All eyes were on the former Chief of Staff to President Goodluck Jonathan who was recently relieved of his appointment, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe as he reappeared in Rome where President Jonathan visited Pope Francis.
The visit in which President Jonathan and Pope Francis held extensive discussions on Nigeria’s position on same-sex marriage law recently passed in the country, was also attended by the Governor of Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio, his Benue State counterpart, Gabriel Suswam.
Some of the notable personalities in the President’s delegation were his wife, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, Benue State Governor’s wife, Yemisi Suswam, former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, the wife of the Senate President Helen Mark, the Minister of State Foreign Affairs, Professor Viola Onwuliri, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), National Publicity, Secretary, Olise Metuh.
The Executive Secretary of Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission, Kennedy Opara, disclosed to newsmen at the Holy Sea after President Jonathan’s audience with the Pope as well as his tour of the Vatican City, that the President used the opportunity to state Nigeria’s position on same sex-marriage while the Pope commended Jonathan’s effort in tackling the various challenges facing the country.
The Pilgrims from Anambra, Kaduna and the Federal Capital Territory, were part of President Jonathan’s delegation to Vatican City in Rome, Italy but remained at the courtyard while the audience with Pope Francis and Monsignor Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
Also Nigerian residents in Italy were also in the Vatican City to join President Jonathan in the Papal audience.
President Jonathan’s visit to the Holy See was also an attempt to re-establish contact with the Holy See authorities because they have an important part to play in Nigeria’s affairs, according to the Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Dr. Francis Okeke.
He also conclude his pilgrimage which he started in Israel, October last year. The Ambassador recalled that the Christian religion brought education to Nigeria over 100 years ago, and the Holy See played an important part with other Christian religions in supporting education in Nigeria.
Speaking to newsmen after the Papal audience, the Governor of Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio, said Nigeria will benefit alot from President Jonathan’s visit to the Holy Sea.
According to him, Jonathan was the first sitting President to pay a visit to the Pope at the Vatican.
Akpabio said, “I think this is very good because I believe what Nigeria needs is spiritual rebirth and that is what the President is doing. He is not just doing physical transformation but wants to ensure we also have spiritual transformation, this is so that our children will turn away from vices that try to bring disrepute to Nigeria. I believe strongly that it is at a period like this that God made him a President of this country, to chart a new course for the future of Nigeria, so this visit will be of great benefits.
“Also the Vatican as you know is run as a country and so we have also entered into cooperative arrangements in terms of education and health care in Nigeria.
“At the end of the day you are going to have a lot of people coming from the Holy Sea to chart a new course in the education and health care sectors and by implication enhance the living standards of Nigerians. So I’m excited that we are bringing the Holy Sea to Nigeria and by implication bringing the catholic community which is also the largest in Nigeria closer to the federal government”.
Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam on his part said the benefits of the visits are two folds, “first the divine benefits that the President as the representative of the country has gone from the Pope himself and also the fact that there are other bilateral issues that the President also discussed with the Vatican. You know that the Vatican in the area of health and education are doing very well. So I believe that we have benefited both spiritually and also in the area of health and education.
“For some of us that are here, we have taken a lot of blessings and gifts from the Pope that I believe will in turn impact positively on the country”, he said.
Suswam also said he in particular prayed against the incessant attacks from the Fulani herdsmen. “We are actually going through a phase in the country and we need a lot of prayers. Part of the prayers from Pope Francis was against the violence we are experiencing in Nigeria and I believe we will begin to see a lot of difference when we get back”.