By Ebele Orakpo
Bishop Great Eromosele is the General Overseer of New Way Bible Church Worldwide. In this chat with Vanguard, Bishop Eromosele who describes himself as proudly Nigerian, speaks on sundry issues, saying that Nigeria will remain where it is until there is a general debriefing of the mentality of her leaders.
What was Nigeria like growing up?
I am happy and proud to be a Nigerian. Growing up, we had so much hope. My generation still enjoys some of the good things about this country. I attended school, everything was provided and jobs were ready for those that excelled. We had street lights and power outage was rare. Talking about security, we could sleep with doors open. There was crime all right, but the kind of impunity and pervasiveness we see today were not there. We were not walking the streets looking over our shoulders, you could travel and not of being robbed on the highway, there was night life, and we were safe. So it was fun to be a Nigerian.
The religious and ethnic intolerance we see today were not there. I grew up with Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas etc. I lived with Moslems; there was no discrimination, no difference between Christmas and Sallah, we ate together, no mutual suspicion at least in the dimension we know it today.
How did Nigeria get into this mess?
After the civil war, we all returned to the cities and there was that togetherness until the politicians came in and began their divide and rule tactics and brought in religious and sentiments and anything they felt they could do to gain power; that is what I believe brought us to where we are today. Selfishness! Politicians who don’t think of the masses but only their selfish interests. They won’t do for their own people or outsiders what they should do for them and they don’t have a sense of inclusiveness.
Leadership should be devoid of sentiments, it must be objective and should focus on the common good but we don’t see all of that. We don’t see gentlemen aspiring to positions of leadership in this country. I’m sorry to say that many of the people in leadership positions should not be there at all. One, they don’t know what leadership means; two, they don’t have a sense of decency, no integrity, no fear of God, no vision, no focus. That is the tragedy of our nation and it is the bane of progress in this country. Until something is done, a general debriefing of the mentality of our leaders, we will remain where we are.
What do you think about Ruga?
For me, the Ruga thing shows us one more time the fact that Nigerians should ask themselves why they should trust this government. I have been in public service and I know there are certain things that a subordinate officer cannot throw up without approval from the top. So if the Presidency is telling us that a Permanent Secretary had the audacity to bring up Ruga which they are saying now is at variance with the National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP, then it tells you the kind of country we find ourselves in and the quality of leadership. It is a burden to the leadership because the Vice-President said he didn’t know about Ruga but he knew about the NLTP, and then I saw a report recently that when Mr. President got to know, he was angry because he found out that Ruga is not the same thing as the NLTP. Those of us who have had some little exposure in government, politics and leadership, will take all that with a pinch of salt.
Lack of trust
The basic problem we have now is the lack of trust for those in power. We can’t get anywhere with that level of disconnect between the people and their leaders; where the people believe that the leaders don’t tell them the truth. It’s a big problem. It’s not just Ruga, when the President suspended it, people were saying: ‘Don’t rejoice yet, he said suspension; we know them, for all you know, that will just be a shield; contractors have been mobilised to site, money has been released so what are we talking about?’ It is painful that in this country, there is no public opinion and by that I am not just talking about people coming to talk. Public opinion is not public opinion until it is enforced. We saw what happened during the fuel subsidy removal by President Jonathan in 2012. We saw that action, #Occupy Nigeria. But now, it’s as if people are afraid. Everybody is murmuring. Where are the so-called activists? Any activist that has integrity must be objective.
What’s the way forward?
Nigeria is at the crossroads. We have reached a point where something has got to give. Our politicians are operating with impunity and ungodly confidence. Democracy is not a foolproof form of government. Democracy in Nigeria should be allowed to flourish to the extent that it benefits people; it should be operated in line with world’s best practices. If it is not, then it’s not worth it. If we have got to a point where people will moot the idea that military government is better than this, then there is a problem. Whether we like it or not, people are beginning to be disillusioned; they have lost confidence in civil rule again. Nobody will say it but that is the truth.
We are commoners and we have our ears to the ground. By the grace of God, as pastors, we interact with different kinds of human beings. Churches now feed, clothe and pay people’s school fees and house rents because there are no jobs. Young men go to school and can’t get jobs and an artiste came up and sang: ‘Wetin we gain? I go to school, no money, I do business, no money so wetin we gain?‘ and you are castigating him? It’s a reflection of society. If you want to measure the state of the nation, just listen to what people are singing. You are talking of insecurity; we haven’t seen anything yet!
Youths ravaged by drugs
Our youths are ravaged by drugs because an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. They are idle so they are frustrated and turn to that thing that gives them temporary relief. Our youths are committing suicide, depression has set in but nobody is listening, nobody cares. Before you travel now, you pray very well because your mind will be telling you that you may be attacked by herdsmen, kidnappers or armed robbers. You go to bed at night with one eye open because you don’t know whether bandits or robbers or kidnappers will come, so it’s not an issue of deploying soldiers or policemen, it is a fundamental problem.
If this government meant all their promises, they should start fulfilling them because we are seeing the direct opposite. Government is being accused of hidden agenda, Islamisation, Fulanisation etc. What led to these? It’s because people are not seeing the promises being fulfilled. It’s like when the Germans came up with the Aryan race nonsense, the pure race, it led to the extermination of about six million Jews. In South Africa, it was apartheid, now back to Ruga, we were told that the Fulanis doing all these are not Nigerians; that they are from Libya. Governor El-rufai said he paid them to pacify them so they would stop killing people in Southern Kaduna. So which of the Fulanis are they doing this for? Many people have concluded that we have never had it so bad. It is more painful because this government came with a helluva of hope.
The Nigerian situation is clear. One, there is a problem that revolves around the promotion of ethnicity and religious intolerance and I’m worried about the future reaction to this. It seems to me that some of the elite have made up their minds that the country should disintegrate but I would like to say this: ‘you may know how a war will start, but you may never know how it will end.’ Let those who feel they have monopoly of power, force and evil, hear this: ‘there is a God in heaven who rules over the affairs of men.’
God’s interested in Nigeria
In my few years on earth, I have come to realise that God is interested in Nigeria. As a pastor, I also know that God has a special interest in Nigeria by prophetic determination. If you know the history of this nation, you will know that Nigeria has passed some crises other nations couldn’t survive. Each time we get to the edge of the cliff, a divine hand always pulls us back and it will happen again. Those who feel they have reached a point where they can overrun this country, have a shock coming for them. I am one person who believes that it is too late to fight with physical arm because with little intelligence, this thing didn’t start today. I have heard people complaining that the entire nation is surrounded, but the God that is always on the side of the oppressed will answer to them, whoever they are.
To Mr. President
Let me say this: Mr President, Muhammadu Buhari, has been a lucky Nigerian. He was trained with national resources, he is what he is today all by national resources. He is privileged to be military head of state, overthrown, not killed, God spared his life; he contested elections several times and failed but God smiled on him finally and he won. I say God because my Bible tells me that all power comes from God. I believe that in his quiet moments, he should reflect on the kind of legacy he would like to leave behind. In spite of all the permutations of his enemies, he survived whatever ailment he had that kept him away for almost a year. He should be able to have a sober reflection; for him to have come this far, there has to be a divine purpose. I am one of those who is hard-pressed to believe that Mr. President is deliberately involved in all of this. I find it hard to believe, that is why I am speaking the way I am speaking. He alone and his God know whether he is innocent or not but whatever it is, as a good Muslim who knows there is paradise and that one day, he will die and answer to his God, what legacy would he like to leave behind? I want to appeal that these things should guide his actions.