Catholics faithful across the country commemorated the Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent, yesterday, wearing black attires.
This was in line with the directive of the Catholics Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN).
CBCN had issued a directive to Catholics wear black outfits as a way of protesting killings and insecurity in the the country and to draw national and international attention to the ugly happenings in Nigeria.
The Bishops had said the church was aware of its moral responsibility even as they called on government to live up to its responsibility of protecting Nigerians.
However, members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), who are Catholics, observed the directive in the breach as they appeared at the weekly presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The only minister who complied with the directive was Uchechukwu Ogah, Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development.
But Rotimi Amaechi (had Ishi Agu and a red cap), Chris Ngige (had a blue attire with a black cap to match) Paullen Tallen (wore an Ankara attire and George Akume (coffee brown agbada with a red and white cap to match) Ogbonnaya Onu (had white attire on with a red cap to match).
The foreign affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, was outside the country on official engagement.
But Archbishop Emeritus of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, yesterday, said the directive was not a law but only a strong recommendation.
“There will be more than enough Catholics and others in black to achieve the objective and push through the message.
The former president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), however, said he complied with the directive even while in London in protest against killings and kidnappings in the country.
“I am in London. And I am in black in solidarity protest against killings and kidnappings. May God deliver us from evil people, whoever they may be,” he said.
However, many have knocked the ministers flouting the directive.
President West Africa Diocesan Catholic Priests Association, Rev. Fr. Dr Martin Onukwuba said their action was a sign of insensitivity to the reality in the country.
Onukwuba, who was former Director, Justice Development and Peace Caritas (JDPC), Onitsha Archdiocese, claimed sycophancy was at its peak in Nigeria where those at the corridors of power did not tell the leader the truth.
“They continue to do that until the leadership fails and they will have another language to cover themselves why they were affiliated to bad leadership. It has continued to be a recurring decimal. If they didn’t wear black and they prayed for the situation in Nigeria, it can be condoned but if they didn’t do both, it is a dangerous signal to show they are insensitive to the plight of the people.
“We keep on praying for the security of the country and everybody should know at this point that anything can happen to anybody at any time in this country. If it is happening to one section and you feel indifferent that it’s not happening to you, don’t worry, before you open your eyes and close, it has come to you. If they don’t know that things are not working well in this country, one day, God will tell them it is not working,” he said.
For Chairman, Human Rights, Liberty Access and Peace Defenders Foundation, Dede Uzor, Catholics in Buhari’s government who failed to wear black cloths should resign their positions for not identifying with the people.
“This is the time for all Nigerians to come together and condemn the state of insecurity, irrespective of party or religious affiliations. This continuous killing of innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram and herdsmen is no longer acceptable.”
Though not a Catholic, Rev Jude Ude of Christ Assembly, Owerri, Imo State, said he had to wear black in solidarity.
However, Executive Director, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Mr Ibuchukwu Ezike and a community leader in Enugu State, Akpuakiri Osisam Ede, said it did not actually matter what the minister wore yesterday.
Ede, a journalist, said the protest was not against government but the spate of insecurity in the country.
Ezike urged the church to rise and defend the people instead shying away from its responsibility.
“I wouldn’t look at it from the angle of people taking their position more seriously than the instructions of the church or above their faith because the church itself has failed in its duty to protect their members.
Let this black reflect in our hearts –Obi
Former Anambra governor and vice presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Peter Obi urged Catholics who began their 40 days Lenten observance adoring black attires in remembrance of those killed in various violence in the country to let the mood reflect in their hearts as they supplicate to God this season.
Obi who also wore black clothes made the call after the early morning Ash Wednesday mass in Abuja urged the faithful who all wore black in obedience to the directive of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria that this subtle protest should reflect in their hearts.
Obi, a papal knight of the Catholic Church said the prayers should go to all those going through hardship in the country as a result of poor and inadequate security.
•Catholic Bishops seek end to killings
The Catholic Bishop of Oyo Diocese, Most Rev. Emmannuel Badejo, has called on government and other stakeholders to speak out against the incessant killings in the country.
Badejo, who made the call in Ibadan expressed dissatisfaction over the killings, urged the authorities to do their best to restore peace in the country.
“We, not only the government, will lose if Nigeria dissolved into anarchy and chaos; therefore, there is need for all stakeholders to work against these evils.
Badejo advised the state and federal governments to do their best to provide adequate security while prosecuting those who engage in crime in the country.
In his homily at Mass at St. Theresa’s Catholic Cathedral, Nsukka, Anambra State, flayed the level of insecurity.
“Nigerians now lives in fear, government has failed in the area of security, killings, kidnapping and terrorism has become the order of the day in the country, but we Christians have failed in witnesses to life and virtues to the society called Nigeria.
Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Oyo State, Rev. Benjamin Akanmu, urged Christians to use the period for sober reflection and repentance from sins.
“Let’s always follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ in terms of humility, maintaining of peace and showing genuine love as well as tolerance and obedience to God’s commands among other virtues while He was on earth.”