Godfrey Okoye University welcomes the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, Most Revd. Prof Dr. Godfrey Igwebuike Onah
To continue activities lined up to mark its tenth anniversary, Godfrey Okoye University welcomes the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Most Revd. Prof Dr. Godfrey Igwebuike Onah for an interactive session with the University community.
To formally declare the session open, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof D.E Onyeneje presents a brief but impressive profile of the Bishop.
From the start, the Bishop’s delight to be in Godfrey Okoye University is evident while commending the University. He expresses pleasant surprise to discover that the University is only ten years old, According to him, the University’s reputation exceeds ten years. He describes the serenity of the University in the midst of chaos that the society has become, as a source of hope and encouragement.
Pointing out his affiliation with the university, his longstanding personal relationships with Late Bishop Godfrey Mary-Paul Okoye, who the university is was named after, Revd. Father Ikechukwu Ani, Revd. Father Edward Kanibe who he describes as his encourager and great inspirator of over forty years and many other members of staff and student with whom he has close relationships at home and abroad. On a light note, the Bishop makes a joke as to how GO University could easily become Godfrey Onah University.
The Bishop’s message is centered on the enormity of the responsibility of students and staff of the University, in the wake of challenges facing the community.
Giving a detailed history of the evolution of the University and the ancient tradition of gathering young people to influence the society, to the time of the Greek Plato. He credits the Academy of Plato as the source of modern University. Emphasizing that the Academy was not established for the sake of preparing young people to get jobs after graduation but to be fundamentally involved in the society.
The Bishop alludes the passion and vision of the Church in training children to St. Augustine who declared the Church has no business birthing children if she can’t educate them in truth. The Bishop stresses this has been the Churches main objective in establishing universities since the Twelfth century: to train minds under Popes and Bishops be able to research about the world, our relationship with other human beings and the relationship with God, guided by the principle of truth.
According to the Bishop, the greatest problem of modern society and especially Nigeria, “is lack of critical thinking clearly manifested in Politics and Religion.” Stating that rationality of Religion has been jettisoned in favor of irrationality.
He also decries the current state of Democracy, defining it as the “manipulation of the poor, by the powerful, for the rich”, an aberration of Abraham Lincoln’s definition, the anomalies of a party system instead of an individual pattern of voting and impunity and violence of politicians.
He further extends his Theory of Thoughtlessness to Life and Consumerism, insisting that even the poorest among us possess ten times more than we need because of societal pressure and materialism.
To provide lasting solution to the challenges facing the world, the Bishop asserts that the enormity of the responsibility is to disabuse our minds of the notion that education is solely for the purpose of employment, but to make a difference and to be a repository of values, which he defines as that which makes a thing to be desirable and good.
Summarizing his insistence on value, he calls on the members of the University to bear in mind what values are being internalized and what values are taken out to the society to transform the society from within, else time being spent in the University might be wasted.
Defining culture as the summary of the values of the society, the Bishop believes the Nigerian culture is in crisis citing Nollywood as a culprit. The Bishop portrays the worst aspects of our public and private life in Africa to the world as factual and the “okada syndrome” which he says has given rise to laziness, the want for quick money, robbery, kidnapping, accidents, and indecency.
The Bishop gives instances of developed countries and their technological advancements, he is of the opinion that if placed in the same context with foreign counterparts, there is a high probability to excel and exceed their achievements and make same impact. He challenges the University not be passive victim of its present context but to labor actively to change the context. Urging all to adopt the principle to question the norm and change the narrative to make a difference in the society and all aspects of life, especially in science where there is increasing belief that whatever is scientifically possible is morally permissible. The Bishop is optimistic it is possible, stating that Godfrey Okoye University is producing those who will change the context, presently and in the future.
The Bishop then gives room for interactions.
Q: As Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, in terms of Leadership, What have you done currently in schools to change the status quo of education in Nigeria?
A: It is not enough to cite what is wrong but to proffer solutions. The focus is on recruitment of teachers and supervision of their work. Also, insistence that Priests should get some education in basic tenets of education as being good and honest is not enough for management. Basic principles of school management are necessary.
The Governor has also asked for help in cleaning up Education system, a challenge that has been accepted. A Law was proposed by the Governor to return schools forcefully taken away from the Church at least in managerial capacity, and it has been passed for over a year although we have experienced some challenges in implementation. This is due to the fact that the moral veins have of the system has collapsed and it will take some time to revive. Structures are useless, if there is no faith that influences our moral life. This is a call to Priests to revive the moral consciousness of an immoral society.
If convinced Christians are in the Civil Service as products of the Christian system, then there is hope for the Nation. Heresy and bad Governance need each other to survive. If Jobs, Good Healthcare Systems etc. are in place, there won’t be need for false miracles and making mockery of the sacrament to access basic amenities.
The effect of formulating policies and trying to implement may take some time due to the level of decadence but it will be visible in the long run. [EDITED]
After the interactions, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. Onyeneje gives the concluding remarks, he thanks the Bishop for giving a clear picture of the narrative of the growth of the University, and speaking to from a least expected angle. He emphasizes the Bishops call to remember our culture and values.
He advises young scholars to think critically in order to tell good from bad. He asks them to bear in mind that the Certificate issued after studies, is to find them worthy in character and learning. As only a change in character can beget a better society. Expressing his gratitude to the Bishop, the DVC acknowledges his contributions to reengineer society, morally, academically, spiritually and in fact all ramifications.
The Bishop is called upon to give the Closing Prayer and Blessings, he uses the opportunity to make some clarification about titles in the Church because of an apparent confusion as to how to properly address him. He states that Ecclesiastical titles are conventional and linked to Feudalism. The Bishop says titles like “My lord” or “Lordship” has nothing to do with the church but were inherited at the point when Bishops were part of the political powers. After separation, the church decided to reevaluate some adopted practices .In this spirit, he asks to be simply referred to as Bishop or Father Bishop for cultural and spiritual reasons.
He also asks that this act should not be erroneously attributed to humility but a spiritual challenge as it easier to be a Lord than a Father. He urges Priests to behave like Fathers. To buttress his point, the Bishop looks to Chinua Achebe’s, “Things fall apart.” as he adapts Ogbuefi Ezeudu’s message to Okonkwo on Ikemefuna’s execution,” that boy calls you father, have no hand is his death.” The bishop in turn admonishes Priests thus, “that boy, that girl, that man, that woman calls you father, have no hand in his spiritual death.
On this thought provoking and inspiring note, the Bishop brings the session to an end.