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‘If I Have N7bn, I Don’t Think This Is The Type Of Coat I Would Be Wearing’

31 May 2015   |   1:17 am
The last time the Anglican Church held a sendforth service for President Jonathan, his speech almost got people shedding tears, what was going through your mind then? THE major concern of the church is that we have associated with him for the whole four years as an Anglican, and whatever are the difficulties and problems, he still deserves to be sent forth.
Nicholas Okoh

Nicholas Okoh

Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh is the Primate, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion. He spoke in an interview with journalists from selected media houses in Nigeria, where he urged President Goodluck Jonathan to embrace God more, as he goes out of government. The Primate also set agenda for the in-coming government. ABOSEDE MUSARI was there. 

As clergymen, we relate with the highly placed and lowly placed and we try as much as possible not to get emotionally involved in situations. For instance, a woman can come here and describe her circumstance and if one is not careful, you start weeping, but if you take on the burden, you won’t be able to do your work.

The other day, a man came here from our Maitama church describing his health condition, which was quite serious.

What he was asking for, however, was not to weep for him because if you do that, you will likely get lost like him. So, in that type of situation, you just need to ask what the person’s need is. Going back to your question.

That day, our intention was to tell him to go into the future with God. If a man doesn’t leave God out of his journey, he will be helped. That he was defeated in the last elections, or that he was probably disappointed with his friends and colleagues, as well as political associates, and even Nigeria, shouldn’t hinder him from moving forward.

In spite of everything, he still has to move on and face the future. Whatever the individual’s circumstance, the Lord will not fail, if you stick with Him. So, we are asking him to go into this uncertain future with God, Who is certain.

All around is uncertainty, but God is certain. You also prophesied that there are bigger jobs President Jonathan may get.

Were you led by the spirit or by information available to you? No, I do not have any information. Sometimes, social amnesia constitutes a problem to people.

When you are in a particular place, you get trapped and it was like that for me when I was about to leave the Army. I never thought that one day I would use my hand to apply for voluntary retirement, because in the Army, that is not how it is done.

At the end of the year, there is promotion for those entitled to it and after that, there is what they call career review or postings. Some get posted to different places. So, these three things are always in place at the end of the year for people serving in the military.

If you pass a promotion exam at the right time or you are due for promotion, you will get it, but if not, you are likely to be retired or face career review problems or you go on transfer.

So, that year, I was already thinking of all these issues when I got the letter, while in office telling me that the Episcopal Synod met in Abuja, and that they have given me a letter to go to Asaba and be a Bishop. I had two days to consent to it or reject it. That type of situation brings something you did not plan for but you must respond.

That was the type of situation President Jonathan was in that day and I was only telling him that God does not fail people.

If you have enough faith to go forward into the future, you will not be disappointed. Definitely, people were bound to say that he failed at the election because he was vacating office. But if you go by faith, and after six months to one year, he’ll realise that there is life outside State House. Some great men of God provided spiritual cover for Mr. President.

Many of them even accompanied him to Jerusalem, where they prayed for Nigeria. But now that things have turned out this way, would you say that all their efforts were in vain?  No. Looking at it from the human point of view you can say that.

But looking at it from a spiritual point of view, God sees the end from the beginning. He takes the whole thing as a linear scale, not a pocket of an issue.

His life has a programme. Every one of us has a programme with God. You won’t spend one day longer or shorter.

That aspect of his destiny has been fulfilled; his being in the state house, in God’s economy has been completed. He has to move on to the next subject. What that is, I don’t know.

I have experienced that in my own life and I know it is so in everyone’s life. When you complete an assignment and God sees that there is no more need for you to be here, you move on. Men of God have been criticised for always surrounding President Jonathan.

We are not quite comfortable, though it is somewhat better than what it used to be, particularly in 2013 and 2014, when it was very high. But we hope that the Boko Haram thing will be a thing of the past completely. We still hear that they are carrying out guerrilla type of attack here and there, which is making people jittery. People cannot move about with confidence. But more than that, we want a situation, where no one can just come out and start killing people. Take the issue of the cartoon that was done in France, and the one done in Denmark before that. And then some Nigerians were made to pay for it. Why? All of us carry the green passport. I didn’t do the cartoon, so why should I be killed for it? These are basic issues that have prevented our development

And though you might not have been there every time, did it occur to you that the men of God took things to the extreme in that regard?  The work of the church is to provide prophetic guidance and the work of leading a nation is a serious one.

If you perceive that the man ought to go in a particular direction, you have a duty to make it known to him one way or the other. Whether he takes to the advice or not is another matter.

If you check the Bible, the prophets made their views known but in most cases they were not taken. So, in that case, you have played the role of a watchman. You see what is happening and what is coming and you say this thing is likely to happen if you don’t do this and that. If after you have left, they say do not mind that man, he is mad or he doesn’t know what he is doing, that is not your concern. Your duty is to deliver what has been revealed to you, and when you have done that, you go back to your base.

You don’t force anybody to do what you have said because the choice to disobey God is even there for human beings. The only thing is that, if you obey, there is a blessing and good things to come and if you do not, there is a consequence, and so that is the Deuteronomy way of putting it.

What is the relationship between the outgoing administration and the clerics?  Seriously speaking, Jonathan loves the bible and reading it. This was not an accident, because his mother is always there in the church, even for morning devotions. I think he has the privilege of deeply committed parents in the issues of Godliness.

How much he himself has taken that as a way of life can be seen in his daily early morning devotions, no matter how hectic his schedule and even during fasting. It is not everyone in such position that would deny himself food, drinks and all that.

I think humanly speaking he has tried. And then in terms of Christian principles, he tries to give people their due regard. He has a very large heart and is magnanimous towards those that have offended him.

In that area, I can say he has tried humanly possible best for the citizenry. Some clergymen were alleged to have collected N7 billion from President Jonathan before the elections.

Was there anything like that?   The only way to answer that question is to say that CAN reacted at that time. The accusation was made when politics was very intense, and whatever you hear at that time must be taken with a pinch of salt otherwise you will be misled.

Then, the two major parties were actually trading accusations. So, my submission is that, if I have N7billion, I don’t think this is the type of coat I would be wearing.

I don’t know who collected the money or the bank that released N7billion and I don’t know where the money is.

Which area do you think the new administration should touch to make Nigerians happy?  First and foremost, there is what I consider a theological and political capital that was bequeathed by Jonathan; and that is peace.

It is a theological and political capital in that where it does not exist, there will be no country.

The incoming administration needs to take advantage of that capital to do more to promote peace. No matter how it is viewed and whichever angle, peace is essential and so this capital must be properly understood and utilised so that Nigeria can go forward. The capital is there.

It could be utilised or ignored, undervalued or properly valued, depending on the way they are looking at things. But I want to say that the presence of that capital is not in doubt, and it is key to the further development of this country.

This is the peace that has been ushered in by President Jonathan’s behaviour.   Second is the issue of the country’s unity.

No matter what you want to do for Nigerians, if there is no unity, they will just look at you with suspicion and there will be no progress.

There is need to take advantage of this political capital of peace and then go forward to do more to achieve unity for our people.

Presently, there is tension concerning such issues as ethnic and tribalism. While some people feel safe, others feel insecure.

So, what programme can be put in place to reassure everyone that they belong? That is the main issue. After all these can come that of electricity, education, food and so on. All these are secondary.

If you are from Warri, for instance, the question is, can you go to Maiduguri, sleep and wake up without fear? Can you go to Sokoto, sleep and wake up without fear of anything? Can you build your house there, live there and feel comfortable? Can the person living in Sokoto go to Port Harcourt or Lagos or Warri and build his house and not be troubled about security? This is why the issue of oneness is a major one because until people are safe, they cannot commit themselves to any development.

On the issue of state of origin and indigineship, is it still necessary at this stage of our life as Nigerians that we should seek for such segregating details?   Yes, for administrative purpose and to know how many people and the demographic movement. But the reasons for which we are doing it is not right.

We seek such information for the purpose of dominance. Anywhere in the world, people ask for demographic figures. It is not just a matter of documentation; rather, it is the practical aspect of it that we should emphasise.

We should demand for uniformity. In other words, what is good for the goose should also be good for the gander. What I am trying to emphasise is the principle of reciprocity.

If I give you, please be kind enough to give me because taking every time will not promote unity and oneness.   The leaders should lead the people to accommodate and accept others.

If you come to my place and you are not a Christian, you are a traditional worshipper or a Muslim or from any other religion, we should be able to accept you first and foremost as the creature of God. Unless you go on to do things that will not allow me to eat, drink or sleep, I have no business interfering with you.

But where you just think that I deserve to be killed because I don’t belong to your faith, I think we have not solved that problem yet. We thought that with the National Conference, we would resolve those issues but we did not.

When South Africa started killing people, we had no moral right to speak because we are doing the same thing here in our country. You don’t have to go to South Africa to experience xenophobia; it is here with us.

In Nigeria, if you live outside your ancestral home, you are threatened. Those are the major issues, which the incoming administration need to consider and solve for us so that there will be a country. Is the call for disintegration the solution to the present inadequacies?   No, we are not the only people who have diversity, which can be an advantage.

I have lived in all parts of this country and I discovered that what we lack in the south, we have in the north and what we lack in the north, we have in the south. That is complementary. That is something that can help a country to develop.

In the training of our armed Forces for instance, particularly the Army, you have opportunity to train people in the swamp, savannah, rainforest and semi desert because we actually don’t have full desert in Nigeria.

A country Nigeria’s size can be a very powerful one. If we reduce ourselves to small groups, we will become nonentities.

So, I subscribe to a strong powerful country. These issues of peace and unity have to be taken care of, because if not, we can’t make it. What was the impact of Boko Haram insurgency on the church in the northeast?  It is severe.

We are compiling a very big record of losses in Damaturu, Maiduguri, Adamawa, Jos, Kaduna, Kano and so on. In fact, at the moment, our Bishop in Damaturu is on exile.

He is currently based in Jos and supervises his area of responsibility from there. He travels from there because it is not safe to stay in Damaturu.

The country that wants to be great cannot promote insecurity. So, whether we like it or not, the issue of insurgency has to be solved permanently.

We should not just be tolerating one another in our country; people should feel at home wherever they are. The word tolerance is wrong. A citizen should not be tolerated in his own country.

Is there relief for the church now that the insurgents are being routed?   We are not quite comfortable, though it is somewhat better than what it used to be, particularly in 2013 and 2014, when it was very high. But we hope that the Boko Haram thing will be a thing of the past completely.

We still hear that they are carrying out guerrilla type of attack here and there, which is making people jittery.

People cannot move about with confidence. But more than that, we want a situation, where no one can just come out and start killing people.

Take the issue of the cartoon that was done in France, and the one done in Denmark before that. And then some Nigerians were made to pay for it.

Why? All of us carry the green passport. I didn’t do the cartoon, so why should I be killed for it? These are basic issues that have prevented our development.

What role should the church play now that we have a change of government in Nigeria?   The church’s role is still the same — to pray for the incoming government, which we will do and continue to do; it is a divine assignment.

If you go through the scriptures, we are duty bound to support the government with prayers so that they can lead well. In fact, Daniel 4:17 says that the Lord rules in the affairs of men.

And because the He rules in the affairs of men and sets up governments, we are duty bound to pray for government, which is like a driver. We are inside the vehicle and if the driver drives well, we will arrive safely, but if not, we crash.

If the government succeeds, then Nigerians will be more respected outside of the country, and we will enjoy our food and sleep well. What Jonathan did brought honour to Nigerians because otherwise we would have been running helter skelter by now.

Some of the foreign journalists that came made sacrifices in coming to cover the elections, but a good number of them came to witness how we would kill ourselves. But God helped us and it didn’t go that way. So, they went home with empty card. There are high expectations from the incoming government.

OkohHow do you think they can be achieved?   It depends on what he said he was coming to do. I am not prepared to judge anybody.

All I can ask Nigerians to do is to be patient with him otherwise he will cause more problems, if he is not allowed to do things painstakingly. He has to be meticulous to ensure that what he is doing will have enduring value.

If you want to start a project, go through all the due process and the details, so that what you are going to do will last.

Personally, I will give him more than a year to study the situation and set his own agenda properly. Don’t forget that he doesn’t know the people that are coming to work with him.

They are only party colleagues. He has to take his time because some of them will disappoint him. You cannot fix a country within six months.

You cannot even fix a country within four years. He will have to work very hard for the period he has won to see that he sets things in order. If he wants to make things work very well, he has to be careful and thorough, otherwise people will cause problem for him and turn around to say Buhari has failed.

Political promises has to take into cognisance the time for execution of projects, it is not easy. Nigerians should do two things for him: Pray for him and be patient with him.

On the forthcoming synod with the theme: “give back to Caesar what is Caesar and give back to God what is God’s, how significant is it to the present time? We are calling on Nigerians to support the government.

Caesar is the authority of the day. So, give to him what you owe him. You owe him taxes, dues, support, respect and honour, all of which are what he deserves in that office to be able to function.

Equally so, you bear the image of God and you belong to Him. He is entitled to your obedience. God is entitled to the obedience of the government also. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, everything including the government and the man manning the government, they are all creatures of God, so they must obey Him.

There should never come a time when the country is put in a position to take a decision as to whether to follow God or government.

That happened in the early church when there was Caesar worship and people were making sacrifice to a human being, and those who refused to do so were persecuted. We do hope that such a time would never arise in our country.