‘Insecurity in Nigeria will end only when government becomes transparent’
Some parts of the country have continued to be under siege. Bandits and kidnappers have focused on school children across the Northwest, while the government seems more concerned about agitators and their demand. Reverend Olusola Idowu, pastor, The Ajayi Dahunsi Memorial Baptist Church, Ilasamaja, Lagos, speaks on some of these issues and actions that should be taken to calm the situation. Excerpts by SEYI JOHN SALAU:
Many activities (CSR) being carried out by the Church seem not to get to the public domain. Don’t you think the Church should change her engagement strategy?
To start with, let me categorically state that the Church is expected to reach out to the needy people in their immediate and remote environment as a practical way of sharing with them the love of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ who went about doing good as recorded in the Bible. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that it is not enough to pray for and preach to the needy people without practical show of love; particularly when we have the means to do so. We must know that there is something we can do. We don’t necessarily have to meet all the needs in the lives of the people, but there is always something, no matter how little, that can be done to put smiles on their faces. However, on the issue of these activities (CSR) not getting to public domain, this could mean that the Church is not doing enough yet. This is because, I don’t subscribe to the idea of publicising what we are doing; I believe what we do are enough publicity for the Church. The people blessed by Jesus Christ were the ones who went to their various homes to tell others about His good deeds to them. So, for me our strategy remains doing more and more and not necessarily broadcasting what we are doing to the world. We must never forget that we are not doing these for the applause or accreditation of men, but to the glory of God who sees everything done either in secret or in the open.
The Church in Nigeria seems to be in the news for the wrong reasons; why?
This is very unfortunate and saddening, but not surprising. I said, not surprising, because the Bible already clearly stated that not all that call Jesus Christ, “Lord, Lord” are His true disciples. Whilst, it is not for us to judge or categorise, the Bible however, says that some are identifying with the Church for their own selfish interests. They are more or less business people. So, there is no how the “business activities” of these individuals will not put the Church in Nigeria in the news for inappropriate reasons. Another dimension to this has to do with the truth that the arch-enemy of the Church, the Devil is surely not stepping aside or resting from attacking the Church. The Devil is doing everything within his power to destroy the Church by discrediting her. Unfortunately, some unsuspecting Christians are being used by the enemy of the Church to do this when they do unnecessary comparison of churches and men of God in an attempt to affirm which is better. This oftentimes degenerates into a messy situation which in turns portrays the Church in bad light.
Members of the Church obviously bring these things to public domain; will it be out of place for the Church to reprimand such members?
You are right, just as I noted earlier on, some members of the Church are responsible for this unpleasant development. Notwithstanding, I wouldn’t just say that such members should be castigated. I would rather ask, are local churches doing enough to disciple their members? Are they really feeding them with the truths as contained in the word of God? Are they helping them to realise their roles in the world as agents of societal transformation? These are what we must first of all sort out. Until all local churches are committed to the primary task of discipleship as given to us by Jesus Christ, we will continue to have situations like this. So, when the Church does the needful, we can then be talking about castigating erring members; but, as long as we keep reserving the best seats in our churches for the wealthy, politicians and other moneybags in the society, we do not have the moral ground to castigate them.
Do you think it’s time we called a solemn assembly to heal and revive the Church in Nigeria?
Honestly, there is no better time for that than now. But, the question is, are we in any way positioned for this as a Church? For me, my answer is no. It is so disheartening to note that the Church in Nigeria today is so factionalised and politicised. This explains why it is so difficult for us to speak with one voice. While I am not in any way canvassing for uniformity, I believe we must be united. In this year alone, I think the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has called for national prayers on three occasions. How many of our churches joined in this exercise? So, the question is not whether it is high time we called a solemn assembly to heal and revive the Church in Nigeria; the real issue is to first determine whether we are on the same page or not. Do all local churches believe that we even need this? Unfortunately, the health of our families will determine the health of our Church and the health of our Church will determine that of the nation.
Safety of school children, especially in the North, seems to be a major security concern at the moment. How do we change the narrative?
Again, this is another painful and unfortunate recurring decimal in our nation. Just few days ago, the Kaduna State Governor announced the indefinite closure of all schools in the state. This is not a good development as it seems to be the ultimate goal of the insurgents since the literary meaning of their name “Boko Haram” means “Book (Western Education) is bad”. I believe we can change this narrative only when the Government at all levels become sincere and are truly concerned about the plight of the people they govern.
The Baptist Church got her share of kidnapping in the North with the recent abduction of students of the Bethel Baptist College in Kaduna. Is this latest attack on education enough to wake the Church leadership to challenge and speak to power on insecurity across Nigeria?
Well, I think to a very large extent, the Church has been speaking to the power that be on the challenge of insecurity across the nation. I am of the opinion that the evil of kidnapping persists not because the Church is not speaking but because the government at all levels, particularly in the northern part of the nation seem to have ran out of ideas on how to arrest this ugly menace or they are dull of hearing, so they are unable to hear the cry of the people; because, I wouldn’t want to say that the government is overwhelmed by the situations.
What’s your view on the booming business of kidnapping and attacks targeted at Christians?
My view is simply that the “business” of kidnapping and attacks targeted at Christians are booming only because the Government of the day seems to be treating the perpetrators of these heinous crimes with kid gloves. We do not need any scientific proof to establish the fact that when crimes are allowed to go unpunished, more and more people will get involved in such criminal activities. I don’t understand why it has become so challenging for government to deal with people that an individual person like Sheikh Gumi goes to and discusses with any time he wishes. If the Government cannot dialogue with them like the Sheikh has suggested, one would expect the Government to employ the same strategy, strength and commitment it employed in the arrest of agitators for secession in dealing with these kidnappers and those attacking the Church in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the situation remains as it is today. So, the “business” is booming because the government of the day has either failed or refused to do the needful – which is to provide security for all citizens of the country.
The Presidency accused Father Hassan Kukah of purposely sowing seed of discord and strife among Nigerians after Kukah recently testified at the US Congress on the state of Nigeria and that President Buhari was showing nepotism in his appointment. What is your take on this?
One major fact that is very obvious about this current government is that it seems to lack capacity for tolerance of criticism. So, it is not surprising that Father Kukah would be accused by the government of sowing seed of discord and strife among Nigerians. It might interest you to know that when this same Father Kukah was speaking in favour of this government in the past, he was not considered as agent of division.
What is your take on President Muhammadu Buhari’s endless medical trips and the state of healthcare in Nigeria?
For me, this is one of the indicators of the insincerity of the present administration. The frequent medical trips of the president (eight in six years of his presidency) clearly show that the president himself does not believe in the healthcare system of the country and for six consecutive years nothing serious has been done to improve the situation. The question one may ask is, how many people can afford to go to private hospitals in Nigeria? In fact, some cannot even afford the cost of General Hospital and Teaching hospitals. Yet, the government is not doing anything to ameliorate this terrible situation while the president and other political office holders travel abroad for medical attention. One can only hope that things will get better.