My Lord Bishop, members of the Ondo Catholic Diocese, the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, the guest lecturer, Professor Swan Thung, our other visitors and friends from the United States of America, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
Let me start by thanking the Catholic Diocese of Ondo state for congratulating my party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) for its unprecedented victory at the just concluded general elections in Nigeria and for organising this International Health Conference to which we are all presently assembled to praise the Glory of God on the works of the diocese. I feel most pleased but flattered for inviting me to the Health Conference as a special guest of honour, according to the Bishop, because of your awareness of the vision that has defined my social political space in Nigeria in the past decades. My party very much appreciates the Diocese’s kind gesture and benevolence for embarking on various educational development programs since 2010. We would also like to praise and applaud the Catholic Archdiocese of New York for sponsoring and supporting the founding of a new hospital at Oka Akoko.
The nature of ‘man’
Please, permit me a few moment of indulgence to use the occasion of this International Health Conference of the Ondo State Catholic Diocese to say one or two things about the nature of man and his faith. Apart from oxygen, water, food, shelter and clothes, man’s next desire is idea. Man’s idea may be clear, blurred or confusing – all depends on parentage, culture of his place of birth, his societies, trainings and exposures to technologies from time to time.
From idea, according to Arabs culture and the Jewish Mythology, man imbibes a faith in one God and believes in God’s creation of the universal world and all things that live and exist on earth. He considers himself as the greatest piece of engineering created by God. He began to use matters and spaces within his environment to study the processes of breathing, drinking, eating, housing and clothing and how to utilise these essentials as securities for decent life. Along the line, he got a partner and differentiated between man and woman and began to pro-create and multiply his kind to populate the whole world. In the process, man lapsed into variables of abominations and sins and began to violate the rights and interests of his other fellow men and started to doubt his faith in God – his creator. His God speaks to him in thoughts, dreams and in spirits. He believes in heaven, in hell and in purgatory. He is now divided between good and bad.
While he and some of his off-springs are now struggling hard to inherit, if possible, the kingdom of God, some of them, particularly from the Orientals, in their spiritual ‘yoga’ philosophy concluded that man is a soul – a mere particle of God that was sent into the earth to seek spiritual freedom.
In the process, according to the theory, man is born and he lives and dies on this earth but, depending on spiritual experiences, he reincarnates back to this world as kings, men, women, animals or insects. This theory has been very strange to this side of the world and should be subjected to further research.
The Yoruba man had his own unique idea of God too. He began by worshipping his Olodumare (God) through his ancestors. Spiritually, he developed certain divination poetries by which he interpreted all strange manifesting signatures. There are two hundred and fifty six (16 x 16) of such spiritual signatures that represented the Yoruba mythology. They are now being termed by the off-springs of the Yoruba man as Ifa Divination Corpus which were the store-house of the accumulated wisdom of the Yoruba ancestors. These Corpuses together with the relevant divination poetries were studied extensively as the biographies of Olodumare and those of the lesser gods of the Yoruba ancestors.
To the Yoruba man, the theories of man’s ways of life, according to the philosophy of Ifa, were voluminous and comprehensive enough as authentic religious scripture.
Unfortunately for him, these theories of Ifa in Yoruba philosophy were not written and became interpreted in different cultural connotations. When the biographies of God were suddenly being introduced and read according to the Arabs and the Jewish scriptures, he became bewildered and confused. The bewilderment and confusion became compounded when the Yoruba man learnt that another idea, from another man, in genetic scientific studies of man, imbibes another faith that man was not created by God. That man is a mere evolutionary growth from lifeless chemicals through unknown processes and mutations to bacteria-like self-duplicating organism that gradually branched into numerous environmental species of complex insects, reptiles, birds, animals, apes, chimpanzees and, eventually, into man as we exist today. The theory further postulates that man has one life. Once he dies, that was the end. In other words, according to these postulations, “man has no hope!”
To make matters worse, man, in most countries of Africa today, is governed by repressive authorities that minimise his chances to good education, good health and high technological pursuits so that he and all generations of his off-springs could be perpetually poor, credulous, timid and totally submissive. In that circumstance, it is always the rulers and generations of the rulers’ children that would continue to rule man for eternity. And man shall have a perception of hopelessness in God’s Glory. This is a sin of man’s inhumanity to man. And it is one of the variables of abominations that led most people to doubt their faith in God – their creator. These combinations of ideas blur and confuse the unwary man in his dealings among his fellow men and consequently in all thoughts between him and his God.
Today, we are all assembled here to celebrate parts of God’s glories in the efforts and works of the Catholic Communion. Who among us can now be proud of accepting and celebrating apes and chimpanzees as his ancestors?
What glory are we celebrating if we are created to be hopeless? As a man, as a Yoruba man, my own God is a God of Glory whose purpose for creating me was not to make me hopeless.
As a Muslim, standing before a congregation of Christians, surrounded by environments of numerous connotations of Yoruba Mythology, my hope is in the kingdom of God because my faith is that God created me and created the world in which I now live. And it is my wish always to be part of all groups and all efforts that are poised to make our communities better and happier for the pleasure of our people.
It is this bedrock of idea that explains the APC’s belief that the mind of an uneducated, sick and wretched man is always feeble and hopeless. And we have always known that man is the sum of the BODY, the MIND and the SOUL. While equating the MIND of man to his brain, his SOUL can be described as the admirable spirit constituting the surest vehicle to the abode of GOD. Therefore, an untrained mind inside a constantly sick body makes a man spiritually barren and unable to serve God diligently. Also, it has been well proved that untrained minds inside constantly sick bodies predominate in communities of rural poverty and urban slums like Nigeria. We can now see the similarity between the APC and Catholic communion in thinking and in desire. While APC is a Nigerian political party, the Catholic Communion is a world religious body. The uniqueness of the similarity between the two human organizations is that the development of man and his environment is germane to their cardinal principles. Our thinking, in our different orientations, has always been to promote good education and sound health as the antidotes to all incendiary situations that pervade Nigerian poor rural communities and urban slum today.
My Lord Bishop, members of the Ondo state Catholic Diocese, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my prayers that God shall always bless all our aspirations in the pursuit of talent developments for God’s glory and man’s benefits and hope.
– CHIEF BISI AKANDE,
Brief Remarks at the International Health Conference of the Ondo State Catholic Diocese held at the Federal University of Technology, Akure on 4th may, 2015