Christian leaders lament during Nigeria's fiftieth anniversary

By Ecumenical News International
October 4, 2010

Christian leaders in Nigeria have joined in marking 50 years of independence in Africa's most populous nation but have also called for divine intervention because of their concern for the state of the nation - Lekan Otufodunrin.

"Though it might seem like there is not much to jubilate about in the nation, prophetically and by faith, we celebrate Jubilee. We believe that as God sees our faith, he will give us cause to be jubilant as we begin the journey of another 50 years," said the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor.

He was speaking at a media conference in the country's capital Abuja on 1 October, 50 years to the day since Nigeria achieved its independence from the Britain in 1960.

The celebrations were marred by a number of bomb explosions in Abuja and police said at least eight people had been killed and a number of others injured. News agencies reported that the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta in a statement claimed responsibility in which it said the country was marking 50 years of failure.

Militants from Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta set off several small bombs in the capital during ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of independence.

World leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI, congratulated Nigerians on the anniversary.

Oritsejafor said that, judging by the lack of many basic facilities and infrastructure in Nigeria, it was unfortunate that the country's leaders since independence had failed to live up to the expectations of the people.

"It is about time we bring about the change that is needed to move the country forward, and we all have to work hard at it," said Oritsejafor.

In an anniversary message, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria said that the last 50 years had been a period of mixed blessing for the country. They noted that Nigeria's national resources have not been properly developed for the benefit of the 149-million population, which is roughly divided equally between Christians in the south, and Muslims in the north.

"Our leaders need political will, which in the present context calls for heroism. Our citizens need to recover confidence in themselves, and work with their leaders in the hope of a better Nigeria," said the bishops.

"There are reasons for our nation to turn to God for help at this 50th anniversary of the birth of her sovereignty," the bishops added in their message signed by their president, Archbishop Ade Job, and secretary, Bishop Adewale Martins.

The retired primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, had also been quoted as saying that that Nigeria has had a tortuous history since independence, with the unity of the country being constantly threatened by religious disharmony, fanaticism and sporadic crises. For the country to progress, Akinola said corruption should be criminalised to stop political office holders from stealing the country's resources.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]


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