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Our nation is like a ship leaking at different points and almost sinking, says Arch Bishop Martins

…Maintains break-up not solution to problem

His Grace, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, at a Chrism Mass on Thursday, April 1, 2021 granted an interview to CYRIACUS NNAJI. Among other religious and national issues, he maintained that the nation is like a ship leaking at different points and almost sinking.

What does Mass of Chrism mean?

The Mass of Chrism is an annual event, during which we celebrate our priests and the priests then renew their ordination promises to the church, to their bishop and to the people of God. It is also a day we bless the oils that shall be used for administering the sacraments. We bless the oil of Catechumen, bless the oil of the sick; then we consecrate the oil of chrism. It is a day for bonding, so to say, between the priests and their bishop and among the priests themselves in the presence of God and Gods people.

On the readiness to put measures in place to safeguard school children and the vulnerable persons

About safeguarding the children and vulnerable persons, it is how to ensure boundaries are kept in relationship with children and relationship with vulnerable persons.

Of course kidnapping of children is a sad event of our time, and we are hoping that as we have new security chiefs in place now, that they will work out new and more proactive system by which they will ensure that children in our different schools are protected. It is not only happening in the north any more, it is happening as far as down south as we heard it, in Edo State. So it is a problem that has to be really addressed seriously. One would have thought that if the military chiefs were being changed, the police that have the immediate responsibility for protecting and securing civilian lives should also see a new lease of life, but that is not happening so far; and we are hoping that this anomaly will be addressed.

During the homily, the priest pointed out that another country shouldn’t be created out of Nigeria, that if everybody should be ambassadors of peace the country will actually become better, your view.

I think we can look at what it is that precipitated people asking for their own different nations. There was also a time when there was no talk about secession, no talk about having a new nation from the country. But what has brought it about is the inequity that we find in the system, what has brought it about is people feeling completely powerless in a situation such that the only way out is to start new nations. And so what I believe is necessary is for government to reassure every corner of this country that they matter in the life of the nation, that everyone is given an equitable share in the life of the nation.

In a situation whereby parts of the country felt completely left out, where they feel they do not have a sense of belonging, naturally elements such as those who are clamouring for secession would rise. And it is only if the government takes the right steps to pacify, to assure them that they are part of the nation; that is when these things will begin to go down. If there is  no good governance, people are hungry, people feel left out, then naturally these things would continue, but secession, or breaking up is not the solution to our problem, rather good governance and equity.

What are the plans by the church to rebuild Bethlehem College, Abu-Lado that was destroyed by explosion last year?

The children are not just simply there, the children in that school have been shared out into other catholic schools, the children have been advised to choose whichever of the other schools they wish, they have been absolved into those other schools, some of them are doing their final exams, in fact some of them did last year while others are in the process right now, so they have not been left simply like that.

But as for rebuilding the school, that is the function of very many things, including availability of land because, we cannot build the school again on the site. Recently the Lagos State Government offered us a portion of Land on which to build the a new Bethlehem Girls’ College, but obviously, it is not land only that is going to make that to happen, we are still discussing with government in order to know how to go about it, because lots of things are needed. Road infrastructure to get the place done, ensuring that the land is vacant, ensuring that the swamp is filled up, all of those are still big issues that we still need to address. But our focus is that it will come up at one time or the other. So we shall continue to keep that focus because there was a reason that school was located in that area, and we don’t want that reason to be obliterated. But as I said, there are other issues that are involved and gradually we will deal with them.

As a follow up, what is the church doing to immortalize the name of the Reverend Sister that died at the Abu Lado Bomb Blast?

Well, the sister died, unfortunately; she belonged to a religious congregation, and the religious congregation has decided that it will start a foundation, a foundation to first of all help to bring her dream for children to reality. Those children who are from indigent homes will be given scholarships by that foundation, that foundation was launched about three-four weeks ago in Benin City, we were there. The church, Lagos Arch Diocese was there fully present, made substantial contribution to that foundation, and so we shall continue to work along with that foundation in order that the dream of the sister for children, particularly indigent children will be continued and realized, and also in the process she herself will be immortalize.

We are happy that the Nigeria Air Force built a hall and named it after her, I am sure similar thing will continue to happen especially as we continue to work on the building of new Bethlehem College.

Your advice to the priests

The homilist has given so much for priests to reflect upon, being faithful to Christ, being faithful to the church, ensuring that priests are priests, not just only in the external but also in their private hearts and thoughts, ensuring that they are faithful to the message of Christ. And generally recognsing the fact that the priesthood is a sacrifice, and therefore they would live that sacrifice in all the ways that is required.

I will like you to speak on the state of the nation, as the Nigerian nation is going through difficult time.

Well, the state of the nation is like a ship that is leaking at different points and is almost sinking. That is why it is important that the steps that need to be taken should be taken. As I mentioned earlier on, we arrived at this point because of the inequities we find in our governance, because of insecurity that have not been properly addressed by government and security agencies, because of a feeling of marginalisation that has been there, so all of these are part of what gave rise to situation in which it is right now.

Well and as I mentioned earlier also, if people feel a sense of being left out, then naturally, they would begin to find their own means, we have the ESN in the East, we have those that are looking for Oduduwa Republic, we have the Amotkun in the West. All these are just expressions of frustration, and I think government has the responsibility of reaching out to even engage those persons who have these grudges, when you engage with them, and tell them what plans you have to address their challenges, I am sure some of the tensions, that is arising will continue to be diffused. But when it is the case that things are still being done the same way, as if no one is, then naturally these problems will continue, so, but all in all, the problem of the country need to be seen to be engaged with by government, that is the only way out.

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