VATICAN CITY — “African values are not on sale,” the new Chairman of Communications for the African bishops has said.
But Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo, Nigeria, is convinced they are under threat from what Pope Francis has called an “ideological colonization” that is seeking to destroy the family.
It’s so bad, he says, that the United States has made clear it will not help Nigeria fight the Boko Haram terror group unless the country modify its laws regarding homosexuality, family planning and birth-control.
Aleteia sat down with Bishop Badejo last week in Rome at the conclusion of the African Bishops’ Standing Committee Meeting, to discuss his unique perspective on the nature and threat of the Nigerian-born terrorist group. Bishop Badejo also discussed the African bishops’ hopes for the Synod on the Family and their view on the hot-button issues and statements made at last October’s Synod gathering.
Bishop Badejo, 53, is the new Chairman of Communications for the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM).
Your Excellency, as a bishop in Nigeria what can you tell us about the nature and activities of Boko Haram?
If we knew all of the precise answers regarding Boko Haram, it would have been over a long time ago. The truth is that from our reflections, findings and experience with the people who have gotten involved with the brutality and violence of Boko Haram, it’s a whole mixture of things: all the vices of administration in Nigeria from the past, the corruption, the bad administration, the lack of attention to the youthful population, the lack of attention to the important pillars of democracy such as educating the people, especially in the northern part of Nigeria.
I believe that we are suffering from the negligence of 30-35 years of bad administration.
We saw it coming for quite a number of years in Nigeria. You could go to the north of Nigeria and even in the most peaceful times, you would see herds and herds of young people on the streets doing absolutely nothing but begging. Anyone with a minimum capacity for analysis would know that this was trouble. It didn’t have to be Boko Haram. Anyone with any kind of evil agenda had plenty of hands to hire, to use simply for robbery and thuggery, and to disturb the public peace.
When democracy came on, there were a lot of expectations but those expectations were not met. These young people, who had already been rendered incapable of taking care of themselves by lack of education, lack of employment, also saw politicians who used to be nobodies overnight become super-rich people, who had the capacity to get just about whatever they wanted. And with the international media that showed what the good life could be, those same young people who didn’t care before began to care about what they could be if they obtained such positions. Well, there were promises: if you go to school, but there were no schools at that point. There were no jobs. Only of late has the government started to build schools. But I think it came a little too late.
There was also the problem of a lack of capacity to respect the rule of law. Nigeria has a constitution, which over the years has been abused because of the lack of the will of the government to enforce the law when it should. Crime could be committed and people got away with it. When Sharia was introduced into a small state many years ago, the government couldn’t do anything about it and they looked the other way hoping that it would just go away, which showed the lack of capacity to control anything.
All that encouraged rebellion. So when Boko Haram came, those who were disgruntled with the system and with the authorities had something to latch on to. Even to this day, I still know that there are young people who joined terrorist groups not because they loved terrorist groups but because they needed an avenue to kick back at the system, to do something to show their protest. All that formed part of a huge body of evil, maladministration, corruption that the north was carrying.