JohnPraise Daniel is the presiding Archbishop of Dominion Chapel International Churches; chairman of Northern Coalition of Bishops and Apostles. In this interview, Daniel, who is also the National Deputy President, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), spoke on the allegation of dictatorship in Nigerian churches; Nigeria at 63, among other issues. Excerpts by SEYI JOHN SALAU
Nigeria Labour Congress called off its planned strike; what is your take on the current economic situation of the country?
I am not the mouthpiece of PFN. I am only the National Deputy President but what I can say is that there is a lot of hunger and suffering in the land and we do pray that this present government will try their best to ensure that the palliatives reach far and wide so that the current suffering will be reduced. We pray that things pick up in various sectors of the economy. I think to a great extent Nigeria is moving in the right direction now. I must congratulate President Tinubu on his victory at the tribunal and for also setting the compass in directing the country on the way to go. I listened to his speech at the United Nations and he made lots of Nigerians very proud and made us know that we have a president that can speak the mind of the people and rule the people. I am not only speaking the mind of Nigerians, I am speaking the mind of Africans. This makes a lot of us proud, that we have a leader that we can look up to. We want to be grateful to the Lord for the steps he is already taking. We know the current suffering in the land is momentary and I believe things will pick up economically. I believe that even the fuel price will go down. I want to say he is taking steps in the right direction to right the wrongs that have kept the country backward for a number of years. That is all I can say for now.
There are contentions over the result of the presidential election as some have said those contending are only wasting their time and resources. Do you feel the same way or otherwise?
I believe they are wasting time and resources. I do not see the Supreme Court overturning the results of the Presidential Election Tribunal and in my opinion I think we should allow the president continue the work he has started in every aspect of our nationhood. I believe we should all join hands together to move this nation forward. The end of four years tenure is around the corner and other elections will be held and we can try again. Abraham Lincoln tried 18 times before he became the president of the United States of America. I believe that those who did not win this time can try again.
But there are claims that the mandate was ‘stolen’?
What are the proofs? That could not be proved in the court. The mandate was not stolen. We must not be sentimental. For instance, how could Atiku win with all the troubles in PDP, the G5, the Wike factor and Kwankwaso in Kano? Practically PDP was divided and there is no way there could have been a cohesive voice. Also the Obi factor; Obi who used to be the stronghold of PDP in the Southeast divided the votes of PDP. Like Wole Soyinka said, I am not sure Obi won. You have to analyse the voting pattern across the country. Majority of the votes came from places in the North including Kano, Borno and Kaduna. President Tinubu’s ambition to be the president dates back to about 24 years ago. The people with him now are either those he had worked with in Lagos or those he has influenced politically. Obi worked for eight years in Anambra, I do not know one person you can point to that he raised politically. Let us be realistic. He may win in the future but not now. With all the analyses going on I do not see how Atiku or Obi could have won the election. This is my candid opinion which is personal and not that of PFN. I can speak on behalf of the Northern Coalition of Bishops and Apostles who interfaced with Tinubu in a conference at Wuse Zone 5, Abuja, just before the elections. Also, after he finished speaking with me and four Bishops for about two hours in my office I knew he was the person that God has laid His fingers on to change the course of this nation. I still believe he is going to do that. Most of the things we discussed are practical things he is implementing. Insecurity is being curtailed and we are going to have sanity and peace. We still have some pockets of insecurity here and there but I believe it will soon be a thing of the past. I think, to a great extent, God is going to use him for such a time as this in the country. Let us give him time.
It seemed within the Pentecostal fold that Obi was the anointed candidate prior to the election but this seems to be different now…
I have explained that the choice of President Tinubu is my personal view. I was never an ‘Obidient’ person, I knew the attacks I got when Tinubu came to have a meeting with me and when he addressed the Bishops. We were tagged fake Bishops and there was no name we were not called. I am not speaking as a leader in PFN. I am speaking as an individual, and I am a leader in my own right. I am the presiding Archbishop of Dominion Chapel International Churches with branches across the world. I am the chairman of Northern Pentecostal Bishops Forum or we call it Northern coalition of Bishops and Apostles. So, I can speak on those grounds. I am so convinced that the hand of God is upon President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to change the course of events. I remember when I finished preaching at the inauguration service, President Tinubu’s wife said she would take my message to him and that truly they were going to do everything possible to effect changes in the country. I think we should pray for them and give them the chance to move this country forward. I am neither tribalistic nor nepotistic. I speak from my heart and speak the truth. Some people may not like what I say. We have had the election and the winner has been announced. For eight years, we know how Buhari based his appointments in the security apparatus; Tinubu changed that and put in people from different parts of the country. A Yoruba man is Chief of Army Staff, an Igbo man is Chief of Navy Staff, a Muslim Hausa is Chief of Air Staff and a Christian from Southern Kaduna is Chief of Defence Staff. We should give kudos to whom kudos are due.
Some Muslim leaders have faulted the President’s appointments saying the most favoured are Christians while some individuals have said the South-west are the most favoured. What is your opinion?
Sometimes we are too quick to judge. To my Muslim brothers, I say I think we should be grateful that God has given us a man as intelligent as Bola Ahmed Tinubu to do things the way he feels will bring sanity to this country. Out of all the ministers, I do not know how many are from the North but I think only two or three are Christians. Have we complained? Some ask why it should be so but that is his decision. Let us believe in our leadership; more so the Bible says we should not speak evil of dignitaries. Leaders are given to us by God. There is no leader that can ascend any throne except God Has permitted it – Romans 13 verse 1. Our Muslim brothers and sisters; let us be patient. In the hierarchy of governance in this country, the president, the vice, speakers and chief justice of the Federation are all Muslims, except the Senate President who is a Christian and from the South. We should stop all these complaints and look at who can deliver and bring us out of the woods. I think President Tinubu is doing marvelously well and we are on the right track; I can assure you that. This is my conviction as a man of God and as a person that has been in this country following the trend of governance and politics. I am not a politician but I have supported every leadership. When Obasanjo was there I was always at the Villa for prayers. I was also there at Christmas carols. When Yar’Adua came, thank God for the privilege, I was the one that prayed during his inauguration. When Jonathan was in power, I was there not that I am a member of PDP. I supported him whereas people called me all sorts of names. When Buhari and his vice came, I gave all my support. People said I was an APC member, I said ‘no’, that I was only a believer in governance. Anyone God puts there I give all my support. The people I lead in my networks go the direction I go. We should be patient and see what God will do with the president. He has given us in this nation.
Pentecostal churches have been accused of operating a dictatorship (one man) system. How do you see this?
This is not true. No one can challenge the Holy Spirit. We are Holy Spirit-filled people and we are led by the Spirit of God. Pastor Adeboye is not the founder of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) but the founder (Pa Akindayomi) appointed him through the leading of the Holy Spirit and look at what he has done. See how far he has led RCCG. Yes, I know that there are some churches where the founder died and the wife or children took over. Those are exceptional cases and even if that happens and the Holy Spirit permits it who can question the Holy Spirit? If it happens that way it is not dictatorship. We are sensitive to what God is saying and we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit.
The trend of succession in Pentecostal churches has been largely criticised and likened to the operation of family business; what is your take and could it be a factor of trust or continuity of family legacy?
We have always advised people to have a succession plan especially when we start getting old and start looking for who would take over. Some people die unexpectedly and there arises a need for a successor. The most recent was that of Pastor Taiwo Odukoya. The board of trustees of the ministry sat and elected the son to take over. It is not a family thing as people say but if a family member qualifies to take over, who questions it. The Bible says, ‘Who are you to judge another man’s servant? Before his master he stands or falls. Yea, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand,’ Romans 14 verse 4. By the way, some Churches already have a succession plan and I recommend that every Pentecostal church or family goes back to the drawing board and has a succession plan. Even if someone dies and a family member takes over, it is not strange. Aaron was a priest and his children were to be priests after him, we have seen that in the Bible. Also, a wife that has been with the husband from the inception of the ministry and knows inside out of the ministry can stabilise a ministry after the demise of her husband. An example was when Archbishop Benson Idahosa died unexpectedly at 59. His wife was not even into the ministry per say (she was into business). But the leadership came in, consecrated her a bishop, and appointed her to take over the ministry. I do not know whether you have been to any of the Balm of Gilead conferences? You need to see the massive crowd. That woman has taken the ministry to another level because she stabilised the ministry when her husband died and took it to a higher level. If God says ‘yes’ who can say ‘no’? I do not want people judging, saying it is like a family thing. No, it is a spiritual thing and since it is a spiritual thing let God be God and let every man be a liar. Where the Spirit of God is, there is liberty and those that are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Few days ago, the PFN president was allegedly quoted to have said that CAN is inconsequential. How true or false is this information?
That was from a mischievous mind that wanted to cause confusion. PFN already refuted that. I do not think that was what the person meant. PFN is an active member of CAN and I am representing the PFN President, Bishop Wale Oke (as at interview time) at the CAN conference with heads of churches. We had a Bible Quiz Competition at the National Christian Centre where OAIC won in the teenagers group; CPFN/PFN won the youth category and TEKAN/ECWA won the adults. There is also the NEC meeting and I am standing in for the PFN President. We are very much part of CAN and we are involved 100 percent in whatever CAN is doing, so we cannot say CAN is inconsequential. Nothing like that transpired.
Is that to say the PFN president was quoted out of context?
Yes. He was quoted out of context. Thank you.
Some churches/church leaders have been accused of corrupt practices including scamming members and self-aggrandisement; what is your view on this?
Every true child of God, every true woman or man of God has to have the fear of God. Scamming members to become rich or self-aggrandisement is uncalled for. Genuine church leaders cannot do that. Of course people accuse us of collecting tithes and other things. But, I believe that genuine people of God are committed to building the people and the church of God. Only God knows how much some of us spend in taking care of the less privileged and the number of students placed on scholarships, of which people do not talk about. Like my wife and I run an orphanage of 50 or above children. Some have graduated and some have even gotten married. Feeding them three times a day, clothing them and paying their school fees is not easy. When they see you riding a small good car, they start complaining that this pastor has a private jet and the other has a private jet. How many business people in this country have private jets? How many preachers are among about 200 people in this country who have private jets? Maybe they are not more than five. Some of them have their branches in about 200 countries and we know the extent of the work they do. So, they cannot be waiting at the airport when they want to fly to reach the churches in about 200 countries. People are not being fair with the way they talk about men of God. Some of these pastors have students placed on scholarships in their universities of which nobody talks about. People just want to be on the negative side. I do not think that is fair or right. Though there are some bad eggs amongst us; those who do not even understand what it is to be called; those who are not even genuinely born-again or saved; they just start prayer houses or churches. Genuine people of God are genuinely doing what they have been called to do. About two or three years ago, during my birthday celebration in my village, over 2000 people were given attention, about 200 were operated upon free of charge because we had paid the bills in partnership with 700 clubs. Funny enough Muslims were more of the beneficiaries as we did not segregate. It cost us millions and that was not our first time; we do that often. There was a time, about two years ago, we honoured the Police Command Headquarters in Abuja with several bags of rice and presented them with plaques to appreciate their good works. There are genuine servants of God doing great things across the country and nobody is talking about things like these. People say negative things and attack us. If we scam people, what will be our reward because we will all stand before God on the last day? On the last day the chaff will be separated from the wheat.
Nigeria just celebrated her 63th independence anniversary; what is your take on Nigeria generally?
We have been begotten unto a lively hope, so I believe that we need to keep trusting God and looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Nigeria shall rise again; tomorrow is brighter; things will change. Let our faith be stirred up. Things will not continue the same way they have been. God is arising upon our nation and change is coming and that change must begin with you and me. Wherever we are, as we mark this independence anniversary let us begin with renewed hope and anticipation of a better nation. God bless Nigeria at 63. We are looking forward to great things that God will yet do in moving this nation forward. For over 20 years we have gathered to celebrate and pray for Nigeria’s emerging greatness.
The greatness of this nation will surely emerge. At 63 let Nigerians have positive mind-sets and orientation. We are looking forward to a greater Nigeria. Yes, we have our challenges but sure we shall overcome them if we rely on our ability and the providence of God, Nigeria shall be greater, we are definitely not where we ought to be. But, of course we are not where we used to be; we are making progress, slow but sure. Thank you for praying for this nation and believing that things will pick up to the glory of God. I believe at 63 we will move to another level that God has destined for us. So, let us keep believing, keep praying and we will see the bright new light and day for Nigeria.