As Christian faithful continue to seek God for renewal of faith during Lent, Reverend Sola Idowu of Ajayi Dahunsi Baptist Church, Ilasamaja, Lagos, in this interview speaks with SEYI JOHN SALAU on the need for Christians to look back at the sacrifices of Jesus at Calvary; calls for swift government action on COVID-19 and need for peace and orderliness in the body of Christ. Excerpts:
As we look to the final weeks of this year’s Lent; don’t you think the church is losing the noticeable spiritual effects of the season?
The season of Lent is a period of self-denial for the purpose of specially seeking the face of God. It is a period of rededication to God as we seek to know more of His will and further commit ourselves to it. To a certain extent, I believe this season of Lent has afforded the Church an ample opportunity to pay more attention to God. The period also affords us the privilege to specially remember the ultimate sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which in turn helps us to be more sacrificial in our daily living.
If you follow the trend of attacks on churches in the recent past; there seems to be more attacks on orthodox churches and clergymen. What could be responsible for this?
Yes, there is no doubt, the attacks on churches and clergymen, particularly on the orthodox churches, are on an alarming scale. The major reason advanced by the Federal Government that the people responsible for these wicked acts are only trying to divide the nation along religious line seems totally insufficient. The Federal Government needs to do more than just mere rhetoric by fishing out these wicked people. With regards to the connection of the attacks and the early morning mass of the Catholic Church; I do not think that this is a cause because the Catholics have been having early morning mass for a very long time in this country. The issue is simply that there is a case of serious insecurity in the country and the Federal Government needs to do more to arrest this ugly trend.
What measures do you think government can adopt to stop the incessant attacks on Churches?
I strongly believe that the Federal Government can and should do everything within her power to put a stop to the incessant attacks on the churches, particularly those in the northern part of the country. To actualise this, the Federal Government should recruit more people into the Armed Forces and also motivate them. The Federal Government should also stop playing politics with security and stop telling how bad the situation was before they came on board. They should settle down and do their primary work of securing lives and property of citizens.
Would amnesty for Boko Haram be an acceptable option to stop the attacks?
It is always a good thing to welcome and embrace a repentant person and integrate such person into the society. However, this must be done with wisdom. Wisdom is doing the right thing with right intention at the right time. So, if the Federal Government feels that one of the ways to ending insurgency in the country is by granting amnesty to repentant Boko Haram members, it is well and good. But, the process should not in any way be hurried. Such people need a long time of rehabilitation as that period would allow the Federal Government to determine their sincerity or otherwise.
Looking at the church today; there seems to be a new wave of worship that tends to focus more on the pastors: what does this portend for Christians?
I recently read an article circulating on social media. The main assertion of the article was that the names of some clergymen resonate far more than the names of their churches. I must say, it is a bit challenging to agree less with the assertion as this is the reality staring us in the face. So, to a very extent, there is a serious degree of hero worship going on in the Church today. Well, it has always been there, but it is taking a higher dimension. Worshippers focus their attention more on the ‘Man of God’ than they do with the ‘God of the Man’. It is more disheartening to note that some clergymen not only enjoy this but they also demand for it. We may not be able to totally eradicate this because it is preparatory to the coming of the deceiver, known as the antichrist. But, we need to do our best as churches and clergymen to point the attention of the people to God rather than to ourselves. It must be said that more often than none, the worshippers themselves are the ones initiating this hero worship. As we see in the Bible when a crippled man focused his attention on Peter and John, they helped him to shift his attention from them to Jesus Christ. The Church needs to do more of that these days through proper teaching and discipleship. Like, John the Baptist, clergymen must be committed to letting Jesus Christ ‘increase’ while they ‘decrease’ in the lives of the worshippers. We must proclaim the God of the Man and not the Man of God.
Do you think it is a right call for government to clamp down on unregistered Churches?
Every organisation needs peace and orderliness for her to achieve her set goals and objectives. Such peace and orderliness would be realised when some factors like proper monitoring and control systems are available. So, I believe we need these factors for the Church to be well-positioned to achieve her God-given task. Furthermore, for these factors to be readily available and explored, all churches, that is denominations, must be registered with Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). However, I disagree with the suggestion that the Federal Government should help to do this assignment as that may lead to another dead end that the Church may live to regret. My suggestion would be that CAN should issue certificate of membership to her member denominations and then liaise with the Federal Government on this, such that no Church (denomination) would be registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) without such Church first presenting CAN membership certificate. We all know that every organisation must be registered with CAC for her to own property and do many other things.
Some Nigerians disagreed with the government over the closure of our land borders; however, same people are urging government to close all entry points over the outbreak of coronavirus. What is your take on this?
According to the Federal Government, the closure of all our land borders has been yielding great economic dividends. Personally, I am of the opinion that our land borders have been too porous in the past years, particularly in the last one decade. The government needs to do more to see that these borders are well manned. I do not think total closure is the best option; though the government also said this is a temporary measure to get our neighbouring countries do the needful. So, my advice is that our government should do more by recruiting more hands and giving them necessary motivation to man our land borders well. This will go a long way to helping us revive the nation’s economy as the products of local companies would gain platform to compete favourably well with imported goods, just as we see in the case of Rice. Porous land borders foster smuggling and smuggling kills the economy. Since duties are not paid, smuggled goods can be sold at lower prices; thereby killing our locally produced goods.
On the call for government to close entry points into Nigeria in relation to Corona-virus (COVID-19): Yes, of course. The Government has been doing well so far with the major International Airports, but I’m not sure that can be said of the Land borders. So, I share the opinion of those urging the government to close down all the Land borders. I believe health reason is more important than economic reason that led to the initial closure. This becomes more required now that the nation has recorded the third case which is independent of the first two.
The border closure came with its challenges; now the world is responding to COVID-19, how would you advise Nigerians to respond to life challenges?
Yes, more than ever before, the challenges of life are real to us. These challenges manifest in various forms ranging from insecurity, joblessness, economic downturns, marital/family failure to cultism and so on and so forth. I believe that the Church can respond to these and other challenges by doing the following: Know that challenges of life are real. Know that no one is immune to challenges. Remember that Jesus Christ said we would be confronted by challenges. Remember that Jesus Christ faced the greatest challenge during this season as He died for the sins of the world. Remember that Jesus Christ triumphed over this ultimate challenge as He rose powerfully from the dead. Remember that Jesus Christ promised that our victory over challenges of life is guaranteed. And finally, put our total faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ as we look unto him for perfection of our victory.
What are your expectations for the rest of the year?
The Scripture says a living dog is better than dead lion. The import of this is simply that as long as there is life surely, there is hope. And when hope is alive, then one can never be put to shame because things would only get better in face of hope. So, for me, my expectations for the rest of the year are that believers in Christ should remain hopeful in the Lord trusting Him to turn things around for good and shinning as the true light of God in this darkened world. I believe the Lord will help us and we will neither be disgraced nor ashamed. All we need to do is to continue to look up to the Lord and be of good cheer. Better days are surely ahead either on this side of Jordan or on the other side; Shalom.