CATHOLIC Bishop of Bomadi, Hyacinth Egbedo hit headlines with his remarks at the funeral of General Owoye Andrew Azazi, former National Security Adviser. He blamed the death on the poor condition of the East-West Road and corruption. His audience included President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Seriake Henry Dickson.
"Mr. President, repair the East-West Road. Tankers fall on that road everyday. Spare the lives of Nigerians. Work the road. The potholes should be covered. I almost got killed on the East-West Road because I shuttle between Bomadi (in Delta State) and Bayelsa," Egbedo said in a homily that upset the dignitaries who are used to applauses in churches.
Egbedo localised the matter, yet the East-West Road epitomises how governments neglect projects, no matter their importance. The road runs through the oil producing and coastal States of Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States. Neighbouring Abia, Cross River, Edo, and Imo States would also be beneficiaries of the ease of transportation and improved commerce it would create.
The road would unlock access to some of the communities in the Niger Delta, increasing their economic activities. Work is at snail speed, the recent flooding also exposed the poor quality of work and many dangerous sections of the road cause accidents.
President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua awarded the road. Expectations were high that Jonathan, being from the area, would have paid the road enough attention to see it completed since he took charge in 2010. Rather than promise quicker delivery of the project, the President delivered a lecture on the elusive definition of corruption.
"We talk about corruption as if it is the cause of our problems. No, yes, we have corruption in this country. The government has also been fighting corruption. But we have discovered that most of the issues called corruption are not corruption," Jonathan said. Great discovery, but as always, he missed the point. Could more have been done? Should completion of the East-West Road wait until Nigerians can define corruption?
"If we do things properly, if we change our attitudes, most of these issues we are blaming on corruption, we will know that it is not corruption," Jonathan concluded. What did he discover as cause of Nigeria's tardy development?
Governor Dickson's reaction was to reel off figures of contracts he awarded, in a comical display that indicated our leaders abhorred criticisms. Would they have objected to praises from the clergy even if they were given contrary to their performance?
The battle at Azazi's burial was over the inclinations of religions to award unearned praises to dignitaries. It is one of the highest and most dangerous levels of corruption. Clerics need to speak the truth less sparingly.