By Sam Eyoboka & Olayinka Latona
IMMEDIATE past Pastor-in-Charge of Region 19 of Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Pastor Femi Atoyebi has reopened the debate for an independent Attorney General of the Federation separate from the office of the Minister of Justice without which the nation cannot make appreciable progress in its quest for a reformed criminal justice system and rule of law, the bedrock of any democracy.
The senior advocate of Nigeria who was the guest lecturer at the third Pastor Enoch Adeboye annual birthday public lecture on “Excellent Leadership in Pluralistic (and Ethno-Religious) Society Like Nigeria,” at Havens Events Centre, Ikeja, paid glowing tribute to the RCCG’s General Overseer, who will be 75 years old in a couple of days.
Atoyebi noted that all the “programmes of the church under Adeboye’s leadership are geared towards unifying the peoples of this nation and it is unimaginable what the nation would have been, but for this unparallelled and invaluable role that God has and He is using him to accomplish.”
According to him, the nation’s Attorney General should be elected like other elected officers, arguing that “as long as we continue to fuse the office of the Attorney General with that of the Minister of Justtice, we will not go forward.” He emphasised the old argument that separating the two offices would make the A-G, to work for the people and not necessarily the government in power as a cabinet minister, thereby ensuring access to justice by citizens, devoid of external influence.
Atoyebi also counselled politicians to refrain from using religion and ethnic differences as a language of power, but rather “emphasize its role of fulfilling social needs that affect the well-being of the people.
“National integration program-mes such as the National Youth Service Corps, Federal Character and National Orientation should be restructured in a manner that will enhance greater ethnic and religious integration and cooperation in Nigeria,” he recommended.
Stating that effective leadership in a pluralistic society can only be achieved where the diversity in the ethnic and religious background of the citizen is blurred and citizens cooperate and agree to live in peace and harmony, character traits for which Pastor Ade-boye is reputed, the speaker noted that despite “the provisions of the Constitution on the indivisibility and oneness of the country, it has been observed that bitter ethno-religious crises have been unending, thereby slowing down national development and threatening national unity, stability and progress.”
Atoyebi traced the malaise in the country to two main sources: “the various irresponsible governments we have had since independence, and also (but more importantly), the various leaders we have at various levels of our national lives—parents, teachers, employers of labour, lecturers, pastors, which include you and I and I will not shy from taking personal responsibility for my own contribution to the problem.
“Leaders at home, in churches, private and public sectors would have to do something about it urgently, if the nation would not go under,” he counselled, pointing out that the present government recently launched a programme, ‘Change begins with me.’
“At least, they conceived the idea, but the planning and execution was far from being ideal. Indeed, many members of the government had not taken the lead by their way and manner of lives and it was no wonder that the people challenged them that charity should begin at home. I cannot agree more.
“The government social re-orientation died before it took off. It is hoped that government has learnt a good and hard lesson from that,” he stated.
According to him, the reason governance has become a major issue in our country, “in addition to the ethno-pluralistic society that we have, is that we have forgotten God’s proven laws of leadership with which this country was set up.
“God’s mandate to man was to take charge of the garden and dress and till it. He was also mandated to be in charge, in dominion….I conclude that in whatever positions we occupy in life, we can exercise some measure of influence that would impact our immediate sphere and teach them what is right.
“Presently, the country is still in a position where religious and ethnic considerations play a major role in determining major circumstances and events in the country, especially in the election of leaders.
“In order to achieve effective leadership in the country, there should be a conscious effort to downplay the adverse effect of the pluralistic nature of the society on the election or appointment of our leaders. It is recommended that education and synthesizing of the citizens is one of the major ways to enhance communal living together in a diverse society such as ours in such a way that people are encouraged to live together despite their religious and ethnical differences.
“This education may include Gov-ernment providing free schooling for primary education and organizing interactive town hall meetings for members of the communities, especially rural communities. Religious education should be made compulsory at both primary and secondary schools to expose youths to the ideals of other religions and tolerance,” he stressed.
According to him, “a more transparent and accountable government can be achieved through strict compliance and or enforcement with the inalienable provisions of our Constitution and other laws, which contain the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy should be made justiciable as it contains the basic responsibilities of the Government.”
On corruption, he said the monster became a State policy when the Military who regularly ventured into governance with little or no preparation, with the result of bad or mis-governance while “the private sector looked on helplessly and it was a matter of time before it crept into the sector and swallowed it. The result today is that the line between morality and immorality; good and bad has become blurred, while both our leaders and the followership look on helplessly.”
He maintained that “elders are no longer respected by the young ones, parents are dishonoured by children, the rights and feelings of our neighbours mean nothing to anyone and the time–honour dignity of labour, which are all the tenets upon which our nation has been built have all disappeared.
Earlier, the convener of the event, Pastor Tunji Onileaja described Pastor Adeboye as one who has demonstrated a blend of natural and spiritual qualities to move people from where they are to where God wants them to be, so they can accomplish God’s purpose for their lives.
According to him, “we are celebrating the God in him, that God that has endowed him with spiritual fervor and favour, humility, consistency, and consuming passion for soul-winning. Wherever the work of God has gone forward, it has always had a leader at the helm. It has always been a singular person called by God to lead people to accomplish His objectives.
“In God’s economy, one person can make a difference,” he noted, adding “when the mantle of leadership of RCCG fell on Pastor Adeboye at the tender age of 39 from the founder, Pa Josiah Akindayomi, the church had 39 parishes mainly in the South Western part of Nigeria.
“Now, RCCG, under his leadership is currently active across continents and in about 196 countries of the world,” he noted.
Stating the timeliness and approprieteness of the theme of the lecture, the convener said it is a function of leadership to influence the behaviors, attitudes and beliefs of the followers, noting that where there is rancour, the leader is duty bound to bring harmony, “where there is war, he must bring peace, where there is lack, he must create plenty and wealth, where there is fear, he must build hope, security and re-assurance in his people.
“The leader of excellence must be ready to accept complete responsibility in all situations,” he concluded.