Every right-thinking Nigerian should be worried about rising insecurity.
President, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and General Superintendent of Gospel Light International Ministries, Rev. Felix Omobude, in an interview with TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA calls on the Federal Government to address the escalating insecurity in the country
It is now 20 years of unbroken civilian rule, what’s your assessment of the state of the nation?
We thank God for keeping us together. Nigerians are very resilient people. In spite of all the challenges, we are still together. We have a stake in being united and so far, we have worked at it. If God wanted us apart, we would have disintegrated a long time ago. We are not where we ought to be but somehow we are not where we used to be.
Nigeria has come a long way and we wish the president well in his second term. Nigerians are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to reduce the poverty index in the country. Nigerians are hoping for a nation where our youths would be fully and positively engaged. Nigerians are hoping that in this second term, there would be stable electricity, infrastructure like roads and railways would be improved upon. Nigerians are looking for a just representation in government to address the perceived imbalances. Nigerians are also looking for hope in a despondent economic situation.
Are you not worried about the rising cases of insecurity in the country?
Every right-thinking Nigerian should be worried about how fast things are not falling into place despite our prayers and the seeming efforts of the authorities. We are worried that the more we think we have seen the worst and have it under control, the more it seems to escalate. And we are calling on the authorities to get a hold of the spate of insecurity because the primary responsibility of any government is the security, safety and wellbeing of its citizens.
We call on government to rise to the challenge. It is unimaginable that criminals can hold major highways in the country for months, despite the fact that we deploy soldiers, call it operation this and that. Yet, they still hold hapless road users hostage and inflict a reign of terror.
Do you think government is doing enough to address the spate of insecurity?
I am aware that there have been some responses from government. Whether those responses are enough is another thing. Nigerians will continue to hold government responsible until they can sleep with their two eyes closed, until their women and children are safe in the farm, until the roads are safe and citizens can travel to any part of the country without let or hindrance. We call on government not just at the federal level, but also at the state and even the local government to react decisively and stop the tide of rising insecurity.
What do you think is the cause of the growing insecurity?
There is bound to be criminal activities in a situation where people can’t find jobs to do. The situation is so bad that some people cannot afford to eat just once in a day let alone three meals. Things like this should be expected in this kind of situation because people will always find a means of survival, whether good or bad.
So, government should declare a state of emergency as far as joblessness is concerned. The problem of joblessness should be tackled with all seriousness. Nigeria is blessed with arable land and there are many crops we can cultivate from the North to the South. So, we have to look at agriculture to provide jobs for our youths.
How can the herdsmen crisis be tackled?
In this day of civilisation, nomadic cattle-rearing is outdated; it is obsolete and it is even unproductive. Ranching is the way to go. Those who want to raise livestock should invest in ranching. But it has been difficult to get some states to give up land for ranching.
Cattle-rearing is an occupation just like other aspects of agriculture. There are conditions attached to getting land in different places in the country. If you want to raise livestock including cattle, then approach the owners of the land and negotiate with them; pay them and get the certificate of occupancy. It is a private business just like other businesses. Ranching will make cattle raising to be more productive and will stop destruction of crops and the killings.
You once said there was no law forbidding Christians from defending themselves. Is still not a call to anarchy?
I said that and I still maintain it. God created each one of us and gave us two hands and two legs for a purpose. And if anybody wants to throw a sword at you, you have your hands to defend yourself; you have your legs to do the needful. But that does not mean you have to take the law into your own hands. We have the police and other law enforcement agencies to protect the citizens but each one also has a duty to himself.
Doesn’t that mean that you don’t have confidence in the security agencies?
When you build your house, you put doors and even gates and burglar proofs. That does not mean that the security agencies are not there but each one will still try to protect himself. There is nowhere in the world where we have perfect security, but I believe there is a lot that can still be done in terms of security in this country. There are killings here and there. There are kidnappings and all manner of criminal acts; so, anything you can do to keep yourself alive is worthwhile.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo said Boko Haram fighters and herdsmen are fighting to Islamise Nigeria. Do you think he is right in his assertion?
I cannot fault the former president because he has more information than myself. Secondly, he has Nigeria’s interest at heart. Thirdly, indices around us show that the complaints Obasanjo made are overwhelming, especially with Fulani herdsmen. Why this sudden upsurge? Why is it that these people kill and maim and get away with it? Who are the sponsors of these people? Are they faceless? Where do they come from and what is their aim? Why are they evasive? Why do they kill innocent people at will and get away with their crime without being arrested? What we know before now as a Fulani herdsman was a young man with a stick controlling cattle, and not one with AK-47.
It is not enough for government to condemn an act; Criminals strike, we condemn. We want to see them face the wrath of the law. We want to see government act swiftly. The former president spoke out of deep reasoning. We, as the church people, are not afraid because what some people do not know is that no one has the monopoly of violence. But we have been restraining ourselves. You can’t force your religion on anybody and I am sure that Nigeria’s constitution respects that. That is what we believe.
So, are you saying Obasanjo’s assertion is correct?
The former president has a right to his own opinion. I have told you the indices that point to that direction. If you answer the questions: who are their sponsors? Who are the ones backing them? It is strange that a major highway was seized and despite that we have the military, the police the Department of State Services and others, the hoodlums were still there. Why were they not arrested? And this keeps recurring. That is an indictment on the government.
Are you still hopeful of Leah Sharibu’s return?
We will continue to pray and believe that Leah Sharibu will return home. The president has promised to work towards her release. Leah’s continued detention is an indictment on religious freedom in this country because she was detained for her refusal to renounce her faith.
How safe are Christians, especially those in the northern part of the country?
In all fairness, when Boko Haram started some years back, they were primarily targeting Christians but events that have unfolded have proved that these people are mad. They target people in their mosques, in schools, in churches and those in their homes. But primarily, the Christians are their number one enemies. Generally, Nigerians are more insecure today than it had even been. There is restiveness almost everywhere. Any soul killed in any part of Nigeria is important to all and to us. We ought not to lose people callously.
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