In this massive book, Beyond Ideas (Y Books, Ibadan; 2016), the most Reverend Felix Femi Ajakaye presents his dreams, visions and work in the church of God. In his mission as the Catholic Bishop of Ekiti Diocese, Ekiti State, Nigeria, Ajakaye offers a potpourri of ideas on religion, politics, social justice and economic development. Here, Ajakaye affirms that for true success in life, the fear of God, a positive attitude and disposition are as important as ability. He says these ideas are tools for positive and concrete action.
The book has six parts covering religion, politics, sports and interviews in that order. Beyond Ideas is a compelling work of intellectual creativity that is worth your perusal and a place in your library. In his foreword to the book, the former Vice Chancellor of Ekiti State University and professor of law, Akin Oyebode, called the writer an activist-priest that is an endangered specie in a Nigerian society wallowing in poverty and misrule. However, Oyebode admits that it is the calling of the priest to minister to the spiritual needs of the flock.
The Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) as the voice of the Catholic Church in Nigeria is the first area of our examination. The CSN is an important organ of the Catholic Church. It is established to enlighten the people and report the activities of the church, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, whose headquarters it is. Rooted and founded on love as its motto, the CSN is the symbol of the unity of the Catholic Church. It typifies the oneness and sincerity of purpose of the Catholic Church. Ajakaye also narrates that the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) holds two plenary meetings every year.
The first plenary conference is held in Abuja a week after Ash Wednesday, while the second meeting is held in the second week of September. As we might have seen in a recent release, they discussed the plight of the people in the Nigeria as a nation. They issued a communiqué to enunciate their position on political, economic and social issues plaguing the country. Furthermore, the CSN promotes spirituality, efficiency, discipline, dialogue and community spirit. Under its secretary-general, the CSN has about 80 staffers manning four departments and the directorate of social communications. For now, the CSN is running two offices, one in Lagos and the other in Abuja.
One of Ajakaye’s sermon on Easter titled ‘The Risen Lord is our Light and our Helper.’ Easter is a great yearly Christian fiesta that celebrates Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, giving Him new life in God. Belief in Easter is crucial to the Christian faith; for in the celebration of Easter, Catholics and other baptized persons express their trust that the original sin can truly be overcome and that humans can hope to be with God forever in heaven. Ajakaye teaches that Easter Sunday was a movable feast celebrated between March 22 and April 25 every year.
In 325 AD the Council of Nicaea declared that Easter must be held each year on first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring. The Catholics didn’t accept this method of dating Easter until the 7th century Anno Domini. The church observance of Easter season lasts 50 days beginning with Easter vigil and ends with Pentecost Sunday. Alleluia-praise the Lord marks all prayers and songs of this season of Easter.
Hear him, “As most Reverend Michael Olatunji Fagun, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ekiti once remarked, “If I want to employ a labourer to work on my farm and the same labourer begins to offer me money so that I can employ him, definitely there is something on my farm that he is interested in.” Indeed, this is the style being employed by Nigerian politicians today. How I wish the electorate would ignore such selfish and desperate individuals and groups who practice this do-or-die politics and vote for credible people, irrespective of their party affiliations. I pray the Risen Lord who is our light and Helper will guide us to vote rightly and correctly. I also pray that He will give us the strength to monitor our votes as we march forward as a people, united in faith, hope and love.”
During Lent, Christians undergo renewal and spiritual rebirth.
In another chapter, Father Ajakaye has a tribute for Dr. Patrick Olusegun Olutola: “Dr. Segun was one of the nicest persons I have ever met. He was God-fearing, pious, intelligent, hardworking, noble, compassionate, enterprising, patriotic and humble. He was very generous with his life and he was ever prepared to render help any day, any time and anywhere. He had concern for others and he was always ready to use his God-given talents positively and concretely. In fact, in Canada, his family housed the Sisters of St Michael the Archangel at the initial stage of their foundation.”
Ajakaye also touched on socio-political issues. Chapter 34 has ‘Lekwot’s Trial: A Tragedy of Injustice.’ According to him, “Mahatma Gandhi said: ‘When a man submits to another through fear, he does not follow his nature but yields to brute force. Cowardice is not a sign of belief in God.’ This quotation summarizes retired Major General Zamani Lekwot’s career. He and five others were accused of culpable homicide and sentenced to die by hanging. The judgment was given to suit the powers that be. It was on a power tussle between Zango, a Muslim community and Kataf, who are mostly Christians in Kaduna State of Nigeria. The judgment was skewed to favour the Muslims. Decree 55 of 1992 was enacted to deny the culprits the right to appeal. In the words of Gandhi again: ‘What is faith worth if it is not translated into action?’ When you meet our limping former leaders today, you would never think they are reaping from their injustice of yore. The wages of karma are inexorable.”
Bishop Ajakaye was the pioneer editor of the Ekiti Diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Echo, and also served as member of the Editorial Board of Catholic Theologians Association of Nigeria. Ajakaye became the Bishop of Ekiti in April 2010, at the retirement of Reverend Michael Olatunji Fagun, now Bishop Emeritus of Ekiti.