• ‘Those who are benefiting from the system will deny that there’s no suffering but you and I know that the common man is going through pains’ — Reverend Felix Ilaweagbon
Omobude, the National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), speaks on the execution of the Michika local government area of Adamawa State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Rev. Lawan Andimi, by Boko Haram among other issues. Excerpts:
The killing of the CAN Chairman for Michika local government area of Adamawa State is tragic, condemnable, callous and a devilish act.
Boko Haram has left no one in doubt that the Church is their main target and they had continued to push this since inception.
The cases of the Chibok girls, Leah Sharibu, aid workers as well as several unrecorded cases are fresh in our memory and yet they have continued in this evil expedition.
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But the PFN is certain that good must overcome evil; no matter how dark the night is, the light will conquer darkness.
We cannot hold the government blameless on the issue of this fallen man of God because the government has the responsibility to the citizens of this nation, irrespective of tribe or tongue or religion, and they failed to deliver; they should not believe that the people will keep quiet.
The government wants us to believe that they have decimated Boko Haram; Boko Haram has been tactically defeated…and there has not been peace.
Every week, these people either ravage a whole village and abduct whoever they want to abduct; they even confront army formations, so why are they lying to people that Boko Haram has been decimated? Without a doubt, they still have all it takes to seize weapons from our military.
With all due respect, I respect the efforts of our military men but let’s face the situation and do not let the world believe that the war against insurgency is over.
It is not! The callousness of these people and by what they are doing, the issue for them goes beyond ransom.
They actually wanted to execute the CAN Chairman and they accomplished their mission.
We are not certain yet what the Adamawa governor did after he heard the appeal of the abducted CAN Chairman in a video sent to him and the Federal Government…..
I don’t want to believe that the governor didn’t do anything: whether what he did was enough is another thing. Whether he did it when they needed it is another thing. At times, when you look at the scope of these things, it’s beyond a state government.
I don’t think the Federal Government can wash their hands off this and put the blame on the state. It’s a national issue. It’s a national war. The people are out to cause mayhem to discredit the government of the day.
They want to prompt religious disharmony among the people. And no responsible government should fold its hands and watch this happen.
It’s an understatement to say whether the Federal Government is aware of what’s happening and they know the enormity of the task. They know the viciousness of Boko Haram or ISWAP.
A government that engages in deceiving the people, making us feel that there’s nothing when there are something calls for major concern. It’s the concern of the Church.
We will understand if the government has failed and says they have lost control of security and tell Christians to move out, but they tell us this place is safe and everyday people are killed.
We heard about four seminarians who were abducted a few days ago at the Good Shepherd of Kakau Major Seminary along Kaduna-Abuja highway.
These things keep happening and, whenever they happen, you condemn them. It’s not about condemning alone. It’s not enough! We need action.
What’s the Church doing to engage the government?
At various fora, we have made our stand known. We have made representations. CAN has presented our position a number of times to the Presidency. We have made state-of-the-nation addresses and we have various opportunities…We are Nigerians and we love the country.
We are patriotic. We don’t want to make things terrible for everybody. What they are trying to cause is an ill-wind that will blow nobody any good. No one has a monopoly on violence.
We are trying to control our young people and pacify them and we expect the government to do the needful by getting these people to account for their sins. Many of them are out-of-school and there are no jobs for them, so what do you expect? The Church cannot pick up arms.
We cannot call for an uprising to cause more trouble in the land. So we continue to hold our elected officers responsible because they swore to an oath to protect the lives of Nigerian people. And this, they have failed. The Church will continue to speak out.
Should the Church just continue to pray without exploring other options?
You suggest to us. Are we going to cause violence? Will that be the best for everyone? I still believe there’s nothing better in this circumstance than prayer and engagement of government.
We engaged in inter-religious dialogue even as we engage the traditional institutions. For now, that appears to be the limit of what we can do.
Whether the government listens or not, the beautiful thing is that democracy gives people a time-frame. Although democracy has not matured in Nigeria, you can’t fool the people forever.
If a party comes to the people and promises to give security, power and water and, at the expiration of their term, they didn’t deliver on any of these, democracy provides an opportunity for the people to revolt with their votes.
So, if anybody thinks they can deceive Nigerians forever, buying them bags of rice, wrappers thinking that will solve their problems, Nigerians are getting wiser.
As a Christian leader, will you say that there are elections in this country?
In all frankness, I will not say that the results of elections in Nigeria reflect the will of the people. But it is a step forward.
The days that one man will hold on to power with the gun and without recourse to the Constitution are over. We all now must begin to enlighten our people and fight social ills.
People buy their way to power and circumvent whatever laws that were made for the sanctity of elections and, going by recent happenings, people are beginning to lose faith in the judiciary. But, to me, it’s all part of the process. We are getting there but very slowly.
Do you agree with the school of thought that the increasing wave of insecurity is part of the plan to Islamize the country?
I think that people overemphasize this Islamization thing as if the Church is weak or afraid and lacks capacity. That’s not the case. The Church is not sleeping.
Muslims have a right to evangelise if they will do it peacefully, just as Christians have a right to do the same and we are doing that in our own way. Let me remind you that many attempts have been made in the past and to some extent they didn’t yield the fruits that the enemies expected.
While I will not ask the Church to go to sleep, we should not have sleepless nights over Islamophobia. I don’t think that that day is soon if it will ever come. The Church is not sleeping. We are still working, praying because Nigeria belongs to all of us.
In this country, OIC came and people thought that overnight it would bring a cloud over us. Then Sharia came; even when we cannot claim total victory yet, those who are enemies of the Church know it is not a walkover in Nigeria.
But they appear to be making inroads…
We are also making inroads, not through bow and arrows, not through violence but we are making inroads. The Church is the greatest nightmare of Islam.
I think we should also harness our strength. That Constitution thing fell like a pack of cards and whatever they have raised up… If there still be a Goliath, God still has a David.
Catholic Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah made a profound statement, comparing the Federal Government with Boko Haram and saying the only difference is that terrorists use a bomb to achieve their aims. Do you agree?
I respect Bishop Kukah. I hold him in high esteem. I believe he’s more knowledgeable than me especially in this area.
So, I don’t take his words with a pinch of salt. I didn’t read that statement but it’s up to the government to tell the world that they are not what the Catholic Bishop described. Nigerians today are wise enough to know the truth.
We voted this government into power in what we supposed was a civilized method. And if the government is not measuring up, the people have the prerogative to voice their grievance in whatever way they can. I think that’s what Bishop Kukah has done. It’s a language of dissatisfaction with the government.
Is that sinking down to the generality of Nigerians because we also saw the attempt by Omoyele Sowore to lead a protest against the government and what happened to him eventually?
I can tell that there are challenges that developing countries face. We have to fight totalitarianism and the people need to be enlightened and someone must pay the price for it like the one Sowore has had to pay. It also underscores the point that no matter how strong you are, the voice of the people will be heard.
To your question, when this government came into power, the Naira was exchanging for a dollar at N170 or so and they promised to make its exchange at one to one.
But instead, they devalued it and, today, you need about N360 to buy one dollar whereas wages have not insignificantly increased. The people have been under severe pain as new people are not being employed while every year thousands of graduates are turned out of schools.
Those who have served for 35 years in the civil service are being retired but new ones are not employed. You can ask questions…do you turn your water tap and you see public water running? Everyone is sinking borehole everywhere.
These are indices. Go to the hospitals or the schools…in most states of the country, pupils are sitting on the floor…more and more people are buying power generators. That’s the situation. The majority of Nigerians are in pain.
Those who are benefiting from the system will deny that there’s no suffering but you and I know that the common man is going through pains.
But shall we continue like this?
Honestly, I know that even in developed countries they have their challenges and, at times, the dimension is great. I believe that if we fail to do the right thing, we may not automatically be like Britain or America but attempts to do the right thing will move us forward.
To the credit of this government, they launched a war against corruption which is what every Nigerian needs to support if it’s wholesome.
Because corruption has set us behind in no small measure and it is still reigning in this country despite all that is being said or done. Even in the public service, you don’t need to go too far before you see it. It’s a problem that we all must deal with decisively.
How do you score this government’s economic programme in the last five years?
As far as I am concerned, the nation’s economy is worse than what it was in 2015 when they came in. That’s the way it seems and in every area.
When they came in, petrol was selling for N87 per litre but now it’s selling for N145 and they say they are still subsidizing the product. You are in Lagos while I live in Benin City, there’s no difference in electricity which is worse than what obtained when they came in.
On agriculture, I can give them credit because during this Christmas Nigerians ate made in Nigeria rice. That is a positive thing: we must go back to the land. Nigerians should consume what she produces. That’s a positive thing to do and I only wish that they improve on it.
We are increasing taxes and borrowing more. Is that a positive thing too?
I am not an economist and I cannot talk much on the borrowings and all the rest but I can tell you that you can borrow and borrow until you become a slave to the lender.
That’s in the Bible. The painful thing is that there’s no nation that people don’t pay tax. We should encourage our people to pay taxes, but the people also want to see what their taxes are used for.
Anywhere you go, you see governments upgrading their airports and infrastructural facilities and people are happy to pay their taxes because they can see what governments are using their taxes for. But the Benin-Lagos highway has been under construction since the Olusegun Obas