He is no doubt outspoken. Our Regional Editor, Oluseyi Da’Silva took him up during the Standing Committee meeting of Anglican Bishops in Ilorin recently during which he bares his mind out on some national issues especially 2019 general elections and state of the nation. His depth of knowledge, patriotism and dream for a new Nigeria and Africa at large was showcased in his response to daunting questions when he was taken up. He is a researcher in Sociology of Religion (e.g. “The place of Religion in Nigeria’s political Development”; “Israel and the Middle East: The Complexity of Dissent”. He was a visiting Consultant, International Centre for Reconciliation, Coventry Cathedral, U.K. – July to November 2004. Meet Rt. Rev’d. Abiodun Olusegun Ogunyemi, Bishop of Anglican Diocese, Zaria, Kaduna State. Excerpts:
Can we meet you sir?
I am Bishop Ogunyemi, Bishop of Zaria Diocese
What is the impact of religion over Nigerians, irrespective of faith and ethnicity?
Religion is supposed to be a good factor in every nation, but in Nigeria, religion has become a problem. There is so much infighting between religious groups, even within same religions. In fighting between denominations, sects, between the Sumni and the Shiites; in the church, there are so many competitions and strife, unnecessary competitions. Most of the recent deaths in Nigeria are caused by religion; Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen name it; most of the deaths now are all in the name of God and religion. Religious practice has become a problem and something must be done to check it.
What is your view about the practice of religion in the northern part of Nigeria?
It is both positive and negative. As an evangelist and a Missionary, the crises situation in the north has helped me to fulfil my ministry of preaching to people, planting of churches. I see lot of unbelievers come to Christ, giving their lives to him. On the other hand, it is traumatic when you the series of infighting, wickedness, hatred; you see the level of killings and lives wasted because of religion, because of God. People losing their businesses, losing their livelihood all in the name of religion, looking at the various traumatic experiences one will say religion is of negative impact on Nigeria. I used to be in Damaturu early part of the insurgency before I went to Zaria; we saw how humans kill fellow humans in the name of religion, it was horrible. Therefore in my view, religion is of both positive and negative influence on Nigerians.
Would you subscribe to banning of religion in Nigeria?
No, no noo, you can’t ban religion in Nigeria. Religion is a private affair, the problem in Nigeria is that government gets involved, politicians get involved; in fact the people causing the problem are the politicians. Because they want to win elections the appeal to religious sentiments. For example when they get to a state where the majority are Muslims, the whip up religious sentiments so that people can vote for them, same if it is a Christian dominated state, they look for ways of whip up religion, the politicians are the ones causing the problems. They use religion to foment trouble in the country. They have no reason to interfere in religion; let religion be a private affair. Once the practice of your religion doesn’t affect my own, there would be peace.
The Anglican Church added its voice against cattle colonies as proposed by the federal government, why did you oppose it?
In the first instance, the word colony is annoying and an insult to Nigerians; what is a colony? A colony means a conquered territory; how can you create conquered territories for Fulani people are they the only Nigerians/ There are Yorubas, Igbos and other tribes. Nigeria doesn’t belong to Fulanis, they are in fact minute part of Nigeria and Buhari should drop the idea and not even talk about it at all. You can’t create colony for a particular tribe, how can you come and create Fulani colony in Yorubaland or in Igboland? Not even in the North, they won’t accept it. Only a small fraction of Northerners are Fulani, majority are Hausas, so how can you create colony for Fulani in their land? It is nonsense.
As a Nigerian, how do you rate President Buhari’s performance vis a vis his quest for second term?
Performance wise, I score him ten percent. As to fight against Boko Haram he has done well but in other sector, he has failed. Talking about the fight against corruption, he has failed because corruption starts from when, as a leader, you surround yourself with only your tribe, it is corruption. How can the security architecture of Nigeria be made up of only Fulani people? That is the greatest corruption. The man has failed and he should not even think of second term at all, he should just leave the office and let Nigeria be. Two years ago a bag of Rice was between N7000 and N8000, now it is N18000, how many Nigerians can afford that. A bag of Rice is equal to minimum wage of an average Nigerian worker, see that? He is a colossal failure. He should leave Nigeria alone and go home.
Churches are advocating that their members join politics to make a difference, what do you see to this?
Not every Christian can go into politics; only those who are called can go into politics. If you are not called, don’t do it, you will fail. It is like going to work as a Christian in the north, if you are not called, you will fail. The pressure will be too much, if you are not called, you will fail. Only those who are called by God should go into politics so that they would go to show an example, stand for Christ without compromising. People, who will show that they are true Christians because the people who are stealing our money are Christians too. Look at Jonathan, so-called Christian, very very corrupt. His government is adjudged one of the most corrupt in this country. Unless you are truly committed Christian, you don’t go into politics, else you will fail. If you are called by God, you get there and stand for what is right. Don’t get involved in corruption and tribalism.
But even in the church, there is corruption, tithes and offerings are never questioned, is it not encouraging corruption by members?
That’s very correct, but you don’t make a blanket statement and blame everybody; there are good people in the church and there are very very bad people in the church. The major problem is this, all these politicians that steal our money come to church every Sunday, but we don’t tell them the truth, we are afraid of them, we only collect envelopes from them. If every Bishop, if every Pastor is prepared to speak the truth, things will change, the bible says that ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free; though not all of them will change but many will change, so let the fight start from the church. If I may add, there are many Bishops and Pastors that are corrupt, that’s the truth, so let the fight against corruption start from us, by the time we do it right, then we can tell others how not to be corrupt. We must start from our own kingdom first before we go into the larger society.
I like asking this question: our elites do not participate in electoral process because we either don’t have time or are too big to participate, are you also guilty sir?
Yes, I am guilty for correcting. For me, what is important is not the election but the political party and candidates presented. They are the ones who decide who contests in elections. If they present two bad candidates, who do you vote for. For instance, if in next election the parties present Buhari and Atiku I will not vote. I cannot vote for either of the two criminals. Until I see a correct person, for instance if a party presents some one like Lamido, former governor of Jigawa state, I will vote for him but if these two people, I won’t vote. So the issue is not election but candidates presented at the party level. Let the political parties give us correct people not like they did in Osun state in last election when Rauf and this other one from Ile Ife, Omisore were presented; I can’t vote for any of the two because I know these two will never perform. So if I were to be in Osun state, I will not vote. If they want me to vote in next election, let Buhari step down then let the party present a more credible person will integrity, man or woman, then I will vote.
You just mentioned someone Sule Lamido, how much do you know this man?
I used to be in Damaturu, Yobe State, we were bounded by Jigawa state. Once you enter Damaturu, the difference is clear. Almost every road in Jigawa is tarred. He gave them University, Airport gave them many things, please go there and see for yourself. During the insurgency with Boko Haram, they never entered Jigawa state because he was able to stop them, that is a governor. Most of us who live in the north know him, but if it is Atiku, forget it, I wont vote.
But don’t you think that Sule Lamido was governor over a relatively small state compared with larger states like Kano and places like Oyo and Lagos?
My issue is, with the little resources available to him, he was able to deliver on promises made; Kano state collects average of Ten Billion every month from federation account, Jigawa collects just a bit above two Billion and with that little money Sule Lamido was able to do the much he did. Those who collect so much what did they do with it? Ask Bayelsa, ask Rivers; they collect about Sixteen Billion every month what did they do with it, Lamido collects N2.8 billion and did so much, it means he knows what he is doing.
Are you lending support to another northerner despite that Buhari is a Northerner?
I don’t care where the person comes from what I want is performance. It’s not about religion, tribe or ethnicity, we should put aside tribe and religion, we need someone who will go there and perform. If persons like Markarfi, former governor of Kaduna State, is contesting, I will vote for him. We know him is Kaduna as a performer but for people who will not perform, like Atiku, like Buhari, I will not vote.
If you score Markarfi high during his tenure, how do you rate El Rufai, the sitting governor?
He has not done anything since he came into power this time around. When he was FCT minister in Abuja, he did very well but now all he is doing is victimizing Christians. He has special hatred for the church, so I can never vote for him. As a leader you don’t discriminate, you must love everybody. You are not governor for Muslims or Christians or one tribe, you are governor of the state but El Rufai discriminates and has special hatred for the church, so I cannot vote for him.
Do you foresee a situation when Christians in Nigeria will present a candidate for Presidency in Nigeria?
No, Christians should not do that, let the political parties present credible candidates, once bring in religion, there will be crises. Put religion aside, put tribalism aside let the parties present credible people, then Nigeria will be better for it. Religion and tribalism in politics will not let things work in this country. God does not discriminate, he gives sun and rain to everybody, he doesn’t give to Muslims alone or Christians alone, he gives to everybody. So we should stop talking about religion or ethnicity in politics, what we should concern ourselves with is which candidate is presented. Nigerians need someone who will perform.
On the International scene, America’s President is lending support to Israel takeover of Jerusalem, is it a right decision?
Who owns Jerusalem from the beginning? They only went to exile and now they are back, so Trump is only doing what is right. Everybody knows from history that Jerusalem belongs to Israel Donald Trump is not doing anything that is new, he is only fulfilling Gods purpose for Israel, and in fact Donald trump is God’s choice for America to stop all the nonsense that has been happening in America, so I support him 100 percent.
What is the future of Christianity in Nigeria?
Christianity will survive, Jesus said that the gates of hell shall not prevail over his church but the Christians must be ready to be truthful and be women and men of integrity, doing what is right. But if we continue the way we have been doing things we will have problems. Christianity for now we are not serious, We are afraid of telling the truth, that is bad. Until we are ready to do what is right, we would find ourselves in avoidable problems.
Thanks for giving us your attention.
It is my pleasure.
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