May 22, 2018 was a day of mourning to the Catholic Faithfuls of Markudi Diocese in particular and the entire Catholics in general. It was a day the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria CBCN set aside to mourn the two priests and about fifteen parishioners killed during a morning Mass by Herdsmen Terrorists in Mbalom, Benue state. These victims are now referred to as the Martyrs of Mbalom and according to the traditions of the church, they’ll never be forgotten. Either 24th April (the day they were killed) or 22nd May (the day of their burial) is most likely to be set aside for their remembrance.
As part of the mourning, The Church in Lagos organized a peaceful protest/walk to the Governor’s Office, Ikeja. This peaceful protest was preceded by a Mass celebrated by His Grace, Most Rev. Adewale Martin, the Archbishop of Lagos alongside the Vicars and Priests of the Archdiocese at St. Leo’s Catholic Church Ikeja.
As the Archbishop led the priests and the faithfuls to the governor’s office, they expected the governor to at least acknowledge the presence of the Archbishop by coming out but he did not. He does not know that the presence of the Archbishop means the presence of the three million Catholics in Lagos. He doesn’t know that when the Archbishop speaks in his capacity as the Head of the Metropolitan See for the Ecclesiastical Province of Lagos, his statements become law to this three million people.
I know many of us will interpret it in different ways and even the Archbishop may not be bothered about it. But from my own point of view, I look at it as an opportunity missed by the governor. He had the opportunity to speak to the Catholics in Lagos in the presence of their Archbishop. You know what that means in an election year? These individuals organized themselves in a group with their own money and their own apparatus and all you needed do was to prepare a very powerful and sentimental speech to present. With that, a certain percentage of your campaign is done. He didn’t come out. I consider that a bit of a political suicide. Don’t get it twisted, I am not saying he should turn the event to a campaign rally but the truth is that any address presented by a politician in an election year has a way of affecting his/her chances of winning. Or, does he think Catholics don’t vote? Does he think they don’t care if he addressed them or not? Does he think their protest was not justified? What exactly was he thinking?
It was also an opportunity for him to re-assure the church and the Christians in general that their stance in 2015 to have a Christian as the governor of Lagos was not a mistake. I do not care who becomes the governor of the state – a Christian or a Muslim, but I have only one vote. I know that many Lagosians out there do care about that. After all, 90% of the members of Lagos state House of Assembly are Muslims and it has no effect whatsoever.
By not coming out to address the Christians, the governor failed to allay the fears of many that the current administration is treating the Herdsmen menace with kid’s glove. Some of the placards carried by the protesters accused the government of this and all he needed do was to show solidarity and ask for their prayers. He didn’t do it.
When this issue begins to gain ground, when analysts begin to discuss it, you’ll see the image makers of the governor coming out to defend His Excellency, give some explanations or to apologize. Whichever one that happens, it remains an opportunity lost. Robert Greene once wrote: When you begin to apologize for something you ought to have avoided, you reduce the power of your reputation, your integrity and your influence