Bishop of Praise Centre Ministries, Rt. Rev. Stafford Nwaogu, spoke on a number of national and ecclesiastical issues. In this no-holds-barred interview with our Correspondent, Chidi Nkwopara, in Owerri, the cleric said that Nigeria needed to be pitied. Excerpts.
What is your assessment of Nigeria 52 years after?
Patriotic Nigerians are not very pleased with the way things are moving in this country in the past 52 years of independence. It is very worrisome that crime and criminality has risen to high heavens. Apart from this, corruption has remained the root cause of our under-development. We are also contending with bad governance in the land.
Has your previous views on mass poverty in the land changed?
It has not changed. Honestly, my heart bleeds each time I think about Nigeria and welfare of Nigerians. I wish I had a better way of describing the sorry situation of the citizenry. We have a greater percentage of the hapless and helpless poor in our country today. Honestly, a huge percentage of Nigerians are living in abject poverty in the midst of plenty. We lack basic infrastructure and most often than not, it is responsible for the continuing brain drain amongst the intellectuals.
Where do our leaders come into the ugly picture?
I blame our leaders for the negative direction our dear country has continued to glide to. They have earned reproach for the country. It is a matter for regret that corruption has made every Nigerian a big suspect, especially in foreign lands. The ideal is that every person is supposed to be innocent until proved otherwise but ours is the reverse.
The mere sight of a Nigerian passport at any entry point to foreign lands connotes everything but good tidings for the Nigerian. This sad situation has led to gross dehumanization and undue harassment of Nigerians in other nations. You may not fully appreciate what I am saying until you travel out of Nigeria.
Would you say our religious leaders have failed Nigeria?
I will find it extremely difficult to exonerate religious leaders in our situation. Almost every Nigerian is corrupt. Corruption has made Nigeria lose her position in sports, sanity, health, education and other sectors of the economy. Today, Nigerians travel to smaller countries like Ghana and Gambia to acquire education and treat minor ailments. The level of backwardness accounts for why, after spending billions of Naira, Nigeria could not win even a bronze medal in the last 2012 London Olympics. The paralympians however made the country proud.
What do you say about the security situation in Nigeria?
People are now living in fear today because of the strange of happenings in our land. If it is not ritual killing, we constantly face armed robbers and kidnappers. Apart from the Boko Haram insurgents that have been killing and maiming innocent citizens, even in places of worship, we now face the rage of ocean surge. Nowhere is safe and it appears our leaders are not too sure of what to do to stem the ugly trend.
Say more about Boko Haram please?
These are people that take pleasure in destroying precious lives and property. Christianity preaches that we should leave vengeance to God. That is largely why we have not had reprisal attacks spreading across the country. Nobody or group has the monopoly of violence. Protagonists and sponsors of the dreaded fundamentalist sect must be told in clear terms that there is an elastic limit to everything. Those who have ears to hear should please hear as a word is enough for the wise.
Where do we go from here?
We must denounce our evil ways and return to God. Family values have been badly eroded and this has extended to the larger society. At our recent 18th international convention, we carefully packaged the programme to enlighten the people. We prayed for the sick, handled spiritual matters to meet people’s problems by directing them to God, who is the healer and deliverer.