Ironically, it was the Vatican Press itself that first maligned and disparaged the new Pope Francis I as the “unpredictable pope”. Nothing could be further from the truth. The new Holy Father is simply a dazzler with a very direct message – he has no time for those whose sole ambition in life is to be the richest person in the cemetery. For him, it is the poor and the underprivileged who are truly deserving of his love, concern and prayers. There is nothing phony about him. What you see is what you get. He says what he thinks is right and thinks what he says.
According to the new pontiff, his top priority is to launch a new era of reconciliation driven by dialogue with Muslims as well as to stretch out a hand of friendship to China. At his first press conference, the Holy Father declared: “I want to build on the positive initiatives of Pope Benedict XVI. As head of the Catholic Church, I must reach out to other faiths. Pontiff means ‘bridge-builder’ and we need to embark on a new journey with countries with which we do not have relations. In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God while ignoring other people. Hence, it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam.”
Ironically, while the Holy Father was speaking, Forbes Magazine was distributing complimentary copies of its latest edition to journalists and the “Seventy Senior Citizens from Nigeria”. It turns out that, according to Forbes, the world has 210 more billionaires than last year, bringing the global total to a record 1,426 billionaires who command an aggregate wealth of $5.4 trillion. The numero uno is the 62-year-old Mexican multi-billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, whose vast business empire spanning telecommunications, banking, commodities, etc is estimated at a mind-boggling $73 billion. The new “cardinal” among the billionaires is Amancio Ortega, the retail magnate whose Zara brand has earned him a staggering $57 billion in a matter of a few years after a modest beginning in Spain, where his name is a close second to the Barcelona Football Club in popularity and power.
As for Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi billionaire who visited Nigeria recently, he is really pissed off with Forbes for estimating his wealth at a “measly” $20 billion from $29 billion last year. On Al Jazeera, he was incandescent with rage. Following the installation of Pope Francis I and his insistence that at the focus of Vatican IV should be on the “poorest and the weakest”, the station has duly obliged with a daily focus on Africa. Sample: BREAKING NEWS: “Nigeria sitting on keg of gunpowder – Obasanjo” (Daily Trust, March 22, 2013).
According to the report, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, while delivering the 16th Public Lecture of the Agricultural Rural Management Training Institute (ARMIT) in Ilorin recently, said: “I will never stop talking about job creation because when you look at the number of people we are turning out from our universities now, it is going to almost 150 percent; we have a problem. If boys and girls are coming out of the universities without any hope of employment, we are sitting on a keg of gunpowder.” Nigeria, according to him, would drastically reduce its unemployment rate by unlocking the huge potentials in agriculture.
The former president said African governments and agro-businesses have failed to take full advantage of the opportunities agriculture presents the continent, saying agriculture is a key component of African economies providing up to 70 percent of employment in countries such as Tanzania.
A second report, “66 million Nigerians lack access to potable water – UNICEF” (Daily Trust, March 22, 2013), says that Nigeria accounts for 66 million persons out of the 783 million people worldwide living without potable water. This was contained in a statement by Geoffrey Njoku, communication specialist of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).
As for the chartered accountants who have been protesting in St. Peter’s Square about the lousy deal they received from the four largest accountancy firms, the new Pope has pleaded for pardon. Of special interest is the case of Michael Rake, otherwise known as “Rake’s Progress”. He joined KPMG in 1974, became chairman of KPMG International in 2002, and retired in 2007 with a hefty pension and gratuity. But for the Holy Father’s intervention, the angry chartered accountants wanted to carry their protest to the forthcoming ceremony scheduled for April in London when Michael will bag a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his services to the accountancy profession.
After leaving KPMG, Mike became chairman of BT (British Telecoms) in 2007; and chairman U.K. Commission for Employment and Skills. By 2012 he had become deputy chairman of Barclays Bank which became engulfed in the scandal over the fixing of LIBOR. According to Mike: “There is absolutely no doubt that LIBOR showed poor behaviour in what we call peacetime, indicating there was a problem with culture at the input level, at the supervisory level, at the failure to escalate level. And then there was the complicated situation in October 2008 between the regulator and the bank when we were in wartime.”
The new Pope Francis I is divinely endowed to mitigate the unintended consequences on the “poorest and weakest” chartered accountants.
Randle is a former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and former chairman of KPMG Nigeria and Africa Region. He is currently the chairman, JK Randle Professional Services.
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