Reverend Musa Asake is the General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). In this interview with Tobi Joseph, Asake bares his mind on politics in Nigeria; he talks about the seeming inability of CAN to unite Christians in Nigeria, the insurgency and issues on peaceful co-existence among Nigerians among other burning issues.
Reverend Musa Asake, a lot of people see Nigerians as very religious, but how come we are very far from honesty, righteousness and everything right?
A – Well, being religious, that is true. But the background and the reason are two different things. When they see us far from being right, I don’t think it’s caused by our own religion. Like in Christianity, your conversion matters most and there are some that go to church but are not really Christians and so when they begin to behave differently, because they go to church you call them Christians. I think the line needs to be drawn, that’s for me conversion, and real conversion will make a difference in someone’s life.
What is the mandate of the Christian Association of Nigeria? What are your objectives?
A – Our objective is for Christians to come together. And we have a motto taken from Jonh 17:21 culled from the Lord’s prayer ‘that they all maybe one’ so the goal, the mandate of the Christian Association of Nigeria is that all the Christians in this country may be one. Unfortunately, we have not achieved that goal yet, but that is the goal, that is the mandate. And if you are one, there will be unity, you will do things together but if you are not one then you have problems and so it applies to any organisation. And if you read Genesis 11, when these people came together, they started building that tower, God himself said ‘If people are one, whatever goal they set out for themselves, they will accomplish it’. So that is the mandate of the Christian Association of Nigeria that they all – the Christians, must be one.
That is very difficult going by the fact that a lot of people are coming together from different backgrounds, different ethnic nationalities.
A – (Cuts in) it’s very difficult because of the diversity just as you have said. It should not be very difficult because we have only one God that we believe in. So if we stay by that it will not be very difficult because our God that we worship is a God that does not take into consideration your tribe, your state, your country and that’s why we say a Christian, he takes, embraces anybody from anywhere. But it’s difficult today because we come into Christianity not leaving our cultural heritage, not leaving this tribalism and everything and that’s why the Church is struggling. If you take those things into the church then you cannot be one.
Now why does it seem that the Christian Association of Nigeria and leaders in its fold are not speaking with one voice against societal ills and of course issues of national importance?
A – That is sad but that is why we are called human beings. People differ. Again as I have said, being a Christian takes one who has been really converted, really changed. But you see some are driving their own personal agenda and so they can speak whatever they want to say. Some are in positions that they feel they are everything and so they don’t want to submit to others’ leadership. So you have all these diversities because we are human beings and that’s the problem but we are not giving up.
There is nowhere in the bible that Christ told us it was going to be easy, instead he said: ‘take up your cross and follow me’and that embraces everything. It even includes the suffering that you may go through, it includes the disagreements that you may go through but you have one God that you are looking on to.
So I agree with you that we don’t speak with one voice. I also want to admit we do that because we are human beings and human beings can do things at times differently.
Does that not show that personal interest has eroded National interest and of course spiritual interest or God’s interest?
A – Personal interest, I mentioned earlier. There are some that are promoting their personal interest above the spiritual interest and once that is done, then we look at you and we question your Christianity. Because in Christianity, nothing should take pre-eminence over the spirituality, over the work of God. Everything should submit to the work of God and if that does not happen then something is wrong.
What role is the Christian Association of Nigeria playing to ensure that we do not have mushroom churches, proliferation of churches and all what not’s being set up by some Prophets, Evangelists and Pastors?
A – The Christian Association cannot police and make sure those things don’t happen because it is an association and because it is an association, it is not guided by rules and laws that you must… No! There are some people and their churches that don’t even attend anything called Christian Association. You cannot arrest them, you cannot force them. It is not compulsory and so that’s why Christian Association, if you are a member, a church group is a member then we deal with that church group. We don’t talk about doctrines. We want to go along together and so the issue of doctrines are not issues in Christian Association. Every church remains with what they believe and that is why you can see people doing things differently and Christian Association cannot interfere in what they are doing.
Now let’s look at the issue of taxes, a lot of people believe that churches should pay tax, why are you against it?
A – Churches are under what we call ‘non-profit organisations’. It’s just of recent that we these independent churches have grown to have larger followers and people give tithes, some very big or very fat, if I would say. So why would somebody single out the church to pay tax? Have you asked the mosques to pay taxes? Because I don’t understand when it comes to Nigeria if we are going to speak, we only look at Christians but there are different religions. We have those that believe in traditional religion but in Nigeria, we talk of religion, we are talking of either Christianity or Islam. So I also want to ask whoever is asking that question: ‘Why is he putting his eyes only on Christianity? What of Islam? Is he questioning them to pay taxes too? They don’t gather money in the mosque?’
These are things that people need to know. But under the Nigerian constitution, non-profit organisations don’t pay taxes and the church is under a non-profit organisation. Why would somebody wake up today and want to change that to only Christians and not including the Muslims.
If you say churches are under non-profit organisations, why are some churches making profits by setting up Universities, setting up schools, setting up businesses, why can’t they pay tax?
A – Let me make it very clear and you check the records, any church in this country that is having a University, that is called a University, it’s not called a church. Just because the church owns that University that University is not a church. That University is functioning as a University and is going by the rules of the country. If they have a business, they are paying taxes. We are talking about the church itself, but any other business that the church has they pay taxes in that business. If they don’t, it’s a violation and the law can take of that.
But please people should not mix the business that a church or individual in that church is having and look it as a church. Just because the church owns it does not mean that it’s a church and that’s why it remains with the name of the business and the church continues as a church. So the church itself is what we are talking of, but any business that the church has, check the records, they are paying taxes.
What is your assessment of the role the church is playing in Nigeria to sanitise the society, to bring sanity to the conduct of public affairs and re-orientate an average Nigerian?
A – You see a typical Nigerian getting into a position no longer, not all, but do not, do I say respect the church or wants to do what the church says. And so the church continues to preach the word, the church continues to teach the word of God and there are some churches I want to admit that have dropped from preaching the messages of conviction to messages of convenience and that is sad.
Which churches are you talking about?
A – Well generally I will say some preachers. Because this one is not earmark or they come out to say we are changing now but from what you see and hear, the church before used to preach a message of conviction and that is why armed robbers go to church and a message is given, he is convicted and that is why people went forward to make things right or to accept Christ for the first time. But today an armed robber comes to church and the message goes on he feels very comfortable, he’s not supposed to. That is where we find ourselves that the message has been found cueing in certain areas and so people do whatever they want to do without being convicted, which is a sad thing.
But there are some churches that still teach the word and stand by the word. We give credit to those that are still committed come what may. But you go into government, into politics because you go into politics on your own it’s not the church that sent you there and so when the church is having a meeting they invite you, you don’t come. The church cannot do anything because they did not send you there. But If people were going into politics through the church then the church will be able to control and have a say. But the churches cannot have a say like you get your own job on your own and then someone somewhere is trying to tell you how you behave in that job, you will not listen. That is the way it is.
Let us look at a very controversial issue and that is the issue of peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims and of course their rights as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Why is it difficult for us to set aside our faith to live together and build a strong institution and society?
A – If you say set aside our faith, that will be very difficult to do because it is that faith that identifies us. Now or rather, I like the question ‘why is it very difficult for us to live together?’ It is very difficult for us to live together because we are human beings and we’re selfish people.
Now, peaceful coexistence if we really mean it, I have discovered that there are times the whole of the thing on peaceful coexistence, call it interfaith or anything, but are we really sincere? I don’t want to sound judgemental here but I found difficulty when Christians and Muslims come together, after that meeting the Muslims go about to do their own thing. So, it makes it very difficult, we only use the word from our lips, ‘peaceful coexistence’ but do we practicalise it?
Are you saying that there is no unity at all when it comes to the leadership of Christians and Muslims even with the setting up of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council?
A – If you look at the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, can you count their accomplishments? And that’s why I said that there is no sincerity somewhere else. In the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council we are to live up to what they started to do, some of the religious problems that we have will not be there. I strongly believe that because the Sultan is there, some of these Northern Emirs are there but all the evils, the ills that we go through in this country especially in the North, what have they done to stop it. They can stop it if they want. So coming together to sit and shake hands, drink tea, take pictures that you have come for a meeting, that’s not the goal.
Are you saying that if Northern Muslim leaders actually rise up to say: ‘Enough is Enough’, the killings in the Northern part of the country will stop?
A – Definitely it will stop. I’m a Northerner so I’m not speaking like an outsider. I know what we go through and I know what these people can do if they want to do it. Now let’s talk about the crises in the North, the killings and the rest. When these Islamic clerics were coming into the country from outside, when they come in to teach do they go to church?No, they went into the mosque and when they were teaching and inciting people will the Northern politicians tell me they didn’t know about them? They did. What did they do to stop it? They didn’t because they were singing a music that they like but now the thing has gone beyond their control, they are saying these people are not Muslims. When did they start knowing they are not Muslims? When they started in the name of Islam, did they come out to pronounce ‘Fellow Nigerians, these people that said they are Muslims, they are not because their practice is against Islamic tenets’, they did not do it.
All the Governors in the North that make this noise, they come for a meeting after killings and they just say ‘we condemn it’, what have they done to stop it? If they want to stop it today they will stop it I repeat myself.
Are you insinuating that these Northern leaders, Muslim leaders, Governors in that particular region are in a way or indirectly supporting this insurgency?
A – What I’m saying is, if they want to stop this they will stop it. This thing did not take them unaware. I’m not using the word ‘support’ it depends on whatever one wants to interpret what I’m saying but I’m saying, let’s go to Borno for example where this thing started, this thing started by one or two people, are you telling me the Government did not know? All these camps that are built there killing people, are you telling me the government did not know? The government should have stopped this thing before it got to the level that it did, but they are politicize it, that’s what I’m saying, with no apology.
I’m a Christian from the North,I know what we go through before the coming of boko haram, we have been marginalised, we were not treated, a Christian in the North is not treated as a Northerner, we were treated as a second-class citizen, if not a third-class.
And let’s take a typical Muslim house, there are Christian indigenes. Let’s take Kano for example, we have Kano indigenes that are Christians but they are not allowed into the government, they are marginalised. Look at what the governor of Kano is doing, sending students overseas, go and make your own research, of the many that have gone, how many of them are Christians? The answer is: None. Is he telling me that he is a governor for only Muslims? There are Kano state indigenes that are Christiansbut they are not carried along. You go to Borno where all these killings are, if they kill a Muslim section, you’ll see the Governor there tomorrow but when they burn down Churches, kill Christians, they raze villages, do you see them there? The answer is: No. That’s what I’m saying. Whether they support or they don’t support, I don’t care with the word ‘support’, but I’m saying if they want to stop it they will stop it. They are in position to stop it.
I don’t understand when they talk about poverty, I always put my head down in shame. Who will come to the North and start talking about poverty? The leadership of this country, the people, we have been led by people from the North. The money is in the hands of Northerners, a lot of it. They have been in leadership positions, what did they do to curtail these things? It is now that they are talking about poverty? Who is coming to make us rich? Let them show me, let the governors from the North show me the schools they are building, what they are doing, until Boko Haram comes now they are saying the youth are restless, it’s poverty. Somebody who is poor is carrying AK 47? It doesn’t makes sense.
When we speak at times let us speak as people who know what we are doing. If you are poor you can’t afford to buy an AK 47. Now if this people called Boko Haram say: ‘Western Education is Evil’, I would have expected them not to be going about with guns, not to be riding in cars. I would have expected them to be riding in horses and donkeys to show that they don’t want to have anything with West but look at the irony. They are using sophisticated weapons made by the Westerners given to them by educated people, trained by educated people. If you give me an AK47 today, I’ll just look at you as I don’t know how to use it. But these illiterate people are using it. Does it occur to a typical Nigerian that somebody is behind that? And if somebody is behind that, is he outside the country? And if you look at all those who are doing these things, they are foreigners. Either Chadians or Nigeriens or from Mali, how do they come in? Where are they camped? Who is training them? Somebody is behind that.
Now can our security people tell me they don’t know about them? There are sacred cows, the sponsors are sacred cows in the Nigerian system. There are some of them who if you touch them, they say: ‘Nigeria will go on fire’. But you and I we can only speculate. We can’t come out and say: ‘this man is a sponsor’. But I believe our security people know them.
Would you say our security system and the Nigerian military is incapable of quelling this insurgency?
A – It is not incapable. You see, our security people right now, if you’re talking about what is going on, they are doing their best. But you will also agree with me that there are saboteurs among them and that makes it very difficult, because once we talk about the Christian Association of Nigeria and we talk about the motto: ‘that they all may be one’, so even in combatting a war, if you are not together the General can give a command, people will make a mess of the whole thing and there will be terrible mistakes.
The Boko Haram has gotten to this level because in our own security agencies there are people that are sympathisers to Boko Haram. That’s why it has lasted so long. Look at the way they have continued to do it, the government is doing this thing, they unveil them here today, they strike tomorrow.
Think about the Chibok girls, how did they escape with those girls? That number of girls if there are no insiders that made that happen. How would they go into a school like that? Where were the security men in that school? Where was the Principal? I’m told the Vice Principal escaped, his children are in that school but none of them was abducted.
So my brother, it’s funny what is happening in Nigeria but you know what, God will deliver us. Innocent bloods are being shed but these bloods of innocent people are crying to God and God won’t let that go in vain.
If you say God will deliver us, God has given us a leader in person of President Goodluck Jonathan who is supposed to take us out of this quagmire, what is your assessment of his capabilities to do this job?
A – If I call you and you hear my call and you refuse to answer, what do I do? But if you answer, I’ll tell you what to do. Goodluck Jonathan is our leader, now we the followers are we being sincere? Are we telling him the truth? Goodluck Jonathan cannot be in Maiduguri and be in Kano and be in Sokoto and be in Kogi state or wherever at the same time. That is why we have the Governors, that is why we have Ministers, that is why we have all these different offices so that they can function. Some of them are doing their work. But when it comes to the overall, we blame it on Goodluck Jonathan.
Now again back to the Chibok girls, did you expect Jonathan to have been there to stop the abduction? The answer is No. A governor is there. Was there no security report?
But Reverend Asake, if you say the Governor is there, Mr President has declared a ‘State of Emergency’ that has incapacitated or handicapped the sitting Governor. The bulk seems to stop on his table?
A – Please let’s not fool ourselves with the fact that there is a state of emergency and the governor is incapacitated, he is not. Please, let us not deceive ourselves and allow this man to continue his mess based on that town. The President is here, why don’t you drop the name Governor now, if there is a state of emergency, let him step down, let the Military take over. Then I will agree. He is still the Governor, he’s still functioning, he’s supposed to report to Jonathan. Have they cut the line of communication? The answer is No.
All these things we are only saying them, looking for excuses when we have failed. We need to admit that we have failed. But the man is still holding his head high and acting as if people are not dying in that state. That is very unfortunate. But you know as a Christian I know that judgment, God’s judgment is coming and it’s coming on everybody, Muslims and Non-Muslims.
What is your assessment of President Goodluck Jonathan as a leader?
A – President Goodluck Jonathan is a very good leader, a compassionate leader, a very calm leader. Unfortunately for him, I think some of his lieutenants are not sincere with him and the man is good, he listens. So my assessment is that he is doing very well but there are some spots, particularly people in that his government that may not be very helpful to him.
As I said earlier I’m from the North and I’m very concerned that the Northern politicians think nobody outside of the North should sit on that seat as the President of this country but a Northerner and that is why the support is not coming the way it should and that is also why I see some deceit in their own governing. I feel that when they go to Jonathan they speak with a different mouth, they come back and do a different thing.
What would you say about his anti-corruption war?
A – You see people are expecting miracles during Jonathan’s tenure. He is not the first President of this country. There have been Presidents before him. Now just look at what he is doing, I’m not sitting right here to try to defend Jonathan, I’m not a politician but you also give credit where credit is due.
Obasanjo was there, Obasanjo did a lot of things to our eyes, we watch and listen. Some were constitutional some were not but look at the way Jonathan is. Obasanjo declared State of Emergency in Plateau, did he consult the national Assembly? No. He did before he went back to consult them.
There was an impeachment during Obasanjo’s term, 5 lawmakers impeached a Governor, Obasanjo was there. So Jonathan to my assessment, not to go too far because I’m not a politician and I’m not trying to preach a doctrine of supporting Jonathan, that’s not my point. But I am saying by my own assessment he is doing his best,
Back to the issue of the Boko Haram, does it not baffle you that Mr President had to seek for help of foreign forces to tackle Boko haram especially to secure the release of these Chibok girls?
A – It doesn’t baffle me. He is doing the right thing. Because I talked about saboteurs and I talk of deceit earlier. Now Mr President depending on politicians, the Governors that know what is going on and they are not telling him the truth. So let’s bring people that will not compromise. We’ve gotten to a stage that the security challenge is beyond touching it and there are some people in this country that are behind these happenings.
So God helping us, let’s see the results of foreigners being in our country now who will not compromise and I pray they don’t. I pray they don’t because the Nigerian system of politics is a lobbying that can always convince a good person to be a bad person. I pray these people will not and that is why when I read one of the statements that the Americans said they will not be telling our Nigerian Army the results of their findings I was very happy because I don’t trust our system very well.
Now what do you make of the fact that the Nigerian soldiers are also complaining of lack of honesty, lack of adequate welfare and of course the conspiracy of some of their Generals and Commanders with the sponsors or leaders of the Boko Haram sect?
A – You know that’s why when some people say corruption is the number one problem in Nigeria, I say No. To me the problem in Nigeria is impunity. People do what they want and they go free even the Boko haram thing, if we were executing or punishing publicly some of these people, some of these things will stop.
Now it is very unfortunate that a human being will take advantage of such a happening. Like some of the Generals, I read sometimes ago that the GOC in Maiduguri, these soldiers don’t even have their own boots that they can walk into the bush. They don’t have their allowances but the guy is going about enjoying himself. If you’ve been following the news, these soldiers that were recently killed, they were going on an assignment and suddenly he gave an order that they should come back. For what reason nobody knows, an emergency return and they were ambushed along the way. That’s why they went after his life, that’s why they released this thing. So it’s very unfortunate my brother that people will use this kind of situation to make personal gain with their conscience not condemning them. I called it ‘blood money’ and that can bring a curse to you and not a blessing.
Now that we have the morale of the soldiers so low, are we not creating a situation whereby the soldiers …….
A – Cuts in …….. I wouldn’t say their morale is so low, they are still working very high. They are doing their best so I wouldn’t go the issue that their morale is so low because these things are happening, some generals are not living up to expectations but you can also see that they are working very hard. They put their lives on the line. They are being killed but they are not giving up. So we need to continue to pray for them and support them. They have families, they have relations but they are there for you and me. We are sitting here today as a result of their sacrifice. So their morale is not low.
As for coup, a coup does not comes because those people staging a coup wants to rescue us from a particular problem, it’s selfishness but for 15 years now we’ve been under Democracy, I don’t think somebody is willing to go back under the military rule. So I don’t pray so.
This corruption you are talking about with impunity in the Nigerian Military system, how can we stamp it out?
A – Actually I’m not very particular in the Nigerian Military system, I’m talking of the Nigerian country as a whole. Now the leadership must step up and stamp out impunity. We should not have sacred cows. When we punish people, you remember it’s not long that we were reading in the news and individual embezzled pension money. Billions, but he’s walking the streets of Nigeria today. Why? What is our fight against corruption? That is the sad point but a local person makes a mistake somewhere and he’s fired from his jobbut those big, big people they are not touched.
Look at how our money is being controlled. Look at our politicians, I mean you have there in the Senate a Senator from Borno was accused of having a hand in Boko Haram when his nephew was living with him. What happened to him? He is still there sitting and talking today. Recently, he was the one telling us about these Chibok girls that they’ve started giving them in marriage outside the country. He would have been called to tell us where he is getting his information. It did not happen.
We have the former Governor of Zamfara state who introduced Sharia and many lives were killed, he is sitting in the Senate today to make laws for this country. Is it not funny? Impunity is the problem of Nigeria that’s my point. Not only in the Military, but all over.
Does this not call to mind the fact that we have a systemic failure?
A – Well, you see when you use the word ‘failure’ then you are giving up completely. But I see us still struggling to do the right thing. And once we see the light, we’re getting there, someone else darkens it again. And that is why I still have hope, I still believe in this country, this is my country I don’t have another country. A leader today maybe bad, a politician today maybe bad, but there are good ones so that gives me hope. One day those good ones will overshadow the bad ones.
So my brother, I’m trying to encourage us Nigerians that our God has not gone to sleep, our God has not turned his back on Nigerians. In fact you and I are alive today because there are people that are praying day and night for the survival of this country. And that’s why we are still alive. It’s going to be history one day, it may not be during my lifetime or your lifetime but I believe it’s going to be history one day.
With religious acrimony, ethnicity, politics threatening to tear the nation apart, do you believe that we will still remain one indivisible entity after 2015?
A – We are, in fact it’s going to get better. It’s going to get better, let me assure you on that one. It’s going to get better. So what I believe is that 2015 is going to strengthen us more than any time that it has been. Those that are making some gloomy predictions will be ashamed. If you look at the National Conference as of now, the way Christians and Muslims are sitting together facing the issues, we are talking as Nigerians not as a sectional people. So Nigeria will continue to be together, we are going to be one and we are going to be stronger than any other time we have been before. That is my belief and conviction.
How did Christians take the death of Late Governor Patrick Yakowa in Kaduna state?
A – You know anything that has to do with death is very touching. You wish it did not happen. Christians in Kaduna state saw the coming of Governor Yakowa in office, it was historic for us and there was hope that we were going to be treated equally now. But you know God is God. We still ask the question: ‘God, why did you take him at the time we needed him?’ but God knows better. So we are still mourning because it set the hand of the clock back for us.
He was the first Christian Governor in Kaduna, how was he able to unite both faith that is the Muslims and Christians in Kaduna to forge the state ahead?
A – I tell you put any Christian there, his administration will be different. Because if you are Christian and you believe in our God there is no marginalisation, there is no favouritism because as a Christian if you do those things your conscience will condemn you. You know judgment of god is awaiting you. So any true Christian that is put in any administration will be conscious of that. You see you have to look at people as Nigerians not on religious basis. Once you begin to rule under sectionalism, under religious basis, you are automatically a failure.
So Patrick Yakowa came into office as a Christian who sees Nigerians as Nigerians. He was not there on religious basis and that’s why if you look at his short time in office there was nothing religious there. But did he have it easy? No he did not. But did he turn around and want to compromise? No. in fact if there are people who will want to commend the other way, we are those his fellow Christians because there were some that believe now that we have the first Christian Governor, let him also now pay attention to the needs of the Christians because for all these years the Christians have not been taken into consideration. So that was the cry of some people but Yakowa was saying, ‘I’m a Governor of Christians, Muslims, non-Muslims, I’m a Governor of indigens of Kaduna state.
What do you make of the statement credited to the incumbent Governor of Kaduna, Alh.MuhktarRamalanYero when he was deputy that he will be the Governor soon and shortly after then Governor Patrick Yakowa died?
A – Well you see, some politicians make statements that when you ask them a day after, they cannot explain what they meant. So I don’t know why he made that statement, it may be coincidence, I don’t know, I don’t want to go into that. As a Christian, I believe that one day we will all stand before the judgment seat of our lord and everybody is going to confess. What he meant by that, does that statement has anything to do with Patrick’s sudden death? I don’t want to say,Yes to that one. So in fact I don’t even know about that statement.
What do you make of how Governor Patrick Yakowa died?
A – It was a plane crash. So if the helicopter failed, that is what you get. There is no protection there. So I don’t see anybody going there, he was not shot in the air, and the Pilot did not fly them into a dangerous zone. They all died. So I don’t make up anything I just say we were not fortunate. The man did not live long and God knows everything.
He died alongside General OwoyeAzazi who was until then the National Security Adviser to Mr President, he stoked some fire when he said that Boko Haram is PDP and PDP is Boko Haram. Do you see any link?
A – I don’t want to see a link. I’m a Pastor I believe in what God does so those are political statements that I don’t want to go into it. And even if it was PDP, PDP are Nigerians. But what is affecting us today is not affecting us according to your political party. You know the people that are dying, there are APC members, PDP members just name it, and Labour party members just name any party. He made that statement, he knows why he made that statement, he has the facts that made him make that statement. I don’t have ….. so I can’t sit down here today, and the man is no longer alive, so I cannot sit down here today and begin to try to define or to interpret that statement. It will yield nothing to me so the challenges we have our prayer is that God will help us overcome these security challenges. But to be dwelling on political statements that people made before is not going to take us out of the situation.
Let’s talk about Pilgrimage; billions of Naira are expended yearly by the Federal government and by the State government on Muslim and Christian pilgrims. Why should we continue to use tax payer’s money to sponsor Pilgrimages?
A – If you’ve been following the CONFAB, the religious committee made it very clear that should stop. That was the recommendation and that has been the position of the Christian Association of Nigeria. Spending money to go to pilgrimages like that is not necessary. If we stop pilgrimages we are losing nothing. It’s not part of seeking a way to heaven. As a Christian if I go to Jerusalem it does not add or subtract anything from me. If I don’t go it doesn’t add or subtract anything from me.
So to me, it’s just, I’ve been to Jerusalem I was very happy that I went but the only thing is that I was able to see some places that I read in the bible. I was able to see and touch. Well it may add to your faith and it may not, it depends on the individual. So we are calling that it should be scrapped completely. Government should stop wasting tax payer’s money on that.
Individuals can do it. I mean I’m not saying it’s not …… Like the Islamic faith they are mandated to take the pilgrimage but it’s not necessarily compulsory if you can’t afford it. So what I’m saying is if you can afford it you don’t have to wait for pilgrimage. If I have money now I can take my family to Israel and then we can take tour of some areasso I want to say that the spending of so much money and people are suffering, people cannot get jobs, we can invest that money in doing other things.
What do you predict will be the outcome of the on-going National Conference?
A – Well it is my prayer that President Goodluck Jonathan will make history by making a difference because we have our different committees, we have different groups set up for different things but their report will not see the light of the day. So it is my prayer that this CONFAB, their report will not be the same because if it does then it’s going to be very discouraging. Look at the way these people are working so tirelessly, bringing things together, raising the issues that affect this country then for somebody to sweet it under the carpet is dangerous.
So I’m hoping that the result of this conference will make Nigerians come together, live together, respecting one another regardless of where they come from and Nigerians are Nigerians.
Do you foresee a situation whereby 2015 will be the make or mar year for Nigeria?
A – No. 2015 is going to come and go like any other year. Elections is going to take place, it’s going to be a success. You see in 2011 we thought Nigeria was going to break, some people made careless statements that if they don’t win Nigeria was going to be ungovernable, they will make Nigeria ungovernable. Now back to the impunity that I talked about, in a normal country where there are no sacred cows, somebody making such a statement will be arrested, he has to account for that statement.
Right immediately after the elections of 2011, look at the burning of churches. That tells me something; losing election, burning down churches, killing Christians, what does that mean? It means we must have a Muslim there. So this National Conference is going to be different by the grace of God after this it is going to stop. So 2015 to me is just like any other year that has come and gone. And by the grace of God 2015 will come and go, nothing is going to happen. Nigeria is not going to be divided.
United states have predicted sometimes ago the breakup or disintegration of Nigeria in 2015 ……
A – Cuts in … they will suffer shame. We are not going to … I’m optimistic. Nigerians will not just fold their arms and allow evil people. Prediction is prediction. Religiously we have some people that will stand up and call themselves Prophets and start making some predictions, has it come to happen? You see God is in control. Nigeria belongs to God no matter your selfish interest you have a limit and so the prediction of America to me is nothing. America has problems, don’t they? They do have their own problems. So for somebody to tell me that … Who is going to split Nigeria? How are you going to split it? We’ll disintegrate how?
And some people in the National Conference talking like the Emir from Adamawa, even his fellow Muslims don’t believe in him. So you see the problem in Nigeria is so much from Nigerians. Listening to that Emir from Adamawa tells you that Nigerians allow non-Nigerians that move into this country to take certain position, he is a traditional ruler and he was talking about breaking away and go to Cameroun. Again, impunity. If I were a leader in position to do it, I will hold that man to book.