Vo­ca­tion in Nige­rian con­text

Sunday Trust - - SERMON - By Cor­nelius Afebu Omonokhua Fr. Cor­nelius Afebu Omonokhua is the Di­rec­tor of Mis­sion and Di­a­logue of the Catholic Sec­re­tar­iat of Nige­ria (omonokhuac@gmail.com)

If we ac­cess the key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors of work­ers to­day in Nige­ria, is it likely that the pro­duc­tion out­put of ev­ery worker would be such that we can say that ev­ery worker is an­swer­ing a di­vine call to serve in their var­i­ous vo­ca­tions, pro­fes­sions and ca­reers? In the present day Nige­ria, is it fac­tual to say that one re­ally chose to be in the Po­lice Force, Army, Cus­tom, Im­mi­gra­tion, Air force, Navy, Para-mil­i­tary, Civil Ser­vice and Pub­lic Ser­vice as a re­sponse to a di­vine call? Can we say that ev­ery or­dained and con­se­crated per­son is truly an­swer­ing a call to the Pri­est­hood and Re­li­gious Life? Is ev­ery Pas­tor or min­is­ter of the gospel gen­uinely re­spond­ing to a call? In the cur­rent Nige­rian con­text, can a per­son re­ally de­sire any of the above vo­ca­tions or pro­fes­sions and suc­ceed in re­al­iz­ing the dream?

Th­ese ques­tions are rel­e­vant be­cause, the fail­ing econ­omy and un­em­ploy­ment are se­ri­ous fac­tors that con­di­tion many peo­ple to do any type of work merely to sur­vive. Many merely do some­thing not be­cause it is their vo­ca­tion, pro­fes­sion or cho­sen ca­reer be­cause the bizarre ways govern­ment struc­tures are man­aged have killed their dreams. Fail­ure of Govern­ment to pro­vide jobs to­day have put some grad­u­ates who should be pro­fes­sion­als by train­ing on the streets to take al­ter­na­tive jobs like gate keep­ers, driv­ers, la­bor­ers, traders, sex work­ers, kid­nap­pers, rit­u­al­ists, cultists and ter­ror­ists. Some sim­ply be­come self-or­dained min­is­ters who sell mir­a­cles to the high­est bid­ders.

When I en­tered Saints Peter and Paul Ma­jor Sem­i­nary, Bodija-Ibadan, Nige­ria in 1983, the num­ber of Sem­i­nar­i­ans were not up to a hun­dred. Then we prayed ev­ery day for vo­ca­tions to the Pri­est­hood and Re­li­gious life. Then the only chal­lenge for Univer­sity grad­u­ates was how to choose out of the nu­mer­ous jobs avail­able to them. Grad­u­ates knew where they would work af­ter pass­ing out of the Na­tional Youths Ser­vice Corps (NYSC). Some were re­tained in their places of pri­mary as­sign­ments. To­day, there is a high num­ber of sem­i­nar­i­ans in some Sem­i­nar­ies be­cause some youths per­haps see the Sem­i­nary as the only hope for the fu­ture in terms of em­ploy­ment. Con­se­quently, it is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to dis­cern if a sem­i­nar­ian is truly and gen­uinely re­spond­ing to a di­vine call to the pri­est­hood. Here we can­not rule out the tragedy of some Min­is­ters of God who have turned their vo­ca­tion into mere busi­ness, striv­ing end­lessly to al­ways have their way in evil machi­na­tions even if it means lob­by­ing the au­thor­i­ties with money.

In some African tra­di­tions, it is be­lieved that it is God that crowns the king. In the Old Tes­ta­ment of the Bible, the sages in Wis­dom lit­er­a­ture trained the youths to be fu­ture kings. This is based on the be­lief that gov­er­nance is a di­vine vo­ca­tion. The proph­esy of Daniel al­luded to Je­sus Christ as the King of Kings. “I saw in the night vi­sions, and, be­hold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the An­cient of days, and they brought him near be­fore him. And there was given him do­min­ion, and glory, and a king­dom, that all peo­ple, na­tions, and lan­guages, should serve him: his do­min­ion is an ever­last­ing do­min­ion, which shall not pass away, and his king­dom that which shall not be de­stroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14). In the Catholic Church, ev­ery bap­tized per­son shares in the king­ship of Je­sus Christ hence, the Pres­i­dent of a na­tion, Gov­er­nor of a State and other po­lit­i­cal lead­ers share in the king­ship of Je­sus Christ whose king­dom is not of this world (John 18:36). Je­sus came to serve and not to be served (Matthew 20:28).

If gov­er­nance is a vo­ca­tion, how are the lead­ers of the na­tions pre­pared, trained and formed for lead­er­ship as ser­vants? When I was a stu­dent, I asked the lec­turer who was teach­ing us po­lit­i­cal sci­ence why the po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tists do not of­ten par­tic­i­pate in par­ti­san pol­i­tics. I asked be­cause of my im­pres­sion then that po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pre­pares the stu­dents for gov­er­nance in any na­tion. In the con­text of the Nige­rian con­sti­tu­tion, I was wrong be­cause higher ed­u­ca­tion is not re­quired to be a Pres­i­dent or Gov­er­nor. Sec­tion 131 of the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion (as amended) of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria states that “A per­son shall be qual­i­fied for elec­tion to the of­fice of Pres­i­dent if he has been ed­u­cated up to at least School Cer­tifi­cate level or its equiv­a­lent.” In Sec­tion 117 of the same con­sti­tu­tion, a per­son shall be qual­i­fied for elec­tion to the of­fice of Gov­er­nor of a State if “he has been ed­u­cated up to at least School Cer­tifi­cate level or its equiv­a­lent.” I leave the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of th­ese sec­tions of the con­sti­tu­tion to those who are di­vinely called to be lawyers.

With the ten­sion that ex­ists in gov­er­nance to­day in Nige­ria rag­ing from the con­flicts be­tween the Ex­ec­u­tive, Leg­is­la­ture and Ju­di­ciary to elec­toral mal­prac­tices, can we say that those who made the laws for the fed­er­a­tion were God’s in­stru­ments akin to Moses through whom the ten com­mand­ments were given to the An­cient Is­rael? Would some Mus­lims ag­i­tate for Sharia law if the con­sti­tu­tion of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria were op­er­ated in a way and man­ner that the ba­sic needs of ev­ery Nige­rian are taken care of? Would there be ag­i­ta­tion for se­ces­sion of any re­gion if there were no struc­tural in­jus­tice? Would there be mu­tual sus­pi­cion if the con­sti­tu­tion could de­fend and pro­tect the rights of the poor­est of the poor ir­re­spec­tive of re­li­gion and eth­nic­ity? In other words, are those who in­ter­pret and ex­e­cute the con­sti­tu­tion for the na­tion en­dowed with di­vine vo­ca­tion to do so? When le­gal in­tel­lec­tu­als take to phys­i­cal vi­o­lence in­stead of us­ing the leg­isla­tive power to re­solve is­sues in the Na­tional and State Assem­blies, the ques­tion of their di­vine vo­ca­tion lingers. Is it not a con­tra­dic­tion if the law mak­ers ex­cel in break­ing the law?

The ag­i­ta­tion for hu­man wants is an­other rea­son for mis­placed vo­ca­tion and pro­fes­sion. The re­sult has been the ten­dency to put a square peg in a round hole and this has caused di­chotomy in life. Ac­cord­ing to the Sec­ond Vat­i­can Coun­cil, “The di­chotomy af­fect­ing the mod­ern world is, in fact a symp­tom of the deeper di­chotomy that is in man him­self. He is the meet­ing point of many but feels un­tram­meled in his in­cli­na­tions and des­tined for a higher form of life. Torn by a wel­ter of anx­i­eties he is com­pelled to choose be­tween them and re­pu­di­ate some among them. Worse still, fee­ble and sin­ful as he is, he does the very thing he hates and does not do what he wants. And so he feels him­self di­vided, and the re­sult is a host of dis­cord in so­cial life (Vat­i­can II, Gaudium at spes, 7 De­cem­ber 1965, No. 10).

The Re­li­gious lead­ers ought to make a dif­fer­ence in a di­vided world. The min­is­ter of God who is con­scious of a di­vine vo­ca­tion must be a voice of the voice­less. When Saint Os­car Romero knew that his life was in danger for ren­der­ing true ser­vice as Arch­bishop of El Sal­vador, he said to his bap­tized lay faith­ful, “If some day they take the ra­dio sta­tion away from us, if they close down our news­pa­per, if they don’t let us speak, if they kill all our priests and the Bish­ops too, and you are left, a peo­ple with­out priests, each one of you must be God’s mi­cro­phone, each one of you must be a mes­sen­ger, a prophet. The Church will al­ways ex­ist as long as there is one bap­tized per­son (Daniel P. Cronin; Words of En­cour­age­ment, Makati, St. Paul’s 1992, Page 14). Those who are truly re­spond­ing to their di­vine vo­ca­tion are ready for the supreme sac­ri­fice like the apos­tles. May we all up­hold the ban­ner of di­vine truth and jus­tice!

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