Says Service Chiefs can’t perform magic
By Ephraim Oseji
Bishop Charles Ighele is the General Superintendent, Holy Spirit Mission, Lagos. He shares his views with Sunday Vanguard on national issues regarding the nation.
How will you evaluate development in Nigeria so far?
First, I would like to look at development from when the British came; then development when Nigeria was made up of many ethnic groups, empires etc. Let us also look at development in western standard which has almost spread to the whole world. If you look at it from that angle, you would find out that there was development from point zero from the time when the British came till about 1960 when they left. When I went to Nigerian Railway head-quarters in Lagos sometime ago, you could see the structures put in place by the colonial masters, then you can compare it to how it is now.
The same thing goes with Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, Nigerian Institute for Palm Oil Research, Benin. Also look at the quality of secondary school education, manpower that is being produced and many other things that were setup. If you look at this administration in isolation, you will make mistakes and we will never get to where the problem is. Personally, as a thinker, as someone who loves this nation and thinks about it, I like to look at what is the root cause of our problems. When you look at how things have grown in terms of development through different eras till date, you cannot say that we are developing.
If we are developing, let’s take the educational sector for example, then how come the quality of English language that I speak is better than that of University graduates of today. If you look at all the sectors, you will see that we have only developed in the area of how to acquire personal wealth and corruption. Development is not rocket science to me. Unfortunately the elites that rule Nigeria do not understand what development is. And that is where the problem lies. Instead of looking at it in isolation I would rather look at development generally. There are certain things that makes up development ; we have labour, capital, entrepreneurial and land.
These are the factors that bring about productivity of people. If you want things to improve in terms of productivity, then you look at these factors. These are the basic pillars of development. We need to understand what the pillars of development are. If you look at the labour force in Nigeria, how are the schools that produce them, is that a labour force with unemployable youths. Look at land, who gets the land. Getting land to run a business in Nigeria is very tough.
Then if you look at capital, who has access to capital? Who does the bank give loans. Majority of bank deposits in Nigeria are owned by less than 5% .i.e. only less than 5% of Nigerians have bank deposits above 200,000. So who is capital favoring for production. With the way the whole system is, it is impossible. We have institutions of development that do not favour all round development. Basically it favours just the elites. If your family is not rich enough you cannot get there. If you do not have some sort of connections, you cannot get access to the banks. When I look at Nations that are developed and those that are not developed, one thing runs through them. Developed Nations have Institutions of development in terms of access to land, capital, entrepreneurial training, etc. These Institutions make those who have brains rise whether you are rich or poor.
If you go to the US today, within two months you can get a loan to buy a car but here you must have some money. But the way they are here, they only favour few people and any society whose instrument of development favours just few people can never develop. It is impossible unless we change the whole system. It is not about capitalism or socialism, it is about institutions of development being made accessible to all. Building of roads is not development. Development is centred around human beings( human capital). The quality of the Nigerian people is low.
Nigeria just celebrated her 60th independent anniversary, was there any reason to celebrate?
The way I see things, it is just the elites who have reasons to celebrate. How does a nation which has gone down like this celebrate poverty, insecurity, basic amenities, lack of electricity? Ghana and Rwanda have reasons to celebrate but as far as I see it, there is nothing to celebrate. Growing up as a young boy, I wanted to move round the nation, so I decided not to attend the University of Benin which was in the old Bendel where I happen to come from. Instead I schooled in Ife and from my higher school I went to Sokoto because I wanted to know my nation. Then the nation was more coexisting in terms of unity. Today, I will not send my child to Sokoto. Now what are we going to celebrate? National unity, cohesion, when it is worse than what it was? We are not in the process of nation building instead the elites are in the process of nation scattering and ethnic building.
What is the way forward?
We need a new set of elites with the proper orientation. And these things are not difficult at all. Russia used to be a pure feudalist nation but some people came up with ideas that birthed socialism. And there was capitalism in the US along with other places. These are elites that loved their nations. We need new sets of elites who will love this nation. People want to be rich, so the values are wrong. You see those among the worse going into politics and the educated joining them. We need a reorientation and it has happened. It happened in Rwanda and Ghana where they had President Rawlings who put up a new social order, and they built the political order based on that consensus. The political parties in Ghana are now operating based on that consensus, as things are liable or not liable to happen in Ghana with the experience of what happened before the coup that toppled their past leaders. If you also look at Rwanda, they have turned that country into a tourist centre. These are elites that love their nations and for them ethnicity is not a factor. There was a period when ethnicity in Nigeria was almost being tackled but now it is worse. What we have now are nations inside a nation and everything is being used to promote these different nations than to promote Nigeria. I wish this present set of leaders can think like the prodigal son and arise, then go to do the right thing. I pray it doesn’t happen through a revolution or any violent overthrow of government. Nigeria cannot continue to get rotten, something must happen. I just pray these present leaders sit down and think of what to do. The ones who brought the mess can also repair it to prevent danger that can come. Some nations have changed their leadership through coup, revolutions and other means. These are ways we can change our nation, for the beginning of rearmament of social values which we need.
Do you think insecurity can be tackled if the President changes his service chiefs?
I have always said the service chiefs are not the problem. If you bring the service chiefs in America, Head of Army in America, Head of Navy in Britain, Head of Air force in Germany, Head of Police in France and Head of secret service in Russia to come and be Nigeria’s service chiefs under the same system nothing will happen. When the number of criminals over shadow security personnel, what can a service chief with limited numbers of policemen or soldiers do? The criminals are so many and have become so audacious, more powerful. It is not possible when the social system that produces these criminals keep producing them and then you expect some service chiefs to perform miracles? It will never happen. There is nothing service chiefs can do to curb crime. If you are asking that they be removed for corruption or other reasons then that is a different thing entirely but you cannot ask that they should be removed because they did not bring security under control. Nobody can bring security under control until the whole system is rejuvenated. The system produced these criminals and the system has to be visited for it to be curbed
What is your take on the recent Company and Allied Matters Act as it relates to the church?
The aim of the law is to make doing business in Nigeria easy. Many other things were put in order to make business easy. For instance, it is approved by law to hold a virtual meeting whether it is an AGM or any other sort of meeting. The surprising thing is in the process of making doing businesses easier, they want to make running the church impossible. When the law now states that your trustees can be removed and the government can replace them with their own officials, it has never happened. It is one of those laws that cannot work. The reason I know it cannot work is that in the history of nations, when the law is made for a whole nation or a section of the nation and the people oppose it, the law does not work. People are seeing the church in a bad light but still there are lots of things the church does to alleviate the sufferings of those around them that nobody ever sees, hears or talks about. Without the church a lot of people will suffer more. A lot of people have the misconception that churches take money from the poor to build expensive schools and other things. The reality is that it is the rich who bring money to do these things to help the poor.
Last year I was appointed by PFN Nigeria as the Chairman, Financial Accountability Commission of Penticostal Churches to put up a code of conduct for the governance of Pentecostal churches and financial accountability. We were able to come up with something to guide the governance of the church to regulate ourselves. Now the National President of PFN, Rev. Omobude would have come up with some of these things if not for the general lockdown due to Covid-19 which has slowed down a lot of activities. Basically, I am at the centre of this. It pains me when there are cases where pastors dip hands into tithes and offerings without any consent. My campaign for the past year is that just as all professional institutions have an act of parliament that needs them to regulate themselves, churches should also have an act of parliament where we will be able to regulate ourselves. So that every Pastor must have a license to be able to open a church. PFN and CAN should put up a structure in such a manner that anybody who says he wants to be a Pastor has to be licensed. And if you are reported when you misbehave to the council on discipline, your license can be withdrawn and the government will not allow you to set up a church anywhere. Self regulation should be the way forward.
How will you react to the increase made in taxes, fuel and electricity tariff.
As an undergraduate, I used to take to the streets to protest such things. The hike in all these things does not favor the poor at all. Unfortunately Nigerians have been traumatised into submission. Nigerians have suffered so much that they do not even know how to come out of that suffering. If not this is a thing which people protest about in some normal countries. The hike in these sectors have basically affected even the prices of basic commodities like food. I think this move was not sensitive enough. What we need in this trying times is appeal from the President and not him telling the nation he will still increase prices. Let people who are leaders rise up and stand for the poor, then let those who are in government fight for everybody.