Reverend NwosuÂ Â Chibuike Thompson,Â founder and general overseer of Redeemed Peoples Church turned 60 years recently. He used the occasion to launch his autobiography, Journey into Destiny which chronicled his life and his 38 years in ministry. He spoke on his motivation and other national issues in this interview with Taye Obateru, Jos. Excerpts…
May we know how you got into ministering?
I got born again at the age of 21 precisely in 1970 soon after the civil war. I became a preacher the following year, and started working with a ministry in Lagos called Full Gospel Society. I was employed as a driver and was driving the gospel van. That gave me the privilege of taking preachers out on evangelism and crusades. That was what I had at the back of my mind when I was going to Lagos.
As I started preaching; people started talking to the overall head of the ministry and that was how I was taken from being a driver into working as an evangelist. At 24, I was posted to Jos to represent Full Gospel Society. That was how I started going from city to city holding evangelistic crusades which were quite fantastic. I continued with Full Gospel Society as a regional head until 1977 when I resigned and planted the church known today as Redeemed Peoples Mission.
Why did you decide to write the book?
I feel that my life story have a lot of lesson to teach the youth. Number one is that you can avoid wasting your life. You see, young people are very strong; they have stamina. But quite often they waste that stamina. Another lesson is that they can avoid damaging their lives and future.
Many people say I donâ€™t look 60, but I even feel younger inside of me. I have a small gym in my compound; some of my boys cannot do some things I do, because from my youth when God captured me, I have avoided the things other youth do that could adversely affect oneâ€™s health. I have had very fulfilled life, I have lived with very good conscience, I have lived with empty nest…all my children are abroad; they left about 10 years ago. One was able to make judicious use of the little God provided for us to give our children a future and set their lives on the path of progress.
Regarding the book, there is much to learn from it—you will learn about wisdom, leadership, relationship i.e. how to relate with human beings. Iâ€™ve discovered that human beings are the most complex creature. They have a mind of their own, they can betray you. I have suffered that in the ministry. So, I have learnt how to relate with human beings no matter how bad and complex, and get the best out of them. I told my wife that my education is not from this world, itâ€™s from above.
From the book people will learn about the virtue of integrity, efficiency and how to avoid mediocrity. People will learn about networking, parents will learn about child upbringing and how to find a life partner, because success in ministry also depends on whom you are partnering with in marriage. I wrote about culture and about honesty, hard work, Godâ€™s faithfulness. I also discussed about true prosperity. So the book will be a guide on how to live and how not to ruin what God is doing in their lives.
The spate of kidnappings has become a source of concern to many people. What, in your view, is responsible for this?
There was a message I preached sometimes ago which I titled Nigerians are angry, where I was trying to show that if one person decides to appropriate what belongs to the public while the rest of us are watching him enjoying and living big, definitely there will be the temptation for some of the weaklings to become desperate to grasp some crumbs of the â€˜cakeâ€™ in some unconventional ways. Honestly, the issue of governance has created a lot of problem in this country; people becoming excessively rich and the rest are just watching. However, I am not exonerating or justifying the kidnappers because there are still other well meaning Nigerians who are struggling under poverty and yet have not gone the way of kidnappers.
The Jos Crisis in which hundreds of people lost their lives happened about one year ago. As someone who had lived in Jos for a long time, what do you think is responsible for the recurrent crisis?
When you begin to see fundamentalism and terrorism in religion you begin to ask questions as to what religion is meant to do. Religion is supposed to transform people who are useless, lost, and hopeless into responsible human beings. Of course, when I say religion, I am conscious of the fact that Christianity is not just a mere religion, but we use it as a generic word. So, when I see people not having regard to human lives I begin to wonder who is their teacher, and what they are taught. I donâ€™t want to blame their teachers only, because even in my church I teach people not to commit adultery, yet we had a few people who commit adultery. My congregation also has a responsibility to put what I teach into practice. Itâ€™s all about teaching and learning processes.
Are you satisfied with government’s efforts to check a recurrence?
I must say I havenâ€™t been following what has been happening thoroughly. But a situation where I still find it difficult to drive through Angwan-Rogo (a predominantly Hausa/Muslim community in Jos) is not wholesome. I remember how we used to relate with our Muslim brothers and sisters; but that has been thrown out of the window. I wish real peace has returned when we all can leave together irrespective of our religion.
I sympathize with government because I donâ€™t even know how any human being can solve this problem. All I will do is to commend government for what it has done, at least, to ensure that weâ€™ve not had a repeat of it now for about a year. The central government has a crucial role to play in this matter, because I know that Gov. Jonah Jang is not in control of the police, the army and all that. Some of the policies that emanate from his desk may require some fine-tuning from those above. This is why I canâ€™t just put the blame on a particular person.
Preparations for the 2011 would soon start and concerns are already being raised about the issue of credible elections. What do you think needs to be done to make our elections credible?
First, I would like to plead with politicians and most especially those in the ruling party, PDP, to allow this our so-called democracy to take firm root. I had a member from my headquarters church who left his legal practice and went to his home state because he felt he was the right person, and he was actually winning. But the night before the primaries, his own party asked him to step down for the other person.
And he just had to do that and his opponent had all the money. He knew what was going to happen to him, if he did not step down. That is not democracy. We need to re-survey what we are doing. I sympathize with the Nigerian electorate. If you know you are going to stand throughout the day to cast your vote and your vote will not count; youâ€™ll feel bad and ask why you should even vote at all. We need to be reassured that we are ready for democracy. INEC must truly be independent. So, it falls back to the government of the day. It must not dictate to INEC.