Pope Francis’ America crusade and Nigeria By Jide Oluwajuyitan

Pope Francis celebrates Mass of Thanksgiving for Canadian SaintsIt was the humble submission of this column last week that if slavery, through which Africa was first integrated into the world economy succeeded in its set objectives of ‘controlling  life, liberty and fortunes’ of conquered territories,  globalization which confers legitimacy on European neo-liberals political leaders’ use of instrumentalities of multinational corporations, international economic organisations  and International Financial institutions to increase  the gap between the rich and poor nations of the world from 9-1 at the end of slavery in the 1870s  to 60-1 today, is a worse form of slavery.

Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General not too long ago described this development as ‘an affront to our common humanity’. Unable to fulfil his campaign promises to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor as a result of resistance by his republican neo-liberal apostles of globalization, frustrated President Obama reminded his political opponents that he was sure the war of independence by American founding fathers was not fought to replace the tyranny of kings with that of a few wealthy Republicans who have cornered more than their own share of America’s resources.

Last week, Pope Francis seized the opportunity of his official visit to the US to add his moral voice to this debate by pointing out the evils of globalization.  He started the crusade in the American Congress, known for serving only interest groups. There, he told the politicians that ‘the chief aim of politics is to defend and preserve the dignity of (their) fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good’. He pointed out to them the evil of ‘plundering of the natural resources of poor countries who have no legal means to fight back’. He condemned the “all-powerful elite” whose ‘selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged,”

He carried the crusade, on behalf of the poor and the deprived, from Washington seat of power, to the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where he reminded American neo-liberals of the American founding fathers’ assertion “that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”, and that governments exist to protect and defend those rights. He reminded temporary custodians of power in America that most Americans are immigrants who at one point or the other faced resistance from the earlier settlers. While admonishing the 30million plus Latin American immigrants, ‘never to be ashamed of (their) traditions’, he reminded them of their obligations to their host community.

And finally, Pope Francis says religious freedom is ‘the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate.’ This according to him is a ‘fundamental right which shapes the way we interact socially and personally with our neighbours whose religious views differ from our own’.

Although Pope Francis’ Eclicical Laudate Si”, on climate change and his crusade against globalization are directed against the US, the greatest abuser of the environment  and major beneficiary of the enslavement of the less developed nations through globalization, his message as the leader of a universal church has a universal appeal. For instance, it was as if his crusade during the visit was about Nigeria’s national question or our crisis of nationhood.

Let us start from the last. Nigeria political leaders, more than American leaders, need lessons in religion tolerance. Whether it was the failed attempt by some selfish Yoruba leaders to create social disharmony by exploiting religious differences during the last Osun gubernatorial election or some self-serving Igbo leaders who fraudulently claimed Buhari was going to islamise Nigeria, politicians who had nothing to offer the underprivileged who look up to them for direction, were at the background. In the north, self-serving politicians have since the death of Ahmadu Bello in 1966 exploited religious sentiments to further impoverish the northern poor. Suddenly an area celebrated as ‘one north, one people’ degenerated into a turmoil of religious conflicts with Muslims torching churches and killing their Christians brothers in Kano, Kaduna and other parts of the north.

The current battle against Boko Haram insurgency was not totally unconnected with the ‘political sharia’ introduced by northern governors who also between 1999 and 2003 sponsored scores of northern youths to Sudan for spiritual development. Many of them became radicalized after encounter with Osama Laden who at the period had his Al-Qaeda headquarters in Sudan.

When Pope Pius sermonised about an ‘all-powerful elite that hoards wealth and resources’ and whose ‘selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged’, it was as if he had PDP leaders, dealers and wheelers that have held the nation down for 16 years in mind.

When Pope Francis reminded American lawmakers of the reasons why they are in politics, one cannot resist the temptation to assume he had Nigerian political leaders like Dr Bukola Saraki who traded off the victory of his party because he wanted to be senate president or Ekweremadu who after being a two-term deputy senate president could not resist the temptation to usurp the position that by convention belongs to the ruling party.

Of course there are many others who will benefit from Pope Francis’ counselling on politics as a noble calling. Some of such political leaders include personalities like Lucky Igbinedion who was accused by EFCC of embezzling N19billion, Dr. Bukola Saraki who was before his current travailsdragged to court for alleged embezzlement of N90billion, Orji Uzor Kalu, former Governor of Abia State, accused by EFCC of diverting N5billion state funds to his Slok Airlines, Rev Jolly Nyame accused back in 2007 of embezzling N1.3billion, Samiu Turaki, former Jigawa State Governor docked over allegation of a theft of N36billion. Others include Boni Haruna, a former Adamawa State governor accused of a theft of  N16million and Gbenga Daniel, Ayo Fayose, Princess Oduah and others who still have pending cases in various courts. (Joseph Jibueze, The Nation, September 25.) . While some have been acquitted, some discharged after a pat on the wrist and some still having dates in courts, nearly all of them are however back in politics either as governors, senators or party leaders.

And finally besides Pope Francis’ sermon on the ‘pursuit of the common good’ and  the evil of ‘plundering of the natural resources of the poor, Nigerians will also benefit from his sermon about the commitment of immigrants to their host communities. This is one problem that has not been properly articulated by our successive political leaders.  Our crisis of nationhood is compounded  when a bunch of criminals as cattle farmers engage in mindless killings of members of their host communities as we have in the Middle-belt states or the kidnapping of respected local leader and an elder statesman  from his farm as experienced by Chief Olu Falae in Ondo last week.

NATION