The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari not to “focus energy, time and resources (on) any form of propaganda against religious leaders who disagree with (his) performance.”
In a statement on Thursday signed by its president, Augustine Akubeze, the CBCN described the recent allegations by the presidency and the State Security Service (also called the DSS) of a plot to impeach Mr Buhari as needless attempts by the federal government “to blackmail anyone who criticises (his) government.”
The CBCN said Nigeria’s democracy belongs to all of its citizens who do not need to be card-carrying members of a party to be able to express their views on the government’s failings. It called on the Buhari administration to “learn to listen to every Nigerian, both political actors in other parties and non-political actors in Nigeria and the diaspora.”
Earlier, in separate statements by Mr Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the army and the DSS, the federal government alleged attempts by unnamed political and religious leaders to initiate a coup or a referendum and a vote of no confidence that would result in the ultimate removal of the Buhari administration.
The statements followed growing criticism of the federal government over the worsening security situation in the country and a call by fiery Catholic priest Ejike Mbaka for Mr Buhari to either resign or be removed from office.
The federal government’s statements said the concerned Nigerians had connived with external forces to execute their plot and warned of possible treasonable charges against perpetrators.
But according to the CBCN, the decision to speak out was not for the “APC Government to fail,” but for Nigeria to succeed.
The Catholic leaders affirmed their stance against the undemocratic transfer of power but added that Mr Buhari has relegated his obligation of concern for the welfare and security of the people to spokespersons and consequently denigrated the Nigerians who voted him to power.
“In every democracy, the welfare of the citizens is of great concern to the President. From time to time, Presidents address the people and give an account of the state of affairs in the country. In Nigeria, we hardly hear directly from our President. Most of the time, we hear from ‘the Presidency.’ Nigerians did not elect presidential media spokespersons.”
The CBCN said Nigeria was on a path of destruction if the federal government “continue(s) to ignore the constructive criticisms and recommendations of Nigerians from every sector.”
“We are speedily getting there. Police stations are being burnt, our gallant military men and women are being killed, barracks are attacked, IDP camps are attacked, farmlands are invaded, youth unemployment is at its highest, private sectors are not giving enabling environment to thrive, and appointments to offices are not reflective of our diversities; the complaints are almost endless – could the sounds signalling a collapsing nation be louder than this?,” the CBCN queried.
The Catholic leaders urged religious and notable Nigerians to avoid inflammatory comments that would distort the meanings of their proposed message to the government and to unite for the good of Nigeria.