Yomi Kasali, founder and senior pastor of The Foundation of Truth Assembly (FOTA) and the immediate past Board Chairman of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC), recently met with members of Association of Christian Correspondents of Nigeria where he clarified some issues surrounding the Lagos PFN and the current socio-economic challenges of the country. SEYI JOHN SALAU, who was there, brings the excerpts:
In the 90s, you were always on television preaching and teaching. As a pastor, what has ministry taught you?
Ministry is Christian service, it is the best anybody can do both to God and to humanity; you serve God, you serve humanity, you serve people. Christian leadership and ministry in my opinion is probably not the way the Bible and probably God intended. Today, we make it look like it is bossing people around. For me, it’s been a very good journey. I have withdrawn from what one calls public space. I did that deliberately and consciously, especially when l got active in politics, I pulled back; it’s just a matter of conscience. You must live what you teach and preach. I don’t want to give or portray that the pulpit cannot correct those in power, even when those I align with are doing what I know is wrong and I cannot correct them. My conscience becomes bruised because you are told not to be truthful or in your being truthful, they want you to be more tactful. You know that is the problem we have in the church. We try to be truthful and tactful. And in our deployment of tact, because tact is to say something that will not offend someone. In our deployment or usage of tact, we probably lose truth. We become more tactful than truthful and tact becomes the objective than truth. You tactfully say nothing instead of truthfully saying something; you end up being tactful and trying to massage everybody’s ego, and you say nothing. You call white black, you call black white because you don’t want to offend people or you don’t want to be politically incorrect. The Ministry has taught me that TV ministry is very brutal and people get famous by being popular but you can be famous and not be impactful. I think the pursuit of fame is one of the things that has affected our nation. I think with those I have spoken to in the past, my honest appraisal is that the Church has failed the nation. My personal, honest appraisal of our nation today when you look at all the indices with respect to nation building; a healthy nation not a failed state. Look at all those indices; morality, corruption, development anywhere, worldwide, and you look at our church; the growth and all, they are antithetical. If I have many schools and my illiteracy level is still very high, there’s a problem. School is meant to solve the illiteracy problem. The Church is supposed to solve morality problems and corruption. If I have many hospitals, and people are still sick of malaria, then the hospital is not doing its job, either they have quack doctors in the hospital or the hospitals are just mortuaries. If you have many churches, and what the churches are trying to fix is still on the increase, there’s something wrong. I may not know what is wrong, but we should agree there’s something wrong.
What is your take on church and governance?
For those that care to know, I would go to my grave saying that I’m against Muslim-Muslim ticket, and I will stand on that point with my last drop of blood. It’s just what I consider fairness and I am not saying that it is a sin. If democracy is the voice of the people, I think representative democracy should be encouraged in most jobs in the country. So, if 50 percent of the country or 49 percent even if 46 percent are Christians, I would expect that out of number one or number two that one of them should be Christian. Some people may say if that is the case why don’t we say that why don’t number one or number two be a woman, as females should also be represented. Some will say if we push representative democracy with respect to region: north and south, we should also push democracy with respect to religion. Some may say region is more important than religion, maybe they are right. Some may say their faith carries more weight than their region like you and I know that our brothers in the north consider their religion more important than even their region. But we in the south consider our region more important than our religion. It’s a battle of region versus religion. So, which of the two should carry weight? Again, because we are a bit educated, we probably do think religion should be private, and I agree with those that probably push that position that religion should be a private matter. I mean there’s nothing wrong with that. I totally agree when it comes to policies, there should be separation of state and politics. I agree with that. But where we find ourselves today in our nation is very important.
How do you see the Supreme Court ruling over the presidential election result?
The president won convincingly at the Supreme Court, everybody has to be very patriotic. I say often that patriots build the nation and not politicians. What we lack in Nigeria is true patriotism. At this point, people that love the country should perhaps sheath their swords and then see what they can do to build the nation. We got to move this nation forward. The thing bedevilling the nation in my opinion is still very much and evident is corruption. I do not know if we will be able to make any significant progress in this country if we do not decisively battle corruption.
I think everybody should go ahead and support the president, back him with prayers and otherwise to succeed. The voice of patriots should be heard now. We should think about the nation, we should speak as elders and say ‘you know what? The fact that things did not go your way does not mean we should throw the bath water out with the baby.’ We should respect the law of the land. If you think what they have done is wrong, you have to wait for another four or three years. There’s nothing we can do. We cannot take up arms. I do not support that. I do not support any uprising that will create more crises to those that are already going through a lot. People go through a lot to even feed these days. So, we should not add to the plight of the common man, those who are on the street and the critical masses in the north and in the south. Things are tough. Things are very expensive now. Let’s move on and let’s build this nation; Nigeria needs all hands on deck now.
If you see the president today, what will you advise him?
Fight corruption. I have been preaching that for 25 years and I am not going to change now. In the next four years I intend to preach against corruption with my last drop of blood. We will not make progress until we deliberately and sincerely agree that corruption has killed us. I served in Buhari’s government as a member of the governing council of University of Lagos (UNILAG) and the Chairman of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC), I can say to you we failed. The government failed, Buhari failed in the area of corruption; probably much worse than Jonathan. People like us worked so hard to enthrone a forthright leader; we assumed that Buhari would be able to fix corruption. I worked so tirelessly in 2014 with Osinbajo. It has nothing to do with sentiment; we must be factual and be truthful to ourselves. We are in a mess, if I see President Tinubu; I will say ‘daddy fight corruption’. Even if you make ten trillion, 50 trillion or 100 trillion and pump into the economy but 70 percent of that money is stolen or siphoned, you cannot fix anything. There’s no way you fix the country without fixing corruption, please quote me anywhere. That is the elephant in the room and I do not know why so many of us are afraid of being truthful. I have said it that people do not like me and I don’t want to be liked so that even us the church would benefit from corruption. Our cathedrals that we build are built from the proceeds of corruption. No church can tell me they are building their major edifices today with tithes and offerings. It is not true, it is a lie. Let us check our books; it is government patronage that gives us hundreds of billions to do the things we are doing. We know the hardworking Nigerians like you, how much are your tithes? I know how many of you I need to put together in my church for me to get N50 million from tithes of N2000. Those that are in the middle and upper classes, how many of them do go to church? How much tithes do they pay? Sometimes, it makes me wonder how hypocritical we have become and how deeply deceitful that we are, that we do not want to be honest with ourselves. Shakespeare said that ‘to thyself be true’. All of us are in it together, we all try to be close to those in government so we can get some oil blocks, get some money and we can build some major universities, edifices and cathedrals.
One Pastor built a church and said $5million for the roof alone; ask him where the money came from. This is the truth. The church has failed the nation because the church should be able to say ‘no, thy money perish with you’. That is what Peter preached when he was offered money, but we are saying come with your money then you can go and perish. The politicians know that they have our numbers. So, the brightest in the church and the finest in the church cannot tell me that they are being truthful with the word. The country is in a very terrible state and I do not know if people understand that what is coming may consume us all. I am not joking with you, what is coming may consume us all and it may be worse than the French revolution or the Russian revolution. There’s a revolution coming in this country because human beings have a threshold for tolerance.
What is your take on the alleged leadership crisis in the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) Lagos chapter and is it true you have interest in contesting as a chairman?
PFN is a loose fellowship in nature. It should be stronger. What we should be praying for is a stronger institution not stronger personality. PFN or CAN is an institution that should represent the Christians in the nation, and PFN is one of the five blocs of the CAN. PFN has many big heavy weights that come together to fellowship. The word fellowship connotes freewill. I can decide the terms of our fellowship. That is the major issue in PFN and for us to have a stronger PFN, we don’t have to weaken personalities, but personalities have to deliberately strengthen the institution to say ‘because the PFN has said this, we all must abide by it. Though I’m richer than you and you are the PFN President, I will support you. I will pay my dues; I will still support and fund the PFN programme.’ What we have in the institution are pastors who want to strengthen themselves and weaken the PFN. So, the government respects individuals, not PFN. I will not contest. I do not think it’s a position that should be put out there democratically. We have done that in the past. The fathers have always chosen the PFN chairman of Lagos, so they should continue to do so. The moment you start contesting and doing elections, the process becomes vulnerable. Once it’s vulnerable, the future becomes weak because money bags can come tomorrow and buy everybody, and that can make anybody the next PFN Chairman. There, the governors can also buy this position and begin to take over.
Finally, what is your take on the Israel-Hamas war?
Every child of God, every Christian should stand with Israel. This recent crisis, some would say it’s not a war and when you want to be honest with yourself, you should be truthful not to be tactful and lose the truth.I do not see it as a war because it’s one-sided. A war is when two soldiers are involved in a gun battle for supremacy like Russia and Ukraine, it’s a war. There should be a ceasefire. We should have some humanity. We should have some morality. We should have some conscience. I think anything that affects children and women, the weak and the feeble among us, the defenseless. We must speak against any such injustice. Do I think Israel’s bombing is unjust? No.