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We must stop debasing presidential office – Bishop Umunna

Bishop (Prof) Leonard Nwoma Umunna, General Overseer of Bible Life Church located at Ajegunle in Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government Area of Lagos State. He was born on June 25, 1954 at Umuoma Okpofe in Itu, Ezinihitte Local Government Area of Imo State of
Nigeria.

He never had the privilege of attending a primary or secondary school because his uncle could not afford his school fees then but was physically and spiritually challenged the situation and determined to work his destiny to success through God’s ordination.

In the following interview with SAM EYOBOKA, the bishop spoke on the state of the nation. Excerpts… The political turf in the country is now vibrant, and politicians by their utterances are heating up the polity. What is your take?

Bishop-Leonard-Nwoma-Umunna
Bishop-Leonard-Nwoma-Umunna

I think the enlightened world is leaving us behind, just like what happened during the Abacha days when Nigeria was ostracised by the Commonwealth. Because of inept leadership, we are not getting things right; we are busy raising what I can call ‘monkey politicians,’ who cannot follow common issues. They are instead basing their campaign on personalities, just as we are finding it difficult as a country to run government based on institutions.

That’s what has led us to where we are today. We are playing ethnic and religious politics which has not taken us anywhere. Rather than move forward, we are going backwards. I think it should be sounded loud and clear to all politicians that if nothing is done at this stage to stem the tide of biased and personality-based campaign and leadership, our children will reap terribly and they will not be happy with us.

There are still issues concerning the permanent voters’ cards; many people are yet to collect theirs; what do you think is responsible for the challenge?

The Permanent Voters Card is a serious thing but to those successful countries, the issue is no longer about the voters’ card. Some of them use their national ID cards or even the temporary voters’ card which many people have and nobody has come to tell us that the temporary voter’s card is deficient in any way, except the card reader machine they said they are introducing. Why shouldn’t we use the national ID card (though a few people don’t have it) and minimise the current challenges being experienced with the PVC distribution.

Why would they not make provision for those who do not have the PVC, but have the temporary voters’ cards to vote with the TVC? Why would they not come up with other solutions that will make eligible voters cast their votes without trouble? This should not be a reason to disrupt the election or postpone it. The constitution does not allow INEC to do certain things.

Buhari’s certificate has continued to be an issue. Could you please imagine the implication of that for the entire country? How could this affect the youth?

When this kind of politics began to rear its head, people did not see the need to raise alarm; now it has become a centre-stage matter. It is not only about those campaigning now; it will boil down on all of us in the nearest future.

A time may come that whenever a Nigerian is vying for a position or seeking a position outside the country, such a person will be subjected to certificate verification exercise, because they don’t trust us. They will brand all of us corrupt because some people among us have shown a bad example. They should stop this image-smearing and image-damaging thing. What is causing this is that people are going to all manner of places buying certificates and falsifying their certificates. It is high time something was done against this kind of thing.

The other day, President Goodluck Jonathan’s convoy was attacked during his campaign tour of some parts of the North. What is your take on this?

We must look at the root cause of this problem. However, it is not about Jonathan, it goes beyond the person of Jonathan. The office of the president of Nigeria must be respected. We must stop all this bad politics before it gets out of hand and we become a laughing stock to the rest of the world. For a president of a country to be attacked, it tells a lot about us.

We are unconsciously destroying our image before the outside world. We now hear about certificate and age scandals. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Awolowo and others, were they not advanced in age while they were still active in politics, did we ask them to step down on account of that? We must forget about these non-issues. We must deal with this cankerworm of bad politics and non-issue campaigns. We must avoid all this so that we will not all be consumed by this fire of bad politics.

It appears that religion is one of the criteria people consider in Nigeria before voting for candidates; do you think that will play out this time around?

Well, I must tell you that God didn’t mind who He chose as king in Israel, provided such a person is upright in His eyes. I mean in Israel, purely a religious state. Sometimes, army generals ruled, sometimes civilians.

Now, is it the first time a pastor is pairing with General Buhari? The other time, it was Tunde Bakare, now Yemi Osin-bajo. But Osinbajo did not say he was led by God, but that he decided on his own. But what I will say is that as a Christian leader, you should hear clearly from God and indeed, every pastor must hear from God before going into politics.

From what happened to Bakare and Chris Okotie, it does not appear that they really heard from God before they ventured into politics. If you are a true pastor, you are the leader of all, because God has placed their souls in your hands. Your primary concern should be to look after their souls for the kingdom sake. You must remember that Christians who made it to the top, politically, in the Bible days, for instance, Daniel, Jo-seph, Esther etc, made it by appointment and not by election.

The Nigerian constitution must be changed, not just tinkering with it. Last year, a National Conference was held which recommended constitutional amendment, such things may not work. It has been done before and it failed and there’s nothing telling us that it will work now. The question is, how do we solve this problem without creating another one? It is a constitutional thing and the ideal thing is for them to sit down and fashion out a new constitution that will suit the people.

That, of course cannot be done before the general election; they must find amicable way around it. Our problem also has to do with selecting inept leaders and what we are going in again this time around, is selection and not election.

The reason for the threat of violence and use of hard words we have been hearing and reading about is because for the first time PDP is in real competition. Since 1999, the party has been having it easy, but this time around, there is a formidable opposition that is giving the party a run for its money.

Some people think that if Buhari wins, he will pursue the programme of Islamisation of Nigeria, also on the other hand, some people are expressing fears that should Jonathan win, Boko Haram (insecurity), inept governance and corruption and some other vices will continue. It is also feared that if Jonathan loses, Niger Delta militants would blow the oil wells thereby putting the nation’s economy in more trouble.

These are the problems. And I think also that what is happening to Nigeria is a devil’s handiwork to destabilise the country and prevent her from being of help to smaller African countries, since the world recognises Nigeria as an influential black nation on earth.

Do you think that Osinbajo’s pairing with Buhari will enhance the chances of APC in the presidential election and does it seem to you that Christians will likely queue behind Osinbajo?

What I will say is that the Church should watch it. There is a price to pay for every success. They must watch it. Given the type of politics we play in Nigeria, Prof. Osinbajo will see real politics as soon as they win the election; that time, the real thing will emerge. What he never bargained for will emerge. That’s why I said any pastor going into elective position in Nigeria must hear clearly from God.


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