Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has declared that rigging of elections in whatever guise and through what means was worse than stealing billions of money that belongs to the people.
Cardinal Onaiyekan has also appealed to the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to refrain from controlling the judiciary so as to allow justices and judges the free hand to discharge their constitutional duties without fear or favour and without pressure from the government.
Speaking in an interview with the Good Shepherd, a Catholic Newspaper published by the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja on the sideline of the 2019 Cathedraticum Mass at the Bwari Deanary at St. James Catholic Church, Dawaki, Onaiyekan in assessing the fight against corruption by the Buhari government, alleged that corruption was even being perpetrated by those closest to the President, adding that corruption goes beyond stealing of money.
“It is not what I think (that the present government has fought corruption to a standstill); it is what everybody sees around us all the time. Everybody agrees now that right under the nose of Mr. President, stealing is still going on. The only thing is that, the press cannot say it as freely as they used to say it under (former President) Goodluck Jonathan. But, the fact is there.
“But, in my opinion, corruption is not only a matter of stealing money, there are other things that are worse than stealing money. If a government is not sincere in the things it says to the people, that is gross corruption.
“Rigging elections by whatever means is even worse than stealing billions because in the rigging of elections, you steal my vote which has no money value; even the complaints that people are having about biased systems of appointment of key officers. “If you have a situation in Nigeria where Mr. President doesn’t see anybody competent except those who are from his village or religion, then that is gross corruption.”
When asked to react to the controversy surrounding the trial and reported resignation and or the alleged retirement of the embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, he said that things have not been going well at the top level of government.
He said that “one thing is certain. Things have not been going well at the top level of our government. It is not for nothing that we normally talk about the distinction of the three arms of government– the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.
“And we have a situation where it appears that the judiciary is being totally controlled by the executive. Even if it is for good reasons, at the end of the day, it means that we are exposed to a situation where justices, judges are no longer free to do their work according to their vocation. They will be feeling that they are under pressure to pass a judgement that would please certain people.
“Today, it is government, tomorrow it will be another person. That is why many people are worried about what has happened. And this is not about that gentleman called Onnoghen; he may have been a horrible man.
“Perhaps he was a corrupt judge. Well, someone must have recommended him to be at the head of our judiciary. If they are telling us that the entire judiciary is rotten, let them say it clearly. And they will have to tell us how they are going to replace it.”
He decried the increase wave of kidnapping and killing especially Catholic Priests, religious and Seminarians. He said, “We are having a society where there is no safety. You cannot move freely. Everybody is liable to being kidnapped. Even the high up in government are afraid.”