United Bank Africa

Director, Caritas Nigeria Catholic Secretariat, Reverend Father Bassey, Celebrates Priestly Ordination

Rev. Fr. Evaristus Bassey, Director, Church and Society of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria and Executive Secretary/CEO, of Caritas, Nigeria/JDPC


I want to sincerely thank everyone who was able to make it to this event. I was ordained on October 17th 1992 at St. Michael’s Parish, Oban Town in Akamkpa Local Government Area twenty five years ago.
Concerning Faith: As I mark this Silver Jubilee two things come to my mind. The first one concerns our faith. I pray that that we do not remain in our comfort zones and forget that Christianity was built on the blood of Martyrs. Someone challenged me sometime ago that while some other religions teach their faithful to sacrifice their lives and the lives of others for the sake of their beliefs, we have forgotten to teach our people to take risks, even losing their lives for the sake of the Gospel. That all we do now is present God as a solution giver. I pray for forgiveness if in anyway thess 25 years, I and my colleagues have given any impression that being a Christian means only enjoying the good things of life. Of course as a Christian good things will come your way; the sin would be to not share. Being a Christian too does not mean suffering only; it means both the Cross and the Crown, the death and resurrection of the Christ. May God forgive all who preach as if prosperity is the only indication of salvation and who live their lives like the rich man in the Gospel who was oblivious of the suffering of Lazarus by his gate. I use this occasion to challenge all of us to open our hearts to the grace of God for a life of witness that would be transformative.
Concerning Politics: The second point concerns the peace of Nigeria. For nearly seven years now I have taken day to day charge of  a department and an agency at the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria that interfaces with society. Typically my work at the national level is concerned with social issues. I take advantage of this jubilee year to pray for the peace of Nigeria. Recently the Bishops gathered in Benin and consecrated Nigeria to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. During this jubilee year of mine, I shall be praying specially for Nigeria, for justice and peace to reign, as there can be no true peace without justice, according to the social teaching of the church.
Nowadays there is so much clamour for restructuring. Recently Southern Governors got together to push for devolution of powers, as there is too much concentration of power at the centre. I will use this occasion to encourage them to first practice what they preach. I urge Southern Governors to support the amendments that have been proposed by the national assembly especially with regards to the financial autonomy of the local governments. Sometimes the impression we get is that the de facto Speakers of the States’ Houses of Assembly are the Governors, because the assemblies always do their bidding. So at State level there is only one and a half arms of government : the Legislating Executive and then a limping judiciary. Since generally we are a very docile citizenry, our governors could help us by abrogating all those laws which have emasculated the local government system and allow it to work, so that our people could build up their capacity to engage with government at the local level. I am afraid that devolving more powers to the states without devolving powers to the grassroots would virtually turn all of us to slaves of the governors. Of course certain things should leave the exclusive list to the concurrent list but let the governors use the enormous powers they have already to work for the good of the people. If our governors love the people, they should make the local government system work by supporting the amendments. By the time our people realize that there is indeed something to defend at the local government, they wont allow the Chairman run away with all their money. At the state level the governor may personalize all the state infrastructure and nothing will happen to him because he has immunity. But local government chairmen will not have immunity. Everywhere in the world, when we say citizens are powerful, that power begins at the local level.  The pathway to Nigeria’s stability for me therefore remains a strong and well coordinated centre, a strong and efficient mid-level state structure and a strong and effective grassroots level structure.
  I pray that God use this jubilee year to restructure our attitudes so that we see one another first of all as human beings created in the image and likeness of God and deserving of all dignity and respect before all the identities of religion, tribe and region.