Archbishop Obinna’s message to the Imo State electorate for the 2019 elections was delivered on Friday 18th January, 2018 at the Obiri Odenigbo. The Catholic Archbishop Of Owerri Archdiocese Most Rev Anthony Obinna systematically outlined on the principle of ensuring credible candidates are voted into office in 2019 elections. Below is his original message:
An appeal to the Imo Electorate and to Imo Political office aspirants
Beloved Imo People,
On your behalf I thank Almighty God who made it possible for us to gather together as one extensive Imo family to pray for peaceful elections in Imo State and by extension in Nigeria as a whole. Through the acknowledgement of our corporate and personal sins and failings, through the almost desperate quest for political office by various political aspirants, we realize how Imo State like a boat in a sea-storm, is threatened by excessive greed and competition, unjust access to money, exploitation of the people’s poverty, sharing of money often stolen or looted, the people’s money and resort to demonic violence.
Since God is not interested in the death of a sinner, but in his or her repentance, and of course in the restitution of stolen money to their rightful owners, we have penitently asked God to forgive us all corporately and individually, while expecting that those among us hoarding or keeping unjustly people’s money, will sooner than later return them either publicly or discreetly. Indeed, says the Lord our God;
If my people who bear my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my presence and turn from their wicked ways, then I will listen from heaven and forgive their sins and restore their country. Now for the future my eyes are open and my ears attentive to prayer offered in this place. 2 Chron. 7:14-15.
Praying, repenting, restoring stolen goods and seeking God’s forgiveness will not end with today’s special occasion. It is a duty and a challenge that must be carried on to the election days and all through our lives, wherever you go, wherever you live.
Now cleansed and nourished by the word of God and the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, our food and drink, and in view of the elections we ask and I ask three vital questions:
- What shall we vote for?
- Whom shall we vote for?
- How will we/ I vote?
To the first question –
What shall we vote for?
I answer and we should answer:
a. Vote for the Freedom of Imo People
If we do so we will be voting against the tyrannization and enslavement of Imo people either by so-called powerful men who use money to prevent or sway impoverished or greedy citizens from voting freely, rightly and according to their personal choice and decision. Indeed the PVC, the Permanent Voter’s card should mean People Voting Correctly, People Voting the Conscience, People Voting Christ.
b. Vote for Joy and Unity among Imo People
If we vote for freedom and thus for respect for every conscience, every Imo citizen, we would equally vote for the joy of every Imo citizen and this common joy will evoke a common sense of belonging to Imo State, a state-wide spirit of unity. If, when or where a rotational sense of equity among the three zones of Imo State will aid the overall unity of Imo people, such rotational equity should be welcomed.
c. Vote for Peace in Imo State
If we vote freely, without intimidation, without manipulation or ‘money-pulation’, without violence, if we vote joyfully with a spirit of corporate goodness, equity and unity, then an atmosphere of peace will be new-created in Imo State; encouraging free, joyful moment throughout Imo State and minimizing the need for multiple security teams – governmental and private, as well as indescript vigilante groups.
To the second question –
Whom shall we vote for?
I answer and we should answer, in the spirit of our response to the first question but with fear and trembling:
a. Vote for Patriotic-Modest Imo Citizens
Patriotic-modest Imo citizens are likely to promote the freedom, joy and unity of Imo State people. They will not be tyrants or intimidators of Imo. But we need to pray and search for such citizens. Such patriotic-modest Imo citizens will seek to unify Imo citizens and manage effectively the zonal or other divisions in the state. Probably by their fruits you will know them.
b. Vote for Servant-Leaders among the candidates
Here we need to think of model servant-leaders like Moses, David, Mahatma Ghandi, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela and primarily Our Lord Jesus Christ. We equally have to pray for and search for such servant-leaders. Probably by their fruits or track record we shall know them. Such servant-leaders will put Imo people’s needs and welfare in the forefront of attention before attending to their personal and family needs. Among other servants-leaders and even among the entire Imo people, he will see himself as first among equals but for a short duration.
In a text message I got recently on the Whatsapp platform, this is what I found:
“We must end this looting of public coffers. We must oppose legalized official looting wherein political officers loot the State dry. We must fight those that are insensitive to the plight of Ndi-Imo.”
A true servant-leader of the people will use the State resources judiciously to cater for the people. He will never think of stealing or looting public money, nor use it just to ‘money-pulate’ or ‘money-pollute’ the people.
c. Vote for Patient, Fair and Peace-making Leaders
Serving the people or the public is not easy. It is a heavy cross to bear. Many people who rush into public service or buy their way into it are not thinking of the service they will render but of the money they will make, or further opportunities that can exploit. True servant-leaders understand the grave responsibility they bear. Like Moses and the prophets and even like Jesus, they would wish to reject the burden, the cross. But accepting it committedly they seek to be long-suffering, fair to all as much as they can seek to make peace even in the face of the most difficult challenges, temptations and trials.
From the same Whatsapp message referred to earlier, there is this submission:
“Imo is in dire need of a leader with demonstrable capacity to unite the deeply divided minds in the State and create a sense of belonging.”
May God help us to identify and vote for such patient, fair and peace-making leaders.
To the third and final question –
How will we/ I vote?
I answer and we should answer, in line with the responses given to the earlier questions:
a. Vote Freely with the Fear and Love of God; Vote Joyfully for the Unity of Imo people.
If you are able to resist the ‘money-pulation’; if you are able to resist intimidation by anybody or any force whatsoever, then you are deciding and voting freely and hopefully joyfully. I wonder how true this statement will be in your regard:
“Any ….candidate relying on money or thuggery or rigging in the forthcoming elections is deceiving himself. Imo people may be hungrier now because of bad governance nationwide, but they are also smarter, bolder and more conscious of their future. They will eat your money but won’t take your nonsense again.”
(This is a text message taken from the Whatsapp platform).
I pray that Imo people will be truly smarter and bolder in Godly sense to vote for a better future. While our Imo People may be eating or taking money from politicians because of the mass poverty or greed among us, the politicians giving out such monies often looted people’s money or borrowed money may think that they have paid the people in advance. In that case they will not bother with you and with your needs after the elections. Therefore, it is best to vote freely without “money-pulation’ and ‘money-pollution’.
b. Vote Patriotically and Honestly
You show your love and concern for the good and future of Imo State by ensuring that you have your PVC. Do you know where it is right now? Then come out joyfully to cast your vote in the spirit of honest service. You will not think of selling your vote or encouraging others to do so. Your own good conduct will encourage others to do good and discourage any unpatriotic or dishonest act.
c. Vote Vigilantly and Peacefully
When you vote freely, joyfully, patriotically and correctly, you will be in a state of divine vigilance for the good and peace of Imo State. Your prophetic spirit as a true witness to God will empower you to object to any intimidation and to resist acts of electoral fraud, injustice and violence. Thus you become a peace-maker, an artisan of peace in the spirit of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
In December 2006, thirteen years ago, I composed the Prayer for Upright Voting. I wish to conclude this appeal with that prayer. I urge you to pray it in your families, in your communities, in the churches, in government and business places. For it summarizes our prayers to god and our appeal to all Imo citizens for peaceful elections in Imo State and Nigeria at large.
God bless you all.
Anthony J.V. Obinna
Catholic Archbishop Of Owerri