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February 24, 2017

Corruption: We’re all finished -Msgr. Okere

That Nigeria is “reputed” as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, is no longer big news. What is shocking is the unimaginable scale of it and how wide spread it is. We will immediately think of our politicians, the police and their tax- collecting checkpoints, but now we know also magistrates and judges hawk justice to the highest bidder. Our legislators now fix their own fees for making no laws. Again “turn to any other profession – the banks, business, the entire civil service and all its rotten bureaucracy, traders, mechanics, carpenters and professors in universities”, we are “confounded and confronted with a disease that has metamorphosed into every facet of society”.

Msgr. Professor Theophilus Okere made this observation at an International Symposium organized by the Whelan Research Academy (WRAC) Owerri, December 4-6, 2016. The theme of the Conference was, “Power in Use and Abuse”.

Msgr. Okere in his keynote address demonstrated how power and corruption have permeated every facet of our lives and how willingly or unwillingly we are all involved either as victims or villains, as winners or losers, as perpetrators or as accomplices, as givers or receivers, as victors or vanquished, in the power war.

Msgr. Okere who is the President of WRAC discussed the relationship between money and power, and said “in Nigeria today, politics is associated with money in the most unsavouring ways”.

“Electioneering means strategizing to buy votes – handing out cash, offering food, gifts, buying advertising time to tell more enticing lies, buying over electoral officials, police, electoral tribunal and judicial officers”.

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“At elections the obscene superflux of stolen money meets the hungry, voracious poverty of the masses; sharing the money, all of it stolen from the public treasury by incumbent governor, government or party.

“And after elections come the sharing of all offices and the creation of new ones to reward all the faithful accomplices as well as the awarding of contracts to loyalists, all of which prolongs the life of corruption in the land”

He regretted that money has become power to a degree heretofore unknown and just as power corrupts, money also corrupts our society.

The erudite scholar of Hermeneutics Philosophy and Igbo Language used the Igbo image of Eze Onyeagwalam in buttressing his point on the influence power could have on the incumbent, noting that it could also make one feel not only above others, but even above the law.

Not limiting his address on individuals of the secular world, Msgr. Okere observed that ‘‘the Church is not left out’’. He recalled that it was the same allure of power that brought disintegration and separation from the old Roman Catholic Church, explaining that the most enduring division of the Christian Church – the Great Schism was the result of a long power tussle between two imperial cities of Rome and Constantinople. This he said has remained unreconciled till date.

The pioneer Rector of Seat of Wisdom Seminary Owerri however, regretted that the corruptive power of Power “is nowhere more obnoxious than in the house of Christ where “The will of God” normally expressed in Latin “Roma locuta est” meaning “Rome has spoken”, has often been used as an ideology to serve the will of man – the religious, superiors, the hierarchy, the pope.

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Earlier in his address, the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, Most Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna who officially welcomed participants to the annual event described Power as a force which could be of good or evil.

The Archbishop who described himself as a subject of power due to the ecclesiastical office he is occupying, said his first concern with the theme of the Symposium was to “look inward in the Church’s provisions and the legitimate use of power, and what the Church says in the abuse of such powers.

He said, while the Church’s use of power and language of power may sound like those of the secular world, ‘The bases and ultimate derivation of the Church’s exercise of power is the person and mission of Christ.

Quoting Canon 129 which says thus “Those who are in sacred orders are in accordance with the provision of law capable of the power of governance which in fact belongs to the church by divine constitution”, the Archbishop therefore observed that this power is also called the power of jurisdiction. ‘But before one exercised it, he continued, ‘he must first receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders’. This, according to the Archbishop does not preclude the laity from exercising powers in the church. “So the Church does not feel shy using the language of power but it must be within the frame work of the gospel”, the chief shepherd submitted.


 

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