The National Legal Adviser of the Foursquare Gospel Church of Nigeria, Reverend Solomon Wada, who is the new District Overseer for Ibadan District 1, Oke-Bola, Ibadan, Oyo State, speaks on the travails of Christians in the country and excesses of some Christian pastors, while calling for restructuring of the country. KUNLE ODEREMI and SUNDAY ADEPOJU bring some excerpts:
How would you assess the Christian faith against the backdrop of happenings generally in the country?
The Christian faith has always been playing a pivotal role in societies in the areas of development, social justice, equity and every good thing that you can ever think of. They are all associated with Christian faith, and you know the role that Christianity has played in Nigeria as a nation. This has been effective from the pre-colonial era to the independence era and up till now. You know how schools were built. Christians are making a lot of waves by bringing development nearer to the people. It is not a matter of preaching the gospel alone, but, rather, we meet social needs of the people in societies. And that is part of what Jesus taught disciples. I believe that as Christians we have to do more.
We must ask ourselves the question: how are people assessing us? The Bible tells us that when people saw the disciples of Jesus behaving the way Jesus was conducting himself, they said, ‘These are Christians’ because their lifestyle, their conduct, their modus operandi and everything was in tandem with how Jesus lived his life. Can people in Nigeria look at Christians today and say these ones are living like Jesus? We are not. I am a pastor and I know what I am saying. The society that we are living in today is so pervasive with all sorts of evils. Our societies are unpredictable and Christians are contributing to the unpredictability of our societies. The ministers, who are supposed to lead us, have left their positions. They are supposed to be on the watch tower to watch. We have some of our ministers who are hanging in Government Houses, waiting for the crumbs from there. Some of them are prayer warriors in Government Houses. Is that where God says we should be? The answer is ‘No.’ We have our people going along to do evil with the people there. That is why those in government don’t listen to us anymore. This year, I want to appeal to our brethren (pastors), who have formed the habit of hanging around the government quarters, to leave now and do the right thing. They should go back to their churches.
Whenever a priest was coming to a city, the king in that city would become frightened. The king would run to meet him at the city gate and the king would ask, ‘Is it for peace that you are coming?’ Is that what we have today? Rather, men of God run to political leaders and bow to them. They take money from them. Why would governors, senators, and so on, give you the contract as prayer warrior? I am not surprised that pastors will say ‘We are bringing predictions for next election.’ What is their business about it? Why should you waste your time talking about who would win elections? Who would cross over? If Nigerian Christians can sit down and do the right thing, this country will be better. A lot of our leaders are compromising. I went somewhere to preach in a Government House and I was given a topic; I changed my topic. I was given honorarium and I rejected it; I didn’t even take a bottle of water. My God, who has called me, will feed me. I am not supposed to feed on them.
But organisations like the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) are there to regulate and moderate the activities of the church as a whole?
They do all manners of sacrifice in the name of ‘I am a pastor’. So, CAN and PFN are helpless when it comes to the issue of disciplining a pastor because there is a limit to the length they can go. Our constitution as a country gives rights to people and they use and misuse the rights: freedoms of association, religion, faith; that is what they are using. So, even, when CAN and PFN say ‘what you are doing is wrong’, they won’t change. Have we not been having people insulting CAN or PFN president? I will say there are a lot of misfits that are occupying spiritual positions; they have ordained themselves. If Oyo State CAN says it wants to organise a programme on Christian ethics for leaders to come and learn, would they come? No, they won’t! And they have a right not to come.
What do you think are the implications of having such people in the PFN and CAN on the long run and their congregations?
My sympathy is for those who are following them. People now rush to churches where miracles are being performed and not where they will be saved. The number one miracle should be of salvation of souls. If you are praying for an unsaved soul to make money, you have only prepared a certificate of hell for him or her. There are many so-called pastors who have taken to ritualism. People measure the success of pastors in terms of their humongous wealth. Many pastors are gathering millions of followers and leading them out of heaven to hell. We have to change from a situation in which a Christian leader will look like a politician. When Jesus wanted to start his ministry, he picked Simon and Peter. Who were they? Fishermen! And that was a nation that had people like Nicodemus, who was a professor of law interpreting the law for Israelites. Jesus didn’t call any of the high profile people. Even, when Herod heard about his birth, he was terrified. Jesus never owned a horse. Remember the story of the triumphant entry. They had to go and borrow a colt. People hardly differentiated between Jesus and his disciples. That was why, when Jesus was to be arrested, Judas Iscariot said, ‘The one I kiss.’ What humility! He is character and humility personified! Look at our politicians today. They are something else. When he was to be buried, they had to borrow a tomb. Could you imagine Jesus borrowing a boat from Simon? Did you hear Jesus visit any palace? The first day he got to Pilate’s palace was the day he was forcefully brought to the place. So, until Christians begin to live like Jesus, until we develop the character of Jesus, things will begin to be right in the country. In this New Year, Christians must take up the responsibility of preaching the gospel day and night. There are some communities where they have not heard enough gospel. Let us go there.
Don’t you think there is a way the CAMA Law could bring about some degree of sanity into the system?
I was trying to look at the law and consider it alongside other ones. About three years ago, the government of Rwanda came up with a similar law and when we went to the United States, the General Overseer of Four Square Gospel Church talked about the law that had just been promulgated in his country (Rwanda). In Rwanda, they came up with a law that ‘If you must own a church, the first thing is for you to show your Bible training’ so that nobody will just wake up and say ‘I am a General Overseer.’ Although they went to the extreme and we raised issues. Now, the Nigeria government amended CAMA and came with the regulation of non-profit organisations like churches and the rest of them. There is an aspect that is suspicious. For instance, how will the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) tell us that if a church commits an infraction, the man in Abuja will now appoint temporary trustees or managers just like a company? How can you bring that kind of thing? Now I am a pastor and somebody will now wake up one day and say ‘we are bringing trustees or managers to your church. The irony is that the so-called managers may not even be Christians. Up till today, that area is an area of contention. If you say leaders of churches must submit their reports to their members on yearly basis that is not bad. We do it in Four Square. There are some churches that are not open and the government is telling them to be open to their members and the government. It is because we fail to do it. That is why the government is employing this strategy. But then, the government went far beyond its mandate. Can CAMA appoint trustees for an organisation? That law is already running against my right to faith and property as an individual. Why will you appoint somebody, who is not a member of my group, as a trustee and you commit all our properties into his hand to manage? No! That one will not work. There is a need for amendment in that area. But other areas that are good.
Christian clerics have been victims of insecurity: kidnapping, abduction, killings and what have you. School children have been abducted, kidnapped in parts of the country. Why have Christians become that vulnerable?
The Christians are living in the same society like other people. If there is a riot today at Dugbe in Ibadan, nobody will differentiate between a Christian and a Muslim. It will affect everybody. We have problems that are so strong in Nigeria today: kidnapping and killing of people in the North.
There is no month that Christians are not being killed in the North. Southern Kaduna was a place where, in those days, you could travel to, even at 2 am. The bandits took over the whole place and they were burning down churches and killing Christians. Go to Adamawa State, you may not know that over 60 per cent of Adamawa indigenes are Christians and traditional worshippers. But today, almost all the churches are burnt down. The CAN president in Adamawa was beheaded by Boko Haram. Go to Borno State, Christians have suffered most. Borno was a land where Christianity was blossoming. But today, churches have been burnt down. Christians have been sent away. It could affect people of other religions; but, we have not done anything wrong because we are not in contest with them. Somebody will stop a vehicle and say ‘Who are the Christians in this vehicle? Come down’ and he would slaughter them. When the US blacklisted Nigeria as a nation, where Christians are being persecuted, I was laughing when our leaders said ‘no, no; it’s not true.’ In some areas in the North, you can’t apply for land to build a church. The areas where Christianity was flourishing then are now witnessing the suppressing of the faith. When we were in Plateau State in the 80s as students, you would love to be in that place. A beautiful place! Then, you could leave your car on the road and come back to pick it. You go to Benue State or anywhere during Christmas, you would enjoy. Can we do that today? And they are saying it is not religious. Then, what do they call it? There are some positions you can’t hold in some states because you are a Christian. We are being persecuted on a daily basis.
It is a pity. Our leaders would always play into their hands. And what can we do? It is prayer. As we are talking now, so many of our Christian children are in Internally Displaced (IDP) camps. Some have lost their fathers and their mothers when they were little children. They don’t even know where they come from. And they say we are not being persecuted. Who tells you that? Look at the number of churches that have been burnt. Go to Maiduguri in Borno. Look at the number of churches they have burnt down and how Christians have been killed. Go to Adamawa and Kaduna states and see what is happening. They crossed over to Benue if not because of people’s commitment, they could have also plundered Benue. They want to overrun everywhere. And today, they make use of Boko Haram members and herders to do the job for them. One thing is certain: the church of God is moving on; the gate of hell shall not prevail. Nobody can kill Christianity. It was tried in the time of Jesus and nobody could stop it. Christianity is like a moving train that nobody can stop. It is moving to the North; to Sokoto, to Port Harcourt; to Kogi. It moves everywhere. And the God that we serve will continue to move until the gospel of our Lord Jesus occupies everywhere in Nigeria.
Apart from being a man of God, you are a lawyer. People have said that the structure we have on ground in the country is defective, resulting in severe challenges. To what extent do you agree with such view?
Yes! I don’t know why it has been so difficult for those in government to understand it, ‘re’ and ‘structure’: it means there is a structure. What is the original structure that we need to restructure? What we have now is not working and if it is not working, why do you need to deceive yourself? I am from Kogi State; almost everywhere, we have mineral resources. Look at Ajaokuta Steel. If the government allows the states to set up their own industries, that is not bad. They can bring people from all over the world to develop those resources. But the power is not there; the governors do not have the power to do it. Everybody goes to the Federal Government. I have done this study: ‘The Question of Ownership and Control of Mineral Resources in Nigeria’. That was the topic of my Masters Degree and I did a lot of research. I came up with issues: why can’t we do like other nations of the world? Every state, develop yourself, your resources and part of your funds you send to the Federal Government. The Federal Government is comfortable and states are comfortable. So, everybody/tier will be allowed to develop according to their pace. If you feel that secondary education is the best for your people, why not? You can develop it very well and later you take it up to another level. But what we have now is that everybody should be working together at the same space. Now, we are talking of Amotekun in the South-West. We have another one in the South-East, South-South, in the North and everywhere now. Why are people now coming up with their security architecture? It is because the central security architecture has failed. You can’t send a police man of Kano origin to Saki in Oke-Ogun zone of Oyo State. Will he know where criminals are living? It is not possible. Why can’t they allow states to have their own police? And they will recruit these police men from their own communities and they know who is a criminal in various communities. That is how it works. When crime is committed, they know the son or daughter of who must have committed such crime. Why don’t you devolve this issue of security to the states? Let states complement the efforts of the Federal Government. But because of the humongous money they are making form it, they don’t allow it. Everything is centralised and that is why we are having these problems here and there. They will tell you ‘Commissioner of police is in charge.’ So, the governors and local government chairmen are helpless. But, we must get out of this. It is better to have peaceful restructuring than the other way. Nations of the world have experienced it. And today they are better for it. Why can’t we try the same? The moment you mention it, some have already registered fears in themselves. No! We are not asking that Nigeria be divided. The larger we are the better. The way we are now, our population must be of advantage to us. We can create regions or, better still, go back to regions. We can use the geo-political zones. But now, you bring somebody from Port Harcourt to be the head of police in Oyo State. What does he know about the state? So, restructuring will bring economic benefits; stability; insecurity will be minimised. Once you restructure, people will be active to work on their own. There was a time that groundnut pyramid was known in the North and they made a lot of money. That is why Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria was built. It is a very solid university competing with any other universities in the world. Look at cocoa. University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Liberty Stadium, the first television station in Africa, Cocoa House, among others, were built.
Why can’t we go back and begin to see how we can organise ourselves within our areas and resources? Let me tell you about the injustice that is going on in Nigeria. The question of ownership and control of mineral resources: the law states that Federal Government owns everything. You cannot extract anything and that all belongs to Federal Government. If we discover mineral resources here today, the Federal Government will take it over as its own. That is the greatest evil that is going on. Why are we saying those who own the petroleum resources, which are our mainstay today, have no right to even access it. They cannot set up refinery even with they have around them. Go to Zamfara State, people are mining gold to their pockets without Federal Government’s input. The government is sharing the oil’s money. There are several states in Nigeria today that people are mining one kind of resources or the other illegally and the Federal Government is looking the other way. The attention is not there at all. But, everyday, attention is on petroleum and they fight and kill everybody over it. They can have all manner of operations because oil must be secured for them to make money. In Nigeria, we have over 60 mineral resources. If we begin to explore gold alone, we will make a lot of money and, even, agriculture. Others are exploring their own illegally and putting the money to their pockets. But for petroleum resources, Federal Government does that. It is injustice. Leave the people to exploit their resources. Zamfara, exploit your minerals; Kogi, exploit your minerals; Oyo, exploit your own. You need to go to Iron and Steel Industry there; very massive but wasted. And you can see minerals all over the place. They have to wait for Federal Government. There is no place in Nigeria that cannot be self-sufficient. But the fear some have is that if you do so, resources and appointments will go away. They also fear that this will weaken the power of the Federal Government. Are we not supposed to have a weak centre and very strong components? I pray that this year, we will talk amending the Constitution.
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