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Tunde Henry-Temile, the senior pastor of Barnabas Generation, a Port Harcourt based ministry. In this interview with SEYI JOHN SALAU, Pastor Henry-Temile spoke on the dynamics of Rivers State politics; the possible cause of violence, remedial actions that can be adopted and adapted by all stakeholders in the state. Excerpts:
Violence appears to be a reoccurring pointer to Rivers State internal politics; why is it so?
This whole thing started before Peter Odili came into power in 1999. Before 1999, Rivers people were loving people but after the 1999 experience and Peter Odili way of management; fund distribution, the people went wild. Governor Amaechi came into power trying to bring modern, civilised pattern of governance to Rivers State. But we noticed that even the indigenes of Rivers State are used to free money. Amaechi brought some technocrats to run the state with him– so those that were used to making free money were not really getting it; so they fought him. The man stood his ground and the results are there speaking; these are my views anyway. Wike came in with the powers that be then, however, the cult boys that were chased out of the state during the eight years of Amaechi, began to regroup. Politicians have so much bought weapons in the state and to control it is difficult, even for the state. Now, it is a fight for pride between the present governor, Wike and former governor, Amaechi – that is how I see it: it is a war of pride between their thugs. Now, the rate of cultism among the youth is a factor between secondary school students, community boys, community leaders, youth leaders; you see them, almost all of them fighting themselves, and these are the cult guys and community leaders that these politicians used. The boys are used to free money and when they are used during or after election and the money is no longer coming, they have to go out. You are driving on the road – you don’t know who will intercept you; kidnap rate whether you are walking or driving; even when you are in your house you can be kidnapped in Rivers State.
What is the future of the youth in Rivers State?
For now it looks very bleak if I must tell you the truth; but there is nothing that cannot be changed. If the government, community leaders can be sincere we can get away out of this. One is to fight cultism; when we reduce the rate of cultism, we can reduce the rate of kidnapping and crime in this state. When we can reduce the rate of drug abuse – because drug/cultism goes together and the Federal Government have to be part of it. If we can reduce the rate, criminality will reduce; if we can reorient the people through the community and religious leaders because the religious leaders too are part of the problem: let me just say we still have our issues from the pulpit, some things we say are not right politically. So, if we can take some time to have a plan to reorient the people politically using the religious and community platform and unfortunately Rivers State indigene are not used to working – they like community money; give them job, they wouldn’t want to take it. But the state cannot move like that, so community leaders, religious leaders reorientation must be prioritised in the state to fight cultism, drug abuse; fight and bring these things to the barest minimum.
In practical terms, what can the church do about the level of politically-influenced violence in Rivers?
The church should go back to preaching the true gospel; morals should be taught through parents – parents have their roles to play; many of us are so ignorant. The church should go back – few churches are still committed to their teen and tender church; the church should go back to the basis. When we were younger we used to have Sunday school right from the children church – we should go back to it and begin to teach biblical and traditional morals to the children. Let them grow – that is what the religious leaders can do. Teach the youth, implement some of these things; where you can make the young ones, especially the teenagers, active with activities during the holidays, just occupy the minds of the youth. It’s really unfortunate now that we feel that it is only people that have made money that God has blessed – that view of if you have not made money you are not serving God well is not right – we need to change that perspective. God’s blessing is not just financial; it is beyond the physical. Being born again you are blessed in the spirit and as you engage with the promises of God, it will manifest in the physical with time as you operate. But, today what you see is a young man in his 20s who cares what he does? He brings money to the church; he gives money to the prophet, give offerings, we just celebrate him. The community will celebrate him, his neighbourhood will celebrate him; we don’t care what he does to make the money.
The government has come out openly to say that there would be celebration on May 29, but low key. Do you think there is anything worth celebrating?
Of course, there are lots to celebrate from 1999 to now, we are not there yet but democracy is still thriving, so to say. Before 1999 with all that have been happening, the military would have taken over power. But today, with the support of international bodies we have been able to keep the military in their barracks. So, I think it’s getting better – we are not there yet; corruption is still there but gradually things will get better, and I love the way young minds are showing interest in politics now. So, May 29 is worth celebrating.