By Sam Eyoboka –
THE umbrella body of Christians in the country, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN has been very vehement in its opposition to the proposed Islamic banking in Nigeria. They see the move being promoted by the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as an attempt to Islamise the country.

In this interview, the National President of CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor gave reasons why the Christians are not comfortable with the current moves. Excerpts….

What is your problem with Islamic banking

First, I want to begin by saying, I like Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. In my own opinion, he’s one of the people you can look at in this country and say, this is a man that has what it takes to articulate what he believes; whether it’s right or wrong, good or bad. So, for that, I admire him. We are not against Muslims.

Muslims are our brothers and Sisters. Nigeria is a nation that has both Muslims and Christians. It doesn’t matter what we say, Muslims will always be here. It doesn’t matter what Muslims think, Christians will always be here. We might as well accept each other and be happy, because that’s the reality. So, we appreciate them and wish them well.

Pastor Oritsejafor, CAN president

The problem is this; what the original CBN Act or whatever it was it says, was non-interest banking. The original thing was just non-interest banking. Islamic banking is just one kind among many other kinds of non-interest banking. So, why would CBN, an organization, an institution that represents the Federal Government, that is an institution that represents all Nigeria zero in on only one kind of non-interest banking. This is the problem with Sanusi and his idea.

In education, there’s only one set of guideline for those who want to establish schools. The Ministry of Education or any other institution charged with the responsibility in Nigeria will not come out with Islamic guideline, Christian guideline, or native doctor guideline. It’s only one basic, level playing field guideline for education. You want to start a school, you take the guideline to go and start. We have Islamic universities in Nigeria. We have Christian universities. Do they have different guidelines? They all have the same guidelines. This is what we are saying.

Now, the guidelines for non-interest banking has been changed two or three times. Why is Sanusi changing it? It’s because he is discovering his mistakes. But he doesn’t want to own up to it. What he’s doing is that he twists it a little bit here, twists it a little bit there. Now, the latest guideline came out on the June 21. If you study it, it says, Islamic banking, number one. Then number two-other non-interest banking. That to us is discriminating—discriminating against non-Muslims.Why would you put Islamic banking on one side, all other non-interest banking on one side?

What makes Islamic banking special or more special? What makes it different from other non-interest banking? So, these are the issues. Also, if you keep looking closer, you discover that even the Islamic banking itself is not quite very clear. Now before I come to that, they have a conference going on now in Abuja (the conference opened on Monday). Why have an Islamic banking conference? Why not have a non-interest banking conference? This is what we are saying.

CBN has no business promoting a special, specific, religious kind of banking. CBN should be promoting non-interest banking. And everyone who is interested in non-interest banking should be invited to a non-interest banking seminar or conference. So, are you seeing the problem we are looking at here?

Now, a lot of money has been spent promoting Islamic banking. Why? It’s wrong. It’s unfair to spend all that money-government’s money on a sectional kind of banking. It is those who want to start Islamic bank that have the responsibility to spend that kind of money and do whatever they want to do to promote their bank. Why should you, as CBN governor of Nigeria, be promoting that sectional banking? Is he telling us now that when Christians start their own, he’d go through all these? I have been told by a reliable source that he has employed a lot of people specifically to run and promote Islamic banking. How do you do that with state money? You have no right to that.

Now, let us look at Islamic banking itself,he’s told us there will be no discrimination. Okay? He has also told us that Islamic banking is governed by Sharia principles, which means if I am a piggery farmer, and I go to Islamic bank and say I need a loan, would they give me? The answer is no. So, how can you now say that they are not discriminating? They’re discriminating. It’s obvious.

So, since it’s like that, CBN has no business promoting it. It a private venture. Those who are interested in it can promote it for themselves because it’s obvious that it’s a sectional thing. So we don’t quarrel with Muslims who want Islamic bank. Go ahead, have Islamic bank, but not at the expense of Nigeria. So, CBN has no business getting into it.

Now a lot of people have said that even this so-called Islamic bank can be used for terrorism, for money laundering and to bring in money for terrorists. Sanusi has told us it’s not possible. But I was reading a newspaper on Monday where he revealed that in 1990 or 1999, there were two banks, according to him, that applied for Islamic banking license and one of them was al Quaeda. They applied for licence at that time. And according to him, they were turned down. What stops Al Quaeda from applying now through other sources, like getting Nigerians who sympathise with them to make sure they meet all the guidelines? They’d start it, but it will be owned by terrorists.

Okay, even if it’s not owned by terrorist, if those who start it are sympathizers with terrorists, what happens? So, there are lots of implications. Again, like I said I don’t quarrel with Islamic banking because we have a lot of Muslims in Nigeria. But my point is, CBN and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, have no business promoting it. That is the issue. And there should be one guideline that covers all non-interest banking. And then, let everybody go into the field and fight for themselves, get customers for themselves. CBN is not supposed to be in charge of promoting it. This is the problem, especially using state funds to promote Islamic banking.

Everyday, I listen to Sanusi it puzzles me how a man can go all the way with this kind of thing and hold on to it; and to imagine that some Nigerians, for whatever reason, are applauding him. In fact, is this the time to be promoting Islamic banking? Look at the tension in the nation. Well, I read in the newspapers that he is appealing to Muslims not to join issues with us. Why is he doing that? It’s because the thing is becoming a problem. Now, it’s raising the tension in the country.

But some people say if there’s anyone heating up the polity, it’s Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor. How do you react to this accusation?

Again, you see, it always puzzles me that it is people like us that respond to the wrong things that people do that are accused of heating up the polity? The person who started the issue (Islamic banking) is the one who is really heating up the polity, not the one who is responding to something. Now this is the problem.

That was why I said sometime ago, at whose expense do we always talk about the unity of Nigeria . Is there a certain group in this country that must continue to pay the price for the unity? We just pay them, sit down and allow other people to do whatever they like.

And after they’ve done it and we respond to it, they say we are the ones causing the problem. It puzzles me. The person heating the polity is Sanusi. They should direct their accusations and their problems to him. What do they mean that I am the one heating up the polity? That I should let Sanusi have his way?

Not exactly. They say since you have access to Mr. President, who is a fellow Niger Deltan, you should seek audience with him and resolve whatever issues you have…

(cuts in) Listen to me, he is the president of the whole federation. He’s not the president of Niger Delta.

And he’s a fellow Christian…

But that doesn’t mean he’s a president of just the Christians. He’s a president of both Moslems andChristians.

As a Christian, what makes you think the president would sit down and watch the country being islamised ?

Well, let me say this; do you really know how he feels? I don’t know, and you don’t know.

Why don’t you go to him?

I don’t want to go to him because I don’t want it to look as if because he is a Christian, that is why we’re approaching him to get him to act. No, no, no. What we’re doing is, we’re making the public to know exactly what is happening; the agenda of these gentlemen. And to make the public know that something is wrong. I think it’s my responsibility as a leader of a group of people, who are probably more than half of the total population of this country to address this issue.

I can’t sit down and watch this kind of thing happening. It’s wrong. Again, I repeat, what we’re simply saying is; have one guideline for non-interest banking. Stop this issue of having one set of guideline for Islamic banking and another set of guideline for other non-interest banking. If all is non-interest banking, then there should be a level playing field. We shouldn’t have one for this and one for that. That is discriminatory.

Do you really see this thing as a Sanusi’s agenda or you think he’s being remotely controlled somewhere?

Well, I don’t have proof of anybody remotely controlling him. At the same time, I don’t rule it out. But the person I see is Sanusi. Wherever he got this idea from, something is wrong. He should reconsider, and understand that he’s governor of a Central Bank, that is not a Muslim Central Bank. It’s Nigeria’s Central Bank, for all Nigerians.

I don’t know whether you’ve heard that the approval for Islamic banking was actually done by Prof. Soludo?

First of all, I don’t know why Soludo is not speaking out. He knows why. He has his reasons. He’s very quiet on this. Now, the question is, did Soludo write out non-interest banking just for Islamic banking? Is that what Soludo did? Or did Soludo put together the guideline for non-interest banking? I would be very surprised if Soludo did a guideline for Islamic banking.

I suspect that that is not what Soludo did. I believe what Soludo probably did was to set out guidelines for non-interest banking, which is okay, which is exactly what we’re talking about. We’re talking about non-interst banking. Soludo could not have come out with only Islamic non-interest banking guideline.

As journalists, investigate what I have said now. Go and find out very well. Or if you see Sanusi, ask him. Let him tell us the truth, or bring out the original thing that Soludo did. Let Nigerians see it. And if Soludo drew up the guideline just for Islamic banking, we’d like to question Soludo as to how he came up with that. So it’s not for Sanusi to keep referring to him. The reason he’s doing that is because he knows Soludo is a Christian.

So he has decided to use that as a very comfortable and convenient cover. But even at that, does it mean a Christian cannot do something wrong? A Christian too can be wrong. So assuming Soludo actually did that, Soludo is wrong. Will I say because he is a christian, I won’t say he’s wrong? But I am not very sure that’s what Soludo did. So Sanusi should bring out the exact thing that Soludo did.

I would be shocked if Soludo would ever do that, because that man is a man with international understanding of how the economics of the world operates. He wouldn’t have had that kind of narrow-mindedness that would make him just draw up a guideline for Islamic banking.

Sanusi also said that he invited the Christian leadership to a conference where he could have explained the intricacies of Islamic banking, but you didn’t show up

That is not true. Well, probably you didn’t hear him well. Or you didn’t get what he said well. The truth is (laughs) this issue of Islamic banking has been on for a long time. When did he try to contact me? He never did until last week Thursday. Last week Thursday, I had a national meeting of Christian leaders in Abuja .

I was already in the meeting with my key leaders when somebody called me. Sanusi didn’t talk to me. Somebody called me and said Sanusi is asking if he could come to that meeting to explain to us what Islamic banking is? And my reply was no. Are you getting what I am saying? We were in a national meeting; we didn’t plan for Sanusi. We didn’t gather because of Sanusi. He got wind of the meeting and so he was trying to take advantage of it. So, we don’t know the reason why he wanted to show up in that meeting. And the meeting had started already. So for him to say he wanted to come and we rebuffed him is not correct. Let him tell the truth to the public. It’s not as if he planned the meeting. Or we agreed on a meeting and we didn’t show up.

In fact, after this meeting I am talking about now, we had a press conference. There, a reporter asked me, ‘Sanusi has been telling people he consulted widely with stakeholders, did he consult with you.’ And I said, no. Sanusi never consulted with us. Sanusi was only trying to consult with us last Thursday. When this process had gone on for so long, you’ve changed your policy two, three times, you’ve done all these, now you’re contacting us just last Thursday.

We were already in a meeting, so we should have stopped that meeting, put aside whatever we had to discuss just so you can come. No, we can’t do that. So I sent back after consultation with my colleagues to him that it was not convenient right then. That was what I told him.

And ever since then, he hasn’t tried to reach out to or make contact with you?

Not at all. So I was shocked when I read what he was saying in Kano . In fact, to be honest with you, some of my colleagues said thank God we didn’t allow him come; because only God knows how he would have twisted whatever happened in the meeting. We were shocked when we read him in the papers saying in Kano that he tried to consult with us.

Are you disappointed?

Yes, I am highly disappointed in him that he would go to that extent. Is this a man that really wants to work with people? I don’t think so. Now if you wanted to go to your Islamic conference to kind to get more support from them, make noise and say all kinds of things, you ought to have told them the whole story. You ought to have let them know that all this while, at least, in the last one year that you have been doing all what you’ve been doing, you never contacted us.

Let’s be honest, CBN and the National Christian Centre, we’re neighbours. We’re opposite each other. This man never made any contact with us for the one year or so that he’s been in this process. We’re neighbours. His office is here, my office is there. Are you getting what I am saying? It was last Thursday and because our offices are very close, he somehow knew that we were going to have a meeting. We were already in the meeting when my phone rang. Do you understand what I am saying?

And it wasn’t him?

And it wasn’t even him that phoned. It was one of our Christian leaders who was supposed to be in that meeting himself that called me that Sanusi got in touch with him and he was asking whether we can admit him into our meeting. So I brought the matter to my fellow leaders because, not too long after, this very gentleman came and joined us in the meeting. So I threw it to them.

Look, I don’t want to start talking too much, but I am disappointed in Sanusi.

But whether you’re disappointed in him or not, Sanusi has said there’s no going back on Islamic banking.

Well, let us wait and see. I have no comment. Let us just wait and see. That is all I would want to say for now.

But the man is going ahead with it…

I wish him the best. Let us wait and see. That is all I will tell you. I know that CAN as an organisation would not want to comment on that right now. but like I have said, let’s wait and see.

But it is only proper you spell out your course of action so that your followers can know the sentiment of CAN in this matter

Just wait and see.

But you are already being accused of incitement and heating the polity.Why don’t you tell us once and for all what you intend to do?

Again, I have told you, go and meet Sanusi. He’s the one inciting one section of the country against the other. If he didn’t go into the issue of Islamic banking, we wouldn’t be where we are now. If Sanusi was talking about non-interest banking, period, we’d not be where we are now. So, I am not going to talk further. I know that he has said that we should go to court. Let’s wait and see. Can’t you wait a bit? Wait a bit. Give me a few more days and then ask me again.

One person that was visibly missing at the Islamic banking conference in Abuja was Mr. President. Didn’t that surprise you?

(Sighs) Am I the president?

Go and ask him.

Would you have felt let if he had been in attendance?

I have no comment. I am not the president. Go and ask him why he wasn’t there. So, I have no comment. I am not the president. I would not answer that. I leave it to Sanusi and those who are promoting one type of non-interest banking when there are other non-interest banking. They are trying to polarise the polity.

But some people have said, if you feel so strongly about Islamic banking, why don’t you push for Christian banking.

We won’t be do that because when you start a wrong thing, you cannot in anyway correct a wrong thing by just throwing in something in the middle. If you want to correct a wrong thing, go to the root of that wrong thing and correct it from there.

At least, that would balance the ticket?

No. that is not a balance. That is a dangerous precedent. We don’t want to see that in Nigeria . Nigeria is a secular nation. Somebody said it’s a multi-religious nation. It’s a secular nation.

The UK , US and South Africa are secular nations, but you have Islamic banking there. Yet the world have not come to a standstill. So why are you bent on creating a storm in a tea cup over this issue?

Alright, let me ask two questions…They have Islamic banking in the UK . Good. Number one, in the UK , do they have the council of Shariah experts that are interpreting Islamic banking in the Exchequer (Central Bank of the UK )? Let Sanusi and his people give us that answer.

My number two question is how much does the Islamic banking bring into the economy of Britain ? We would also want to know. What does it add to it? Look at Pakistan , look at India . They were once one country. They were divided on the same day. Pakistan operates Islamic banking, while india operates regular banking. Look at the two countries; which is doing well and which is not doing well? Do I have to tell anybody. The facts are there for all to see.

From the reports that I have, even in Saudi Arabia , which is the headquarters of all moslems, and anything Sharia in the world, is there oil industry operated with Sharia law? The answer is no. It is operated by regular banking. If the Islamic banking is so wonderful, why is it not operated like that? It is operated with regular banks. Go and check some of these things, you would see what I mean. Go round; you will notice that the country they are mentioning that are stable are not so because of Islamic banking.

Now, when they took us into OIC, they told us that OIC will make Nigeria to become great. That the economy will boom. It is that what has happened? Please, let them tell me the benefits we are getting from our membership of OIC as an organisation? I will be very interested. Name them for us and let us see.

There’s no  benefit from OIC. So, you see, there are certain things that seem nice on the surface; that you can decorate, make look nice and present to be very nice to the public. But does that makes it anything? So, these are just empty things that are well decorated. Let us be very honest with ourselves; is it Islamic banking that would change the economy of Nigeria ? We would be deceiving ourselves. Let us look at other nations; how many nations in this world can tell you that where they are now economically is because of Islamic banking? There’s not one. Not one. No single nation can tell you that.

So we have to be very careful whatever we’re doing and where we’re going. The way we’re going, we’d run into serious problem, if care is not taken. We don’t want a situation where Nigeria becomes a country where Moslems would do this, Christians would do that. Is this a country based on religion? Is this not a secular country? Ours is a secular nation. That’s what our constitution stands for. So what exactly are we doing to ourselves? That is why we’re saying Sanusi is the one dragging us into a religious conflict because he is now bringing religion into the economy and into banking. It’s a very strange development for the governor of a Central Bank of a country.

In a way, some of us are not too surprised because most of the papers he has written, and most of his degrees are in Sharia. You know, this man is a cleric. He’s a mallam. I don’t know, let me not make comment that would be very vexing.

Are you saying he’s too partisan to be a CBN governor

He’s too sectional, in my opinion. He’s too sectional. I don’t know if partisan is the word. He’s too sectional. Like I said, I don’t know why anybody would want to blame us who make comments rather than the person who starts the problem. We know that a few years ago when Soludo was there, Nigerians went into a strong debate and finally, the Arabic lettering in the Naira was removed.

Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba were brought in. have you look at your Naira now? do you still have Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba? They are not there again. The Islamic letterings are there again. For God’s sake, what is wrong with this man. The emphasis is always on Islam. A Central Bank governor, without talking to Nigerians; I don’t know if the president gave him permission to do this; where did he get his permission from? How did he come about this?

Look at the Naira; there’s no Ibo, Yoruba or Hausa. But if I talk, you people would say I am the one stirring up the trouble. The man who is certainly doing this thing, accuse him. He’s creating problem. What is happening is that some of us take notice of these things and we’re crying out. We’re saying, look, watch this man. This is the man dragging Nigeria into trouble.

Boko Haram problem is there. There is situation of insecurity. The country is tensed up. And this man is adding to it at this time. He should be cautioned. Enough is enough. He should calm down and let Nigeria have peace. Sanusi should stop troubling this nation.

Religion is something that carries fire, if you allow it. And it carries cold water as well. Why bring religion into economy? With what is going on now, we’re playing with fire. Real fire. This is dangerous. And we’re not the one stirring this up. It is the man who is adamant; saying, ‘I would do it. Only the court can stop me.’ The Central Bank governor talking like this? It’s a wonder

America has Central Bank governors; but do you even know their names? If you know their names, how many times do you even hear them speak? You hardly hear their voices. But our own Central Bank governor, oh God. In fact, I don’t think politicians are as loud as him. He’s one of the 37 governors in Nigeria ; and he’s louder than all the ones elected. The one appointed is so loud. The ones elected are not as loud as himself. He’s the one causing problem for the country.

What would you want to see as a way out of the problem?

Sanusi has already suggested going to court.

So are you taking his bait?

Like I said, I don’t want to comment on that yet. Give me a few days. But also, on the other hand, all Sanusi has to do is to be reasonable. To see the handwriting on the wall; that in every segments and sections of the Nigerian government, there are guidelines: guidelines governing education, guideline governing telecommunication, guidelines governing different things in Nigeria . In all these sectors, we don’t have duplicated guidelines. It is usually one uniform guideline. Why highlight religion?

Why don’t you just have one guideline that covers all non-interest banking? If you do that, it doesn’t stop Moslems from getting a license. They can get their license just like any other non-interest banking. And you don’t have to invest money into if for them. Let them get their license. Let them use their known money to promote Islamic banking; to get Nigerians interested in Islamic banking.

Why must it be the Central Bank governor? I think there are enough problems in the country right now that the Central Bank governor should be interested in. But instead, he’s concerned with Islamic banking. That’s what his trouble is; making it look like Islamic banking is going to solve all our problems.

Look at all the banks he told us were dying; and he pumped in billions of Naira. What is the situation with those banks? Sometimes, we hear they are about to be sold. At other times, we hear they will be liquidated. There are kinds of things we are hearing. What is going on? Are those banks healthy? Are we in a stable banking situation right now in the country? If he has not sold those ones, why create other problems? I just cannot understand.

In view of unfolding events in the country, the latest of which is the Boko Haram, do you have any fear for this country, particularly given the FBI report the Nigeria may break up in 2015?

Well, first of all, many years ago, IBB reportedly said he didn’t know how Nigeria was still existing. Nigeria has existed as one up till this moment not so much because of our resolve to live together, work together and do things right. But I think God has been merciful.

Somehow, there has been a divine touch to helping Nigeria remain one. But as we look at the trends, the events, the things happening, it is really frightening. I was looking at the newspapers and I saw Boko Haram were trying to blow up north-south bridge and all of that. You see, the thing is developing very fast. It’s strange when you sit down and analyse all these things.

Now while we’re still grappling with all that, Sanusi is coming with Islamic banking again. I am afraid. I want to continue to pray and ask those who love Nigeria to continue to pray. But as we pray, let us on our own say to ourselves, we want Nigeria to remain one; because if we don’t decide like that, we’re trying to fulfil prophesy by ourselves. It’s like we want to help the (FBI) report to happen faster than even what the people were predicting. So that is my fear.

What I am saying is that there are people working towards it. And it’s very frightening.

Sir, you are the co-chair of NIREC with the Sultan. Have you taking this complaint to the body and what has been the attitude from it?

The problem is that we’ve not had a NIREC meeting for a while. We may not have it till September. That is quite sometime. There are some things I would have said, but I don’t want to get into it. Then again, I would be accused of heating up the polity.

Pastor, I heard it from good authority that your counterparts in NIREC, and CAN too, are not too comfortable with your style. They find it too volatile, too revolutionary. How do you react to such charges? Have any apologies

Not at all. But I am hoping that that is not what they think. I am hoping that is not what they think or what they said. But if that’s what they think or said, I wish them the best, because I believe when you go to an organisation, you’re representing something, someone or a group of people.

So, I have a responsibility to represent my constituency. I am not there just to represent myself. I there representing a group of people. So I must do what they sent me there to do. And as much as possible, that’s what I am doing.

My concern is not with those people levelling the allegation. My concern is with the people who sent me. If the people who sent me there say ‘were uncomfortable with the way you’re doing, don’t do it like that, do it like this,’ then I am obligated to follow the instructions of those who sent me there. I am a servant of those who sent me there. I am doing what I believe they want me to do.

They believe as a Christian leader, you should be temperate. Not unduly radical, or so they say, because now, they see you more as a fire-spitting activist than a religious leader. Instead of being meek, you are mean, so to speak. What’s your reaction?

Well, again, the issue is this…I have always said that when I need to speak, I must speak, because I am representing people. When you look at events that have been happening in the north, who are the majority of people who are killed? Whose houses are burnt? Whose businesses are destroyed? Whose places of worships are destroyed? The majority of people killed, whose businesses and places of worship are destroyed, are Christians. These are the people I am representing.

If it was the other way round, my counterpart will not be quiet. He will speak up. But, now he really has no issue to be speaking about. They have no issue here. Yes, agreed, that sometimes, Moslems are killed. If you hear that one mosque is burnt, at least, 20 churches have already been burnt. So you have to understand that the issues on ground for me are heavy.

Your cross is heavier than that of your counterpart?

Very, very heavy. In fact, probably 100 times heavier. He doesn’t even have a cross. A Crescent is what he has. Look, I am from the south, please tell me, since you were born, how many mosques in the south had been burnt? Please, count them for me. How many Moslems have been targeted and killed in the south, since you were born? How many? Personally, I don’t think I can even remember. I am sure the reason I can’t remember is because probably it has never happened or one in a million.

If such things were happening in the south, do you think my friends on the other side would be quiet? In fact, by now, Nigeria would be on fire.

But look at it, every day, or every other day. When you check, Christians are always on the receiving end. So it would be very wrong of me as a leader to be quiet and be looking.When you read the Bible, Jesus was very mild and temperate. But He caned people out of the church. There were situations where Jesus reacted to issues. He call a king a fox. A king at that time was like the president of a country.

So Jesus called the president of a country, a fox. It is something that brings something. So, it is not that one is just an activist. Who is an activist?

They say you are too hot for their liking?

That is for their liking. What about my own people who are being killed? You must not only consider yourself. Consider me and consider my people that are being killed. So, as long as I am quiet, I am a nice man? Why should I be quiet? What do they want me to do; just to go and sleep in Warri? I can’t fall asleep now. I am alive. I have to look at issues as they come. Why is it that you’re not working on your people to stop doing this? Am I the only one that would for the unity of Nigeria ? Shouldn’t we work together? It has to be a join effort and a joint project. Haba!

The issue is, they want you to bring the matter for discussion in the room rather than taking them to the market place.

Let me tell you this, for example, when the elections were concluded and the killings started, I was the one who called the Sultan, I called him, Your Eminence, my friend, look at what is happening. I was the one who told him, let us make a joint statement. Then  he would call the co-ordinator of NIREC to do a statement and show me, and then send it out. I initiated that.

There was a reason why at a point, I had to shout that they should pick up Buhari. There are some things I won’t say.

This Sanusi thing that is on ground now, I can’t talk too. You don’t know what I have initiated. I don’t want to go into all of it, because if I do, it may be misunderstood and misinterpreted.

A lot of things are unfortunate in Nigeria . I cannot keep quiet. I can’t do that. My conscience won’t let me. I would be a wicked man to do that; when I see these things clearly with my own eyes.

The Sultan is my friend. He’s a good man. A wonderful man. But there are issues on ground.

But the way you’re going, you just might be a target of some extremists. Are you not afraid you may be taken out?

I don’t fear for my life because, first of all, my life is in the hands of God since almost 40 years ago that I gave him. I know that I would not leave this world until I have finished my purpose on earth. God brought me here for a peupose. And I would accomplish it.

A lot of people have been talking to me. They have warned me to be careful, because of certain things they have seen, heard and all of that. I am not afraid for my life. That is the truth. God is able to defend me.

Is Nigeria worth dying for?

I think so. The reason I say that is not because of the entity called Nigeria . But because of the human beings. So I would rather re-phrase your question: are Nigerians worth dying for? I would say, yes, because it is the people that make a nation.

So, you can do it for Nigeria ?

That’s the truth. Nigeria is that is important to me.

That’s what’s driving you?

That’s what is driving me. You, see, I sit down sometimes, and it breaks my heart to see a great nation looking like nothing. So great and yet so small. So powerful and yet so weak. So rich and yet so poor. So many people, and yet, it’s like nobody. It’s puzzling to me. It breaks my heart.

Since you assumed office as CAN president, you’ve so preoccupied yourself with socio-politico matter, that I am beginning to feel you’ve relegated your pastoral duties. What has it been like?

You know, what you’re saying now, I have thought about it. But my conclusion was, the truth is who are the people that I am pasturing? They are Nigerian. This same Nigerians are part of the socio-political and economic situations you’re talking about. So, what I am doing is actually still pasturing. I am still preaching and doing exactly what God called me to do. So, it’s still not different. There are situations where I have to preach or put it in form of homiletics. So, it’s part of my pastoral responsibility.

I am the pastor of every Christian in Nigeria . That is the truth. That’s what it is; good or bad. That is where I find myself.

Finally, what is you advise to the president?

I would say categorically that the impression I am getting is that a lot of the problem we’re seeing are intentional problems that are being put there as boobby traps for this man; to see how they can stop him from succeeding. To distract him, make things very difficult for him so that he cannot concentrate on actually governing the nation; from taking care of the needs of the people he made promises to during his campaign.

So they want to keep him struggling with security and a lot of challenges while the real issues are left unattended to. I think that is what is happening. So I really would encourage him to look at some of these things as distractions that he should find ways to deal with quickly, so that he can concentrate on the real things. It’s very important. It should be. And there are ways to deal with these things. But I don’t think public domain is the best place to say it to him.

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