– Adeboye, Oyedepo, Kumuyi, Okonkwo, Omobude, others
• Say those who shed innocent blood on Nigeria’s soil are walking free
BY GABRIEL ENOGHOLASE, BENIN-CITY
Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), parading influential Christian leaders such as Pastor E.A. Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church, Pastor W.F. Kumuyi of Deeper Life Ministry, Bishop Mike Okonkwo of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission and Rev. Felix Omobude of Gospel Light Ministries, among others, says it holds President Muhammadu Buhari to his word that the 2019 general elections will be free and fair.There have been fears that the polls may not be transparent on the grounds that the ruling party at the federal level (All Progressives Congress, APC) may use incumbent factor to his advantage and that there may be violence. Buhari is seeking a second term in the elections pitting him against the candidate of the main opposition party (Peoples Democratic Party, PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, among others.
Addressing the fears in his New Year message to Nigerians, the President had said that the polls, under his watch, will be free, fair and credible.
“Elections need not be do-or-die affair, and we should not approach that eventuality in a democracy with trepidation and mortal fear. Happily, a large number of presidential candidates have committed to peace, and peace we shall have. Those who continue to trumpet falsehood and negativity are on their own, fighting a losing battle. The greater number of Nigerians are trusting and believing that we shall deliver on our promises for a level-playing field at the polls, and that is what we shall do”, he said.
Omobude, the National President of the PFN, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard in an interview in Benin-City where the headquarters of his church is located, said the group holds Buhari to his word that the polls will meet acceptable standards.
“I believe that, like all Nigerians, we should all have our hands on deck to ensure free, credible elections in 2019. President Muhammadu Buhari has, again, given his word that it will be free and fair and we hold him to that”, he stated.
Omobude spoke also on other issues in the polity including the war against corruption, the battle against Boko Haram, the Christian girl held captive by the Islamist group and the role of the Church in nation-building.
How do you see the state of the nation today?
Nigeria seems to be at the edge of a precipice; there are challenges of economy, there are challenges politically, there are challenges socially. How we handle the economy is important. I believe that we have come a long way and we have what it takes to make it work. I believe that Nigeria has a future; we have a great nation with human and natural resources. But the problem has been that of management.
Nigeria has been rated among the world’s poorest nations; what is your take?
The average Nigerian is really not concerned as much with the world’s index, but it is important for us in assessing the performance of a government to ask: Are we making progress or we are retrogressing? That we have fallen so badly as to be among the poorest nations of the world is not something to be happy about. The average Nigerian knows that life is getting harder by the day, and to have a meal on the table is becoming more difficult. So, we call on government at all levels to assuage the pains of Nigerians, and that should be done as urgently as possible.
Are you pleased with the methods being used to tackle the security situation in the country today?
To be fair to the Buhari government, I believe they have tried in the area of battling Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East. While we agree that Boko Haram is not completely decimated, we can also agree with government that a lot has been accomplished and I give them credit for it but there is still a lot to be done.
When you talk about security generally, Nigeria has not been as violent as we have it today. Recent reports said Nigeria is the third most terrorized nation in the world, and, apart from Boko Haram, kidnapping is on the increase, herders/farmers clashes have been on the rise, a lot of innocent blood has been shed on Nigeria’s soil, and, very sadly, those who did this thing are walking free. That is very sad.
What is the way forward?
The primary responsibility of any government is to ensure the security and safety of her citizens. If government cannot provide that, then it has failed. The government should rise up to the challenge; equip our security agencies to be able to tackle this menace.
Just a few days ago, one of my church members was among the five people who were kidnapped. It is happening all over the country. We can’t continue like this.
So, government should equip the police; equip other security services for them to deal with this menace that has come on our land.
I also think it is time to decentralise the police so that the there can be local government police, state police, to handle those local problems. It is too much to be centralised in one place. We call on government to act speedily on decentralising the police.
Some people believe that the anti-corruption war of this government is selective while many others believe that government is doing well. What is PFN’s opinion?
We must all agree that corruption has reduced this country to the floor, and that is the truth. It is cancer that needs to be dealt with. And I must commend President Muhammadu Buhari for, at least, identifying it and making an attempt to fight the scourge.
I commend him because no one has come up to say that Buhari himself has some skeletons in his cupboard. But the method with which the war is being fought, we are worried that APC seems to have become Noah’s ark that if you run into it, the flood of anti-corruption will not meet you. We are worried about that.
We are worried that people who have governed or we know, who want to govern this country at various levels and are known to the people, once they decamp to the ruling party, the lenses of the EFCC seem turned away from them. That is very worrisome. We are worried that the anti-corruption organs seem to be a tool to embarrass the opposition. It is something we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to look into very quickly. We hope for an anti-corruption system that is not tied to the aprons string of the ruling government, it should be truly independent; it should go all out and investigate purely independently. We also feel very strongly that the sources of money for political campaigns should be looked into, because it is an open secret that the money used in hiring jets, both in the 2015 elections and these (2019) elections, comes from somewhere. So, such money should be looked into and investigated.
2019 is just about two months away, how prepared is the Church for the general elections?
I believe that, like all Nigerians, we should all have our hands on deck to ensure free, credible elections in 2019. President Muhammadu Buhari has, again, given his word that it will be free and fair and we hold him to that.
INEC should play her role. Prof. Mahmood Yakubu (INEC Chairman) must understand that his is name at stake and should know that all Nigerians are looking at what he is going to do. All the INEC Commissioners and staff should do a credible service to the nation by being fair, by being just, by being honest and dedicated to their task and ensure that the elections come up freely and fairly as we all expect.
Would you say that the signals coming from various quarters point to credible elections?
I want Nigerians to be patient and do their own part well. If you are an election monitor or a journalist or an INEC official, do your work creditably well, it is a national assignment; so everyone should do his job well. But I think it is too early to say whether there is any doubt. I think all those concerned are working towards 2019 and so, we should give INEC a chance. And also don’t forget that in this nation, it is only in few cases that we have had people lose elections and accept defeat. We love to see a situation where when you know that you have fairly lost out, you congratulate the winner and move on. But it has always been a battle; when people lose, they either blame the system or blame the opposition. We think that former President Jonathan set a precedent that people should emulate.
What’s your take on the issue of whether President Buhari is alive or that the one we have at the Presidency now is fake?
I believe that the Buhari we have as President is our President. I don’t know whatever those thinking otherwise, the basis for their belief, but for me, I believe the one we have is President Buhari.
I also feel that it is an ungodly thing for us to use a man’s sickness to wish him evil. When our President was sick, we all prayed for him to be well and, as far as I and our Fellowship are concerned, we genuinely prayed for his recovery and I believe that God answered our prayers and we are happy for that.
Do you think the Presidency has done enough to clear the doubt of the people about President Buhari’s government?
I think to answer that, the day is not day but night to me, responding to that is like flogging a dead horse.
What is the role of the Church in nation-building?
The Church remains in partnership with government in any project that is aimed at lifting the standard of the people. The Church stands for truth and justice. When government stands for what is right, the Church stands to encourage it.
The Church is against oppression of any kind, the Church must stand against any act of any government that enslaves the people. So, the Church speaks as the mouth piece of the ordinary person. The Church intercedes to God for divine guidance for those leading the people, the Church educates the people, the Church is involved in the social emancipation of the people and we’ll continue to do that.
Why are Christian leaders becoming cold in pressurizing the government to secure the release of Leah Sharibu, one of the Dapchi schoolgirls held back by Boko Haram because of her faith?
We have never ceased to call on government to do everything within its power to release Leah from captivity. Leah’s case is sour grapes in the mouth of the government of this country.
If Boko Haram had just kept her without proffering the reason for keeping her behind, one will say, well, it is like that, but to say because he failed to renounce her Christian faith, that shows the imbalance, the injustice in the country today. Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari reaffirmed that he would work hard to ensure Leah’s release alongside others in captivity. We hold him by his word and I believe that he is working hard and that Leah will be released soon.
Prominent church leaders have been enmeshed in partisan politics in recent times. What is the role of PFN in correcting this?
Don’t forget that every human being is a political animal and people have their political persuasion and they have legal rights to assert that political persuasion. But, as the President of the PFN, I ensure that the PFN is apolitical, because people in PDP, people in APC, people in other political parties, they are our children and members.
The PFN amplifies our position, the kind of leaders that we want. Nigerians are tired of politics of ‘give them bag of rice’ and sew aso-ebi for them. We want that one dealt with. Nigerians are not asking for too much, Nigerians want to put on their switch and have electricity; Nigerians want to turn their taps on and see water.
When we were growing up in this city, we were going to public water tap to fetch water. Do you still have any of such today? No! People are digging bore holes all over the place because of the absence of government’s provisions. The Church stands to see this corrected.
I can tell you, I wouldn’t have gone to school if not for government policy of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Here I am today, l am expressing myself; l am addressing you because government policy made it possible for me to go to school. When I see a number of children roaming the streets… go to the North-East, all the tension and crisis and killings that we are seeing came about, basically, from the negligence of successive governments in training our future generations. So, the PFN amplifies our position. I don’t care where you come from, we are in need of a government that can make these basic provisions available to our people and I don’t care what party that is.
It appears that in spite of the large number of churches that we have, crime and criminality are on the increase. Does that mean that the Church is not working?
I would have been surprised if you didn’t ask me this question, because I know it’s like a recurrent decimal. I am worried about the emergence of different criminality in our society. Growing up, we never saw some of these things around us. I grew up to meet a situation where if you lose your money or something and a neighbor sees it, he goes round to say, ‘I have found so and so, who owns it?’ That was the way it was.
But, globally, things have changed and you may wonder why, in spite of more churches, why are things like this? But don’t also cease to think where would we have been if there were no churches? When I was growing up, the only newspaper we had was Daily Times. Now that we have newspapers everywhere, are the people better informed, has that reduced the rate of crime and criminality? More policemen, with a lot of money spent on security, has it reduced crime? It has not.
The more we fight it from this end, it breaks from another end. It needs a very holistic approach. The Church will continue to do our part. If one person decides to change and turn from his wicked way, we have succeeded in reducing the number of people who would be terrorising the country. We are doing the best we could and we will continue. I call on all our religious leaders to continue to preach the gospel of peace, the gospel of truth, the gospel that brings illumination; we will continue to do that to the best of our ability.
How do you rate the performance of this present administration in the area of security and provision of social amenities?
Let me call on the Nigerian populace to learn to hold government accountable, especially when they come to you and promise you, what they are going to do if you vote for them. When you vote for them, ask them, ‘you promised x, y, z, why have you not delivered?’ When this government came in, $1 was the equivalent of N170 in 2015. Now, what is it today? It is N360 to $1. Whether that is a pass mark, it is left for Nigerians to judge. When this government came in, without being sensational, Nigerians were buying petrol at N87, what is it today? Is that the change that we wanted?
However, when this government came in, some local governments were still under the control of Boko Haram and to their credit, at least, from what I hear, no local government is presently under the total control of insurgency and I give them credit for that.
But, between you and l, are you getting electricity better today than in 2015? I live in the GRA; I spend much more running my generator than what it was in 2015. This is the truth, l am not saying this to fault the government, but this is the truth. There has been no positive change!
If the naira is now 360 to one dollar and wages of workers have not been increased, technically, today’s worker is getting less than 50 per cent of what he got in 2015. That is the truth.
So, Nigerians must learn to hold their government accountable for their actions. Democracy provides that every four years as it is in Nigeria, they come to you, ask the right questions.
But in spite of all these, are there reasons for Nigerians to be hopeful?
Of course, Nigerians should be optimistic. We are very godly and religious people, we must look to the future with hope. Nigerians are very determined people. All over the world, wherever they are, Nigerians shine, we weather the storm. I will call on Nigerians, since we have this opportunity offered us by democratic process, to vote in credible people, not because he is from my town or he is from my ethnic or religious group. Set agenda for your political leaders and hold them accountable. Vote in credible people who will not deceive you, and be ready to work hard with them. No politician has a magic wand, Nigeria must be willing to change the tide against her by doing her best and everyone of us contributing his or her quota to build a virile nation, and I wish all Nigerians a happy Christmas and a prosperous 2019.