By Olayinka Latona
His Grace, Baba Aladura Henry Phillips is the third Supreme Head of The Mount Shiloh Praying Band, Cherubim and Seraphim C & S Worldwide. At the 60th anniversary of the church, the cleric bared his mind on several national issues.
He blamed the socio-political challenges currently bedevilling the country on the international festival held in Lagos, Nigeria, from January 15, 1977 to February 12, 1977 known as the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture.
The month-long event celebrated African culture and showcased to the world African music, fine art, literature, drama, dance and religion during the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo (Retd.). According to the Baba Aladura, the festival symbolised the handing over of the country to idols. He also used the occasion to speak on the misrepresentation of white garment churches and proffered a way forward for the nation. Excerpts…
Background of the church
We became independent from our mother church, the Praying Band of Cherubim and Seraphim, which is almost 100 years in existence. Fortunately it was my grandfather who headed the mother church. Monday June 29, 1959, the Mount Shiloh Praying Band of the Holy Cherubim and Seraphim Incorporated (member of United Aladura Churches) started in a room apartment on Onifade Street, Mushin. Since then, the church has been going from strength and we thank God for upholding us all these years.
How was it taking over the leadership of the church?
At the demise of my father I had to wait for five years to ascend the seat of the spiritual head. I didn’t occupy this position because my late father founded the church. I worked for it and suffered in the process. I thank God for everything happening today because I’m contented. It takes contentment to serve God otherwise a person will be serving Mammon thinking he or she is serving God.
What was the mission statement of the church?
To propagate the gospel through the four corners of the earth; to save souls and prepare them for eternal life. This is because after our stay here on earth is the reality of eternity. If you have houses, cars or children and you don’t have salvation you have nothing.
What prompted the theme of the church’s 60th anniversary ‘Rehoboth’?
God revealed to me during a three-day prayer that the journey of our church this year is ‘Rehoboth’. So the theme is not only for the anniversary but for our church. In the Bible, God warned Isaac not to go to Egypt. In Bible terms it means not to follow idolaters, worship idols or seek help from the wrong quarters. Rehoboth in the Bible Advanced Dictionary means freedom. In the lesser dictionary it is called a place or a space and there cannot be way or freedom without space.
How can the theme be translated to address the situation of our country?
About 42 years ago, the then military government under General Olusegun Obasanjo though we had the plan was on during the regime of General Yakubu Gowon, through FESTAC’77 took the nation back to Egypt. All idols from other black African nations and even beyond were brought to our country. Those idols if not destroyed we cannot reach our goal. We had a good economy, which was more buoyant than that of America and our former colonial masters, the United Kingdom in 1977. After 1977, Nigeria found herself struggling. Our leaders have compromised. What I expect from President Muhammadu Buhari is for him to call the nation to repentance, sincere worship of God and take us back to the promised land.
If Nigeria wants to overcome the challenges, whether economically, political or security wise we should go back to our God. We should be nearer to God; God is merciful and always ready to forgive us. He will transform our nation to Canaan land because Nigeria is a Canaan land to many nations all over the world. Name any mineral resource you will find it in Nigeria whether in large or small quantity. Nigeria is the most populous African nation. Nigeria has a population of over 200 million people which means we have the manpower. Anywhere the manpower is the economy is supposed to be strong but look at us today. Nigeria as a nation has to move closer to God. This is what will make us prosper. How can we prosper with sin? We can’t! Except we forgo our sins and make an agreement to worship God in spirit and in truth.
Are you saying Festac ‘77 is the cause of the challenges that our nation is facing?
When we were under the British colony we were into Christian and Muslim religion but in 1977 we entered into idolatry and since FESTAC ’77 the economy of Nigeria has been going down and presently we are drowned. It was in 1978 that our financial crisis started. Where is Leventis? Where is UAC? You can only have their buildings to show.
What is your take on Nigeria’s membership of Organisation of Islamic Countries, OIC?
By the virtue of the name, OIC, Nigeria has no business there. Nigeria is not an Islamic country but a multi religious country. President Buhari said he went to get loan. I know Vatican has enough money that Nigeria can borrow. So let the president go there to balance the equation. Maybe he can send the Vice President. I want the president to take caution as an elderly person and have the heart to accept criticism. There is no government that can progress without criticism. This is not a military government but a democratic government. When he was sworn in the first tenure he said he was president for everybody but as we can see now he is not everbody’s president. So he should go back to that statement and uphold it. He has to be patient and have listening ears.
It is believed that white garment churches incorporate fetish practices into their worship services. How true or false is this?
Our slogan is work and pray. We were taught to be fervent in prayers. I thank God that the standard is still standing. We do not comprise. I do not belong to any occultic society. The society I belong to is the fellowship of Christian Ministers and United Aladura Churches which comprises of Aladura Churches.
C and S is the Christian religious sect that gave Christianity footing in Nigeria. C and S forbids Christians from visiting herbalists after they leave church. The sect teaches people how to fast, pray and hold vigils, which are the keys to overcoming the turbulences in this world. Infact, we are the first Pentecostal because the gifts of speaking in tongues, healing and seeing visions which God poured out on the day of Pentecost is common among us. It is true that we are being misrepresented as a ‘ritualist’ church. It is a challenge to us, this is why our forefathers put their foot down to fight the menace. Likewise, this challenge of infiltration is not uncommon in other denominations as well, this is why we are asking God to help the body of Christ as a whole.
How do you see the unprintable deeds of some clerics in recent times?
Christ did not send us to the world to make riches. It is not about working miracles or having 10 million members. It is about preparing men for the kingdom of God and making it there at last. I implore all servants of God to remember that we are answerable to God Almighty. We would meet with Him someday and we would give an account of how we spent our lives.