Reverend Godfrey Emmanuel of El-Shaddai Bible Church, Mercy Cathedral, Omole Phase 2, in this interview with SEYI JOHN SALAU, spoke on the recent congratulatory visit to President Muhammadu Buhari by the leadership of the church led by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) president, touching on why politicians should place more value on human lives over political offices. Excerpts:
CAN’s recent visit to congratulate President Buhari on his 2019 election victory has been generating reactions from many Nigerians; what is your view on this?
I don’t have any issue with that. To the pure, all things are pure: until the court decides. If you are talking of substantive president, I think INEC is the constitutionally recognised body to conduct elections; and has declared him the winner. It is incumbent on the political opponent who feels aggrieved to constitutionally seek redress or challenge the outcome of that election in a competent court of jurisdiction. So, I think what the CAN leadership has done – I don’t want to say politically correctness of what they have done. But, I think as leaders there is nothing wrong if they go to congratulate the president and make some demands. Until the status quo changes, then if the court tomorrow says it is not the president that has actually won or he was rigged in to that office. Until the court decides that or upturns his victory, then the leadership of CAN and the church can also congratulate the winner. The system has been well built to give constitutional balance. So, I do not think there is anything wrong in that visit.
Closely related to that visit was the violence that attended the 2019 election; what would be your take/advice on Nigeria’s electioneering process going forward?
As Nigerians, we do not have monopoly of democracy: all over the world constitutional democracy is being practised. If constitutional democracy is being practised all over the world – in other places how is democracy being practised? Is it something that has to do with blood; must blood be spilled before we can have enduring democracy? I think that the moral burden is on those driving the governance of this country to conduct free and fair election. It’s not supposed to be ‘do or die’ affair. I think the system should be sanitised; it is unfortunate that everything in Nigeria is convoluted – we have a convoluted system and those in leadership have not taken the moral responsibility to do things right. If people are doing things right; those manning the security apparatus of the country supposed to know that human life is sacred and it must be treated as such because there is no duplicate. Both the followership and leadership need to overhaul our distorted value system to know that the sanctity of human lives is number one in all we do, even before democracy and political offices. I am not happy about the violence – it is disheartening; we need to go back to God and cry for mercy; that God should have mercy on our country.
What do you suggest as the way forward?
Those in leadership should take up responsibility, because if you are talking of the social contract theory between the government and the governed, it is incumbent on the government of the day to protect lives and property. That is the primary responsibility of those in government; so when they shy away from these responsibilities, I think they should be called to order and make sure that the system has a way of paying back those that are found culpable in this ‘do or die’ approach to seeking political power/offices, like if they do not get political office people will die – it is a bad orientation and I think the government and the court should do something about it. Also, both the leaders and the followers, because it takes two to tango – if the leadership are power-thirsty and they want to get political powers by all means and the followership decline by not supporting or fail to carry out this syndrome that is killing Nigerians, I think we will have a better society.
As we go through the season of lent, what is the spiritual/biblical importance of lent in Christendom vis-à-vis the number of days Christians use in fasting today?
I want to believe that the spiritual importance of our belief is not hinged on the number of days of spiritual observations or premise on variations of different doctrinal beliefs or different sects within Christendom. What is important to every believer going by my spiritual persuasion and belief is that everyday should be a lent season to believers. So, irrespective of your denominational bloc, or your religious belief, the most important thing should be; what is the spiritual importance of what you are doing? We should not limit ourselves to human calculations or traditions – 7 days, 40 days, 100 days; what is important is your connection with Jesus: the relationship you have with the Lord of the season; Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who came, died, and resurrected. That is the most important thing; the eternal spiritual value of our belief is his lordship, his sacrifices in what he did on the cross – that is what is important; and not the variations or disagreement with the number of days. In fact, it is not the religious aspect of the lent that matters – rather, after the seven days, what’s next; after the 40 days, what’s next; after the 100 days fasting, what’s next. Our belief and trust should be, thanking God for what Jesus did.