INTERVIEW WITH HIS GRACE, MOST REV. DR. VALERIAN MADUKA OKEKE, ARCHBISHOP OF ONITSHA.
- May we meet you?
I am +Valerian Maduka Okeke, by the grace of God and of the Apostolic See, the Archbishop of Onitsha and Metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province.
- What motivated you to build that home for students (Holy Family Youth Village, Amansea Awka)?
It has been my sincere desire and effort to contribute to the formation of our youth. Proper education of the youth makes them our greatest legacy to the future generation. Hence, our youth village facility is only a means to unlocking the hidden and latent potentials in these young people to enable them impact positively on the society, for effective development and transformation of the entire society. Obviously, due to long years of neglect, and/or one-sided education of the youths, our present-day society bears the brunt of malformation of the youth as evident in the scale of armed robbery, kidnap cases, prostitution and other delinquencies and misdemeanors. With my long years’ experience and training both within and outside the country, I have been better disposed to appreciate the fact that our society can be better if only we could be courageous enough to make a change. The saying goes that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. This is my primary motivating factor. Secondly, it is undebatable that most of the key players of the global geo-politics and future leaders are to be found in the higher institutions of today. So, there is need to supplement what is lacking in the education of these students today. Hence, we are focusing mainly on moral cum ethical formation, spiritual and human formation, and creating an enabling environment for suitable intellectual formation. Youth Village is a move towards an integral human formation, a kind that brings together the three aspects of education, namely; intellectual, affective and psychomotor. Being thus motivated, we hereby challenge our entire society to know that things can and should be done aright, and that there is no reason to neglect any aspect of the formation of our youths and students.
- We think that a university would have been preferable to help correct our erring educational system…
Well, university is good in its own right. Youth Village is a complex which transcends the confines and provisions of an ordinary Nigerian university. It includes hostels and many other facilities through which the Church adds value to the formative process of our young people. A full-time Nigerian university could be oblivious of these necessities given its main focus and probable financial constraints. So, the Church, always conscious of her role as a mother and teacher (mater et magister), comes in with what is available to her to initiate this as a kind of supplement to the university education in our time.
- Who do we blame for the downfall of our educational system?
Obviously, there is no need to engage in any blame game now because every person has a fair share of this blame, though not all are equally culpable. However, our government has a greater share of this. This is because they make policies and implement policies. It is one of the fundamental duties of the government to apply the common wealth to the education, security and well-being of her citizens. Having said that, all hands must be on deck to realize a desirable education of the citizenry: the government, the church, corporate bodies, associations big and small, families and individuals. Each has a different level of responsibility, and each is culpable to the degree of his or her responsibility.
- In those days, mission schools were known to be affordable, unlike what is obtainable today. What is really happening?
Comparatively, mission schools have not been very expensive. When one considers the scope of services being rendered in most mission schools, one would appreciate the fact that the fees for these are still moderate. This is because the principal motivation for engaging in educational services is not to be enriched as a Church. It is not for financial gains. The Church engages in education in response to the divine command to go therefore and teach all nations. The Church is a teacher; she teaches morals, values and truths of life in varying degrees and kinds, like arts, sciences, metaphysics, etc.
- Majority did not get the permanent voters card and still don’t know their stand toward the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Anambra State. What is the Church doing about this?
It is unfortunate as well as disheartening to know that there are still some misguided or wrongly motivated enemies of our State in the governmental institutions. We cannot say here and now that majority did not get the permanent voters’ card, for the statistics are not made available to us except what we get from the media. But I am convinced that forthrightness, dedication to duty and sincerity were not adequately served during the exercise. Those who have not got their permanent voters’ card can still vote with the temporary one. However, the matter is more complex for those outrightly disenfranchised by this situation. The church in Onitsha did her best to sort out this problem within her limits. We intervened both on the policy and administrative levels. The church was involved in the sensitization and mobilization of the people, and eventually supported the INEC with logistics, finance and other forms of assistance to get the people registered. This did not exclude provision of vehicles for the work of INEC, electricity/power for the machines, feeding and accommodation for officials. So, the Church is very much at work to join in the institution and maintenance of good governance in the State.
- Is there anything the Church is doing to bring about responsive and responsible government especially in Anambra State?
As I said earlier, the Church in Anambra State is committed to the task of bringing about good governance in the State. She is very active in her prophetic ministry. She has also made herself an active force for the good. There have been several interventions to salvage the State. Sure, we jointly pray to move the State forward. In addition, we offer concrete advice, preach to touch people’s hearts and change their pattern of life, participate in decision making and policy formulation, monitor elections and engage in constant democracy watch. Also, different town hall meetings, community visits and strategic engagements with the people all yield great dividends in making the political class be up and doing. Unquestionable stance for justice always and preaching peace and harmony help a lot. Other interventions include concerted efforts at building bridges of reconciliation, rehabilitation and friendship. All these efforts promote good governance. The Church does so by word and example.
- Presently, everybody is seeing corruption as the way of life and means of survival, most especially the youth. What is the Church doing to arrest the situation?
Youth Village initiative is part of our effort to arrest the situation of corruption in our land. Our total support for the agencies that fight corruption, like EFCC, ICPC, and the Code of Conduct Bureau, is evident. But since the Church, so to say, governs people’s heart, no person can quantify the effect of the preaching and teachings of the Church. The Church, however, continues relentlessly to do what is within her means through education and advocacy to champion the fight against corruption and corrupt officials at work. The outstanding thing here is that this fight does not exclude any of her institutions, organizations and personnel.
- Anambra is a state with such greatness but so little to show for it. Where did we go wrong?
I quite agree with you. We have rarely utilized our talents; we have not even maximized the opportunities God is everyday offering us to be great. Hence, we have to retrace our steps by embracing proper education, eschewing greed, envy and the pull-him-down syndrome. We have also to reject all “short-cut” means to wealth, and institute values – values that ennobled us in the past decades. We are an enterprising people. We were known for our industry. Let us get up and be the change we desire to see on our State.
- Looking at Anambra State politics, what do you have to say about the political class?
Our political class does not exist in the sociological vacuum. They mirror the society. Each people get the leaders they deserve. If we refuse to be bought over and used, then the political class will continue to have a field day. So let us all work and pray. Yes, let us pray for Anambra State, that she may ascend to the throne of greatness destined for her.