9 total views, 1 views today
On the sidelines of activities to mark his 65th birthday last week, Leonard Umunna, a bishop and general overseer of the Bible Life Church (worldwide), spoke with ZEBULON AGOMUO, Editor, on the state of the nation, in relation to Christendom. He also advised the newly elected national leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to be true representative of the body of Christ. Excerpts:
Bishop, what does it mean to be 65 years old in a country the life expectancy of which is below 50 years?
Certain things keep me young. God told me that when I would be 50 years old, I would be growing younger. Number one, I eat necessary things for my health. I make food my medicine. I don’t take anything that I don’t know what it will contribute to my body; the water, the food in our society are all toxic due to dirty environment; why would you not take things that will detoxify you weekly? Why wouldn’t you take some herbs that will also help cleanse your system along with the one you take for your food? Number two; I ensure that I have nothing against anybody – no quarrel to settle with anybody. I leave a free life. I forgive people in advance because Christ has also done that for me many years ago. Number three, I ensure that I meditate; I give thanks to God and meditate on his word always. The moment you meditate on the word of God, it renews and cleanses you. There will be joy in your soul and there will be light radiating. There is anointing and power in reading the word of God. It gives you energy to power on.
At 65, it means that you have witnessed many sides of Nigeria – the good, the bad, and the ugly. You have listed the things that have kept you moving all these years; what do you think is responsible for the stunted growth of Nigeria?
The things that made Nigeria great have all died. Quote me. Not even one is alive. I told you before that Nigeria is like a plane that took off. There was an accident mid air and it crash-landed. The engineers have not been able to find the parts, let alone fixing it. It has been grounded and has not taken off again. But Nigeria can recover within one term of an administration that puts its heart to do it. Poverty can be a thing of the past within a four-year tenure administration. We can make Nigeria better again if they can do the following things. We must cast away avarice, tribalism, nepotism, injustice and all other things that have combined to keep the country in its present state. Who is ready to stick out his neck now for Nigeria? They have all gone tribal. Who is talking national? Nobody. The nationalists are gone. So, if we want to make it, the people that can help us achieve it must be nationalistic in reasoning and approach.
We had them in the past, but they have all gone. From Herbert Macaulay to Awolowo, to Zik; they have all gone. Tell me any of their kind around? What we have now are state leaders; tribal leaders, regional leaders, zonal leaders, party loyalists. None of them can say like Nnamdi Azikiwe, ‘I don’t care who is president so far Nigeria is free!’ We need nationalists. It may not come through voting in a normal election; it may come through a referendum. We have lost national vision. What were those things that made us acceptable on the international scene in those days? Today, Nigeria has lost its glory. Anywhere you mention Nigeria, it is mostly in the negative. We have become like a sore that nobody would want to touch. Our children who are in school abroad are being shamed and made a caricature of because of the level of crime in Nigeria. What kind of national vision do we have in education? None. What vision do we have on economy? None. If they can come up with a workable national vision and stable economic policy that can stand the test of time, so that investors can rest assured that in the next 10, 20 years, this policy is untouchable; irrevocable – Nigeria will recover. They must get their priority right. We have insecurity, educational problem, economic woes; we have them all. If you are to prioritise, which one would you place first and what are the hands to execute them? Our governments are not addressing priorities. The welfare of the people is not being given attention to. Look at the military, the people they are putting forward to go and fight the wars, they are not being taken care of. Even the things released to them do not get to them, if at all; it is paltry sum that gets to them. So, when it is so, the soldiers would not give their best. There should be budget for the soldiers prosecuting the war, and the council in charge of their welfare must be plainly told that it would be held responsible if there is any complaint about neglect. Government must punish those found to have compromised themselves in handling the release meant for the solders. As long as we see everything in Nigeria as ‘chop’ I chop,” then nothing will work well because it is that sharing mentality that has frustrated growth and development in the country. Nigeria is dead and even at the point of being buried. This is the reality. Before, it was sick and dying.
You mentioned that when the righteous is in authority people rejoice. Sometime ago, there was the campaign that more Christians should go into partisan politics or seek elective office. Now it appears there are many Christians in government at various categories; can you say they are representing the Christendom well?
They are not Christian per se. The problem is that what is in the system is bigger than them. For instance, there is no more production in Nigeria, we are only subsiding consumption. Where is the production? Is it not when you invest right with the right people you get something right? If you put one Christian among 20 or 30 so-called Christians who go to church but are not practising the word, but are following a system that is fouled and messed up; it becomes so difficult. They are following the cabal. Everybody now knows that cabal exists. It is now on the pages of newspapers. They have mentioned their names and none of them has denied it. The president’s wife has mentioned their names. How are you going to make the right impact when all your suggestions and your files end on your boss’ table and he never implements anything? There have been promises on how to lessen the suffering of Nigeria on fuel prices, but how can they do that when there is no single functional refinery in the country? One of the things I would do if I were the president was to bring down the administrative overhead of this Nigeria.
As things are now, what is the role of the masses of Nigeria?
There can be no good follower now. No way. No way. If you come out and say anything bad, you are counted as an enemy. You can only be a sycophant this time around. There are no true followers. The bible says, the prudent shall keep quiet in those days. There cannot be a good follower now. Make any comment that points to disagreement with what is going on, you will be branded as an enemy. People are being accused of crimes they never committed because of their views and comments.
What role do you think the church has to pay in times like these; particularly when the church is being accused of compromise?
Excuse me, when you people are raising this kind of question, inside me, I feel pained. The people you are calling church are those who are like them. Those who are close to them and doing their bidding; you say they are the church? No. The real church is underground now; just like it was the case in the communist countries in those days. Answer this question, which church has the money to pay for newspaper adverts now? Which one can feature on a television programme and say the truth and it is aired? They are not listening to the real church. The ones that are talking now are using wisdom to talk so that they will be alive to survive the war. I don’t blame them for that because only the living can celebrate. People are just telling them what they want to hear so that they can live and continue with the work of God. This is the present truth. I remember when I told Abacha, ‘you raised Bamaiyi who was in charge of the NDLEA and he is doing it well, why can’t you raise somebody like that to be in charge of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other sensitive places like Customs, etc?’ He said I was a political preacher; that I was a politician in Cassock; and he sent his men to come and clear me here (his church). You can imagine, I was suggesting something good to the government, yet they wanted to arrest me. I said to him, you have identified somebody who is doing great at NDLEA, why not replicate that in other agencies? Was that a bad suggestion? I said locate other people; they are many, and put them there to work. Everything stands or falls depending on the head. If we have nationalists, but the person heading them is a nepotist; it cannot work. If, one hundred lions are led by a fowl or goat, nothing will come out of it. But let one lion lead one hundred goats; something vibrant and serious will happen. That’s the reality.
Some Nigerians appear to be getting wearied. They say they have been praying but instead of Nigeria getting better, things seem to be moving from bad to worse. You hear about kidnapping, killings, rape, etc., where then is the place of prayer?
Sometime ago, God took me to the Book of Revelation chapter 6. 1 read that when the Angel opened the fifth seal, the people were crying, ‘O God, your people are being killed for your sake; what did we do? Avenge us; God said to them hold it until your fellow servants also and your brethren, that should be killed as you were, should be fulfilled!’ So, you discover that God is always patient and watching things. He knows when the time has clocked; then he will say, it is over now.
It has been prophesied that it would be so in the last days. It is happening all over the world and people are agitating against their governments and protests are all over the place. If you don’t take time as a believer, you will also be talked into taking negative steps.
What is your take on the rising spate of insecurity in the country?
You cannot tame the tide of insecurity when there is endemic poverty in the land. What caused Boko Haram is what is causing this one. Now, they want to handle Almajiri. Look, when they say ‘a hungry man,’ they mean that when there is poverty, anything can go with it. Anything can happen. The reality is this, the rich are getting richer; the poor are getting poorer. There is no middle class anymore. So, why would they not take up arms to feed? You go to any street now, it is difficult to find someone come to say, ‘I have just got a good employment in a good company’. Instead, companies are suffering; many of them have either gone under or about doing so. Even those running private schools are suffering.
It is bill upon bill; from one levy to the other. Heavy, heavy bills from government. There is no income; it is all about expenses. So, if companies cannot operate because of difficult operating environment, how can they employ? The question is, where do those who lose their jobs go? Some of them become automatic armed robbers and prostitutes. Even those running school business are being suffocated. Taxes are increasing on a daily basis. I want to employ many people; I want to increase salary, I cannot; I want to establish more companies and employ more people but I cannot; I want to develop the area I am staying and by extension the state, but I cannot. This tax nature is becoming burdensome. The people in authority should come down from their high horses; administrative overhead is too much; they should bring it down.
The way things are going, they are giving room for violence which does not do anybody any good; because if you throw a stone in the market; you wouldn’t know who it will fall on; it may be your own relation that the stone may injure. We have the solution to the insecurity in our hands.
All the recommendations during the Jonathan administration from the constitutional conference; all the recommendations by the 8th National Assembly for Electoral Reform, where are the results? These things are there; implement them. We must change to a better, quality policy and perhaps change the name of the country for a total beginning. The policies that are not working should be discarded. We must openly bring God into the affairs of the nation; by our leaders declaring a national day of prayer and fasting. The leaders should come out and make a national proclamation that we are praying to God for mercy and change of character. That’s what changed Nineveh and saved it from wrath of God. They must create more jobs by emulating other countries’ methods which they are using. They must make agriculture to be more beneficial to the economy by emulating the way other countries are running theirs. Forget RUGA; nobody is interested in allowing other people to invade his land for personal business. They must go ranching. State Police should start with the states that are ready. The minimum wage must not be uniform. It must be determined by the states based on their ability to pay. There are places in the north that have been paying N7,000 (seven thousand per month, even though you said you’re on N18,000. Why must you stand there and they put a load you cannot carry on your head or shoulder; when you know your strength cannot carry it? Let state workers negotiate with their individual governments and come up with a realistic minimum wage. There are some states that can pay N30,000; N40,000; N50,000 or even N100,000, let them go ahead and pay; all fingers are not equal. Those that can improve on their N7,000 and pay N8,000 or N9,000 can go ahead. If you make good policies without anybody to implement them, it does not make sense, but government must make a conscious effort to ensure that the policies in place that gear towards addressing the issue of poverty which gives rise to the large scale insecurity we are witnessing in the country are implemented. If we get it right, poverty can be a thing of the past within one term of an administration in Nigeria. Take the national vision, encourage stable economic policy on education, health, security and on the economy. Ensure that every small scale enterprise is encouraged by way of tax rebate, etc.
CAN recently re-elected Supo Ayokunle as its national president. As a member of that association, what advice do you have for him this time around?
If a Christian leader tends to hobnob with politicians and tend to make policies that favour them, his followers will be disenchanted. They should remove politics from religion and do things the way Jesus Christ would do. They should represent the people. But when they leave the Bible which should be their compass to begin to employ extra-carnal ways to feather their own nest, why wouldn’t the people rise against them? When leaders are truly servant-leaders, you will see that sanity will prevail. Whether in the church or in public offices, people are comfortable with such leadership. When a religious leader cannot differentiate between religious governance and secular governance; he wants to rank with secular leaders and do things the way they do, then there will be problem. Some people now in the name of religion and prophecy go about prophesying lies. Christian leaders must avoid such a thing to remain credible. The danger is that even the political leaders you are hobnobbing with will begin to tell you, ‘Jesus I know, Paul I know, but who are you?’ They know who is who, and when you try to say something, they will say to you, ‘Is Saul also among the prophets?’ So, they must stand for the people and with the people.