By Ebunoluwa Sessou
Bishop of Lagos Diocese (Anglican Communion), Rt. Rev. Humphrey Olumakaiye, in this interview, speaks on the coronavirus crisis raging across the world, war against corruption and the security challenge facing Nigeria among other issues.
COVID-19 is raging and efforts to contain it are proving very difficult. What is your take?
We will continue to pray for the mercy of God to get us out of the situation. But let me urge Nigerians not to panic or be faithless. Rather, Nigerians should continue to pray and depend on God. At this time, we need God’s intervention as a nation and that is part of the journey of life. Soonest, it will pass.
Shouldn’t there be adequate measures in place by government to prevent disaster from happening instead of allowing disaster to happen before tackling it?
Frankly speaking, I believe government especially Lagos State government is doing its best. The governor has been proactive about it and the people have been sensitive on the measures taken to minimize the spread. I think government needs to be encouraged. I believe all necessary things should be provided in order to contain this pandemic.
The country was faced with security challenges during the lockdown restriction imposed by the Federal Government in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states. There were pockets of robbery attacks, violence in different communities. Is there a missing link?
This is the major responsibility of women in ensuring the home front is secured. Women are expected to bring up their children in a godly way. Women are home builders. Therefore, they are supposed to do more in the aspect of children upbringing.
Today, many women have abandoned their duties and neglected the training of their children. A child that is not properly trained would misbehave. And that is what we are witnessing in the country today. Most of these children are not well brought up in the knowledge and fear of God. And if they are not brought up in the fear of God, they will join gangs. They will not even value lives.
Any child that is not brought up in the home or environment of love will live to hate people. He will not appreciate life, people, environment or whatever you do for him because he or she has been brought up in an ungodly environment. And that is why we have to go back to the basics. We have to go back to the scripture.
We urge our women not to miss family altar in the morning. A woman must be able to call her children together, pray with them, monitor them, monitor their friends and whatever they are doing outside the home front, guide them, counsel them. It is an enormous task that God placed in our hands. But, when these responsibilities are not adequately addressed, there will be chaos.
Today, we have crisis in our nation, among youths who are supposed to be leaders of tomorrow. That is the problem the country is facing. We see all sorts of crisis in the country because we have missed the foundation. We all need to go back to the foundation and the knowledge of God. We have jettisoned God; we have to go back to Him. Without God, we cannot survive. Without God, our lives will be in shambles. Without God, the nation will crumble. It is the knowledge and fear of God that build nations.
Are you saying our relationship with God is zero despite our deep religious activities?
We are facing this problem because we are far away from God. It is high time we all returned to God. That is the only solution. We cannot pray enough. We have been praying and we will continue to pray, ask for God’s mercy to protect our land. We all on our own part should return to God. You can see what the nation is experiencing today; people do not value lives again.
We are too materialistic, greedy, believing that the world will not end. Many people do not believe that we will give account of our stewardship on earth. The fear of God has gradually eroded from the lives of people. This is because they are far away from God or have decided not to move close to God. Unfortunately, there is no way we can have a breakthrough without God.
Life outside Jesus Christ is in crisis and that is why we are facing lots of crisis today. We have jettisoned God. We have abandoned God. There are principles to the kingdom of God, healthy living, healthy community, godly living and when you do not follow those principles, you will suffer for it, and that is why we are encountering all sorts of problems.
Both leaders and followers are far away from God. We have modernized everything and abandoned our Creator. We have forgotten that God has given us the manual which is the scripture to live a godly life. Even the Islamic religion has the Quran to pilot and direct the lives of the Muslim faithful. The question, therefore, is how many people are following the dictates of the Holy Books today?
Many of us are living greedy lives and not caring about tomorrow. Nobody cares about good name or leaving a legacy behind after death. Nobody cares about what others would say when he or she misbehaves.
But many people would claim they are serving God, yet you say we are far away from God.
God is love. When you love your neighbour, you are serving God. When you make life worth living for others, you are serving God. When you do not hate your neighbour but want the best for people around you, when you want to leave behind a good legacy, you are serving God. When you want to do things that will better the community, you are serving God. When you are eager to improve the livelihood of the community, you are serving God.
Unfortunately, all these virtues are not in place. That means we are far away from God. Or what do you make of an individual who empties the treasury that belongs to the generality of the people? How can individual embezzle billions of naira meant to construct roads, provide potable water for the community? Such an individual does not know God. A person with the heart of God will never do such a thing. People should be aware that we are all strangers in this world and we will all leave the world one day. Once you understand that, it will be difficult to provoke your neighbours.
But, anyone who indulges in such acts does not know God no matter the gospel he or she preaches, no matter who the person is. If you are living a selfish life, you do not know God. God is love and that love must be seen in us. Where is the love in our nation today?
Religious leaders are expected to be builders, bridging the gap between the masses and the leaders in the country. Unfortunately, religious leaders seem to be unnecessarily quiet. Is there any meeting point between the political leaders and religious leaders?
I will not say that we have been quiet, we have been talking but the question to ask is, are those leaders ready to listen? They are not ready to listen. We have been preaching the undiluted gospel. These leaders are members of our churches. They are in mosques but they are not ready to change. But, we will continue to preach the gospel and show them the path of life, obedient to the Word of God, honesty, dignity of labour and righteousness.
And that is why I am urging Nigerians to pray that God should break our leaders down. It is not just to continue to talk. We need God’s intervention in the affairs of this country. The truth is that these leaders know what you will say before you say it. Some of them are even pastors, some of them claimed to know the scripture more than you.
I would not want to agree with you that our leaders do not know the right thing to do but they are exhibiting an act of wickedness. Some are vehemently wicked. They are living self-centred life and it is demonic.
What should be the prayer point for Nigerians?
There is no end to prayer. We will continue to pray and it is the prayer of the righteous that has been sustaining this country. If not, this country would have been consumed long ago. The country would have been set ablaze. It is the silent prayer of the righteous that has been sustaining the country. It is obvious that our leaders are totally confused about what is happening in our nation. But God’s mercy has been sustaining us. God has done more than enough for us in this country.
What some Nigerian leaders are doing and yet still living had consumed other leaders in other nations. It has caused religious crisis, war in some countries. But Nigeria is still enjoying the mercy of God and that is the reason we need to pray more. And we believe, there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
Religious groups including PFN and CAN have internal crises rocking them on daily basis. Would you still want politicians to emulate religious leaders in this regard?
I am not aware of a major crisis in CAN or PFN but what I know is that religion is personalized. It is the relationship between you and your God. When you talk about CAN or PFN, it is the just a fellowship. We are talking about our relationship with God and the Bible tells us that “If God’s people can humble themselves and pray and seek Him, He will heal the land and forgive their sins”. It is not saying “if CAN or PFN should pray”.
The focus is not CAN or PFN. It is talking about the righteous. If we should pray sincerely, God will answer us in this nation. God is not after the majority but the elect, the sincere, the faithful, genuinely regenerated. I think, it is better to talk about that inside our rooms, our public and private prayers matter to God. I believe that when God’s people pray to God, He will answer. It is not until you are a pastor or General Overseer or bishop that God will answer your prayer. They are all titles. God is only looking for his elect.
This is the first time, Vanguard will be having exclusive interview with you since your emergence as the new Bishop of Anglican Communion, what has been the experience so far from Osun to Lagos State?
To the glory of God, I was consecrated a Bishop in 2009 and enthroned as the Pioneer Bishop of Osun North-East Diocese on July 16, 2009. I was in Osun North-East Diocese between 2009 and 2018 which accumulated to nine years. And with God’s assistance, we were able to open up that community for the Lord. We were able to take the gospel to every nook and cranny of that environment and we bless the name of the Lord for the impact we made in the area of evangelizing. We recorded both spiritual and physical impact.
By the divine mandate, we were elected for translation to Lagos Diocese in 2018 to take over from our father, my mentor, the Most Rev. Dr. Ephraim Ademowo, PhD, the former Bishop of Lagos Diocese who is also the Dean Emeritus, Church of Nigeria. I want to thank God that He gave us the privilege and the grace to take over from that great man of God and Baba and Mama Ademowo have been a benediction to the church and we will forever be proud of them.
I was enthroned as the 8th Bishop of the Diocese of Lagos on July 30, 2018. And immediately I came in, we rolled out our plans for the Diocese and the first thing which I will like to say is the divine mandate of a 5-fold ministry namely, the Priestly, Pastoral, Prophetic, Prayer and Praise ministries. Since then, God has been so wonderful.
Tell us the experience in Lagos compared to Osun?
I could say that Lagos is a vital ground for evangelism. And we bless God that since our arrival, we have been doing much in the area of evangelism. We are here to evangelise to people to take the gospel to both believer and unbeliever. And we want to thank God that we have made great impact in the lives of the people and our experience is that the people in Lagos are responsive to evangelism and that has helped tremendously. We have different programmes lined-up for the people and they have been very responsive to all the programmes we are doing.
Women are more vulnerable in the church despite their population, what area is the church concentrating on to alleviate their challenges?
For Lagos Diocese under the leadership of Prof. Funke Olumakaiye who is the President of Women and Girls Organisation, there have been records of achievements in the area of women empowerment and girl-child education. Scholarships have been provided for our girls in different schools. In the area of health, we have the Archbishop Adebola Ademowo Resource Center in Bariga, which accommodates more than 100 people who come to the clinic for different health issues every Thursday and it is free irrespective of religion.
Another area is agriculture; in Epe, our women have been empowered on farming. Few of the women have been empowered on vocational skills. Even widows are not left behind in the empowerment project. We have Widows’ Week and Elders’ Fellowship which is an avenue to address some of the challenges with widows and elderly. We have different areas where women have been relevant to make tremendous impact.
Are there ways the church arranges the empowerment projects for adequate sustainability?
We have women’s wing that specialises in ensuring that programmes are adequately executed.
- We are too materialistic, greedy, don’t fear God
- Women not raising children in godly manner
- Our leaders are totally confused about what is happening in our nation
- If not for us, Nigeria would have been consumed long ago
- Lagos is vital ground for evangelism