THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN POLITICS AND EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
Interview with Msgr. Nathaniel I. Ndiokwere

1. MAY WE KNOW YOU MONSIGNOR? 

I am Nathaniel Ikechukwu Ndiokwere. I don’t usually add titles to my names, because I have always believed it is not necessary to let people honor or respect us, the clergy and lay people, all over the world, especially in Nigeria on account of the number of titles we accumulate.  I am Father or Monsignor Ndiokwere. If I add my titles, they will fill half a page of this sheet of paper. It is not necessary.  I learnt it is a sign of humility, to shun titles imposed by society to earn or boost prestige. Most white people don’t add series of titles to their proper of second names to let people admire their academic, traditional or cultural achievements. 

2. YOU ARE ALWAYS SATISFIED AND PROUD OF YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR, WHAT REALLY GIVES YOU THE GREATEST JOY IN LIFE?

 My “strange nature” makes me feel satisfied and proud and through this “strangeness” and “life-style”, I unveil my achievements, and they are too many to recount. In recounting them, I struggle however never to contradict myself or compromise that my “strangeness”. I teach and encourage all “Alora sons and daughters” (common name for all the boys and girls who have been taught, sponsored or trained by me) to avoid, and if possible to shun this African/Nigerian ‘culture’. They include seminarians, priests, men and women religious and lay persons, known as former students of mine. I have seen in mixed gatherings in USA, where we make fun of ourselves, when we introduce our fellow brothers and sisters as “Engineer, Dr/Mrs, Architect, Very Rev, Dr…...! etc. Simplicity can be a mark of good culture and civilization.

(i) I AM A VERY “STRANGE AND SHOCKING PERSONALITY” 

Father Nathaniel Ndiokwere rejected the offer to be made bishop, which many priests clamor for. Among 4 of my classmates in Rome (Propaganda Fide), who ‘qualified’ so well, academically, morally and spiritually and were ‘interviewed’, one is today a Cardinal, (Srilanka), two are Archbishops (Ghana and Ivory Coast).  Only Nathaniel preferred to remain a simple priest. But in exchange for becoming a bishop or archbishop, I requested to be sent to the University of London to study education. Propaganda Fide granted my request and offered the scholarship. When I expressed fear that my then Bishop (Most Rev. Mark Unegbu) would not support my ambition’ for University of London venture, the Roman authorities volunteered to write and inform him. They did. He agreed, and they gave me a copy of his consent. My bishop had earlier been informed that I had successfully defended my doctoral thesis, one year ahead of my classmates. So the bishop sent an SOS letter to me to return ‘immediately’ to take up teaching appointment at St. Peter Claver Seminary Okpala.  Orlu diocese had not been created then.

(ii) “OBEDIENCE IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE” (A STRANGE MEETING WITH HEAD OF DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON

The Higher Diploma in Education studies in London opened my eyes. The worth can never be compared with the 7-year Philosophy/Theology studies in Rome. In London University I qualified First Class in Curriculum Studies, Comparative Education and special course in Education in Developing Countries. “Comparative education course took us (students) to The Holy Land (Israel), The Soviet Union and Greece.  We learnt some Russian language and I still remember the word “BRAZAVAGHA (Education). We were given an official tour of the CREMLIM, we spent one week in Israel and visited most of the great historical sites associated with JESUS OF FAITH AND HISTORY.
“Strange summons or meeting with Head of Department of Education, University of London {Professor Holmes): As I was preparing to return to Rome for the final return to Nigeria, I was summoned by Professor Holmes to see him in his office.  I couldn’t understand the connection with the head of department of education. But here follows the meeting or dialogue with Professor Holmes:
(Professor Holmes): You are Nathaniel Ndek-were (Ndiokwere), from Nigeria?
(Nathaniel Ndiokwere): Yes Sir!
(Prof): Good. Have you applied for the Masters and PhD program? Your essays are wonderful. You just need about 5 to 6 months to finalize your Master’s program, update your essays and about a year to finish your PhD program.
(Nath): No Sir. I have not applied. My scholarship does not extend to Masters/Doctorate degrees.
(Prof): That is not a problem. The university will grant you scholarship to finish up!

(Nath): Sir. You know I am a Catholic priest and my bishop has written, ordering me to return immediately to Nigeria and I wouldn’t like to disobey him. 
(Prof) Mute! He looked at me, surprised or shocked at my response. In fact I could guess what was going on in his mind! “Is this fellow not crazy?’  I was surely! He didn’t get the connection! ”Catholic priest/obedience to the bishop/refusing such a rare offer!!” After a short moment of thought he let me go! I went, but afterwards regretted my action. Incredible! 

(iii) HUMILITY/SIMPLICITY IS A VIRTUE AND NOT A VICE

In a land and society where achievement is often seen in number of titles citizens accumulate, power struggle is the order of the day, Father Ndiokwere tries is some little ways to put into practice the teachings of the Lord Jesus, humility and ‘taking the lowest or back seat when invited to a feast’. I qualified to teach in any higher institution of learning anywhere, but I accepted or volunteered to take a position among kindergarten and Junior High students. After the creation of the Catholic diocese of Orlu, my bishop offered me several options; to take up teaching assignment at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Imo state university (then at Ihitte, Okigwe), Alvan Ikoku College of education, Owerri, CIWA PH, but in all humility, I carefully rejected the ‘prestigious’ status or offers and preferred to meddle with “Children’s early formation” at Bonus Pastor Seminary Osina. I raised the kids as well as I could. Many are today successful priests and laypersons in many areas occupation. One is an Archbishop and Papal nuncio! Great! ALORA SONS AND DAUGHTERS still appreciate our humble beginnings! 
I was “forced” to take up teaching appointment at CIWA (as part-time lecturer) for 8 years, combining my junior seminary apostolate with heavy university lectures. I decided to drop the CIWA assignment when it became too tedious to travel the long distance from Osina to Port Harcourt every Monday. Three of the present Nigerian bishops mainly from the Western region of Nigeria told me during CATHAN (Catholic Theological Association of Nigeria) meetings those days that I taught them in CIWA and learnt a lot from my lectures. I didn’t recognize them! Again I rejected the appeal to serve at the Catholic Secretariat Lagos. That would distract my humble assignments at the local diocesan level. I argued. 

(iv) “PROFESSORSHIP”
I rejected to apply for ‘professorship’ after 8 years of hard labor at CIWA. My reply: “If the authorities knew I qualified, why not ‘impose’ it on me? I have no need of such titles.” 

(v) JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS

I don’t believe in ‘great jubilee celebrations’ for which Nigerians, especially the clergy are known for. During my own 25th anniversary in 2000 at Mgbidi, I printed no invitation cards. I invited no bishops, no priests (except a handful ALORA BOYS around.) My family did not know I was celebrating my Silver Jubilee is a ‘strange grand fashion’ at St Joseph’s parish Mgbidi. But some who did hear about it travelled long distances to attend the mass. I did not even acknowledge their presence at mass or accept their ‘congratulatory messages’. I was celebrating a ‘thanksgiving mass”. I bought a cow, bags of rice etc, to entertain my parishioners. No one gave me gifts, in kind or cash. When I got ‘secret information’ that my former parishioners from Osina were coming to the celebration in ‘grand fashion’, I sent a message to them never to show up ‘because I did not invite them!’ They withdrew. I did not even wish to celebrate the last Jubilee @ 40 in 2014, but ALORA SONS AND DAUGHTERS imposed it on me. I appreciated their kind gestures anyway. 

(vi) SEND-OFF CELEBFRATIONS

After 13 years of labor at Osina (Bonus Pastor Seminary and St Mary’s parish), I secretly ESCAPED with some of my belongings to USA for 3 and half years of foreign mission experience. There were no send-off parties organized by me. When my great Osina friends and benefactors heard I had left Osina ‘unceremoniously’ they were very angry with me. They had planned, I later heard, to ‘reward’ me with a gift of a new brand car! They were disappointed and sad, but Father Ndiokwere was happy to escape privately!
After 9 years of mission at Mgbidi, I escaped again! But a few very close friends led a delegation insisting to hold a ‘private’ send-off party for. I accepted. We ate and drank and joked. They were very appreciative and gave me a heavy “envelope” as I was leaving for Umuowa, the place of my new assignment. After 3 years of service at St Mary’s Seminary Umuowa, I escaped to USA on my sabbatical.  That’s Father Ndiokwere’s way!

(V) AT ST PATRICK’S PARISH AMAGU

When I received a relocation letter from my bishop in 2013 to take up pastoral assignment at Amagu, I obeyed. But I suffered great poverty, isolation and neglect at that parish, but the people appreciated my humble apostolate. After two years of ‘mission’ there and as I was preparing to ‘escape’ to USA again, one good-benefactor-family decided to ‘reward’ me, demonstrating a stunning type of appreciation for my work in Amagu, by replacing my damaged car (jeep) with a new one! The roads were horrible, and my car got ruined. The family may not like me to mention their name here. But only our loving Father in heaven will reward such wonderful family and ‘good Samaritans! 

(3) WHAT REALLY GIVES YOU THE GREATEST JOY IN LIFE? 

What gives me greatest joy in life is WORK. Whether physical, moral, spiritual works (of mercy), I derive a lot of joy doing them. Some call me ‘workaholic’. My brothers complain that ‘anyone close to me never gets rest’. I engage them cleaning up, cutting grass, cooking well etc. I learnt from our mother and we are over 90% the same. I have taught most of the Alora sons and daughters the same and they remember me for that. Only a few grudges. Secondly, it gives me joy doing charity and spiritual works of mercy, and I believe strongly in Christ’s teaching “when doing charity let your right hand not know what the left hand is doing. Your heavenly Father who sees in secret will reward you at the right time” Again the gospels tell us that “Christ went about doing good!” We must imitate the Lord.




(4) CAN YOU REALLY HIGHLIGHT FOR YOUR AUDIENCE YOUR MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR?

(i) BONUS PASTOR SEMINARY PROJECT

I contributed financially through my German and American benefactors to build up Bonus Pastor Seminary Osina. The Germans established those days a ‘foundation’ in my name to help our bishop and the diocese accomplish the BPS project. They called it “Pfarrer Nathaniel Priester Seminar Project. In 1988 I suggested to the bishop to raise the Bonus Pastor Seminary (Junior Secondary) to Senior Secondary status (6 years). But for some reasons we couldn’t undertake the project of running two diocesan seminaries ‘concurrently’. But I was not happy about it. I had to bring that “dream” to fruition, some other time. That was at Mgbidi.

ii) ST JOSEPH’S SECONDARY SCHOOL PROJECT

I single-handedly undertook and executed the St Joseph’s Comprehensive Secondary School Mgbidi project. It was originally a small Commercial (institute) school as I met it, but decided to reconstruct it as it stands today before I left Mgbidi in 2009. The project was nearly aborted when a few Mgbidi “protesters” questioned my authority to begin such school project “without consulting them!” I could not believe it! They never asked where and how I got the money for such a gigantic project. But I did not allow the devil to mess up God’s work. I told them my bishop and the diocese granted the permission and as well owned the institution.  I ordered them to leave the premises!   The fund came from USA through the launching of my three books there – namely “Search for Greener Pastures, Igbo and African Experience”, “The Third Millennium Church”, and “At the Crossroads, The Dilemma of the Man of God”.  (At the Crossroads is my ‘auto-biography’, written to mark my 25th anniversary as a priest.} 
Monsignor Donald Sweat (now retired), the then Pastor of St Philip’s Catholic Church, Bakersfield, California is one of my greatest American friends, benefactor and hero. One of my Nigerian friends simply introduced me to him during one summer vacation and I gave him each copy of the three books (complementary copies). Before the end of the week Msgr Sweat had finished reading the three books and requested through my friend to see him in his office. He decided to organize “Book Signing” (our ‘launching’) in his parish. They used to celebrate 8 masses on Sundays in his large parish. He instructed me to ‘preach’ at each mass for not more than 10 minutes. I was to introduce myself and as well tell the parishioners about my three books. It was a huge success! At the end of each mass the people queued up and bought the books ($25, $20, $15) cover price. Some bought more than 3 or 4 copies for their loved ones. At least $7,000 was realized and the parish added or donated $3,000. $10,000 was a huge amount of money in 2002 during my second year at St Joseph’s parish Mgbidi. The monsignor wanted to know what I would do with the money. I promptly told him I would use the money to start the rebuilding of St Joseph’s Comprehensive Secondary School Mgbidi, and as well sink a water ‘borehole’ for them and also help in the building of the parish hall. That was exactly how I spent the $10,000 raised from my book-launch. I got other donations from American friends. 

(iii) SPONSORSHIP OF POOR AND NEEDY STUDENTS 

To be “Philanthropic’ or have “large heart”, give freely to the poor and the needy does not depend on the quantity of money at one’s disposal.   What is of crucial importance is the willingness, the heart to give without even expecting appreciation and praises! I took interest in training poor students and helping the needy ones. “What one sows, one reaps”. At present I am sponsoring 8 students at IMSU, ALVAN and FUTO. Most of my sons and daughters, who benefitted and still benefit from my ‘large heart’, and readiness to give, today reward me and send me money (‘dash’ me money) and gifts. It gives me great joy. And I thank them, especially those who remember to show appreciation or have learnt to be charitable and generous. It would be great, I often reflect if so many millionaires and billionaires we have today in our villages and towns could help our poor and needy people, grade our village roads and make them ‘motorable’, build small-scale industries to create jobs for our idle and suffering youths, and lend to local market men and women etc.

(iv) SECOND MISSIONARY JOURNEY AT UMUOWA SEMINARY

My Second Missionary Journey at St Mary’s Seminary Umuowa: When our present bishop, Most Rev. Augustine Toochukwu Ukwuoma took over the mantle of leadership from the Emeritus, I faced a big dilemma for the first time as a priest of the diocese. I was planning to go on sabbatical in the USA, when suddenly I was re-posted to Umuowa seminary. I was not happy but had to obey my bishop to continue with a ‘project’ I know how to undertake. When I vehemently protested against the appointment and against lack of consultation, the bishop’s words: “Is that not the type of thing you like to do? Go and do it!” I am a teacher and in fact started teaching in 1967 before the Biafra war. The first class I taught was Standard 4A at Holy Trinity Practicing School Orlu. The Irish priest and former principal of BSTC ORLU, I was told wrote in his diary before he left Nigeria back to Ireland in 1966, that if the Primary School, needed any teacher, the post should be offered to “One Nathaniel, wonderful altar server and likely priestly candidate!” I was then in BSC and we had done our WAEC exams in 1966. 
 I like to WORK, carry shovel and knives and diggers. Too much of Manual WORK is the cause of my present “Lower-Back-Pain-Ailment, for which I have had two major surgeries.  So, I obeyed my bishop and went to Umuowa seminary to teach and as well direct the seminarians in manual labor. I taught every subject and of course Latin. As for the Seminary project that gulped a lot of money, I approached some of my friends from OSINA and URUALLA for help. They promptly responded positively. Permit me to mention Innocent Okoroama (now Papal Knight), Professor Sam Ejezie and Dr, Patrick Ohia. They donated large sums of money for the reconstruction of the seminary. I used some part of the sales from my books to help out too.

(5)  MANY KNOW YOU AS A GREAT WRITER. WHAT ALWAYS PROPEL YOU TO SHARE YOUR IDEAS ON PAPER?

A serious teacher uses any available means to communicate, to inform or teach his or her students and the general public. Sometimes blackboard or classroom environment may not be adequate or proper for information with large content; hence the need to put into writing, in the form of a book. I have always great ideas, often controversial to share with my students and readers, name them (“Only in Nigeria”, “Search for greener pastures”, “Prophecy and Revolution”, “Our only hope”, “Gateway to success in English”, “Comprehensive Latin Course” etc.)

MY PUBLICATIONS AND CREATIVE WORKS (Full titles and dates)

Monsignor N. I. Ndiokwere has written and published many works. They include

1. Prophecy & Revolution (London, 1981, 1991, 2011)
2. African Church Today and Tomorrow, Prospects and Challenges, (Nigeria 1994
3. African Church Today and Tomorrow (INCULTURATION IN PRACTICE), (Nigeria, 1994)
4. Search For Security (Nigeria 1993)
5. Search for Greener Pastures - Igbo and African Experience (USA, 1998),
6. The Third Millennium Church, (USA, 1998)
7. At the Crossroads - Dilemma of the Man of God, (USA, 2000).
8. Gateway to Success in English Language (Grammar), Nigeria 2002, 2006
9. Gateway to Success in English Language (Test of Orals), Nigeria 2006, 2007
10. Leaders and Followers – The Problem of Leadership in a Troubled Nation, (2003)
11. Only In Nigeria, Dilemma of a Troubled nation, (Nigeria 2007) ; ( Revised Edition, 2009) & Vol. 2, Owerri Nigeria 2013.
12. Comprehensive Latin Course For Schools and Colleges, (Nigeria 2011); Reprinted 2015.
13. Rochas Revolution, Leadership By Example – 2012; (Nigerian edition); Owerri, Nigeria  & (USA) Edition – Trafford Publishers, USA . ( 2012).
14.Our Only Hope, Chidi in Search of Greener Pastures (High School Novel/Drama) Nigeria 2013 , LIU House of Excellence Ventures, Owerri.
15. With Prophetic Courage (Festschrift in Honor of Monsignor Nathaniel Ikechukwu Ndiokwere), @ 40th priestly anniversary celebration, Edited By Rev. Frs. Dr. Chibuike Ukeh & Finnian Nwaozor. 

ARTICLES & PUBLICATIONS

Since 1980 Fr. Ndiokwere has been a regular contributor to popular Radio productions and programs, including Radio News Talks in Nigeria. Fr. Ndiokwere is a regular Newspaper Columnist (ONLY IN NIGERIA) in The Leader and Forum Newspapers of the Archdiocese of Owerri and diocese of Orlu, Nigeria respectively.



(6) ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE NATURE OF EDUCATION IN NIGERIA?

I have addressed this issue adequately in one of my write-ups on the Nigeria/Biafra issue – Restructuring agenda/option. There is no doubt that education is virtually a dead issue in Nigeria of today and surely the future is bad. Igbo youths have abandoned education and are now in search of greener pastures and quick wealth all over the world. Those who decide to attend high school or university are not serious. Most unfortunately corruption, the well-known malaise or evil identified with Nigeria has equally affected Nigeria’s education system, from top to bottom, from nursery/kindergarten to the universities and other institutions of higher education. Examination malpractice, generally known as EXPO in Nigeria has ruined the system. One woman spoke the mind of over 80% of parents and adults, and most Nigerians as far as education in Nigeria is concerned the education. She made this stunning remark during Parents-Teacher Association meeting (PTA) as I addressed parents and teachers on the evil of examination malpractice is concerned: “Father, no one should block our children’s success in exams. What we need are schools whose results are always good, no matter how they make it!” From that day I abolished PTA, and it was very clear to me that Nigerian educational system has been permanently ruined!

(7) WHAT CONTRIBUTIONS CAN YOU MAKE IF YOU ARE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPEARHEAD THE AFFAIRS OF THE EDUCATIONAL SECTOR IN NIGERIA?

The impact will be great, since I have the right tools in teaching and in education administration. I have written a lot of articles for Nigerian newspapers and posted some on the social media. Some of them always began with the expression or title “If I were……. (President of Nigeria, governor of Imo state, the Vice-chancellor of, the bishop of……..). If I were given the opportunity to spearhead the affairs of the educational sector in Nigeria, Biafra or Igboland, there will be a grand revolution. “Honesty is the best policy”, the ancients remind us. No dishonest or corrupt teacher/lecturer/professor/student will be offered a place in that sector or institution, where I am a ‘head-teacher’, ‘head of department’ or vice-chancellor’’ During one of the Junior WAEC exams at BPS Osina those days, my boys warned and abused a supervisor who was demanding ‘exam-malpractice-fee’: “We don’t need your help. We know what we are writing. We have been well taught and will pass without your help! We will report you to the rector if you disturb us again!”

(8) IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU THINK THE CHURCH CAN CONTRIBUTE POSITIVELY TOWARDS THE POLITICAL CUM EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT? DO YOU THINK THE CHURCH HAS DONE ENOUGH IN TERMS OF EDUCATION AND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE COUNTRY? DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER ADDITIONS TO MAKE?

The church should openly support restructuring the Nigerian federation. No one should pretend that all is well with Nigeria as the nation stands now.  As for a permanent settlement of the Nigerian-Biafra dilemma, I strongly believe that Biafra is a “lesser evil”. And the ancients tell us that between two evils, the ‘lesser evil’ should be chosen. NDIGBO are not the best of people or race. There is no other better option than to restructure the country so that the pre-war political arrangement is put back in place. Where the Muslim North ignores this popular and most reasonable option, perhaps it would be best to break up Nigeria into 4 independent nations. I have written a lot about the future of Nigeria in the social media more than most well-known Nigerian writers, both the clergy and lay people.
With regard to educational development, I insist that the Church in Nigeria, especially the Catholic Church should participate in educational development as the white missionaries did. I have equally addressed several important ‘Open Letters” to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN). I have consistently called to diversification of ministries and laid sufficient emphasis on full participation of priests in the teaching and hospital apostolate instead of over concentration on parish work. Priests who have studied and gained useful educational certificates should be offered employments in their areas of specialization. 

(9) WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE AREAS THE EDUCATIONAL SECTOR SHOULD IMPROVE MORE?

The Church in Nigeria has not made much impact on education since the end of the war. Most of the former “Mission Schools or Colleges” have not been taken good care of in terms of infrastructure, teaching and administration. As for moral impact, it is not even possible these days to ‘separate the wheat from the cockle’, namely state administered or owned schools from those owned and administrated by the church. There is little to write home about the quality or standard of the products or students being raised in the so-called ‘Mission schools’. Morally, spiritually and academically all are virtually the same.
Not minding the state or government policies and educational content, the church should develop its own educational standards and policies, draw up its own curriculum and raise academic standards to its pre-war level and much more. Most of the mission schools should operate boarding school system and priests should teach in these schools full-time.
SCIENCES, TECHNOLOGY AND LANGUAGES
True Catholic/Christian education should lay serious emphasis on the curriculum (course of studies)that embraces the study of sciences, modern technology and languages. English, French and Latin should have an outstanding place in our Catholic schools, as it was during the white missionary days. Priests should qualify and teach English, French and Latin in our High schools. Again we may not overlook the importance of offering our younger priests opportunity to further their education, in our Nigerian universities and overseas educational institutions. 
My proficiency in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish gave me a lot of advantages over my classmates during and after studies in Europe and America. I write and speak these languages well today. I still remember how my knowledge of German impressed the Propaganda Fide authorities and our rector Pellegrino Ronchi (now bishop Emeritus) in Rome those days. German, Austrian and Swiss benefactors of Propaganda Fide College, visited Rome on pilgrimage and required audience with the Rector and secretary of the college and other Roman authorities. There was need for a German/Italian interpreter. Our rector summoned me. I translated from German to Italian and vice versa, with no difficulty. After about two weeks our rector sent for me in his office. He told me that one of the Swiss ladies (a widow) was so impressed by my ‘agility’ in the two languages, including English and therefore requested me to pay her a visit in BAZENHEID, SWIZERLAND during the summer holidays. The rector asked if I was interested! “Me? Why not?”. He informed me that the lady had already transferred the sum of 10,000 (ten thousand Swiss francs) into the college accounts for me! I did visit the lady for one month during summer holidays and we went together with the parish priest to bless the grave of the widow’s late husband. 


(10) THE COUNTRY IS OVERBURDENED WITH HISTORY OF ECONOMIC PROBLEMS, POLITICAL VIOLENCE AND GROWING POVERTY AMONG ITS CITIZENS; CAN YOU HELP DETECT THE CANKERWORM BEHIND THE CONSISTENT MENACE? ANY POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS?

I have already addressed most of the issues which the above question(s) raised in my current and perhaps my last book/publication, namely “AN INTRODUCTION TO THE HISTORY OF BIAFRA”. The book seeks to challenge our Nigerian/Biafra/Igbo historians to produce a new and updated History Book for our schools and colleges. Hopefully the book, when completed would motivate our people to ‘go back to history’ abandoned or suppressed by the Islamic ruling class in Nigeria.

(11) DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR OUR PRESENT LEADERS? ANY MESSAGE FOR THE NEW YEAR?

My first advice goes to my students. They are the future leaders! And most of us are retiring if not already retired!  They should be bold and fearless while confronting our past and present leaders who are responsible for our present predicaments. “Boldness” or “Outspokenness” does not connote ‘arrogance’. It embraces ‘truth’ no matter whose horse is gored. My ‘boldness’ or fearless attitude has earned me a lot of admiration from ‘minors’ and ‘superiors’. Some of my superiors past and present may not like me for being bold and outspoken. But I do not mean any type of disrespect when I speak our boldly. “IWA ANYA” (fearless) is a virtue and not a vice, when rightly applied. 
I sought private audience and interview with Pope Paul VI (see pictures), in 1974, a year before my ordination. The request was granted by the Vatican authorities.  It was a time Italian communist newspaper were publishing some bad and damaging news about the Vatican and the Pope. I interviewed the Pope to find out the truth and how Rome was handling the matters! I also interviewed Pope John Paul 11 after the conclave that elected him Pope, succeeding Paul VI. During my ordination June 29, 1975, my father (Late Gabriel Ndiokwere) came to Rome to represent our family. We had photographs with Pope Paul VI as I introduced my father to him as “one of the greatest Nigerian and Igbo Catholics in the entire African continent. My father was among the chosen TEN lay visitors or pilgrims that received the Holy Communion from the Pope during our ordination at the Vatican Square that time. 
“BOLDNESS” COUPLED WITH ‘SINCERITY’ AND ‘TRUST’: Our rector in Propaganda Fide, so liked my bold attitude, sincerity and honesty that he trusted me with a lot of ‘college “classified documents and information”. But while divulging certain secrete information to me, he usually placed his two fingers on his lips. That meant “make sure you do not talk to anybody about the issue!” I did not abuse the rare privilege. 
That was not the first time I enjoyed such wonderful relationships with authorities and my superiors. When I was the senior prefect of BSC Orlu, the Principal, Brother Justin and his successor Brother Lewis trusted me so much that they made me the college “Confidential Secretary”. They used to lock me up secretly in the office to work on some “classified documents”, including selection of new students and entering marks (correctly), where possibilities of ‘fraud’ could complicate admissions systems etc.  Because of my “boldness”, “courage”, and “strength of character” and of course ‘impeccable honesty’, I studied in BSC Orlu with College/Marist scholarship! A repetition of London University Adventure!
As small as I was in Class three (3) in BSC, I was chosen to conduct the “Stations of the Cross” during Lenten Season, while other Rev. Brothers and more senior students watched and received instructions from me. The Rev. Brothers confirmed I was a whiz-kid. But I didn’t understand. It was simple to me and I never feared I could fail. Even in the Primary school, I was made “assistant teacher” by ALL my teachers, from Standard One to Standard Six. I took over when our teacher was not around. And all the boys obeyed me.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018!
I must wish all my superiors, friends and students the best of 2018! We all have a lot in front of us in Nigeria to accomplish. We need God’s forgiveness where we have failed. We need to forgive those who offended us during the past years. I wish the Forum Newspapers the best in their very important assignment and Apostolate. If I get the time and they wish to have me in-put, by the grace of God I will not fail them, the bishop and the diocese. I hope ALORA SONS AND DAUGHTERS will help in patronizing the FORUM newspapers and as well promote my publications, past and present. God bless you all!

(Msgr. Nathaniel Ikechukwu Ndiokwere) 29th December 2017


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