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I’ ve not lost hope in Nigeria — Bishop Mike Okonkwo

Last week, we brought you the first part of Dr. Mike Okonkwo, Presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) interview, as he clocked 64 yeas September 6, 2009.. In this concluding part of the interview conducted by Yemisi Suleiman, the man who is known to boldly declare his mind on issues, even if they are political, declares that only Nigerians can bring positive change to Project Nigeria.  He speaks on other religious  issues and his view on a woman becoming president of Nigeria.
And lots more…enjoy.

What do you have to say about the Boko Haram crises? What is the security implication of the crises for Nigeria?

It is a very critical issue in our country. For some time, we have been crying out aloud that the Federal Government has not dealt with issues of religion and other serious issues in our nation.
You see that every now and then; it keeps occurring in different parts of the country. At the end of it, Christians suffer, churches are burnt, businesses of some Christians are destroyed and some pastors are killed. And, no one is indicted. To me, that is one of the issues I am bothered about. They set a commission of enquiry, they play down on it and all these things never see the light of day. So, they give an impression, even though they keep denying it. They give the impression that there is a master plan to Islamise the country. They went into OIC (an Islamic Organistion) which shouldn’t be because Nigeria is supposed to be a secular country. They went into it and no one is saying anything and we see these things over time.

Dr. Mike Okonkwo with wife
Dr. Mike Okonkwo with wife

For me, it is a dangerous path the Federal Government is toeing; even though some people are trying to tell us that the Boko Haram thing is not religious; (that) it is social unrest. My question is: If, as newspaper reports say it was in a church that they discovered armoury, how will they handle it? Often times, people are killed, businesses are destroyed, churches are destroyed and they don’t even make any effort either by the state governmentt or by the Federal Government to even rebuild these structures, to even show us that they are not participants.

So, it is a dangerous situation, which if not well handled is going to bring an issue that will explode upon us in this nation. Just like the Niger Delta issue. It started gradually; the place was ignored, they abandoned them, they refused to develop the place and the people have seen development from the oil money in other states Y And, they think that it will continue. When a man is already down, where else do you want him to go to? The next thing is to look for what to do and that is how far it has gone in the country. I even wonder whether the amnesty issue is going to change anything.

Is the Amnesty issue the real solution?

For me, it is not going to change anything. After all, we read in the newspapers that there were some discoveries when Tompolo placed was attacked. How come they have not published names of people that are involved? The Federal Government has the report and people are not indicted. As long as the big wigs are hiding, it won’t change anything and those militants know that they are not the brain behind it all. They are just the channels; the real people who are behind it are hiding. So, things must be done properly. We leave issues without dealing with them, possibly because there are sacred cows that must not be handled. Until we begin to face issues head-on as a nation and be sincere about it, we will keep on having this type of case.

If you are to advise the Federal Government on Niger Delta crisis, what will you tell them?
I will tell them to bring every person that is involved to book, beginning from Abuja, down to the military, down to the traditional ruler, up to the oil companies. They should all be brought to book. After all, I read also that Tompolo was being awarded contracts by oil companies.

So, who is fooling who? There are people who are involved in these wicked activities. If the Federal Government is willing to deal with it, let them be sincere and deal with it properly. Let the Federal Government come out with the authority of a government and clamp down the situation.
There are several issues; the issue of ASUU is there and for me, it is part of the fact that we don’t have good leadership. It shows a nation that is drifting. This nation, to me, is on a keg of gun powder, waiting to explode!

There appears to be no solution to it.   How can there be solution when there is no leadership. Until there is good leadership in the nation, not imposed leadership, things will never work out right. It is not that there are no good people to pilot the affairs of this country; the political structure does not give them the opportunity to emerge. That could be a solution to these problems. But when some people have personal interests and agendaY People are benefiting from the crisis so they will like it to continue. What do they have to lose?

Let us have a political machinery and structure that allows credible candidates to emerge in our political system. It will help our nation. We should not impose anything because, when you impose something on people, this is what we get. Look at where we are now. Today, we are now citing Ghana as an example. Is it not an indictment against this country, citing Ghana as an example? It is an insult to Nigeria. And, people sit down there and are not bothered. They don’t bat an eyelid; it doesn’t bother them.

Let us change our political structure. When there is a level playing ground for everybody, I believe we will get there. Moreover, there is no reason why Iwu should still be Chairman of INEC. In view of all the fraud that attended many state elections, why should he be there? He should have been removed from the place.

The other day, someone like the former President Obasanjo was quoted as saying in Owerri when Ohakim was moving back to PDP; he was quoted as saying: “You see that it is us (PDP) that put you there because we know of this; that eventually, you will revert to PDP.” ‘They’ put him means that he was not elected.  So, you see the problem. And, this was coming from somebody who was the president of this country! So, what do you expect the rest of the people to do. “We put you there”; not that the masses voted. So, we have a very unfortunate situation in our hands. Knowing that they are not sincere, everything they do is for their own personal interest. One thing I believe is that, this thing is not going to continue for long. God is interested in this nation. God has his agenda for this nation and anyone who is going to be an obstacle to it, God will remove. I know it will happen.

Do you think that the call by the Federal Government for Lagos State Government to go back to 20 LG A is justified?

Fashola has carefully called it Council Development Areas. I have asked, “Does the FG give him money other than for the 20 local governments and they said “No.” What is the problem? Why should he disturb him? The man has set a standard in this state that others should copy; we should stop distracting what is good for political reasons.

The man is doing very well. We know what Lagos was before he came on board. Because, Lagos was starved of funds that were supposed to be for local governments, the LGs were not developed. Lagos was practically reduced to a village by the OBJ administration. Now, this young man came on board and is working very hard; everyone can see the result. The air in Lagos has changed; everybody is happy.
Who could believe that we will be able to drive through Oshodi and Mushin with that kind of problem on the road before? I don’t know when last I drove from the airport straight and passed through Oshodi. But now, whenever I am coming back, I pass through that place freely, because somebody’s leadership is doing something. So you see, I think that Yar’Adua should not let people push him.

He has a lot of problems in is hands. He has the 7-point agenda and we have not seen one. What are they fighting for? Why are they fighting issues that need not be fought? They should leave Fashola alone and let him do what he is doing for Lagos. We are happy with it. These people should stop all this politics. Unfortunately, our politics in this country is so crude; it is a crude politics. If my party does not get there, let us destroy everything, unlike (what you find in) developed countries. I have not seen Mc Cain going after Obama and saying to him: “Now, I will destroy your policies.” Let us stop this crude politics and think about our people.

Quoting what Bishop Peace said sometime ago, that one day a woman will become Nigeria’s President, what do you have to say about that?

Of course I believe it. I believe it because if a woman handles anything, she succeeds in it. Look at all the women in politics today. They have all helped the country in different ways. It was when Kema Chikwe took over the aviation ministry that we saw changes at our airports. Look at Oby Ezekwesili, due process was her initiative. Now, everyone is running after solid minerals. It was her initiative. They posted her there; she didnt know anything about it but she read books about it and set up structures.
Look at Akunyili; what she did with NAFDAC. Who knew what NAFDAC was before she came on board? No one talked about until it she came there and made impact. I believe without any shadow of doubt in my heart that as we continue, sooner than we expect it, a woman can emerge as president of this country.

Message for the nation?

There is hope for Nigeria in spite of the mess. I have not given up on Nigeria; that is why it is our tradition to keep on awakening our church members to understand that they still belong to this country. So, it is a tradition, in our church, to sing the National Anthem and recite the National Pledge on Sunday and special services and pray for the country. For me, that is why I said that irrespective of what is on ground, I have not lost hope in Project Nigeria.

I know that somehow, something will happen that will turn everything around. All those who are in positions of influence and not doing anything, let them not think that they will stay there forever. I believe that the way things are going, with the trend of things, something is going to turn for the good of this country; that will, once and for all, put an end to all the irresponsibility in governance; that will put the country on the course the Lord has purposed.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.