Catholic bishops have proffered moral revival as a panacea to Nigeria's socio-politico-economic situation, saying the nation is in dire need of one before it sinks further.
The clerics, under the aegis of Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, said "the good health of any nation consists in its capacity to offer its citizens a territory where they can feel at home, feel secure and enjoy the basic necessities of life."
The bishops, in a communiqué at the end of their meeting in Akure, the Ondo State capital, which held between July 19 and 20 and made available in Ado Ekiti on Wednesday, lamented that Nigeria is plagued by "armed conflicts, armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, insurgency, banditry and extrajudicial killings".
In the statement signed by the chairman of the province, Most Rev. Gabriel Abegunrin, and Secretary, Most Rev. John Oyejola, the bishops expressed sympathy for citizens "who bear the brunt of Nigeria's debilitating situation because of economic depression and hunger, armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping for ransom, unemployment and injustice".
"A nation that has lost its soul is characterised by inept, uncaring leadership which functions by selective allocation of posts, privileges and resources and by selective application of justice.
"It is characterised by leaders who, rather than care for the citizens of the country, simply exploit and denigrate them. Such a nation takes food out of the mouths of its own citizens and watches them starve," the statement said.
The clerics, who said these traits and others of a nation that had lost its soul existed in Nigeria, added, "Its constitutive principles of justice, equity and fair play have clearly fallen apart and the country is no longer at ease. No doubt, the very soul of Nigeria needs to be recovered".
They queued behind the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah and described as laughable the recent effort by the Presidency to malign the cleric's address to the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States of America Parliament/Assembly on the Nigerian situation on Religious Freedom.
The bishops said that Kukah "spoke for authentic Christians and Muslims who are under persecution. No doubt, he intended to solicit the support of that forum which many Nigerians believe holds the promise of some assistance and relief from our current national crises.
"The Federal Government, however, has characteristically gone up in arms against the person of Bishop Kukah and his purpose. It is commonly said that when there is a problem in a democracy, more democracy is needed to solve it. Sadly enough, our current Federal Government does not seem to subscribe to this".
They took a swipe at the National Assembly members for "prioritizing party and privileges over people's rights" thus making interest, relief and progress continue to elude Nigerians as the clerics charged the populace to reject non-representative decisions of the assembly and challenge them by all legitimate means.
The bishops said, "Be it on the electoral reform, electronic transmission of election results, press freedom or the Petroleum Industrial Bill, the work of those who represent the people at the federal level in Nigeria does not seem to bring much satisfaction to the people for whose interest they were allegedly elected".
While encouraging Nigerians not to lose hope and zeal for democracy, the Catholic bishops said the "ongoing electoral reforms give another opportunity for reviving the hopes of the people and confidence in the nation's democracy. An important part of electoral reform, which is often ignored, is the education of the people who participate in building democracy".
However, as religious leaders, they declared that "political and economic restructuring without moral revival is bound to fail. Nigeria needs spiritual and moral revival which will restore common positive values to their rightful place in our polity.
"These values include honesty, truthfulness, integrity, accountability and the fear of God. To this end, as leaders of the Church, we call for a revival of authentic catechesis at all levels in the Church," the Catholic bishops said.