Says we have too many things to correct before talking of hate speech
By Sam Eyoboka
PRESIDING Bishop of Bible Life Church Cathedral (BLCC), Ajegunle-Apapa, Lagos, Bishop Leonard Umunna, recently unveiled a book and a gospel music album in his church. After the event, the educationist and an entrepreneur bared his mind on the state of the nation and many more. Excerpts:
How do you manage to sing, write, preach and do other things at the same time?
I used to compose every minute but now I am looking for stronger words and greater melodies; inspired words that can explode into the hearts of people and solve their challenges just like my book. I used to draw inspiration from events and sounds around, but now I concentrate on any message given to me or incidents that will change lives. Incidents that people can learn from and can make mankind better.
God wanted me to be a preacher that sings and not a singer that preaches. I cannot be going from church to church because I am training people that can do that. I am into all aspects of music….I write, compose, sing, produce and also market. You know God made me king in that He trained me to sing. I discovered Engineer Nelson, the one who featured the Plantashun Boiz that consisted of 2face Idibia, Faze and Blackface. The same thing with my way of prophesying, people say it’s mathematical and world-class.
People come from all over the world and say they have not seen my style of prophesying. The last set came from London, before then those who came from the US also said they had not seen this kind. It is an innovation which came from God. Some people say they dream or have vision….but my inspiration comes in diverse ways. God speaks to my hearing and uses things happening to quicken me to take action, to show myself responsible and responsive to the needs of the hour. I don’t hear from God only, I hear from people, I hear from circumstances.
All I want is to advance my generation. Every generation has its own music and message. Everyone born into this world must experience a forward match, so if the person thinks that the forward march is only possible through the old means, the person will be left behind.
Nowadays, some churches pay much attention to music and allocate fewer minutes to sermon. What is the place of music in Christian worship?
I hesitated to respond because I tell the Muslims that I do not preach to them to convert them to Christ but to transform them to Allah who will use them. It is the same word that I am using to speak to them which is wisdom.
I am not sent to convert Muslims but to make them useful. Those into music for money become antagonistic when they are told the whole truth. Music to such people is synonymous with anything in the church; they are not seeing music the way God sees it.
David used music to glorify God. Paul and Silas used music to praise God and received their freedom. The children of God used it to pull down the wall of Jericho. I use the portion of the scriptures where the demons left the king whenever David played the harp. So I tell them that the effect of your music shows whom you are glorifying.
Satan, who is Lucifer, the first musician in heaven, lost it all because he used his music to glorify self, not God. If when you sing people begin to lust after you, then know you are glorifying self. Perhaps after singing, you proceed to commit sexual immorality, fight or drink alcohol, you know it is the devil that is using you. If while you are singing, somebody who is possessed is freed, you know it is to the glory of God.
You know they no longer sing songs like ‘In the name of Jesus send the light’, ‘The name of Jesus, the name that conquers Satan that can send demons parking because they contain God’s words tailored to meet the needs of people and free souls’. The type of songs we hear today is more of self-worship; they are anything but songs that can free a soul and shift focus to God.
Some churches emphasise music to buttress their message while others do not play music that much. How does this affect worship?
Any music that does not change lives for good, inspire people and give God glory is not from God. In 2006, they sent for me from Aso Rock. President Olusegun Obasanjo was ruling then and he asked me to pray and I did. But when we were singing choruses, I started dancing and the ambassadors, kings and elders held me and asked that I teach them how to dance. My dancing gave me the opportunity to preach to them. Dance steps are part of the practical part of preaching.
Dancing should not suggest immorality or laughter that will not edify the soul. What touched the people in Aso Rock that day was not my prayer but my dance steps. The youths are not seeing matured ministers who love God and dance like David before the Lord. They engage in quiet, gentleman kind of dancing instead of wagging the tail as a dog does to greet its master as David also did. Youths are simply following the elders just like in politics. Again the kind of song youths want to hear is the song that gets them excited. When you begin to sing, the soul that sinneth shall die, and they ask, who is bringing that old school song? With those words ‘old school’ they have classed you on the wrong side.
During the service, you said you are 65 years old but you feel like 12 or 13 years old. Can you let out the secret?
There is a scripture I found that says ‘thou restoreth me, thou renew me as an eagle…’ Until it happens to you, you may not be able to know. Last May when I was 64 years old, after preaching, I went to kneel in the office to thank God.
I felt dizziness for the first time and I was shocked and I asked God why. He said He reduced my age by 35 years. He told me what and what to take for the renewal of my age. I work 24 hours a day and when I want to sleep, I sleep like a baby. I do not have a clerk, driver or messenger. I sing, compose songs, prophesy, write, attend to my schools and do several things. During the time I had the dizziness, some of my brethren advised that I engage in sports, take days off, but my spirit did not say yes to the suggestions because I was looking for what God will say to my spirit.
God told me to consume foods like pumpkin seeds, flat seed oil, etc. Shockingly, I noticed I was waking up from a different time I used to wake before I started consuming the food God prescribed for me. Without these things that I am eating that are slowing me down to rest and renew my strength, it would not have been easy. So God taught me to renew through His words, the type of food I am eating to meet up with my health needs not necessarily what my body likes and my lifestyle, surrounding myself with positive things and forgiving in advance.
You mean you don’t engage in any form of physical exercises?
Forgive me; what exercise is more than dancing? My eyes are seeing clearer than when I was younger. My ears are sharper; everything about me is not weak. With Nigeria’s life expectancy being 45, don’t you know that, with God, I can be 100 years and not feel any weakness?
How long do you dance in a day?
It is not all about dancing; I have different things I do. I move from one work to the other. I am always on the move. I try not to live a sedentary life. God taught me when I was inside a hole to always take garlic, tomato and onion. Later I realised that with garlic, Indians have learnt to live long. I do not need to jog; God has conditioned my life this way.
You’ve spent 57 years in ministry. Are there things you still want to learn?
If you find Christ when I found Him, what you should be asking me is what I should be improving on. I married as a virgin, I have never fought any person and I have never taken alcohol. I have also never smoked a cigarette. I am a recipient of the Global Figure Integrity Award alongside Pastor Enoch Adeboye and Nelson Mandela. Three weeks ago, I got three awards, including Distinguished Man of Integrity and Positive Force. God told me that no matter how I love a woman, I should not chase her.
Are there things that bother you about today’s Church?
Please do not go there. If you want to compare and contrast the churches today, you will make mistakes. We were sometimes in the days when we were told Jesus was coming and people sold their properties without caring. Now some Jehovah Witnesses are better than some Pentecostals. We had the days when Pastor William Kumuyi of Deeper Life Bible Church taught people how to dress and some were angry that people tied turbans, but what we are exposed to today is like the worst kind of vanity.
Spiritually, the former days were better but technology-wise, the present days are better. If you lose focus on scriptures, you will be carried away by the vanity fair of that generation. Quote me, in 20 years if Christ tarries, this generation will be far better. Then lawlessness will be everywhere. You will not even tell a man not to marry a man. You will not tell the live-in lovers not to do so because they would have removed where it is in the Bible. But you will see that mankind would have developed faster means of transportation. Someone wrote The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born. Up till now, they are not yet born.
What is your charge to younger ministers?
They know it all. Bible calls some people ever-learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth. Any effort you put to correct them, they will paint you black. If you ever accuse any of them of rape they will draw a crowd that will put you to shame. If you tell any of them to pay tithe, they will pull crowd together to put you to shame. If you tell them that the music they play is bad, the will tell you that you are old school and that you are heading nowhere.
If the new ministers want to listen, they should take heed to what the Bible says. The Bible says: ‘Remove not the ancient landmark.’ People these days are not spiritual but they have the appearance of spirituality and they are unthankful. Nigeria, in the other year, was said to be the happiest nation but now Nigeria is ranked as the world’s poverty capital as well as world’s capital of corruption and religious bigotry.
Prostitution is endemic now in our nation; just mention any evil, we borrow and mortgage our children to the third generation and our leaders are not seeing it as wrong. So, the younger generations should take cognisance of what God said will be happening in these last days because God is not going to judge the old generation differently from the younger generation or a Nigeria differently from other nationalities.
What is your take on border closure and hate speech regulation?
There are many benefits in border closure but the borders should not be closed for long. Some people are benefiting but majority is losing out. We have too many things to correct before talking of hate speech. Anybody’s statement can be seen as hate speech. Jesus was even called Beelzebub. What we should be looking at is border closure and the money being borrowed and owed even when we heard that Abacha’s loot was recovered. What is hate speech to you can be fine speech to another.
Can you comment on the state of the nation?
We have not elected any President yet in Nigeria, it is our leaders that select and ask us to vote. Now in electing other officers like governors, senators and so on, we have also lost it as we are no longer electing them. What will you say about that? That is the state of the Nigerian nation. Every regime becomes worse than the previous one.
Nigeria is cursed on leadership, Chinua Achebe told us that. I told you that unless the Constitution is changed and not amended, and possibly the name ‘Nigeria’ is changed also, these ugly situations will not change. But if the Constitution is changed, it will help to deal with the situation.
The case of Omoyele Sowore is a sign that something is wrong. Somebody who contested to be the President of Nigeria and could not be the President now turned to call for a revolution and the world is saying he is a prisoner of conscience, and the court said he should be released on bail. He is yet to be released.
This is the ninth year and tenth month I am paying salaries of teachers in my schools from my pocket. I even heard that in the North, the borders are open. PDP and APC should watch it; there is no difference between the two parties. When the revolution will come, nobody should say I did not raise the alarm. The governors are saying pay us this amount and they are busy building houses. Anybody that diggeth will fall, they are digging a pit, their friends and children should watch it.