From Alifa Daniel, Regina Akpabio, Chris Irekamba and Sulaimon Salau:

IN the spirit of the Easter season, some Christian leaders in the country have called on those in positions of authority to prove their love for their nation by tackling the problems that retard its development.

In their Easter messages, the leaders also admonished the citizens to re-dedicate themselves to the service of the nation and eschew any act that can directly or indirectly impede Nigeria’s progress. They called for a genuine electoral reform towards conducting credible polls in 2011.

Among those who spoke are the Catholic Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie and the Archbishop of Ecclesiastical Province of Lagos and Bishop of Lagos Anglican Communion The Most Rev. Adebola Ademowo.

They spoke as the Senate President David Mark urged Nigerians to have abiding faith in the country, saying that within a short time, the nation would come out of its challenges.

Okogie called on Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to reduce the seven-point agenda of the ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to a few, and put Justice Muhammadu Uwais electoral reforms in place before the next general elections.

“The Acting President must reduce the seven-point programme of President Yar’Adua to just a few. On electricity, the 6,000 megawatts promised by December 2009 must be met and surpassed. Electoral reforms must be completed and insecurity tackled during the few months Jonathan has to rule this country. The problems in the Niger Delta must be tackled. We wish him our goodwill, with God all things are possible,” he said.

Okogie maintained that the insecurity in the nation was a sign of failure, citing the bomb blast at Warri, the Boko Haram, raping and killing of a female youth corps member in Maiduguri and other violent acts in various parts of the country as very unfortunate occurrences.

He, therefore, called on all to be sincere, forgive and be truthful so that people would change their perception about Nigeria.

Cardinal Okogie warned against insincerity and mismanagement of information, which he said, could plunge a nation into chaos.

“Information about our President, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua’s illness was mismanaged by those in the corridor of power, the ones they call ‘cabal’ – which threw the nation into a political logjam. We managed to come out of the woods. Political and other ‘powerful’ people should be wary of insincerity and what it causes a nation. Jesus Christ had power but he did not use this power to hoodwink people or use power improperly. He used authority and power properly to build the people and the nation of Israel,” he said.

He continued: “Look at the wealth of the nation. What are they doing with it? The budget is now in trillions, trillions, trillions, what are they doing with it to benefit the general public who voted them into office?”

According to him, the Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan, made a mistake in asking the governors to nominate the ministerial candidates, as he would not be able to send them back.

The cleric urged the ministers not to serve themselves or the interest of the party but the nation to ensure the people enjoy the wealth of the nation.

He commended the efforts of the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, saying “he is not a politician. My fear is that if he becomes a politician, he will not be able to do what he has achieved so far.”

Ademowo, in his message, called on those whom he said were feeding fat at the expense of the poor masses to use their wealth and resources to rescue the country from bondage.

The cleric said Nigerian should use the Easter period to possess the spirit of humility, eschew violence and maintain peace and forgiveness. He urged those in authority to address the problems of power supply, kidnapping, wasting of talented lives through assassination, ill-motivated retrenchments, joblessness, corruption and other terrible occurrences.

While noting that the problem of the country was basically moral, Ademowo said the only way out of it was spiritual.

” I foresee an unprecedented emergence of God’s plan for our country Nigeria if only Nigerians would discipline themselves, think positively and pray for good governance to enable our country to progress tremendously,” he said.

On the education sector, Ademowo cited the recent results released by the National Examination Council (NECO) as appalling, calling on the government at all levels to proffer a lasting solution that would bring back the country’s educational values. On security and the Jos crisis, he said government should bring the murderers and arsonists to justice and find a lasting solution to the problems.

Ademowo called on the Acting President to call the Central Bank of Nigeria to order in the area of lending. “Today, many businesses and organisations cannot carry out major projects owning to lack of loans from the banks. Many organisations are sacking their workers thereby increasing the rate of unemployment daily. The questions, therefore, is where do we go from there?”

The Senate President Mark urged the citizenry to renew their belief in one indivisible and indissoluble Nigeria.

A statement from his office said that in a goodwill message to Nigerians to mark this year’s Easter celebration, Mark noted that the challenges facing the nation, especially the outbreak of fresh ethno-religious conflicts in some parts of Nigeria were not insurmountable.

Mark was optimistic that Nigerians could always overcome any challenge and resolve their differences amicably, stressing that “all we need is sincerity of purpose and commitment to brotherhood.”

He therefore reiterated the need for religious leaders to preach tolerance, love, piety and peaceful co-existence as an antidote to the incessant crises in the land.

On the part of the legislature, he assured that the National Assembly would be alive to its constitutional duties by laying a solid framework for the government to actualise its mandate to the people.

According to Mark, “The passage of the amendment of the 1999 Constitution and the electoral reform bill are clear manifestations that the Senate is making progress in the interest of the nation.

“We are very confident that the forthcoming general elections in 2011 would benefit from the constitution amendment and the electoral reform bill so that those encumbrances that bedevilled the system in the past would not resurface.”

To the politicians, Mark enjoined them to play the game according to the rules because, “it is only then that all parties would feel assured and comfortable with the outcome of elections.

“It is when we all operate within the ambit of the law that our democracy will be strengthened where human rights and sustainable development would be guaranteed”, Mark stressed.

Senator Mark affirmed that the existing leadership at the Executive and Legislative arms of government had demonstrated the political will and readiness to get it right this time, saying, “nobody will come from the space to develop our country for us.”

The Secretary-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Abdul-Lateef Adegbite in his Easter message to Christians in the country prayed for the successful administration of Jonathan and the quick recovery of Yar’Adua.

In a letter addressed to the President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Archbishop John Onaiyekan, yesterday and titled “Easter greetings to Nigerian Christians”, Adegbite said: “In the name of his eminence the Sultan and President-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and on behalf of the entire Nigerian Muslims, I extend sincere felicitations to you and all Nigerian Christians on the occasion of Easter 2010.

“May the holy season usher in an enduring peace and stability everywhere in Nigeria. We pray too for the success of the administration of His Excellency, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan and the full recovery of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.”

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