By Ikenna Asomba
Elated by the successful outcome of the last general elections, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, Thursday, said that despite the assertions of naysayers and uncertified futurologists who predicted the break-up of Nigeria in 2015, the effective prayers of the people of faith moved the hands of God to intervene in the affairs of the country.
In his remark, at a lecture entitled: “The Church and Nigerian Nation: Impact, Challenges and the Way Forward,” to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria (FGCN), held at the National Headquarters of the Church in Lagos, Gowon who chaired the occasion said, that Nigeria has remained together should surprise no one because God has given the nation the assurance that He would always answer Nigerians whenever they call upon Him.
Recalling the events that led to the civil war in 1967-1970, he jokingly said that his colleague Chukwuemeka Ojukwu never believed he (Gowon) would call out Nigeria’s fighting forces to fight against the Biafran side in order to keep Nigeria one.
According to Gowon, the Bible has consistently been his companion from his childhood till date, adding that his colleague, Ojukwu had said then, he (Gowon) was a Christian, who carries around suitcase with a Bible inside, and so wouldn’t like to call out the Nigerian Federal forces to war in order to stop the secession.
Gowon said: “All my life, from childhood to this present day, the Bible has consistently been my companion. I discovered quite early that every word of God contained therein speak to every situation in the life of every man or woman, great or small and to occurrences in every nation, big or small. Since these words are self-evidently true, they are reliable and unfailing. This should surprise no one because God Himself gave us the assurance that He would always answer when we call upon Him.
“You will agree that, across time, happenings in our fatherland have almost always ensured that people of faith across denominations in Christendom and in Islam kept unending vigil for the love of country. Let me share a joke of what happened before the civil war in 1967-1970. I think it was my colleague Emeka Ojukwu that said I know Jack, he is a Christian, who always carries a suitcase around with the Bible inside. He wouldn’t like to fight. Unfortunately, he was proved wrong. However, it was through the grace of God, that we were able to keep Nigeria one.
“It was the prayers of people of God and the bravery of our fighting forces that kept this country together. After the civil war, it was wisdom from God to willing and obedient hearts that helped us to initiate and implement programmes that best served the interest of the people. It was God that helped to stem the tide of bloody coups in Nigeria so that we can enjoy democracy today.
“Even when naysayers wrote off this nation and various uncertified futurologists predicted the break up of Nigeria by 2015 as a bye-product of the recently concluded general elections, the effective prayers of people of faith moved the hands of God and He once more intervened in the affairs of our dear country.”
He added: “I was in Addis Ababa for a conference and when the news came that the incumbent president had congratulated his opponent, everyone at the conference was happy and they started congratulating me and other Nigerians at the conference. Let us imagine what would have happened if President Goodluck Jonathan had refused to do that.”
Speaking further, Gowon, who congratulated Foursquare Gospel Church on the occasion of its Diamond Jubilee celebrations, however said
religious leaders in Nigeria must stand in the gap between temporal power and the people and must never cease to speak the truth to those
in power, adding that religious leaders must positively advise leaders on the way forward and must be fair and honest in their dealings with
He further said they must be conciliatory, not condemnatory and help the leadership to correctly interpret policies to the people.
According to the retired General, this will ensure that the polity is not heated up for no reason than the protection of the self-interest of a few powerful elite members of the society.
In his lecture, the Guest Speaker and Vice Chancellor, McPherson University (McU), Seriki-Sotayo, Ogun State, Prof. Adeniyi Agunbiade, who noted that the role of the Church and the Nigerian State should be complimentary, urged all Nigerians to put hands on deck with the President-elect, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and his Vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to bring about the much needed change in Nigeria.
According to Agunbiade, “It’s never too late for the Church to lay the right foundation for leadership. The Church must partner with government in the social advocacy to instil moral value and honesty among Nigerians.”
Meanwhile, the General Overseer, FGCN, disclosed that within six decades of the church’s existence, it has been positioned as one of the country’s leading Pentecostal movements, highly regarded for its scrupulous adherence to the immutability and sanctity of the word of God.