Lent is a time we rededicate our lives to God – Primate Udofia
As Christian faithful commerce this year’s lent season by observing 26 February as Ash Wednesday, being the first day of Lent, Primate of the African Church, his eminence, Emmanuel Udofia, speaks with SEYI JOHN SALAU on its significance during Easter and in the Christendom.
Christian faithful will observe this week’s Wednesday as ‘Ash Wednesday’. What is the significance of Ash Wednesday in Christendom?
This is one of the activities carried out in the orthodox churches according to church tradition. It is a time set aside to show deep penitent before Easter; it is also a time for sober reflection. It is a time that people reflect on their past, then amend their ways. It is always the time that precedes the 40 days fasting of our Lord Jesus Christ- a time that Jesus Christ went through pains for the sake of humanity.
Don’t you think taking lent as an annual ritual in Christendom has in a way affected the church?
Let me say this, to some it may look like it is an annual ritual, but to some it is a time of rededication of one’s life to God. Different things means different things to so many people- what the lent period means to some people mean a different thing to a certain class of people depending on their own personal understanding of that event. So, during this period like I said; to those of us who are always observing – I am not saying that this is the only time that someone should be penitent; am not saying that this is the only time that someone should sit down and reflect on one’s past; am not saying that this is the only time for someone to make amends over what one might have done that is not to the glory of the Lord; but since this have been done over the years, we don’t see how we can stop it because of the importance of the event. Because of its importance, that is why the church upholds it and the church will do it until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the grace of God.
The church in Nigeria seems to witness an increase in attack during lent; what can be done to checkmate such attacks?
By the grace of God when it comes to persecution, you cannot rule that out; as far as the church is concerned, because –let us cast our mind back during the time of Jesus Christ. How was Jesus Christ himself who is the Lord of the whole universe; the master of the universe, treat? He was attacked at different occasions, and those attacking him were religious people who claimed to even know more than our Lord Jesus Christ. So, again those who followed him were also attacked and some of them were killed. What is happening today is never a new thing to the church and we believe that as long as this country will exist, the church should always be ready for some more persecutions. For as long as the church is alive, as long as the church remains the light of the world, darkness will always want to prevail, which will not be possible by the grace of God. So, this time around, it is our responsibility to pray for God’s divine intervention. Again my brother; if the church had not been praying; only God knew what would have happened to this nation by now.
There is no doubt that the church is praying; but what particular measures can be taken to mitigate the attacks?
By the grace of God what the bible has thought us to do is to pray. Let me remind you one thing; often times, when the children of Israel aligned themselves with the commandment of God, when they aligned themselves with the teachings of God; God always fought for them. God did not advise us to carry guns or any physical weapon; our weapons are not physical. So, apart from prayers; we have been speaking out, telling the whole world that what Christians are passing through in this nation is not good, that we should live as brothers and sisters. God knew why he created this nation called Nigeria, and God knew that all these regions would be involved with Nigeria. So, I think the best we can do is for us to try to be at peace with one another according to the teachings of the bible.
Away from the church; do you think the government is doing enough in the area of security of lives and property?
For now, by my own assessment I don’t think the government has done enough. Do you know why? Because almost all parts of the country – like in Edo State now they are bombing some houses, apart from that, Osun State, Ondo State, and not even Lagos is safe. I am not even talking about the northern part of the country. Everywhere in the country almost on a daily basis people are being killed; lives are being destroyed and we are told that we have the military, we have the police and all kinds of military people to protect the nation, the people and their properties, but everyday properties worth millions are being destroyed and everyday lives are being lost. So, I think the government has not done enough in this regard and they should step up their security apparatus so that Nigerians can enjoy their services.
Do you now think the idea of a regional security outfit is the way to go?
Well, for now my take on that is this: I hope that will not develop into something else because if each region now starts developing a kind of security outfit to protect themselves, you can imagine what will happen in the future. So, I want to advise the government to look at this thing critically because very soon another region will come out with its own outfit and the government cannot stop it because already, they have allowed a particular region to establish its own security outfit. And again, am told that in the north, they have a class of people who are involved in vigilante. So, the thing maybe going round the country; not even regional, it can result in all the states having their own security outfits to protect themselves, and that shows that the nation has not done enough; for a region to resort to having its own security outfit simply means something has gone wrong somewhere.
But some will argue that regions having security outfit is a way to restructure the country for true federalism: what is your view on that?
Well, if that will be the way out; by the grace of God I will go for it. Because true federalism will be Nigerians’ understanding themselves; understanding where they come from and a situation whereby power will always be at the federal – I don’t think that would be the best for any country especially in a large society like Nigeria.
Finally, the border closure has remained despite reactions from Nigerians especially those living along border communities?
According to what we are being told, the closure of the border has led to revampment of the agricultural sector of the nation. If that is the case, I think I will give kudos to the government but at the same time if the closure of the border has any negative impact the government should also look at it to see what it can do to make sure Nigerians do not suffer unfairly.