and worked miracles, and they killed him and he died, that would have been the end of the story. For us who are Christians, Holy week makes us to know that Jesus lived and died for us, and so we must live and die for one another.
What about non-Christians?
Jesus did not die for Christians alone. He died for the whole world. Every human being was created by God. And Jesus is our Lord, our Master and our brother. He died for everybody – Christians, Moslems, pagans – everybody created in the image and likeness of God.
What is your message to Christians and non-Christians as we celebrate the Easter?
We should all emulate the example of Jesus Christ. He rendered selfless service to humanity. And knowing that no man is an island, we need to live for each other and live with each other. We need to imbibe the model of leadership by example, leadership that is service-oriented. If we can emulate and imbibe leadership by service, I think this world; this country, Rivers State, will be a better place to live. If we can emulate Jesus Christ, we’ll be sure of establishing a just society.
What is your advice to Nigerians especially Rivers people as the 2019 general election approaches?
My problem with election in Nigeria is that we lack objectivity, and the will power. A good number of voters do not have the will power to vote for candidates of their choice. They don’t vote with conviction. Rather, they vote according to their emotion. Many of the voters know the truth about the candidates in our elections; where they are coming from, and probably where they are going to. But nobody wants to say the truth, nobody wants to stand for the good of the country, rather people stand for the good of a few individuals, who found themselves on the corridors of power. Who among the candidates that presents themselves for election will use the resources of the land to develop the country?
Because the individuals in power are stronger than the institutions and the laws of the state, we can’t get it right. Our legal system is not strong. The individuals who are there make and unmake laws. Laws are amended to accommodate the interests of those in power. I don’t think we‘ll will get anything tangible from the 2019 elections.
My take is that until the masses re-awaken their consciousness that the future of this country lies in our hands, we’ll not get it right.
Is Nigeria a failed nation as some people have suggested?
I am afraid the nation has failed. Now tell me what is working in this country? Is it security? Is it the economy? Is it electricity, education or the housing sector? Which sector can you say in this country that is effective? Okay, except corruption sector. As you can see, the corruption sector is booming, and that tells you that something is wrong. We hear of herdsmen/farmers clashes, Boko Haram killings, and unfortunately, nobody cares. We have no electricity; how many hours in a day do you have electricity power in your house? So which sector is working? We are living in a failed state.
What is your advice to youths in Rivers state regarding election violence?
My advice is that, this thing called election is not worth any ones blood or life. I have told the youths that if they die during elections, they die for nothing. I think it is wrong for any person to allow himself to be killed because of another person’s ambition. But if you die for the liberation of the state, then you must have died as a hero. But if you die for one man to realize his political ambition, you die a fool’s death.
What is your reaction to the alleged sponsorship of cult groups by politicians in the state?
It is unfortunate that some people are being enrolled as members of secret cults, to kill; to be loyal to the devil and his agents. When you destroy what God has created, God will destroy you too. So my advice to the politicians and their surrogates is that they should sheathe their sword, drop their guns, and be reasonable and responsible citizens. Secret Cult is not an achievement. When one hears that these boys who are members of cult groups are wielding AK-47 rifles, you ask yourself: Who buys these guns for them and for what? Anybody who sends them to go and kill is guilty before God. In fact, those who supply the guns are the ones doing the killings; the boys are only their agents.
However, no matter what we are passing through -violence, bad economy, bad governance and all that, there is hope following the victory Christ Jesus won for us in Calvary. Nigerians should put their trust in God.