President of Christ Apostolic Church, Worldwide, Pastor Abraham Akinosun, at the recent pastors’ conference of the church held at CAC, FCC Headquarters, Garki, Abuja, spoke with newsmen on steps taken to restore the unity of the church. Excerpts:
CAC and plural leadership
The Christ Apostolic Church was built on the foundation of the apostles. You know in the early church after the Pentecost, we heard about the activities of Apostles Peter, John, James, Phillips and others. The work of evangelism does not breed rivalry since everyone is working towards the same goal. But to answer your question, the CAC has a unique structure. Christ is the spiritual head. But administratively, the president is the overall head of the church. The General Superintendent is next in rank to him, followed by the General Evangelist. The General Superintendent oversees all issues affecting our pastors and our churches. The General Evangelist is the head of all evangelists and prophets in the church. He takes care of evangelism from grassroots level to the global level. What you are trying to say is that some of our officers are better known than others. Yes, this is due to the assignment God gave them. You know nobody can occupy the office of the general evangelist except he is a Prophet by calling. In our setting, prophets, especially our general evangelists, are very high profile because from time to time, they are involved in evangelism within and outside the church and even outside the country.
Our first General Evangelist, Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola, was more popular than even the first president. Except for the fact that the first president, Oba I.B. Akinyele, was a first class traditional ruler, many people even think Apostle Babalola was the founder of the church because of his popularity. He was popular, but he put himself under the leadership of both the first president and the first General Superintendent, Pastor David Odubanjo, and they worked in harmony. So also is our present General Evangelist, Prophet S. K. Abiara. He is under the leadership of the authorities of the church. He has never presented himself in any fora as the overall head of the church. It is the media that always confuse the issue. Prophet Abiara would have been with me in Abuja now but for the fact that he is bereaved. You know he lost his wife recently and we pray that God would give him the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss. The General Superintendent is also at another conference centre presiding over the affairs of the pastors conference there. As I am talking to you, our pastors in five different conference centres are holding their conferences. So, there is no confusion in the leadership of our church. We are one.
On peace and reunification in the CAC
Let me correct you. There is no division in CAC. What we have is a section that has refused to abide by the law. The Federal High Court in Lagos in 2011 stated clearly that the only authentic ruling body in the affairs of CAC is the General Executive Council (GEC). The appeal they filed is legally dead because the only litigant who took the case to the appeal court has died. They tried to replace the litigants, but the court ruled that they should have applied to do that at the high court. So, as it stands now, they have no appeal against that judgment. When the judgment was first given, we appealed to them to return to the fold without fear of losing their positions or ranking. We even proposed to appoint five persons from each side to see to a smooth reunion. But that has not been done. Only last month, God instructed us to pray together because as individuals, we didn’t have any quarrel among ourselves; it was the devil that was waging war against the church. Their leader, however, refused. But we are still praying to God to touch their hearts. There is no way a Christian who is truly a Christian would flagrantly disobey the ruling of a competent court in the land.
Some of these problems are politically motivated; some are due to the vagaries in the world oil market and others need just diplomacy. For instance, the issue with the militants is a political issue. I wouldn’t apportion blame here. But it was obvious that the fight against corruption embarked upon by the present government gave rise to the new set of militants who are bombing oil installations with a view to compounding the economic situation the nation is facing right now. While I am not saying the militants do not have their points, I only want to plead with them to go to the negotiation table with government. They may think they want to bring the government down, but in the long run, the environment of Niger Delta is being destroyed gradually with the crude oil spill that follows each bombing. Besides, their own people who are in employment in these oil companies are being relieved of their jobs.
On the agitation for Biafra, I am of the opinion that God designed Nigeria to be one. We often blame the British colonialists for bringing us together but this is wrong. If it is not the will of God for us to remain as one united country, the Civil War would have succeeded. That would have given other ethnic units the gut to ask for their own country. Also look at other nations that have been balkanised in Europe and Africa. They never went through some of the conditions we are going through before they disintegrated. So, it is God’s design to keep us together.
Be that as it may, we have to listen to the reasons for the separatists’ agitation too. One way we can still remain as one nation is to review our federal structure. Too much power has been concentrated in the hands of the Federal Government. The states also have seized all the powers that should go to the local governments. What we have is a unitary federal government. In this wise, I want to urge President Muhammadu Buhari not to ignore the report of the National Confab, whether the one held during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s aministration or the one held under former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He should look into these reports and begin to devolve power to the regions. Luckily, we now have six geopolitical zones. These could be developed to regional standard. The Federal Government would take care of defence, external affairs, the economy and national institutions while the regions would take care of education, local policing and other items on the concurrent list. So, my suggestion is that we don’t need so much power at the centre as we have now. That is why the competition to be in the centre is very keen. We can solve this agitation if we are very sincere with ourselves.
On Nigeria’s economic situation
The simple way to get out of recession is to take steps immediately to diversify the economy. By my own understanding, we are in recession because we are not earning enough from crude oil sale. We don’t export our locally manufactured goods because they cannot compete in the international market. Also, our people import more foreign goods than normal and our manufacturing base is under-producing. We shall get out of recession if we take steps to reverse the trends I enumerated above.
The easiest way to diversify the economy is to take unusual steps. If the government means business, let them acquire vast lands all over the country and drag unemployed youths into those lands as farmers. Let them grow cassava, potato, vegetables, cash crops, yam, maize, millet and what have you. The government should pay them salaries until their farm products began to yield fruition. Thereafter, they can be left to take care of themselves. This way, unemployment will be reduced and food security will be achieved as well. Then government can close the borders against rice and other food importation. Government should also discourage importation of non-essential goods to control foreign exchange outflow. Let us be contented with what we have here.
It is unfortunate that government has not displayed the stark reality that we are in a recessed economy. What I mean by this is that our government, both in the executive and the legislative arms at the federal and state levels is bloated. I call on the Federal Government to trim the cabinet size to, say, 19. Since retrenchment of staff would create more tension and unwanted consequences, I advise that genuine workers should be kept in their jobs but efforts at removing ghost workers should be intensified. But both the senior and junior cadres should make sacrifices of reducing their salaries by one-third. Political appointees should get two-thirds of their entitlements too. As for our legislators, I am in support of the suggestion by former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida, that they should serve on part-time basis. They should work through committees. The money spent on salary, perks and foreign trips by legislators and government officials could mend some dilapidated infrastructure in the land.