SPIRITUAL leader of St. Joseph’s Chosen Church of God, SJCCG, and one of the very few incorruptible Nigerians, Apostle Hayford Ikponmwonsa Alile, at the church owned Gateway Bible College’s graduation/convocation ceremony in Benin City, spoke to our SAM EYOBOKA on the proposal to upgrade the institute to a degree awarding one and other national issues. Excerpts….
It is very gratifying to know that very soon this institution will become part of a university. Do you confirm that sir?
Yes! We started nurturing the idea in the last two to three years. Acquiring a land was not that easy. Luckily, it’s a village where my late mother came from, called Obadan, about 38.5 kilometres east of Benin City. Traditional leaders there knew their sister, late Deaconess Mrs. Alile and have heard that the children are now at the fore front of the church. Elder Dr. Clement Alile is the standard bearer for the university and they gave us a land measuring 4.5 square miles, more than two times the National Universities Commission requires to grant a licence. The current Edo State government promised us a Certificate of Occupancy for the land and whatever support. So we are moving on.
Has the state government made good its pledge?
They haven’t. They said they are processing it. Even though his tenure will soon be over, the state continues. Whoever takes over from him, if he has not concluded it, I’m sure will do it. Whoever wants to get the honor and gratification for doing it, the Lord will bless such a person.
What of the process for the registration?
A committee is working very hard on that.
We are looking forward to what time for take off, Sir?
We are looking forward to the shortest time possible. And that depends to a great extent on the governor and his team.
As a renowned economist, what is your panacea for the revival of the nation’s current economy?
It’s not a question of the policy of government or the leader; the duty is for all of us. When you talk about corruption, bribery, it is not the dogs we are talking about, it is some of us. We have to turn around and change our habits. The Lord God has blessed this country with a lot of things; land is there, agricultural products are there, a lot of children—strong and able—those who can be put through training are there. We have to do it. I don’t know how many children Muhammadu Buhari has. Even if he has 100 children, they cannot do it. And I’m sure he has realized that he alone cannot do it. He needs the co-operation of all of us: both in prayers to bless the land and in sending our children to the right schools. We should not spend money in bribing teachers to give them A qualifications. It is for those children to bend down and study. So my little advice is that we all should put our minds together to get things done in this country.
I recall you have been talking about diversification of the Niger-ian economy from the oil that we have all jumped into. Is it not government that is supposed to drive such vision?
What I mean by saying getting out of where we have found ourselves now is not a question of what policies or statements are made by government. It is really looking at the policies that are on ground. The government doesn’t have to do much of talking; it should be much of action, positive action.
Are you in support of the war on corruption? If you are, is it being tackled as it should?
It is the same problem. Where I am now is a church. In our preach-ing and spiritually educating our children and members, we will never feel comfortable in hearing that any of our members has something to do that soils his hands. We are expected to crown the Lord Jesus. Are we going to use filthy hands to carry the crown? No! We are supposed to be the light of the country and we are supposed to be the salt of the earth. So we will do our own part. Some of the churches, we hear, are partnering with corrupt people, that is not the calling of Jesus Christ. The ministers, the Church, the Christians have a duty to encourage their children, to en-courage their husbands, their wives to be the shining light in whatever they participate in in the world.
If we are teachers, we are suppos-ed to teach well. If we are members of clubs and organizations, we are supposed to be good members; telling our fellow members what best to do for the country. So it concerns all of us.
I will say yes the gov-ernment is pursuing the war on cor-ruption but when you give yourself to this assig-nment of leadership, you should be prepared for the beat-ing. We don’t have to spare our own bro-thers caught in the act so as to use them as ex-amples for others. If it’s my school mate or church member who is caught in the act, they should be disciplined according to the rules. I hope that our president who has served as military president of this country, will do the right thing. If there’s any military officer who has misbehaved, leave him or her to defend himself or herself. A lot of noise has been made, here and there, about some retired military officers; it will be good for as a mark of honour for all of them who have served this country as military officers and some people think they have bad records, to bring them out to defend them-selves. Let’s start afresh, all of us.
There’s fear in certain quarters that this administration is out to Islamize this nation. What’s your take?
I don’t know. I’ve never thought that way. I will join any group that wants to Christianize this country. And the law of the land provides for us the opportunity to go out and evangelize as Christians, so I believe the same law for the Muslims. But if you take a bill to the House of Representatives, it is for the House to look at the contents of the bill. If amongst the members, there are Christians, they might tune their minds in the Christian way. And same goes with the Muslims. If the Christians feel foolish and allow the Muslims to pass the law when they are sleeping, they will account for it. It is the same for the Senate. I expect that members who go to Parliament to promote the interest of their constituency, do so and don’t put the other members to sleep when they are doing what they are doing, or go and look for money to bribe Christians. And if those Christians are stupid enough to accept money and vote things that are against their own religion, then God will hold them responsible. To say that some people who are together and all their dream is to change this country to a Muslim country, they could have that in their mind but it will not work because the God that the Christians are serving is alert.
There are some elements in the Church that can buy, sell off and do anything for their selfish interests, and that is why it is becoming difficult to even have confidence in the Nigerian Church today. Does that bother you, Sir?
If I find any of my Christian friends towing anti-Christian measures, I’ll go and talk to him. There’s no doubt today that Christians have some challenges and worries. But a major issue where we were talking about gay marriage, it was the likes of Senator David Mark who stood up in the Senate and said this thing will not go. Some Muslims supported that bill in Nigeria. They may not support it in Arab countries. It was a lot of Christians in UK and US who went for it. In fact, America said they will never give us aids unless Nigeria supports the practice. But our people held on to it, both Muslims and Christians. I know that the two religions are fighting to have control of the economy. There is nothing in the constitution that says that the Christians or Muslims should have a specific number. But if you as a Muslim will just get up and employ more Muslims, a lot of people around you are bold enough to tell you this is not right.
You are saying there is still hope for this nation?
Yes! Based on the friends that I have who are either Christians or Muslims. There’s hope. A lot of my friends who are Muslims, especially the old ones, they are very fair and equitable. It’s the young ones I fear, the ones in the 30s and 40s. They are not prepared to do the right thing. I pray God to change them.