•’Why govt should declare emergency in the health sector’

By Yinka Ajayi

Pastor Damilare Akinola is Senior Pastor of Appealing Grace Assembly International (APGA), Lagos. In this interview, Akinola speaks on the challenges faced by Christians in the North, especially Southern Kaduna where there are claims of persecution of the Church. He also offers a perspective on  poor medicare in the country, a situation that prompted APGA’s free health programme organised as part of the ministry’s activities  to mark  the 2017 edition of Easter.

Your church recently organised  a free health program for the people. How  do you rate the health sector today?

The truth is that good and qualitative heath care delivery is not cheap. Health care delivery is an investment  in the lives of the people and life has no duplicate. The health ratio of a nation must be proportional to the economic productivity of its people. Therefore, the health indices of Nigerians, vis-a-vis  the harsh  economic  situation, will  underscore the average Nigerian’s access to good healthcare delivery. The economy will, on the long run, affect the purchasing power of the citizenry and the affordability of  health care. Two incidences will buttress my submission. The latest  outbreak  of meningitis in some northern states is one. Ordinarily,  prompt immunization  would have averted the loss of lives arising from the outbreak. Two, the preponderance of  fake drugs across the nation  remains a pointer that many Nigerians, because of the harsh economic climate, will buy fake  drugs  which,  in most cases, are cheaper. All  these put together  account for the unfortunate high record of needless deaths which Nigerians are often subjected to. For the avoidance of doubt, the harsh economic climate will raise poverty, illiteracy, housing qualities and many other factors which inhibit  healthy living.

Pastor Akinola

Any advice to the Federal Government on how to curb the challenges?

My advice to  government is to  conduct accurate census,  to determine the true position of Nigeria’s demography. Besides, the institutions which take records of births and deaths should be upgraded  to  world standards.  Also, the immigration service  should help  government  with  accurate record of immigrants in Nigeria. These data  should guide the health care delivery plans, built into annual budget for the health sector in accordance with UN  standards. This will facilitate adequate provision of healthcare structures, institutions and deliveries. To underscore the importance, government should declare an emergency in the health sector, such that the world will take us very serious on the readiness of the Nigerian government to pay attention to the healthy living of  Nigerians,  rich or poor, through improved healthcare delivery .The emergency should place a ban on foreign medical trips at the expense of the nation on all public officials and at all levels.

In terms of delivery to the citizenry, you once described the Church as  being more patriotic than the political class. What do you mean?

With every sense of responsibility, the Church is more patriotic than the political class for this simple reason: Who did Nigerians hold responsible for the challenges  foreseen by the early nationalists during the colonial struggles, for which they sacrificially contended with the  masters at the risk of their lives? Who was responsible for the Major Nzeogu coup, the civil war, the military misadventure into our national life, the religious intolerance which brought about Maitasine riots, Sharia riots, the militancy in  the Niger Delta, the Boko Haram insurgency, herdsmen killings and many more, with the resultant blood letting, massive plundering of national commonwealth in financial, human and natural resources? And then who prayed to avert the damning consequences which those catastrophes would have brought upon the nation at every cross road of national trial? Of course, it is the Church. But for the prayers of the Church, Abacha would have brought Nigeria to a war theatre, all in the name of politics, corruption, selfishness and bigotry of monumental proportions. Ironically, during the hall of  fame and national awards, politicians  award themselves with the highest honors in the land. The Church, in accordance with the goal  of service, endeavours to sustain the peace of the nation in the tenet of ‘freely you have received, freely you give’.

As the gospel of Christ waxes stronger in Africa, what would be your charge to the northern Nigerian communities prone to religious crisis?

The Church in northern Nigeria is going through tough times because the Kingdom of God in that region suffers stiffer violence. But the truth is, the gospel is needed most, where it suffers the stiffest rejection. The light of the gospel must shine across the globe. That is the Christly mandate to the Church. The way of the cross is not usually in limousine ride. The northern church, I am sure, is in the know of this, and, in honesty, believers in the North are quite valiant. The real aim of the persecutor of the Church in the North is to kill and stop the church. But the opposite is the case. I did my Youth Service in Funtua, Katsina State way back in 1990. Then we had only a handful of churches, which were largely Baptist, Anglican, ECWA and few Pentecostal churches. I can imagine what would have happened in church growth in that same environment today, in the face of stiff persecution. God bless the northern brethren, heroes of faith.

The Church in the South has a great responsibility and duty to institute projects in missions to the North as a mandate, not as helpers. This must be so, because of the kingdom mandate in which there is no ethnicity.

How do you describe the impact of the Peace and Wonder Crusade your church organised as part of Easter celebrations and why Christians should look forward to such annual celebrations?

The crusade is about the peace of God which has been offered to mankind through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have seen how all efforts being put together by nations and world bodies, the UN, the Nobel Peace Awards, nations budgets for security and defense have all failed. Humanity therefore is called back to God by whom we can have peace as wonders, in season, out of season and, by all means, free of charge.

The crusade turned out to be a huge success as many, old and young, gave their lives to Jesus Christ. We also prayed for the peace of the nation, for which God has given His assurances. In all, we give God the praise for the heart of obedience with which the crusade was organized and executed.

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