Government should toe the path of justice, equity and stop insecurity — Bishop Nwokolo
Diocese on the Niger Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has ended its second session of the 32nd Synod with the theme: “Feed My Lambs,” taken from John 22: 15 – 17. In this interview with CHRIS IREKAMBA, the Diocesan Bishop, Rt. Reverend Owen Chiedozie Nwokolo spoke on issues relating to the church, the nation and the position of the Anglican Communion on priests from Nigeria who are also members of the Church of England, among others.
What are the impacts of this yearly event on your members, the church and Nigerians as a whole?
Let me reveal certain truth to you. What do you think that has been sustaining this country all through these turbulent years? Do you think it is because of the army, the police or the presence of the security agencies that has kept us from being consumed in this country? Of course, yes and no. Yes, because of government’s genuine efforts, but no, because children of God are not resting. God’s children have always been on their knees praying for the good of the nation. And the good news is that God continues to hear and answer the prayers of His children. James 5: 16 says: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” So, what am I saying? The impacts of our yearly Synod on the nation cannot, in fact, be quantified in human terms. The effects are immeasurable as touching the spiritual, economic, political and social stability and progress of Nigeria. In fact, in a more quantitative terms, at the end of each Synod spiritual captives are set free, souls surrender to Jesus, the sick are healed, attitudes and behaviours are changed for the better, finances of many are improved, the unity of the nation is fortified. This is to say the least; the synodic impacts are uncountable.
What makes this year’s Synod different from last year’s?
Well, I will say that many things combined to make this year’s Synod exceptionally unique. One, you remember that we are just emerging from what economists and financial experts called, “cashless society” or “cashless era,” whichever is the case; we know we experienced a very severe cash squeeze this year. So, we held a post-cashless Synod. Imagine what that means. Two, this Synod held at the dawn of a new government now apparently characterising very biting economic policies from which our people are currently responding with some back-and-forth financial adjustments. You can also imagine what that also entails. Three, while the Synod was trying to hold petrol pump price increased above the reach of many. So, you can see that it is a Synod of a special status, one holding at a time of pervading uncertainties. However, we are not daunted because we know that God moves in mysterious ways to perform wonders.
Are Christians promoting the cause of the kingdom enough by their lifestyles; if not, what are the right things to do?
Without being apologetic or entertaining any fear of contradictions, I stand to tell you that genuine Christians in this country have very well lived up to expectations. They have consistently promoted the cause of God’s Kingdom according to their individual endowed grace. We are endowed with different spiritual and moral capacities. Everyone is working within the ambit of his or her given grace.
It is very unfortunate how often we evaluate the ethical, moral and spiritual lives of millions of Christians based on the behaviour of a few. Such generalisations are unfair. Apart from the natural play up of individual differences, it is said that one finger soils the rest.
Remember, it is just one bad finger among many. One corrupt Judas Iscariot could not have painted the rest eleven black. So, my take on this, is that millions of genuine Christians in this country are honestly promoting the good cause of God’s Kingdom irrespective of the activities of charlatans and impostors. I, therefore, encourage genuine Christians in Nigeria not to relent. Galatians. 6:9 tells us: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
What is the Diocese’s Vision 2030 all about and how far have you gone with it?
The Vision 2030 of the Diocese on the Niger is the sketched mental picture of where the Diocese would want to be situated by the year, 2030. It is the tapestry of the ideal state we want the Diocese to assume in the next 10 years. By the special grace of God, the golden roadmap that will lead us to the conceptualised state has been discreetly drawn and we are diligently treading on it with enthusiastic optimism.
Anglican Communion has severed relationship with the Church of England because of same sex marriage, but some Nigerian Anglican priests are still working there. For instance, during King Charles 111 coronation a Nigerian priest, Rev. Tosin Oladipo, who also doubles as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Chaplain joined other clergy to officiate the event. What is position of the Anglican Communion on this?
The Anglican Communion describes itself as a ‘fellowship’ or ‘communion’ of autonomous Christian churches united by a common history, confessing a common faith and (traditionally) a common liturgy. There are 38 distinct and independent Anglican churches or ‘provinces,’ existing in a particular country or spread over a number of countries. Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is one of such independent churches making up the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Church stands on a tripod — namely: Scripture, Tradition and Reason. All the three primarily rest on the Scripture. We believe that any Province that departs from the teachings of the scriptures ceases to belong to the Communion, whether the Province still claims to be Anglican or not. It is a complicated matter that needs many hours to explain the details. However, the recent GAFCON IV Statement from Kigali 2023 has blacklisted the Church of England as a Province because of its strange teachings of the Scriptures relating to Christ’s teachings on marriage.
Faithful members of the Church of England who decide to remain in the Church of England were encouraged to remain faithful to the Scripture. I suppose that includes faithful Priests from Nigeria who are also members of the Church of England. The autonomous nature of operation in the Anglican Communion makes it difficult to legislate on these matters.
What are your expectations from the new government?
Now that we are at the dawn of a new political era in our march towards the consolidation of the orchestrated philosophy of “One Nigeria,” my expectations from the government are no more than what we have been begging our leaders for. The government should do the needful, by first, observing the principles of natural justice, equity and good conscience. The government should among other things, first toe the path of justice and equity. Injustice and thoughtless acting without considering the feeling of others have been the bane of this nation. Since the past 10 years or thereabouts, there have been long drawn agitations, restiveness, pent-up disillusionment and botched protests in various parts of the country. All these have been very detrimental to the desired wellbeing of the nation. I, therefore, appeal to the government to bend low enough to ascertain the causes of the agitations and find ways to contain them.
Insecurity is another monster that has devastated this nation. I hereby call on the Federal Government to equally look for quick solution to the issue of insecurity in the country. Solution to the problem of the Fulani herdsmen should be pursued with vigour. Many Nigerians are apprehensive of both the “Islamisation” and “Fulanisation” of the country by the North and this should be clearly allayed. They are other thorny issues. The government should also design programmes and policies to arrest hunger and sudden deaths that are now rocking every part of the country. Nigerians are indeed suffering untold hardship. My prayer is that God will give the leaders the moral, ethical and political stamina to secure the country adequately, revive our economy and raise the purchasing power of the Naira. If all these would be done, we would be on the path of recovering our lost glory.
Your birthday is coming days after the Synod, how do you intend to mark it?
Well, I think there’s no other special way to celebrate the day other than for me to be happy and give God, the Almighty great thanks for His innumerable blessings upon my life, family and ministry. Honestly, I am not interested in celebrating my birthdays with festivities.
Other years, due to necessities, I, of course, used to mark the day with launching of books, whose proceeds or monetary gifts are used for various mission works. Invariably, I have thought otherwise this year considering certain fundamental things.
Also, as far as I know, I have closed the chapter of necessity. There are other ways to raise funds for the church other than using my birthday celebrations as the focal point. I prefer to keep my birthday celebrations private. So, this year, it is going to be private. However, many people are aware of my birthday. I do not think it is now within my powers to keep it entirely private. Sometimes, there could be surprises.
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