On the 11th of February, 2013 the (emeritus) Pope Benedict XVI announced to the world that he was going to resign his position as Pope on the 28th of February, 2013. The Pope made this announcement in what was otherwise supposed to be a consistory for canonization of three saints, so nobody expected his announcement (well, except at least his doctor and the guy that typed his speech). Citing age and failure in health as the major reason for his resignation, the Pope had this to say; “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to the adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry…in order to govern the bark of saint Peter and proclaim the gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, successor of saint Peter, entrusted to me by Cardinals on 19 April, 2005…”
Now you have to go back 600 years when a Pope last resigned. Pope Gregory XII in 1415 abdicated the papacy, sacrificing it in a bid to fix a ‘political’ puzzle of papal rivalry at the time. Ever since, successive Popes have been replaced only in the event of death, and for this reason the Pope’s decision must have thrown the Vatican in a pell-mell as to how it would handle this ‘never-seen-or heard-before-in-600 years’ situation. But so far in this post abdication administration, the puzzle seems to be solved slowly and nicely too; don’t forget the College of Cardinals will converge at the Sistine Chapel mid-March where they will finally end this papal interregnum known in Latin as ‘Sede Vacante’ by electing the next Pope (whom many speculate will be one of Nigeria’s Francis Arinze, Ghana’s Peter Turkson or some other Latino guy). Editor’s Addendum: The ‘Sede Vacante’ has ended with Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio elected Pope Francis on March 13.
When I heard about Benedict’s decision to resign due to his ailing health, several thoughts raced through my head; so what happens to his ‘infallibility’? He regains fallibility now or what? What title will he go by? Etc. but the dominant thought in my head was ‘‘how would things have panned out if Benedict was a Nigerian politician? Your guess is as good as mine.
I remember in November 2009 when the then Nigerian President Yar’adua was hastily flown to a Saudi Arabian hospital after he was diagnosed with Pericarditis. It was widely reported that the man was practically incapacitated and was on life support but for several weeks his aides denied all the reports of his illness; they claimed he was alive and well and that in fact the President could lead from any part of the world. The most important thing was that he was ‘LEADING’, where he was leading from was immaterial, so all the guys that benefited from his presidency rallied round to ensure that he was still ‘leading’ the country; of course his resignation would mean a sudden eclipse on their juicy jobs, but the gamble over the poor man’s life finally came to an end when he passed on, on the 5th of May, 2010. Had he relinquished his position and relieved himself of the demanding pressure of the presidency long before his death became imminent, he may have very well been alive today, probably.
Last year, the Governors of Enugu, Cross River and Taraba states were flown abroad as they too suffered very critical health challenges. While the Enugu man came in in February after spending 4 months AWOL, his Cross River state counterpart just returned on the first day of March, ending another 4 months of speculation about his whereabouts and state of health. All his aides kept on saying was that “His Excellency is fine and is on bed rest”. Danbaba Suntai, the Taraba honcho who is rumoured to be ‘Brain dead’ meanwhile has to remain abroad to recuperate from the injuries he suffered from a crash while embarking on a luxurious flying expedition in November, 2012.
These Governors may have handed over to their deputies but I know that they fervently dream (t) about their pots of Gold in the hands of strangers and if they could mutter any word on their sick bed, that would certainly have to be something like “Come! You guys should monitor that my deputy well welloo! I don’t trust that man.”
You see, never in history has a Nigerian president, Governor or minister resigned from office due to deterioration in health, not even the Chairmen or Councillors. This is where the Pope’s decision deserves commendation. For a leader of perhaps the world’s largest and most influential organization to admit that he no longer feels physically capable to lead his people, meaning he is forfeiting the media attention, the loyal followership of both the clergy and the laity, the influence and even the eerr…infallibility, that’s a heroic act! Even his aides took Oga’s decision in good fate even if their jobs were at stake.
But let me tell you what would have happened if the Pope was a Nigerian politician; His wife, the first lady would gather the first ladies from the 36 states and other women at a solemn assembly, “Women Oye! Women oye!” she’d begin, she’d then appeal to the women to intercede for their able and loving Pope so that he will be fit again to continue delivering to them the dividends of democracy, then the (fake) pastors will embark on prayer and fasting for the Pope; they will host crusades with themes like “Oh Lord, not my Pope!”, “Father, na so we go dey dey without our Pope?”, “Father! I must see my Pope or I DIE!” “Devil leave my Pope alone!” etc. Some would even boast, “I saw the Pope in a vision strong and bouncing, we even had dinner together.” Then his wife, would claim “Evil forces behind my husband’s illness”, the PDP national Chairman will release a report the next day saying “Pope our choice, dead or alive”, the senate will follow suit with a statement saying “Pope free to rule from hospital”, “We are still monitoring the situation” the Nigerian Governors’ Forum will say, the Christian association of Nigeria (CAN) will call on Christians to pray for 12 minutes at 12 noon for the Pope on a particular day, the NLC will give the him a 1 week ultimatum to handover to his Vice or they would strike, the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) will give him 24 hours to do so, then Ohaneze Ndigbo will say “we are praying for our dear son” (that is if he is from Igbo extraction), but if he isn’t they will say “The Pope must resign now, it is Ndigbo’s turn to rule”, the newspapers will not be left out, This Day will publish headlines like “Real reason Pope wants to resign,” TELL will say “Those who want the Pope dead revealed!” The Sun will of course say “Shocking!!! Pope’s kinsmen from village storm Aso Rock with healing juju charms,” then City People will go “Pictures of Pope in his last outing” and the list will go on and on.
So if the Pope were a Nigerian Politician, he would refuse to resign, his aides would claim he is fine and even stronger than many of his critics, his wife would not even want to think of losing her exalted position, then while 95% of his people would call for his resignation, the remaining 5% would orchestrate his continued stay in office…oh! Sorry in the hospital and because his doctors would be ordered to get him cured speedily so he resumes work and prove to those cynical Nigerians that he was well all the while, there will be unnecessary pressure on him, his doctors and even his aides, then he’ll die and everyone will bow out in shame. I pray not so…
By the way, anyone out there has Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s phone contact? Need to have a quick chat with the 89 year old President (he’s going in for another term mind you)…
John Offiong [SAVVY]