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Olumide Emmanuel is the overseer, Calvary Bible Churches worldwide, The Empowerment Assembly and The Glorious Church International. He speaks on the church in Nigeria and some key national issues. Excerpts by SEYI JOHN SALAU
Former president Obasanjo said President Buhari is trying to Islamise Nigeria; what is your reaction to this?
With all due respect to the age and position of the former president, I do not think his comment deserves a reaction from me because a close observation of his track record does not make any of his comment meaningful to someone like me. Today, he is for Buhari; tomorrow he is not for Buhari, so his inconsistency is a joke to me. On the issue of islamisation of Nigeria or the Islamic agenda as some choose to call it, my concern is really on why we are so bothered about people fulfiling the agenda of their god and strategically pursuing their beliefs while the church abandons their own agenda and seems to operate without a clear strategy than to be crying Islamic agenda. We have a Christian Vice President yet we are still talking of Islamic agenda when we should be talking of Christian apathy.
But in answering the call of God, some have gone ahead planting churches, and expanding their ministries; is the call of God just for church planting?
The call of God is not just for church planting but the reason why a lot of people in this part of the world go more into church planting when they sense a call is because they lack understanding; though the church is the most prominent and popular aspect of ministry. There are different dimensions to the call of God and many don’t wait to get the full picture before they move. We have the what, when, where, who and how of the call, but once people just hear the what, they don’t wait to get other aspects right.
Some people have argued that Christians dwell more on miracles; what is your take on this?
I think that is just a function of the poverty and hardship in our nation coupled with the overemphasis of some aspect of the church on miracles. Children seek miracles while sons seek transformation, so the craze for miracles only reveal that we have more spiritual infants, babies and children than mature sons and that is an anomaly. God is a God of miracles but we are expected to be more of proof producers and vessels of the miraculous than being the one seeking miracles. After the miracle, what next?
Are you in support of Christians going into politics?
I thought going into politics is the right of any citizen who desires to serve in that capacity; so I wonder what religion has to do with that. The question should be, why are more Christians not going into politics? I personally believe that Christians should go into politics; this is so because of the reason why we are where we are today is because we don’t have enough amount of the right kind of people in the political arena yet.
Many of those who are Christians in politics deceptively think that being a Christian is all they need to succeed but that is an error, and we have seen the proof in the last few years as we have seen ‘Mr. integrity’ take the nation decades back. You need more than Christianity or religion to lead successfully. You need character, competence, capacity, courage and culture which I call the five essentials for successful leadership in any sphere.
With the increasing rate of depression, hardship, and suicide in Nigeria; is the church doing enough?
I believe the church is the reason why we don’t have more volumes of the issues you have itemised because the church has been a major support system for many by giving hope to the hopeless; helping the helpless; guarding them with prayer; teaching them how to handle the challenges of life and others. So, the role of the church is to continue to do what has been done while also balancing our teachings to ensure we deal with every aspect of human endeavour.
Away from the church to socio-economic issues: economists have argued that Nigerians were poorer under President Buhari’s first term in office; how can he improve the living standard of Nigerians in his second term?
We don’t need economists to confirm that, because every Nigerian knows that already either directly or indirectly, and I don’t see that changing in this second term if they choose to run things the way they did in the first term. So, as they have said, it may end up being next level of what the first term brought which will really be a tragedy. The first term was characterised by delay in appointments, inconsistent and unclear policy direction, excuses and blame games, absentee president, looting and re-looting, failed promises, nepotism and incompetence. So, if this does not change…….hmmm……. welcome to next level.
Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world; how can this narrative be changed?
It’s unfortunate that we have seen things go so bad to warrant such a label and more unfortunate because the narrative will most likely not change anytime soon because what needs to be done has not been done and is not being done by the right authorities. Poverty eradication is a function of many factors top of which are: the right kind of education; empowerment opportunities; right infrastructure for economic growth; an enabling environment for entrepreneurship and job creation. But, on all these key areas, we are operating far below expectation.
How can President Buhari tackle Nigeria’s security challenges?
He can’t, because his actions so far have shown he can’t. Did the administration not tell us that Boko Haram has been technically defeated only to approve one billion dollars to fight a technically defeated enemy and till date it’s only getting worse. We don’t have value for human lives in this country and that’s why insecurity will continue. Have you ever asked yourself why killings seem to be suspended during the campaign period only to resume after the elections? Food for thought for us all.
Leah Sharibu: What in your view can be done to secure her release?
Again the answer is nothing; if they wanted her free she would have been free by now. So, there is nothing they can do because I don’t believe she is a priority for the government and they can prove me wrong by doing what they know they should do.
How can the country structure the education sector in Nigeria taking a holistic and developmental view-point at it?
The foundational key to the revolution in our educational sector will be just one simple policy ‘no civil servant, public servant or elected official’s children should study in any private or foreign school except in government schools and public schools’. With this as a policy you will see transformation in our educational system in five years. And, it’s the same with our healthcare system. If your president has to travel outside his own country for medical treatment, what does that say of our healthcare system? Can you imagine the president of America or prime minister of England going to a foreign hospital? Majority of our elected officials have their children in private schools and foreign schools and yet you expect our educational system to change. Go look at nations like Rwanda where private schools are now closing down because public schools have better standard. Many of those in government today went to public schools and government universities but can they send their children there now? To really change our educational system we need policy adjustment as already stated, revival of public schools, curriculum review and update, and exploration of specialised education channels. Nollywood grew by itself – where are the film school and universities established by the government to take this to the next level. Comedy industry grew by itself – where are the comedy school and talent academy established by government to maximise this. Same way Nigerian music grew by itself, however, where the music schools and industry specific educational institution by the government is.
Over 70percent of our population is below 35 years old and they are majorly online, where are the academic institutions established to help this huge populace leverage technology and social media for economic and national development. You try to start something in any of this aspect as a private sector to help the government and see what they will take you through before you can be licensed or approved to start.
Where is the adult education? Where are the evening schools? Where are the professional educational institutes? All we are doing is building brick and mortar and establishing schools that teach expired curriculum and raising 20th century graduates in a 21st century world. I believe in this country and know without a shadow of doubt that this nation will fulfill her divine destiny; we all just need to play our part.