By Sam Eyoboka & Olayinka Latona
GENERAL Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye and his counterpart from The Redeemed Evangelical Mission, TREM, Bishop Mike Okonkwo have passionately pleaded with Nigerians to exercise restraint in the face of provocative xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa and avoid the temptation to retaliate.
Speaking at different fora, the two eminent Pentecostal clerics described the ugly development in South Africa as unfortunate but adviced that the lure of retaliation cannot provide an enduring solution to the crisis.
“Attack on South African concerns in Nigeria in retaliation is not a godly alternative to thth xenophobic attacks in South Africa,” they pleaded giving separate reasons for their positions.
Before his sermon at the September Holy Ghost Service which marks the beginning of a new calendar for the Redeemed Christian Church of God at the Redemption Camp Friday night, Adeboye pleaded that in the interest of Nigerians still in South Africa it will be unwise to attempt any vengeful move in Nigeria.
Narrating his personal near death experience as a student in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka just before the Nigerian Civil War in 1966, Adeboye counseled Nigerian youths not think of retaliation against South Africans.
According to him, special arrangements have been perfected to evacuate all non-Igbo students in the school to their regions of origin when news filtered into the then Eastern Region that Igbos were being attacked in the West and immediately the arrangement was cancelled as the Eastern government demanded guarantee for her citizens before any of us would be allowed to leave their land.
“You do not know what it is to be in another man’s land not knowing what could happen overnight. Be careful, do not retaliate against South Africans because of the Nigerians who are still there. If you understand me say amen.
It takes divine intervention to get us across the Niger because the moment most of saw what was happening, those who had money began to run away to get transport from Nsukka to Asaba.
Continuing, Pastor Adeboye said the average South African is a decent person. I know, those who are causing troubles are not many. If you have a South African leaving near you, show them love, protect them from any harm.
“Let me tell you point blank, if government is going repatriate all Nigerians from South Africa, within the next two months, they will be back in South Africa, you know Nigerians. Do we have enough jobs for those who stayed?
“For the sake of our people, do not retaliate against South Africa, let us leave this job for the governments; let them solve this problem at the governmental level.
“Pray for them that God will give them wisdom, understanding and ability to do it,” Adeboye emphasized.
In a brief interview at the 20th Mike Okonkwo Annual Lecture ahead of his 74th birthday anniversary, Bishop Okonkwo lamented that the failure of political leaders to educate their citizens may have led to the ugly situation in South Africa.
“If the South Africans had educated their young ones about the vital role Nigeria played in liberating South Africa they would not be attacking Nigerians. How can you turn around, and it is the black killing the black, not white. So I think they should go back home and educate their young people so as to stop that nonsense,” he said.
Nevertheless, he counseled against retaliation, saying “our response is to treat them as younger brothers. We should not retaliate. We should know better. Many of them came from slavery background which we didn’t come from, so you must understand that too, and besides their leaders have also treated them badly.
“How come we still have slums in South Africa where South African blacks are president? When I enter South Africa and I’m driving from the airport, I see slums occupied by black South Africans and I wonder why are we like this?
“Again, it’s a black African thing. We get into position, all we are looking for is to grab and grab, rather than developing the people. But I believe that they will sort it out. It’s good now that the Nigerian government is personally taking it up unlike before where they will just make statements,” Okonkwo further counseled.