BusinessDay

2023: Keeping the Church awake towards society rebirth

As politicians continue to prepare ahead of next year’s general election and everything in Nigeria now points to 2023, the Church in Nigeria is also taking the driver’s seat, or seems to have taken control of the wheels in an attempt to pilot the affairs of the country as it relates to how Nigeria is governed going forward.

Before now, the Church in Nigeria, to a large extent, had taken the back seat with much talk about Christians in politics with an indifferent posture when it comes to the actual act of voting and participating actively in politics.

Over the years, the Christian community has pushed forward the narrative of praying for the nation and her leaders, which to many is considered a biblical injunction to all believers. However, the Church in observing its spiritual responsibilities to the country has failed in its social responsibility to Nigeria and her citizenry.

The Church, beyond being a spiritual entity, is also a social gathering for men and women of several dreams and inclinations. It was on this basis that Nigerians complained about Church leaders’ indifferent approach to politics that has been condemned by many as a dirty game.

However, when men and women of proven integrity run away from politics because of how it is being played, they automatically vacate the space for people of lower self-esteem and standard to make laws and rule over people with a track record of success both in the private and public sectors.

It was on this note that the recent ‘awakeness’ of the Church was judged as the right steps in the right direction, especially the declaration by the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) that Churches who are members observe Sunday June 26 as a PVC Day.

According to the Fellowship, the Church in Nigeria would continue to contribute its quota to indivisible Nigeria, and that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had also kicked against such a move that can further divide Nigerians along religious lines.

Hence, the directive for worshippers to present their permanent voters’ card (PVC) before gaining entrance into the Church, is geared towards keeping the Church awake towards a society rebirth in response to her civic obligation to the country and her people.

“The whole Church in Nigeria is speaking with one voice and if political parties dearly love us; they will meet us at the polls. The voter apathy that has been the issue will not count in this election,” Wale Oke, president of the PFN, said during a recent press conference to declare the PVC Day in Lagos.

According to him, next year’s elections carried the potential to unite Nigeria across ethnic and religious lines and that it could also scatter the nation if things were not done properly. He stated that Nigeria is currently at a crossroads, as the 2023 general election could either make or mar the country.

Speaking with BusinessDay on the compliance level across the country, Cosmas Ilechukwu, national secretary of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), said that the Fellowship will tweak its strategy now that the National Electoral Commission (INEC) has agreed to extend voters’ registration.

According to him, the Fellowship was forced to quickly issue the directive with the thought that registration will end on the 30th of June. “So, now we have a better time – we would get back to the drawing board and now give it better publicity. But, the place I participated in; more than 80 percent of the congregants came with their PVCs,” he said.

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Speaking on the way forward, Ilechukwu said Churches were constrained by their internal means of passing information that is largely through announcement during a Sunday service. However, he disclosed that the Fellowship will most likely observe another PVC Day, since the deadline for voter’s registration has been postponed.

“I would say the response is encouraging but it didn’t meet the target we set in mind. Appreciating the fact that there was not a Sunday between the time directive was given and yesterday,” Ilechukwu said, referring to Sunday June 26 that was observed as PVC Day by the PFN.

Chidi Anthony, presiding bishop of Kings in Christ Power Ministries International and president, Pentecostal Ministers’ Forum (PMF), on his part told BusinessDay that he has been on the PVC campaign long before the PFN’s directive.

According to him, the Fellowship’s directive to Churches to observe a ‘no PVC, no entry’ into the church is a welcome development. “I have campaigned seriously ‘no PVC, no entry inside the church.’ I believed in it and made a video on it online.

“Am still working seriously with the INEC office to see if they can help us get somebody to come to our church and set up a registration centre. They said I should write them; I have done that: they said I should mobilise them; that is what we are doing now,” Anthony said.

Godfrey Emmanuel, the publicity secretary of PFN, Lagos Island province, said the compliance level is very encouraging. According to him, the campaign should continue to drive the desired change in governance by the body of Christ in Nigeria.

Eric Emiaso, the presiding Archbishop, Gospel Church of Christ (GCC) Worldwide, said the Church is working on mobilising her members to take up their civic responsibility to the state. According to him, this is because we do not have another source of changing the present administration but through the ballots alone.

“We are part of the decision making; so, it’s not a decision made by some group of people, I was there live. Last Sunday we told people to come with their PVC and people are complying. There is compliance and this Sunday we are going to enforce it until we see that every member is fully empowered with their PVC,” Emiaso said.

On the level of compliance, he noted that the Church must engage in continuous voter education and mobilisation. “You know it is systematic and we have not done this type of thing before in the past; so I can say it’s about 50 percent now. So, there is still time for us to enforce it since people are responding and I believe this Sunday there will be more increase,” he said.

Babatope Ilesanmi, chairman of Ikeja Province of the PFN, said that the compliance level in his province runs about 70 percent. According to him, most of the Pentecostal Churches and parishes observed the directive within Ikeja and its environs.

“We have identified those who are yet to register and we’re doing personal follow-up to make sure that they register. A lot of graphic designs are out urging people to go register and get their PVCs,” he said.

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