By Olumuyiwa Jimoh
Pope Benedict XVI
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
With those words, the Roman Pontiff, formerly Ratzinger, but known as Pope Benedict XVI announced his impending exit from the ministry of bishop of Rome, successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to him by the cardinals on April 19, 2005, from the exalted office of the Papacy, which controls millions of Catholic faithful all over the world and still growing with the overarching influence both political, economic and religious and its attendant perquisites and perks.
The Catholic Church, with headquarters in the Vatican, which is a State on its own with full diplomatic accoutrements, is spread all over the world. It became the very first global religious group and claims its roots from the ministry of the great apostle, Peter. That is why they call it the Petrine ministry.
It has outlived civilizations and is far older than many nations of the world thus its global influence and reach is extensive. One of the basic implications of this is that it has therefore become a bastion of world history, its intrigues and politics, origins and morality. There are actually few nations of the world that command the kind of influence and power it commands and there are hardly many with an economy as buoyant as the tiny country.
The occupier of the exalted and holy seat of the Pope rules with theocratic authority and is not accountable to anyone. He does not have parliaments or Judiciary to legislate and adjudicate in the affairs of the Holy See. His powers are absolute and he is deemed to be infallible amongst the faithful. His powers almost approximate that which can only be exercised by God himself being seen as God’s representative on earth in the Catholic faith.
There is no President or leader anywhere in the world that enjoys that kind of power and at the same time commands such obedient followership.
This piece has taken the pain to paint this picture of the grandeur, myth and pageantry that surrounds the Papal throne so that the enormity of what Pope Benedict XVI is turning his back on is assimilated. We must remember that he is also human, subject to like desires, feelings and expectations including fears and other emotions, yet he decided to voluntarily leave or abdicate.
It is important that we stress the reason he gave for not continuing as the Pope which is that after subjecting his conscience to serious scrutiny before God, he has found out that his strength as a result of age would no longer allow him to perform his duties adequately.
What readily comes to mind here on looking at this excerpt from his resignation speech are:
• That he has conscience that is alive and fears God.
• That he is conscious of the failings of old age.
• That he is also aware of the need for diverse strengths in leadership.
• That he is deeply aware of the superiority of the State to his personal needs.
• That he cares about the perfection of the State.
• That he does not see himself as the only one that is capable of running the State.
These basic features are not only noble but also divine and contain lessons not only for Nigerian politicians and others in positions of leadership at various levels of the society and institutions.
His resignation has therefore challenged every Nigerian politician or leader to understand the place of conscience that is driven by the fear of God in our behaviours, attitudes and utterances in our effort to lead the nation.
Although Chief Obafemi Awolowo too had demonstrated this too when he resigned as Vice President and Federal Commissioner for Finance under former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon from Lur, a small village in present Kanke Local Government in Plateau State.
If we truly allow God’s will to prevail in the affairs of the nation and especially in our conduct as leaders then, we would be able to receive divine guidance and give creative and positive leadership to the nation.
It also challenges our people, especially those leaders who have become spent forces in terms of contributing meaningfully to the development of sub Sahara Africa.
There are still deep feelings associated with it. This can only happen when old men who now hold the nation’s politics by its jugular decide to willingly handover to the progressives so that fresh ideas and greater impetus will be given to the nation’s governance.
That is why the formation of this progressive merger of All Progressive Alliance is necessary.
To lead a people effectively and efficiently, we must have all our faculties intact and functioning. We need them all to stay focused and deliver to the nation. If any of this therefore fails us, we should not be afraid or ashamed of speaking up and taking the needed steps to ensure that the State does not suffer.
This has become imperative, given what the nation had to go through when the late former President Musa Yar’Ádua unfortunately took ill and died in office. We had thought that we had all learnt from that experience but recent events have also served as pointers to the contrary.
Governors of some states who are sick in hospitals do not see the wisdom in proper handover of their positions so that deputies can continue with the affairs of the state. Can they appropriate the lessons contained in the Pope’s example and do the needful.
The nation is greater than the personalities. It is far greater than individuals, thus there is urgency for Nigerians to de-emphasis personalities in the affairs of the nation. The needs of the nation and its imperatives must be pursued by all leaders above their personal interests and desires.
What this also means is that the building of institutions must be above other considerations to ensure that the nation marches forward without any hangover. If we learn to place Nigeria above other primordial considerations, burying the self in all of us, our nation will rise from its present morass to become the envy of all nations of the globe.
Our actions must be guided by the sanguine desire to make the nation stronger and not by mundane considerations. If the Pope who wields far more immense and unquestionable authority could turn his back on all the splendour of by power focusing on the future of the Vatican, we do not therefore see why the attractions of office should be an excuse for any Nigerian leader to seek to destroy the nation by insisting on hanging on to power.
No one or group or individual is born to lead, neither are there some condemned to servitude. We must listen to ourselves.
We, therefore, commend Pope Benedict the XVI on his very wise and selfless decision to abdicate the position for the good of the Catholic Church and to serve humanity. Hopefully, the leadership in Nigeria, especially at whatever level would appropriate the lessons in Pope’s noble action.
• Jimoh is a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly from Apapa constituency.