Why many Christian associations, denominations spring up —Taiwo
Reverend Joshua Bola Taiwo is the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Last Days Gospel Ministers Association (LADGOMA) and the pilgrim coordinator of the Gospel Faith Mission International (GOFAMIT). In this interview with SEYI SOKOYA, the cleric speaks on national issues and the way forward for unity in the Christendom.
Some people have said the reports of killings and kidnapping are fake. How will you react to this?
Such information has not come to my notice, but whoever said that these disturbing situations in the country are not real is not fair. Would someone say the kidnap of Chief Olu Falae and many other- Nigerians are fake. This I believe is to misinform the public and government.
Now that President Muhammadu Buhari has commenced his second term in office, what are your expectations?
I think we should all be hoping for a better future, but it is very necessary to advise our president to face reality. He was not elected to defend any religion. He was not elected as the representative of the Muslims. He was elected for all Nigerians. I want to draw his attention to some key areas such as our road network, especially in the South-West and the South-East. A serious government will think of how to improve on our road networks. The issue of electricity should also be taken seriously. Employment is also another serious issue in Nigeria. Religion is an individual matter. The president is free to have and practice a religion, but he should not use his office or the resources of the nation to support any religion. I want to advise President Buhari not to give room for anything that will distract his vision for a better Nigeria. He should leave religious matter to both Christian and Muslim leaders.
Following the emergence of the new Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, what are your expectations for the ninth assembly?
The general situation in Nigeria is a pitiable one, because it is expected that the National Assembly should serve as a check whenever the executive is not performing well. It is the duty of the National Assembly to monitor the executive. Now that we have the ninth assembly, we are praying for them to know their onions. They have been elected by Nigerians as their mouthpiece. They should not hesitate to speak and act appropriately. When the legislature is up and doing, the executive cannot be sleeping. We expect them to perform their duties very well.
Some Nigerians have been raising concern over the effectiveness of the ninth assembly as its leadership belongs to the same political party with the executive. What is your take on this?
I want Nigerians to be optimistic. The last legislature, especially its leadership, was said to be anti-government and there were no tangible results. This time, let us believe that the legislature and the executive are in the same page, maybe that will give us the result we need.
As an advocate of quality leadership, what is your view on the leadership in the Christendom?
What affects the Christendom affects the generality of Nigerians and vice versa. I want you to know that Nigeria still has people of integrity, but these set of people may not get there due to two reasons. Firstly, they are timid; secondly, they are prevented. In most cases, it is the bad eggs that get to the position of authority in Nigerian. This is why we are not relenting in our prayers for divine intervention. About the church, it is a bag of mixed feelings. I am confident that we still have good Christian leaders in Nigeria. An example is the General Overseer of my church, Pastor, (Dr) Oludele Abina, he is an exemplary leader. He is well respected among the comity of churches. They look up to him anytime they want to hear about integrity and godliness and there are many others in the vineyard. The issue is that the good people do not make noise about themselves and this is why some are skeptical about the existence of quality leadership in the church at large.
As a stakeholder in the Christendom, are you content with the state of Christianity in Nigeria?
There cannot be a straight answer to this because there are areas that Christianity has scored well and there are areas where they are lacking. For instance, some decades ago, Christianity to a large extent was restricted in various respects. Before now, we hardly see Christians in key positions in the country, but the case is different now as we have begun to realise the need to be fully represented. It is when we get there that we can serve as the light. The church is growing and we are making progress. But on the other hand, the demonstration of godliness is declining. A lot of Christians including clerics get themselves involved in ungodly acts. We are not happy about those that call themselves Christians and not living decent and godly life.
Despite the numerous denominations and Christian association, the body of Christ still finds it difficult to unite. Why?
The reason we have different Christian associations is because more than 90 per cent of Christians in Nigeria are part of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and we have five units in CAN: The Catholic, Christian Council of Nigeria comprising the Methodist, Anglican, Baptist and a few others, Nigeria Evangelical Fellowship (NEF), Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and Organisation of African Instituted Churches. All these bodies formed CAN and the things that brought them together are the name of Jesus Christ and the Bible, but there are a few things that separate them such as their targets and focus. More than that, we still have some splinter groups; this occurs as a result of ego and selfish interests. This development was what led to the springing up of mushroom bodies; everybody wants to become a leader. I want to advise the authorities of CAN to continue to work in unity, because it is with the united force that we can defeat the enemies of the church. The Bible says one shall chase away 1,000 and two shall chase away 10,000. Christians should endeavour not to allow the spirit of disunity in their fold. We should maintain unity in essential things; in non-essential things, we should maintain liberty across all denominations and in all things, we should maintain charity.
You are the founding chairman of one of the popular Christian bodies in the country, Last Days Gospel Ministers Association (LADGOMA). Can we say that the association is one of the breakaway groups from the mainstream Christian body?
No, a good number of members of LADGOMA till date are members of CAN, PFN and NEF. The association came into being as a result of the passion of some ministers of God to pull resources together to help one another because we know that we cannot do it alone. I realised that we needed a collective force to achieve one purpose. We want to portray the obligation of Christ. We are not a breakaway from existing bodies.
How has the experience been in the vineyard?
It has been though, rough and enjoyable. My calling was not too dramatic. I came from a Muslim background; my father was an Imam and I was a devout Muslim, but I was faced with a lot of problems that my parents could not solve. Eventually, I found myself miraculously in the church, though I did not come to the church because of the problems. I just felt led to come to Christ personally. I became committed to the activities of the church and suddenly, the problems disappeared. It was at that point I realised that the popular songs by Christians that ‘Jesus saves, heal…’ was true. Not long after that, I received the call and it was not difficult for me to listen to the call to work for God, because I am a living testimony and God has proved Himself mightily in the lives of many through the ministry. To the glory of God, this year will mark my 40 years in the ministry.