Educating Nigerians for Political Participation Based on the Catholic Social Teaching
“Politics is a noble mission to promote the common good. As such, it is about ethics and principles as well as issues, candidates, and officeholders. To engage in ‘politics,’ then, is more than getting involved in current polemics and debates; it is about acting with others and through institutions for the benefit of all. The fact that much of our political rhetoric has become very negative and that political polarization seems to have grown should not dissuade us from the high calling to work for a [country] that allows everyone to thrive, a [country] in which all persons, all families, have what they need to fulfill their God-given destiny. In our democracy, one aspect of this task for all of us requires that we weigh issues and related policies. In this brief summary, we […] call attention to issues with significant moral dimensions that should be carefully considered in each campaign and as policy decisions are made in the years to come” (Faithful citizenship, 2015, no. 63).
TO THE ELECTORATE
To the electorate, our fellow Nigerians, we say that the time has come. We have been given our talents, namely our votes, with which to trade. Register and vote! Participate in the electoral exercise! Your vote always counts, even when you think it doesn’t, for the very act of going to vote is in itself an act of freedom, an act of defiance against those who seek to rob you of your mandate. That little act of defiance will continue to grow, until someday it becomes a force that cannot be denied. But it all starts with one vote.
“We encourage all citizens, particularly Catholics, to embrace their citizenship not merely as a duty and privilege, but as an opportunity meaningfully to participate in building the culture of life. Every voice matters in the public forum. Every vote counts. Every act of responsible citizenship is an exercise of significant individual power. We must exercise that power in ways that defend human life, especially those of God’s children who are unborn, disabled or otherwise vulnerable. We get the public officials we deserve. Their virtue – or lack thereof – is a judgment not only on them, but on us. Because of this, we urge our fellow citizens to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest” (Living the Gospel of Life, 1998, no. 33).
Let us therefore trade our votes wisely in ways that will be profitable to that portion of the Kingdom that has been entrusted to us – our country Nigeria, and not bury it in the ground (cf Matthew 25:18) and wait for the master to miraculously set Nigeria right on his return. Let us not trade it for selfish, short-term gain, as Esau traded his birthright for some bread and lentil stew (Genesis 25:29-34). Let us not resort to violence, but respect one another’s political choices.
(extract from New Conscience Initiative in collaboration with the Social Apostolate of the North West Africa Province of the Society of Jesus)