YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Bishops in Nigeria have called on the people of Africa’s most populous nation to get into politics and usher in desired change in the country as it prepares for general elections in 2019.

“Another election is fast approaching. We must seize this God-given opportunity to radically change things around. We should no longer allow politics to remain business as usual in the hands of the same gang of speculators and opportunists,” said Cardinal John Onaiyekan at the opening Mass of the bishops’ first ordinary meeting of 2018.

“Politics is not for miserable people seeking a way out of poverty, nor for selfish business people looking for an easy way to maximize profit by manipulating the system in their favor. Less still is it for the corruptly rich-seeking refuge from just accountability. Rather, it is for altruistic men and women with the talent, conviction and desire to contribute to making our nation a better home for all of us,” said the cardinal, who serves as the archbishop of the capital Abuja.

Onaiyekan called on Nigerians to “recover the genuine sense of politics as a noble vocation to serve the common good. Nigerians should stop complaining and get involved in the often-rough arena of politics.”

“It is only then that a new kind of politics as service to the people will emerge and real change for the better will be achieved,” he said.

The call for Nigerians to get involved in politics came amid criticism that President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power three years ago with the promise to change Nigeria, had failed to fulfill expectations.

Buhari came to power promising change to Nigeria. He said he would address the problem of an epileptic energy supply in the country; revalue the naira, the nation’s faltering currency; create three million jobs every year; and lower the cost of fuel.

None of the promises have been fulfilled.

In addition, insecurity is still a huge problem in Nigeria. Not only is the Boko Haram insurgency still active -even if it has been significantly weakened – other groups continue to carry out kidnappings, assassinations, and engage in tribal raids and other forms of insurgency.

Onaiyekan said that “a lot still needs to be done and too many problems have been left to fester.”

“Our nation surely deserves far better than it is now getting in terms of good governance, social justice and peace and minimum of well-being of our people,” the cardinal said.

The cardinal said the mounting problems the country faces today have completely eroded “the initial massive goodwill” the Buhari government enjoyed at the early stages of his presidency.

“It is no wonder that many Nigerians are looking for a new political organization that can truly bring about genuine change for the better,” he said.

However, he cautioned Nigerians not to be given to despair and frustration, noting that the country’s problems were not insurmountable.

The former Archbishop of Lagos, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, was less sanguine than the cardinal from Abjua.

He issued a statement on Monday stating, “Nigerians are not happy. Nigerians are hungry and angry.”

“They are not happy because their lives and their belongings are not safe. They work so hard while the value of the money they earn cannot make them enjoy basic things of life,” Okogie said.

“Nigerians are unhappy because the economy has been so mismanaged that some cannot pay the school fees of their children. Nigerians are unhappy because they have not got jobs. Nigerians are unhappy because, instead of hope, they are offered propaganda and insults by the president’s men. Nigerians are angry because their loved ones are butchered by herdsmen while the response of government is woeful,” the retired cardinal’s statement continues.

At the end of their meeting, the bishops also criticized the “Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill” currently under consideration in the country’s legislature.

“Whereas we acknowledge some legitimate rights due to women and the need to promote them, we, nevertheless, condemn the provisions of the ‘Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill,’ which could provide an avenue for the legalization of many anti-human lives and anti-family activities. We, therefore, demand that such provisions be expunged from the Bill,” the bishops said in a statement.

“Similarly, we condemn in unmistakable terms the indiscrete distribution of condoms and contraceptive pills in our schools, youth service orientation camps and private/government health institutions. No person, authority or institution has the right to terminate human life,” the statement continued.

The bishops also complained about problems with voter registration for next year’s elections.

“Reports reaching us from all over the nation indicate that in many places facilities for registration are not available, thus depriving many people of the right to register for voting. It is quite unfortunate that our young people allow themselves to be used as cannon fodder in electoral malpractices,’’ the bishops said.

Meanwhile, the bishops elected Archbishop Augustine Akubeze of Benin as the new president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference. He replaces the Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Kaigama, who has served two three-year terms.