Bishop Dr. Emmah Gospel Isong is the National Publicity Secretary of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and General Overseer, Christian Central Chapel International (CCCI) in Calabar. In this interview with RICHARD NDOM, he speaks on the recent protest by some aggrieved police personel in Borno State, among other topical issues.
Some Policemen in the Borno State recently protestd and agitated for the sack of the Inspector General of General of Police over his failure to clear the backlog of arrears and salaries owed them. What is your take on this?
It is ridiculous and unfortunate for us as a country to have witnessed our officers and men of the Police Force protesting and agitating for the removal of the number one police officer in the country, the Inspector General of Police. It shouldn’t have been so. Be that as it may, the President of our dear country, President Muhammadu Buhari should look inward to find a lasting solution to the problems being faced by the police with regard to the backlog of arrears and salaries of the police, who maintain law and order in the society. Agitation like this shouldn’t be swept under the carpet. This is a matter that needs urgent attention by Mr. President. Apart from the agitation by policemen for the removal of the IGP, the country is passing through its trying times where law and order is being taken for granted.
What would you say about the recently conducted congresses and convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)?
The APC, even though it is a ruling party, is one of the youngest political parties in the country. Aside from that, it is a confluence
of strange bed-fellows made up of ANPP, CPC, ACN and a faction of APGA. So, in talking about such a party, you need to take into consideration the various factors and years of experience. Like I said, these are strange bed-fellows and must necessarily sing discordant tunes because they were forcefully made to work together.
Again, you must also not forget the euphoria that attended the victory of the party because they did not actually believe that they could win the 2015 presidential election. However, Nigerians gave them victory because they promised ‘change’ but thereafter, we were all witnesses to the fact that for about eight months, the country had no ministers at the federal level and for about two years we had no federal boards. At the same time, they were also trying to marry the party constitution with personal idiosyncrasies, and you very well know that ideological differences could be worse than religious differences.
Recently, there was an uproar over the indictment and invitation of Senate President Bukola Saraki by the Police over the Offa Bank robberies. What is your take?
I don’t think the invitation would have generated such controversies if it was not dramatised. But we know that the Senate President is not in the good books of some powers that-be because he was not the one anointed for that position and only bulldozed his way into it. Don’t forget that he is having charges hanging on his neck and these charges are being prosecuted by a federal government agency. Remember also that the Senate once invited the Inspector General of Police to come and explain some issues bordering on the security of the country, which the later declined on a couple of occasions. But looking at equity, if the Senate invited the IGP and he declined, would the IGP expect the Senate President to oblige his invitation? My suspicion is that there is something going on between the Legislative and the Executive arms of government that Nigerians are not being told. My advice is that the constitution should be revisited to find out what it says in terms of investigations. I am not saying that the Senate President may not have a case to answer but I think our constitution allows an accused person to claim innocence until proven guilty by a competent court of law.
The IGP’s office is neither a court nor a federal panel and it is difficult to know why judgment should be passed on the Senate President on the pages of newspapers. Nigerians are used to such behaviours by alleging as well as sentencing others on pages of newspapers. We must learn to allow the rule of law take its course. Now, is the Police saying that the Senate President went for armed robbery or sent people to go and kill and rob? I think the money that the five robbery suspects, who allegedly implicated the Senate President, stole could have been stolen by Saraki with just a pen if he wanted to steal such a paltry amount of money. Can we sincerely agree with the Police that the Senate President and the Kwara State governor collaborated and sent five boys to go and steal for them? That looks like actions from the Nollywood films. All the same, we are still watching the unfolding drama, believing that the accused would be deemed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. But I sincerely believe that all of these are geared towards the elections next year. There was a time that Ekweremadu was being hounded, and then it became the turn of Dino Maleye and now its Saraki’s turn. Somehow, apart from Ekweremadu, others belonged to the APC. Again, I would like the political class to know that they are not up to five per cent of the nation’s population and should not unnecessarily heat up the polity. It is not acceptable to see a few people who hold positions attempting to create problems for the rest of the country. Anybody who intends to run for political office should do so honestly and legally without trying to pull the generality of the rest of us down. If you look at the political terrain, you would notice that ordinarily, one tribe or religion has no problem with the other, but politicians, for their selfish interest, will beat tribal and religious drums and expect the rest of us to dance. Think of the hate speech that they are talking about. Who started and still reveling in the use of hate speeches?
It was the Politician. I think they should learn to play their game well and allow the country to evolve like other developing democracies.
Now that the political space has been widened with the signing of the “Not Too Young To Run” Bill into law, do you think this development will make any change?
The “Not Too Young To Run” law is not complete until we have “Too Old To Run” law. The President should initiate and sign this other Bill to balance the various tendencies. We must not only reduce the age limit, but also place a ceiling on the age of people who should run for political offices in the country. Sincerely speaking, unless age limits are placed on people running, the already assented Bill might well be meaningless because you will still find the very old people running for political offices given the financial resources at their disposal.
Not too long ago, CAN staged a nationwide protest against the incessant killings in the country. Was the protest necessary, and if so, has the purpose of the protest achieved?
The protest continues because apart from marching in the streets, we are protesting within the four walls of our churches. Like you know, the killings have not abated instead they are escalating. We are protesting on the social media and our pulpits because everybody is disenchanted and disgruntled over what is going on in the country. We condemn the killings and call on the federal government to stem the tide by being proactive. There is no reason why vigilante groups should not be set up in communities that are prone to these killings. The President of PFN, Bishop Omobude had several times canvassed this position at various fora, and using different platforms and I, as the national publicity secretary, have also made efforts to sensitize Nigerians on the dangers of these killings. We can only hope that the federal government will speedily intervene to bring confidence in the people of this country. On our part, we are praying fervently for Nigeria as well as preparing to vote in a government that will guarantee the security of all Nigerians in 2019.
Are you saying that the government has failed to deliver on one of the tripod of its cardinal programmes in the last three years?
President Buhari came into power anchoring his programme on three planks; economy, security and fight against corruption. Looking at the three cardinal programmes of this administration, we are told that the economy is improving by 0.01%. We thank God for that. On security, can we say that lives and property are safe? Your guess is as good as mine. On anti-corruption, can we say that all those in the executive arm of government are saints? It is not justifiable to fight corruption against perceived enemies, those seen to be corrupt within the Executive arm of government should also be made to face the law. It is not enough even enough to fight corruption within government circle and think you have done something extraordinary.
You must look at the larger society, the hospitals, the educational sector and other sectors, both formal and informal to fight corruption before one could say that indeed, there is a serious impact of government on the war against corruption. But let me say that the present federal government has worked very hard to rebuild infrastructure in the country. One must also admit that there is improvement in the area of contract awards because the kind of corruption that trailed contract awards before now has been\ drastically reduced and there is relative honesty in the awards and execution of contracts now.
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