OTA RECONCILIATION AND THE MEDIA LYNCHING OF CLERGYMEN By Christian Okewu EMMANUEL

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Fallout of the Ota Reconciliation and especially the media lynching of the clergy have left me in a state of deep meditation ever since. I found myself going back to it through out yesterday. At the end of the day, I went to bed with one conclusion in mind. It is difficult to reconcile the duality of a clergy and a citizen in this country.

Each of the three clergymen have given an explanation of their intention and mission. I believe them. But the timing best suits the narrative of those who think otherwise. Yet if you read Kukah’s explanation carefully, you would notice that the date and time were determined by OBJ himself. The urgency speaks to the observation I have made in my previous writeup.

It was more for his own interest than anyone else. However, the fact remains. Those who would believe the clergymen have no need of their explanation. Those who have made up their minds not to believe have their rights as well. Those who have no mind of their own may be swayed either way eventually. The people will be divided whatever you do. And very soon they will move on to feast on other breaking news, while Kukah and the other two live with their conscience for heeding to their convictions. Just a day before, a remarkable event took place in Rome.

It was the occasion of the canonisation of the late Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in 1980. He was the Archbishop of El Salvador, a densely populated republic in central America. The name of this country is itself curious, for it literally means “The Republic of the Saviour”. But what was Oscars offence? He was playing the saviour. He spoke out! He raised his voice against poverty. He cried out against social injustice.

He criticised the plagues of assassination and torture. He unsettled the false peace of the establishment. In oscar, we find that old raging tension between the priest as clergy and the priest as citizen. A tension which every prophet must endure. For indeed, the undeniable truth is that the priest is first a citizen of the state, before being a priest in the same state. For he grew up first as her citizen, and later her priest. He is bound by her rules and regulations, and touched by her harmony and disharmony; he eats of her fruitfulness and suffers from her barrenness.

He is at once a victim and a voice. A victim of oppression, where it exists, and a voice of the voiceless when his kit and kins together with him are subjected to victimhood; and when their agonising eyes look up to him to loud their groanings, and echo their thirst for succour to the powers that be. Oscar personified that kind of role model. And he paid the supreme price for it.

The brutal, dictatorial government of the day murdered him in cold blood. It riddled his body with bullets, while celebrating the Holy Eucharist. He was a soldier of the Lord, found dead at his duty post. With his canonisation the Church proclaims him “Bishop and Martyr”; a clear testament of her conviction that he did not die in vain. True prophets don’t die in vain. He died for his people. He died that they might be liberated. The media lynching of Kukah by a cacophony of voices may not be his martyrdom yet. But those who have followed his story would agree that he had had close shaves with it a few times before. Not many remember the circumstances under which Kukah departed Ogoni land during the final days of his peace and reconciliation mission there. Kukah himself have recounted the story in several places, one of which is his book Witness To Justice. At the end of the day I hold one truth very dear.

I believe that the sum total of a man’s worth and what he stands for can never be estimated while he lives. When he saunters into the great beyond he leaves friends and foes behind to count their loses and the sum of his worth.

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