Presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Missing (TREM) Dr. Mike Okonkwo, spoke to journalists shortly after the grand finale of the 2017 Leading Edge Conference in Abuja, ADEBIYI ADEDAPO was there for LEADERSHIP Sunday.
There have been a heated debate on restructuring of Nigeria’s federalism in recent time, what is your opinion?
When it’s the season for something, you can’t hold back the season. There has never been so much agitation for restructuring as like it is now. Even those who had hitherto been indifferent to it and never touched it are now beginning to touch it. That’s an indication that the hour has come and I believe with all my heart that if this nation is restructured, it will help us to be creative. It will take us faster than we expected. It would make even those that are in politics to be creative because what most of them are doing is to go cap in hand, run to Abuja and collect money and squander it and nothing is happening. But now, your people will demand accountability, competition would be all over the place. If I’ve seen result in Kebbi State, Sokoto and Zamfara, and I’m supposed to be in Niger and no result, I would ask my Governor what is it this person is doing differently that you’re not doing? Same thing applies to the East. It will bring real competition, heavy competition for development in different parts of this country. To be honest with you, I feel ashamed sometimes to answer being a Nigerian in the sense that this nation is highly endowed in human and material resources. We have what it takes to be a giant amongst comity of nations, not just in Africa but amongst the nations of the world. But look at where we are. Other nations have moved on. We read in the Newspapers how Dubai in 2020 would not be using petrol again. In other words, their petrol stations would be shut down. What they would have, would be recharge stations and the cars would move by electricity, and we are still talking about oil. So, there’s an issue. We need to restructure. For me, anybody who refuses restructuring is an enemy of this country
Can we achieve restructuring peacefully in this country?
It is possible if our lawmakers, those in the National Assembly would give it a chance. When they say no, then there would be violence because people want it.They better soft- pedal and know that they are to serve the people and not themselves. Once that is done, there would be no violence. No one wants war more especially if you have experienced it once. That is why most of our young people who are agitating for war, I keep telling them, calm down, you don’t understand war, if you understand war, you will not ask for it . Everything can be resolved on the table. We don’t have to go to war. In a war, you can lose everything you have in a day; everything you have laboured for from the day you were born. In a day, everything is lost. In a war, you can lose your entire family. And so, we’ve done that in the 1960s to 70s and we know what the cost is. We shouldn’t do that, let’s give peace a chance.
What role can the church play in this situation?
Of course, the church is playing its role by telling our people not to join the people who are agitating for war. I do that. Don’t join them, that’s not the best way to go. There is no nation that doesn’t have problems. We can resolve our issues on the conference table. Let us abuse ourselves, let us fight ourselves, when we finish, let us still come back to the table, we can still agree.
The National Assembly which could have given legal backing to that aspect in the constitution amendment rejected the bill seeking devolution of power, how would u respond to this?
I believe they will still go back to it. There is a limit to which you can reject the people’s agitation . As long as they’re rejecting it, there will still be pressure groups, people will still be talking, the Biafran people will still be creating problems, and when it becomes a national issue, they would be forced to address it. So, for me, I think that’s the best thing to do, not to run from it. If the people in the National Assembly care for the people, why are they afraid of restructuring? What’s wrong with restructuring and letting every state develop at its own pace and contribute to the center? What’s wrong in that? That was how the regions were operating before. The Western, Northern Region, and Eastern Region, and all of them were progressing with Groundnut, Cocoa, Coal and Palm oil. We were able to build Universities, our rails and other facilities were working. Is it because we discovered oil and everyone is running into oil that things are not working as it should? For me, any person in the National Assembly saying there should be no restructuring is there to service his belly, he is not serving the nation.
What is your opinion on the South East Development Commission Bill that failed in the House of Representatives?
That’s one of the reason again for the agitation for Biafra. If the truth must be told, the South East has been marginalized. That’s the truth. It has been marginalized and now, young people are coming up and saying enough is enough! I believe that restructuring will address this imbalance . I personally, won’t advocate a geographical Biafra, I would advocate a restructuring. Because my question when people raise the issue of Biafra is this: I believe that even in the mind of Kanu himself, he may not be looking for a geographical Biafra, he may be saying, hey, address the imbalance, but we will pressurise you with this. And people better listen to that guy because he has crowd. Let me be honest with you, you can’t stop him. I don’t know how he pulled that off, but you must give that to him.
We’re considered to be a religious country, yet we seem to produce the kind of leaders who don’t care about the welfare of the people. Where did we get it wrong?
Wrong teaching. That’s where we got it wrong. From the pulpit. Those on the pulpit have to go back to the Bible and begin to preach the truth and complete gospel that will truly change people. What we have now is a bunch of hypocrites in the Church. They tell people everything that is wrong with them but without a solution of how to get out of it. So, you have told him, you are wrong, this is what is wrong with your life, try and do this so that you can change, and they try it and see it’s not working. They blend in a begin to pretend they are Christians. So, when they now have to confront the gladiators in the frontline, their Christianity will fall like a pack of cards because they did not receive the true gospel. So, we must go back to the pulpit to preach because if the people receive wrongly, they will behave wrongly. And that is what we’re seeing in the society. And I’m ashamed, we have crowds in meetings, crowds in our programmes, but where is the result on our society? The effect is not there, no development. The purpose of speaking in tongues is not to speak in tongues, the reason is to be empowered to impact society. But it’s not there because the people are thought the wrong things. So, that’s what we’re facing in our nation. So, the church has failed in that area. But I believe that the church leaders are beginning to realize that and are they’re to address it from their different pulpits. In the next few years, we will begin to get the result we expect in our nation.