Dr. Mike Okonkwo, the presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), is one cleric who not often dabbles into political issues within the nation however who doesn’t mince phrases when he chooses to. Two days in the past, he was his regular self when he spoke with choose journalists, together with The Guardian’s ONYEDIKA AGBEDO, on the TREM headquarters in Lagos on the state of affairs within the nation. He condemned President Muhammadu Buhari’s type of governance, particularly the style of his appointments and his dealing with of the safety scenario within the nation, warning that the scenario in Afghanistan was a giant lesson for Nigeria. Okonkwo additionally lambasted the governors of the Southeast states for shedding the boldness of the individuals, condemned the Indigenous Individuals of Biafra (IPOB) for beating the drums of struggle within the Southeast and said why he doesn’t need an Igbo man to succeed Buhari in 2023. He additionally spoke on the qualities Nigerians should look out for in individuals that can current themselves for the primary place earlier than making their selection.
The speaking level within the nation now could be the extent of insecurity. You might be famend as somebody who doesn’t mince phrases any time you maintain an opinion you voice it out. What’s your tackle the state of the nation proper now vis-à-vis the safety challenges bedeviling the nation?
Nicely, it’s only any person who’s blind or dishonest that can say that he’s glad with how the nation is now. For me, I believe the nation goes by means of a interval of gestation; one thing new needs to be born. We’ve got gone spherical this mountain lengthy sufficient and it’s not working. To be trustworthy, one thing is basically flawed in the best way we’ve operated since our independence in 1960. We ought to be doing higher than we’re doing now. Actually, at instances you’re feeling ashamed to name your self a Nigerian.
Few years in the past, we mentioned, ‘Ghana should go’. However as we speak, Ghana is way forward of us of their nationwide growth. Our academic system is run down, safety is run down and economic system is run down. The whole lot is leveled to the bottom; everyone seems to be on floor zero.
So, positively, nobody will say that he/she is glad with the scenario within the nation. I imply, persons are afraid; they can’t journey; you can not confidently go to your village. The insecurity has gotten so dangerous that they’ll even invade our armoury and carry arms and nothing will occur. Then, the place do you flip to?
The newest was the invasion of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna by bandits. If these individuals may stroll into the NDA and kill individuals and escape, then the place will we stand? Kaduna occurs to be a really stronghold by way of army presence and these items are taking place there. So, there isn’t a extra hiding place for individuals and we should always significantly look into it as a nation.
I used to be watching the Minister of Labour when he was being interviewed by way of medical doctors which can be leaving the nation; and he mentioned for him, it doesn’t imply something. I used to be shocked! What number of medical doctors do we’ve in Nigeria for him to say we had surplus? We’ve got surplus, however we go to hospitals and can be searching for medical doctors? That can also be the scenario on the well being centres. I instructed myself that this man will need to have been dwelling in one other world not in Nigeria. We’re having mind drain; persons are leaving the nation and once they get in another country they excel. That exhibits that Nigerians are resilient, sensible and know what they’re doing. It’s a matter of getting a system that works within the nation in order that the residents will have the ability to reap the advantages of what God has endowed Nigeria with.
The opposite day, a lady was crying out over the state of the hostels on the College of Nigeria, Nsukka, the place she went to drop her daughter to renew college. I couldn’t consider my eyes, as she was exhibiting the inns that college students had been dwelling in to check. And I requested myself, ‘is that this the next establishment of studying and we count on them to grow to be the most effective for us?’ For individuals to even stay in that kind of setting is a shock. So, there may be rot in all places you flip.
So, the state of our nation is changing into very scary. Actually, at instances, I ask myself how the individuals within the Nationwide Meeting see themselves. You might be purported to be within the Nationwide Meeting to go legal guidelines that might be helpful to the nation; and these items are taking place in your eyes and also you go to the Nationwide Meeting, stroll again residence and sleep? You don’t take drastic actions or selections that can deal with these points?
You mentioned Nigeria goes by means of a gestation interval and that one thing new needs to be born earlier than the nation can transfer ahead. What’s that new factor you might be envisaging?
If you happen to discover, there may be sturdy agitation that the whole federal system we’re working ought to be seemed into. And from my understanding, it’s even within the manifesto of the ruling social gathering; I heard that it’s the primary merchandise of their manifesto. Pastor Tunde Bakare, who was a part of the drafting of their structure, mentioned that it’s the primary level of their manifesto. True federalism, restructuring. Now, the query is, why has it not been carried out? So, there may be agitation from each space.
Initially, it was the Indigenous Individuals of Biafra (IPOB); it’s no extra IPOB alone. Oduduwa individuals and the Niger Delta Entrance are additionally saying ‘look, we’re bored with this contraption referred to as Nigeria’, which was not the case earlier than.
So, positively, when there may be such agitation throughout, the reality is that people who find themselves making an attempt to both sweep it underneath the carpet, run away from it, threaten persons are losing their time. We should come to some extent the place we are going to take a look at the nation and re-address the current scenario we’re in as a result of that’s the reason there may be pressure in all places. There may be lack of belief in all places. Nigerians don’t belief something once more; they don’t even consider within the authorities any longer. So, clearly, this is a sign that there’s something that has to present means for an additional factor to rise and that’s the place we’re going. I consider that there’s want to present delivery to what can be helpful to the whole land so that each area will develop at their very own tempo. I imply we are able to’t proceed with one of these mediocrity.
What we’ve on floor now, to place within the native parlance, is such as you beating me up and saying I shouldn’t cry. It’s not attainable; for those who beat me up, I have to shed tears.
What are these ‘beatings’ that gave rise to those agitations?
Let me provide you with one instance. Individuals are complaining of insecurity. In case you are complaining of insecurity and the safety equipment is within the arms of a gaggle of individuals, the one means I can persuade you that I’m honest and critical about what I’m doing is to stability it, standardise it, get individuals from completely different elements of the nation to deal with completely different areas in order that there can be no suspicion. At present, there may be suspicion. Now, it doesn’t matter what the president says, individuals won’t consider it till there’s a decentralisation of the safety equipment. Individuals are saying that the insecurity within the nation is now just about throughout the entire nation and you might be saying that there isn’t a agenda that the North has to take over the nation, how do I consider you?
Like they are saying, it’s you people who have the knife and the yam; whomever you give, he takes. So, why are you not delivering? The pure factor for anybody to do is to take it from them and share it. You possibly can say, ‘look, I don’t have any agenda; you from Niger Delta you might be accountable for this; you from Kwara you might be accountable for this, you from Kogi you might be accountable for that’. You distribute it so the safety equipment is unfold throughout the entire nation. That means, if it’s no extra working, you aren’t calling one group of individuals. So, this pointing at a specific group of individuals shouldn’t be an try and label them, it’s just because the suitable issues appear to not have been carried out. Who else will I name? I gained’t name an outsider since you are in cost. In case you are in cost why are issues the best way they’re? That’s the means I see it.
In as a lot as I’m the sort that doesn’t play ethnic politics, simply take a look at the agitation that is occurring within the East. The Miyetti Allah will come out and take possession of sure issues just like the misbehaviour and violence in some areas and nothing is finished. Then the IPOB carries their flag with out arms and you’ll go after them and mow them down. What would you like individuals to say? Would you like them to say that all the pieces is ok? It might by no means be. So, these are the problems that persons are agitating for and crying out.
To the most effective of my data, the easterners aren’t asking for something apart from stay and let stay. They aren’t saying, ‘give us all the pieces’. For me, to be trustworthy with you, I’m not in settlement with any easterner saying, ‘it’s time for us to be president’. So it’s best to beg to be president? If it’s going to be a case of constructing you president to be able to be appeased, that’s stupidity; I don’t need that. You’re a Nigerian; you could have equal proper to all the pieces that each different one that is in Nigeria has. So, it’s not a matter of being appeased. Actually, I don’t even need any easterner underneath this example to be a president as a result of he’ll fail. Are you aware why? The current system can by no means permit you to succeed. That’s the reason we’ve to take a look at the system.
The opposite day, any person was boasting that they’ve the most important quantity and subsequently, they’re those that can decide who guidelines the nation or not. What kind of audacity is that? What kind of audacity will make you to be saying that you’re going to be lording it over the whole nation? It’s unacceptable.
So, what are your ideas on the scenario within the Southeast the place there appears to be two governing authorities, the state governments on one aspect and the IPOB on the opposite aspect, as evidenced within the current sit-at-homes ordered by the IPOB, which was obeyed by the residents regardless of a counter directive by the state governors?
Let me first say that the rationale most individuals sit-at-home shouldn’t be that they essentially need to obey the IPOB, it’s just because they’re afraid as IPOB will threaten them. They are going to inform you that for those who do that, they are going to kill you or burn down your own home. Who desires to be the scapegoat? So, I might reasonably keep away; I don’t need their hassle.
The opposite day they sat at residence, I noticed any person who was cooking in entrance of his home though the streets had been empty and so they got here and poured away what he was cooking. There have been individuals who had their drinks on their corridors and so they broke all of them. Whenever you try this kind of factor why do I need to come out? Does that imply that I’m respecting your orders? No! It’s the menace to life that makes individuals to obey them.
And that’s what I’ve been saying; a lot as I do know that the state governments haven’t performed the best way they need to play; they’re purported to be the voice of the individuals and stand and deal with points that should do with them. The easterners have misplaced confidence within the governors; that’s the reason they’re searching for a brand new voice that can lead them.
I’m not a robust advocate of IPOB for one singular motive – one particular person can’t be the ultimate authority in a factor. No different particular person could make any suggestion. If you happen to make any suggestion you might be underneath hearth irrespective of how good your suggestion is. That’s flawed! It’s nearly changing into a dictatorial situation. So, it’s tough to simply accept that; one particular person can’t be the one custodian of an concept. And loads of them who’re leaping up and down didn’t see the Nigeria-Biafra struggle; they by no means noticed it. I believe that even Nnamdi Kanu was born after the struggle or throughout the struggle, so he was a boy who didn’t know something.
One of many songs they used to sing in these days was ‘Ojukwu give me gun let me go and kill Gowon.’ Is it straightforward? Gowon remains to be alive as we speak. Allow us to be actual; struggle shouldn’t be a great expertise. When the bombs start to land, nobody will inform you to run in your life. So, individuals don’t perceive the implications of struggle; there can be no medicine, no meals and all the pieces you could have laboured for over time can be misplaced. The implications of struggle are a lot that you simply don’t need it. If you happen to can have another, irrespective of how lengthy it takes, sitting down around the desk and discussing your points, is one of the simplest ways.
On the finish of the struggle, easterners got 20 kilos. I’m a witness; I labored in a financial institution earlier than the struggle. For Igbos to have the ability to bounce again to the dimension that they’ve been capable of bounce again now could be a miracle. Why do you need to destroy these issues over evening and begin once more? Why would you proceed with a vicious cycle? It doesn’t make sense. It’s not being a coward; it’s being smart. Knowledge is best than weapons of struggle.
So, for me, there may be want for each the youthful generations’ energy and the previous males’s knowledge to satisfy collectively so that we are going to know which route to go. You possibly can’t simply label any one that brings an concept opposite to yours a saboteur. How can I be a saboteur for advising you based mostly on what I find out about the best way struggle goes? So, I believe that the Southeast governments ought to win again the boldness of the individuals.
How do they try this, because the sit-at-home orders is alleged to be significantly threatening the economic system of the Southeast?
I believed so myself that the instruction is counterproductive. I’ve requested myself how sitting at residence on Mondays is useful to IPOB. Does that have an effect on the Federal Authorities? It’s not their enterprise; it’s not going to alter something. So, I’m nonetheless making an attempt to know how telling easterners who’re principally merchants to sit-at-home and do nothing on Mondays is useful to IPOB. On the finish the Igbos are the losers.
You see, that’s the reason I preserve harping on the necessity to do a large enlightenment so that folks can perceive the place they’re coming from. This situation of I don’t need to hear, it’s essential to hear. Whenever you hear to a different argument that’s extra superior, it is possible for you to to know. However as at now, they’re too violent; all they need to do is no matter Nnamdi Kanu says to them, whether or not we prefer it or not. Whenever you inform them to sit down down and listen to the opposite aspect, they are saying no.
So, I believe the governments ought to nonetheless proceed to attempt to see how they’ll get their individuals and say, ‘look, we’re additionally seeing the plain partiality towards the Southeast, however on the identical time, there’s a higher method to strategy the scenario’.
What classes can Nigeria be taught from the return of the Taliban to energy in Afghanistan?
We’re purported to be taught classes from it as a result of these are the problems we’ve been speaking about. They (Taliban) had been granted amnesty. What occurred in Afghanistan is straightforward – the individuals had been carrying weapons and combating outdoors, however inside, they had been nonetheless terrorists. Sure, you skilled them, nevertheless it didn’t change something as a result of there was no inside change. So, instantly the Taliban got here into the place, they surrendered. They only mentioned, ‘come, we’ve been ready for you.’ That’s the reason we have to be cautious on this nation.
Just lately, any person made some large revelations whereas being interviewed by a tv station. Even when Goodluck Jonathan was on board, he talked about that there was Boko Haram in his authorities. You see, these are issues that upset me. If we actually took these issues critical and we really wished to handle the difficulty of safety within the nation, why would I not as a president make investments cash and name overseas nations which have intelligence to come back and examine these items and fish out the culprits and cope with them drastically. You don’t simply hear some issues and fold your arms and count on the factor to go off like that.
So, we’re actually sitting on the keg of gunpowder; that’s what I can inform you. If really our army and safety outfits have been infiltrated by saboteurs, it would take solely God to assist us out of the scenario. I’ve been eager about it, however I’ve all the time had one religion and confidence that God will assist us out of this. We’re in a limbo.
There have been talks concerning the removing of petrol subsidy. If that ought to be carried out, the product will promote for as excessive as N300 within the nation. What’s your place on the difficulty?
Let me ask you: Are we not shopping for petrol as much as that quantity in some locations within the nation? A lot as I perceive, the Southeast has by no means purchased petrol on the official pump value. So, this situation of subsidy is lopsided; there’s a mafia on this factor that we’re not seeing but. There’s something that any person shouldn’t be telling us. How are we having subsidy, each time they’re gathering cash and but gasoline shouldn’t be decreasing? This situation must be addressed critically and sincerely in order that we are able to now know the place our drawback is. I don’t consider we’ve addressed the difficulty.
That’s the reason I mentioned that we’re going to have a brand new Nigeria to be born and till that occurs, we are going to carry on operating spherical and spherical, as a result of there may be clearly a gaggle of individuals on this nation who’re sitting down, doing their calculations and all they’re after is how you can milk the nation whereas the remainder of the individuals can be struggling. So, all these items can be addressed holistically; it’s not an remoted situation.
I used to be telling any person lately that for 5 or eight years, individuals had been Registrars of JAMB and all they had been capable of give to the Federal Authorities was nearly N5 or N8 million. Then right here comes Prof. Oloyede who remitted over N1 billion in his first 12 months. How do you clarify that? And inside his first tenure, he was capable of remit about N14 billion. He even diminished the price of JAMB kinds.
So, I’m saying that what we’re confronted with on this nation is greater than Buhari. It’s not about Buhari; it’s greater than Buhari. Actually, in some way I simply really feel that the person is overwhelmed. Could also be he didn’t even realise the scale of the rot he’s going to face and was saying that he would do that and try this. This isn’t army; that is democracy.
That’s why I mentioned that we want a very new construction within the nation. The factor we’ve now shouldn’t be going to curb our issues. Gasoline subsidy is a minor situation of the problems. The whole lot needs to be seemed into utterly after which we are going to know the place we’re headed.
We recall that in 2014, you had been a part of the people who endorsed Buhari for president…
(Cuts in) No, what made you to provide you with that submission? Did you right here the place I got here out to say, ‘that is the place you’ll vote?’
However you had been a part of the people who spoke concerning the integrity of Buhari as a frontrunner…
(Cuts in) The place did you get that?
It was reported…
(Cuts in) No, no, no! I’ve not seen the place it was reported that I endorsed and spoke of his integrity. Now, my assertion is to not query his integrity. However I need to know the place I mentioned that, as a result of one of many issues I’m cautious about in terms of the difficulty of politics isn’t to endorse any political social gathering. Why? Within the church, individuals have completely different political leanings. So, for me as a Christian chief to get on my pulpit and start to inform individuals, ‘that is the particular person you’ll vote for’ I can be working in error. My half is to show you the scriptures and based mostly on the scriptures you’ll now comply with the scriptural commonplace to know what route it’s best to go and to not sit up and endorse any particular person. The most effective of males remains to be a person. So, I’m cautious by no means to do this.
At the moment, CAN really got here out to endorse Jonathan and also you had been a part of the people who kicked towards that call?
How? How did you arrive at that conclusion? I need to know. What made you to say so?
Could also be we should always depart that for now. However I want to know your ranking of the Buhari Presidency?
With out your asking me query, I’ve already laid down loads of issues which can be flawed within the nation. Actually, at instances, I ask myself if he’s actually in contact with actuality. I imply there isn’t a human being irrespective of how horrible you might be that the nation would be the means it’s now and you’ll not be involved. So, typically I’ve needed to ask myself: ‘What kind of legacy does he need to depart? What would he wish to be remembered for?’
A few of the issues he mentioned like, ‘overseas trade goes to go down, insecurity goes to go down (after all this insecurity didn’t begin as we speak) and plenty of different issues, what we’re seeing is the alternative. That’s the reason I’m wondering why it’s so tough to tweak the safety equipment regardless of the extent of insecurity within the nation. That’s the reason I’m asking: Is he actually in contact with what’s going on that’s making him to simply appear detached? That’s my very own means of it.
So, clearly, I’m not pleased. That’s the reason after I hear among the issues the individuals within the authorities are saying I’ll simply conclude that they aren’t critical. Humorous sufficient, a few of them can’t go to their villages and but they don’t see something flawed. You don’t see them complaining. I don’t perceive it.
The Vice President remains to be a member of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN)…
(Cuts in) In fact, a spirit stuffed Christian.
How a lot do you talk with him over a few of these inefficiencies on this administration?
Let me ask you: Have you ever been a vp earlier than.
So, vp’s task is to do what his principal tells him. Let’s be actual; let’s not idiot ourselves. I’ve my respect for the vp any day regardless of what they’re bandying within the newspapers. I do know that he’s a spirit stuffed born once more believer. He isn’t taking part in to the gallery. His major constituency is the church. On the finish of the day, when he finishes serving within the authorities, he’ll nonetheless return to the church. That could be a no go space.
However the level is that I’ve individuals working underneath me; they take orders from me. So long as they need to stay in my organisation, they have to obey my directions. They will’t simply stand up and say they are going to do what they need to whether or not I prefer it or not.
I hear individuals saying, ‘resign, resign…’ I all the time ask them, ‘would you resign for those who had been the vp?’ I imply don’t inform individuals to do what you already know you can not do’. You assume it’s really easy to resign? Let’s be honest. The factor that’s so unhappy about our nation is that we’ve a gaggle of people who find themselves not honest in coping with the problems and placing themselves on the opposite aspect of the stick.
One of many issues which have helped me in regards to the political situation of this nation is solely that I’m not partisan; I’m not fascinated by the place you come from. I’ve no ethnic bias; I’ve no spiritual bias; I’ve no social gathering bias and I’ve no private curiosity. What’s my curiosity? My curiosity is who will ship the dividends of democracy to Nigerians. If you happen to like, be an idol worshipper; you should have my vote as a result of Nigeria shouldn’t be a church. Nigeria is Nigeria that has completely different individuals with various kinds of persuasions and beliefs, who’re residents of the nation. There are idol worshippers; there are Muslims; there are Christians; there are completely different varieties of individuals.
And in order a president, you aren’t purported to go there and start to serve the curiosity of a specific group of individuals or your individual curiosity. You serve the curiosity of all people. I’m not an advocate of we wish a Christian president; that’s flawed as a result of we’ve had individuals who claimed to be Christians however delivered nothing. As soon as there may be ethnic sentiment, then you’re going to tilt in the direction of your ethnicity, which is flawed. You’re a nationwide chief as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, your curiosity ought to be what you are able to do to make Nigeria helpful to each particular person large and small, wealthy or poor, irrespective of the place you come from. The issue with us is that when individuals start to agitate, there may be all the time private curiosity colouration to it. I can all the time learn it and people aren’t going to maneuver us to anyplace.
So, what sort of chief do you assume Nigeria wants in 2023 with all of the challenges at hand?
I’ve simply instructed you the qualities I’m : An individual that might be devoid of ethnic sentiments, social gathering sentiments, tribal sentiments or private curiosity. Any one that can be devoid of these issues and see Nigeria as his/her constituency is my ultimate chief. If we’re nonetheless going to have the scenario the place persons are tied and certain with ethnic sentiments, I don’t want such as a result of it is going to be the identical story; nothing will change.
We want any person who has Nigeria as his constituency. It’s not your tribe; it’s not your faith. Such an individual, as a result of he desires to depart a legacy, will search for the most effective of the bests from anyplace and provides them duties. Some individuals obtained upset with me at a time after I mentioned that I don’t care whether or not the particular person is a Christian or not. They requested why I mustn’t say that we want a Christian president as a pastor. I instructed them that I cannot say so as a result of there isn’t a assure that as a result of any person is a Christian president he’ll ship the dividends. I need any person who can have the ability to ship to Nigerians the dividends of democracy. Do you assume that there would have been agitations if we’ve such an individual? If you happen to can go to colleges and they’re good, if the roads are good, if the economic system is prospering and all the pieces is working, will you be complaining about who’s main? If you happen to see any person who is aware of how you can service your automobile, would you ask whether or not he’s a Muslim or Christian? That’s my idea.