Nigerian Baptist Convention and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) President, Reverend (Dr) Supo Ayokunle, speaks with newsmen on issues of national interest, the church’s annual convention and his legacies. BOLA BADMUS brings excerpts.
President Muhammadu Buhari has just returned from medical treatment abroad and a lot of things have been said about his frequent medical trips that he should remain in the country to solve the security problems facing it, what do you have to say about this?
Now, one problem is even that I don’t want him to go abroad again for medical treatment; he should provide medical facilities here for our hospitals. The one he is going there to access is not provided by angels; they are provided by human beings who changed the fortunes of their countries. If our hospitals are well-equipped, they will serve us all. Why can’t the President do this? Do we need to be more educated than this to know that a good thing is good? Why the waste of money? If the health of the president has to depend on another country, then nobody is safe.
We need to do something about that very urgently because it is very shameful. How many presidents of other countries come to our country for medical attention? Their hospitals take care of them, unless on rare occasions. But it isn’t good for a sitting president to be going for medical care abroad every year. If anybody should have the same type of health conditions like our president but didn’t have the national luxury that the president has, it means that the person will just die in the country, which would be very unpleasant.
On the issue of insecurity which you once described as worrisome, who would you put the blame on?
Who is to secure the nation going by the constitution? It is those in government. The constitution is clear about it. It’s not about blaming; it is about calling them to rise up to their constitutional responsibility. Why are we giving uniforms to the law enforcement agents? Why are we giving them exclusive access to ammunition? Why is our commonwealth being voted for security? Is it not for them to secure our lives and properties? Why have the rest of us decided not to be holding guns? It is for them to be able to do it. We believe in them, so they should go and do it for us. Otherwise everybody will defend himself or herself against oncoming enemy.
All of us should continue to challenge the government to do the needful because they swore to the constitution to do that. The constitution has backing the government and our resources have been given to them to do that. Failure is failure. No excuse can justify failure. As long as Nigeria is not secured, then we see them as misfit. In Yoruba Language, the people will say Akuku joye, O san ju mo joye, enu mi o kalu lo, literally meaning it is better for you not to be made a ruler than for you to be crowned, and not truly be in charge, controlling things. So why are you there? You are a misfit, a misnomer. What we are saying is that for us not to call the government a misnomer or a misfit, we don’t need explanation for failure; the nation must be secured.
Your tenure as president of Nigerian Baptist Convention is about to end, what will you like to be remembered for?
Well, by the grace of God, we have put in process a succession plan and during our convention, my successor will be announced. I want to be remembered for doing my best in repositioning the Nigerian Baptist Convention. I wouldn’t want to be enumerating much from the landmark things which the Lord had done so that it would not be like I am doing showmanship or self consolations. Whatever a man has been able to accomplish has been by the grace of God. One may plant and water the plant, if God does not plant it, it is vanity upon vanity.
But like I told you, we have never had a centre as a convention ground, national camp, though the women have had theirs. Some Congresses had met there, but as a national body, we have never. This is the first time we are able to pray together on a 23.5hectres of land, a camp with a worship auditorium of 37,000 seats for us to do our annual convention. It’s like a mini city where we have a section that we call Aaron Camp where people build their houses and stay. We are having a hospital there, police barrack, etc. That, by the grace of God, is a legacy I want to be remembered for.
Not only that, I have launched our media as a denomination. In 2013, I started a New Frontier Television of the Nigerian Baptist Convention; it’s a cable television and it’s opened till now. It’s on Star Times by the grace of God. I also want to be remembered for empowering our theological education; we have 10 theological colleges in Nigeria, three seminaries and seven theological colleges.
We have embarked on regular promotion for them year after year, so they can be motivated to produce and to train properly those who would be leading others behind the pulpit, so that there will be a balanced delivery of the word of God. Within seven years, we were able to produce world-acclaimed professors of theology. Before my advent, there was none, so it was hard work and through God’s grace. Not only that, the headquarters of the Nigerian Baptist Convention had been on lease since the establishment of the denomination. It was on a lease land and we were paying heavily year after year on it. But before my exit, they were able to buy up that place permanently; now it’s on freehold.
Also, we have the Baptist theological seminary in Ogbomoso which was established in 1898, the Baptist Hospital which is now Bowen University Teaching Hospital. We also have a leper’s colony, where we are giving lepers skill acquisition and medical attention. We also built houses for them. By the grace of God, we have been able to buy the land on which we build the leper’s colony, the theological seminary, the Bowel University Teaching Hospital, the Priestly Children Home and the orphanage. They were on lease before.
By the grace of God, we were also able to get deed of assignment from the government for the land where we build our present Baptist annual international convention centre. We were also able to recover our land, our property at Ijaye Orile where the Baptist work started in 1850, part of the school which government had taken away.
I was able to notify the government that it is a place of historical importance and that we cannot compromise for anything, otherwise we lose our history. So we have recovered the remaining 22 acres of land. We are building an empowerment centre for young people for skill acquisition so that people, who leave school, can have food on their table, even if they are not given white collar job. By the grace of God, before I came into office, we had no national secondary school at the Federal Capital but at Masaka, we were able to build a Baptist High School, and it is growing to the glory of God.
We have focused the attention of the convention on investment depending on the tithes and offerings of the people. Year after year, there may not be enough resources to face the increasing challenges we have in the society today in order to do advocacy for the poor and people facing different challenges. So we embarked on investment, buying properties and turning them to guest houses. We have two already now in Abuja; we have one in Jos, Lagos and Ibadan to the glory of God.
I started the one in Abuja and also we improved on secondary school education because we saw that people finishing secondary school education nowadays may not be able to speak English if asked questions in English. You see them committing unpardonable errors in pronunciation and in construction. So we felt that as we had done before just like the government interregnum, we should pick it up again and take over schools with poor standard of education. So we started expanding our secondary school education and bought a property at GRA in Jos and converted it to Baptist Secondary School to compliment the Baptist High School in Jos, which is equally doing excellently well by the grace of God.
Time will not permit me to talk of investment into water bottling company, which we started to bring more money for the Mission.
Can you let us know some of your unfinished jobs during your tenure?
One of the unfinished jobs is the worship center I started at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and the Baptist Student Fellowship for worship. The foundation was laid; the construction is going on. It’s in my report that I am handing over to the man that will succeed me.
What is the theme of this year’s convention?
The theme of the convention is “Moving Forward, Finishing the Race with Joy’, and the text is taken from Acts 20:24. And the reason behind it is to call the attention of Christians to the fact that the moment they give their lives to Christ, they’ve started the race. It’s not only when you occupy public office that you are in the race, it is the day you give your life to Jesus you have started the race to eternity and if care is not taken, you may miss it. So you have to work every day according to the rule of the game in order to receive the Christ. It is not about me alone; it is about all who want to earn and spend eternity with Jesus Christ. We need to continue to move forward in our knowledge of him, discuss, study the scriptures, operate in the power of the Holy Spirit and run away from everything that can distract us until we see Jesus face to face.
YOU SHOULD NOT MISS THESE HEADLINES FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
In spite of the huge investment in the water sector by the government and international organisations, water scarcity has grown to become a perennial nightmare for residents of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital. This report x-rays the lives and experiences of residents in getting clean, potable and affordable water amidst the surge of COVID-19 cases in the state…
The Lagos-Ibadan railway was inaugurated recently for a full paid operation by the Nigerian Railway Corporation after about a year of free test-run. Our reporter joined the train to and fro Lagos from Ibadan and tells his experience in this report…