You will be due for retirement in 2022, what has been your experiences in the past six years as the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Worldwide?
This office of Secretary General is never zoned to any part of the communion. Anybody can apply for the job and so my being Secretary General is not based on my representing Anglican Church in Nigeria. No, that will belittle the office. So I want to make that very clear. We applied from various parts of the communion and whoever the Lord choses, serves the entire communion, but that does not mean I denied my own church which is the Anglican Church, Nigeria. It has actually been a privilege to have had this opportunity to serve. As Secretary General, my eyes have been opened to the rest of the Anglican Communion and I want to say here, that there is no denomination like the Anglican denomination. If you noticed, we never say, Secretary General, Anglican Church. No, I am Secretary General Anglican Communion of Churches. Let me explain that because people don’t get it. The doctrines of the Anglican Communion are very clear: There is room for every shade of every churchmanship in this church. By conviction, I am an evangelical, so I am a Christian, belonging to an evangelical conviction and charismatic because I believed in the charismatic. There are many in the Anglican Communion of Churches. We have Anglo- Casuist, those who are christians, they belong to the Anglican Communion, but the way they worship is like the romantic Catholics style.
What are your plans after your retirement in 2022?
My immediate plan is to get back to Nigeria and squarely concentrate on giving a home for the Kaduna State Centre for the study of Christian-Muslim Relations. Now we are operating from our family home and as you may have known, the Kaduna state governor and his cabinet, in recognition of our little contribution of what is going on in Kaduna in terms of peace building, using education for peace building, they gave us a peace of land on Yakubu Avenue. Right now the designed is ready and we are planning to launch in July but we had to hold on because of some little disagreements over the land. So as soon as the problem is resolved, we will commence development. It is a half a million dollars project and it is going to be an international centre for the study of Muslim-Christian relations in Kaduna. We have a group in America on christians and muslims who are called friends of Kaduna centre. They are involved in helping us to raise awareness, so things are moving. That’s what I love to come back to when I return in September next year. What has been your most rewarding and most challenging experiences in the last six years. Let me start by with the positive things because I always see the positive side of everything. My moments of joy is that before I came on board, the last Province (of the Anglican Communion) was 20 years ago, that was the Province of Hongkong. Between 2015 and last Friday ( September 17, 2021), God has blessed us with us with four new Provinces. We created the Provinces of South Sudan, Chile, Alexandria and last Friday, we inaugurated the Province of Angola and Mozambique. That for me, is a high point.
Can you tell us why they are not cooperating?L
There are many reasons people give. Some feel they are not being recognised, some feels the decisions taken are not being adhered to and some feel we are not concentrating on what they would want us to do. So there are varieties of reasons people give.
The issue of same sex marriage is threatening the Anglican Church, how is the Anglican Communion coping with the issue?
The question of same sex is not a peculiarity of Anglican Communion of Churches, it is everywhere and for us to find a solution, we have, as I said earlier on, the Anglican Communion has a position. I know there are some African members of the communion who are not speaking the truth. The Anglican Communion of Churches has a position and the position was arrived at in 1998 at the Lambert conference. When we come to a decision at the Lambert conference or at the Anglican Consultative or even Primates meeting, let Nigerians hear this; the position arrived at is not legally binding on any church. That is very important, it is advisory. We have no way of legalising our decisions. By that, we mean you take it to your country church and discuss what was arrived on how it fits in your country. For instance, in 1982 it was agreed at the Lambert conference that women should be ordained in the Anglican Communion of Churches.The church in Nigeria has not kept to that. We do not ordain women in the church of Nigeria. In the church of Central Africa, they do not ordain women, but the position of the Anglican Communion is that you can ordain women. Nigeria, Central Africa and Jerusalem are not doing it. The question of same sex is exactly the same. We agreed that we cannot accept it. But in many provinces, they have adopted it. Yesterday (Sunday September 26), Switzerland was the last country in Europe to now legalise same sex.
What do you expect the church there to do?
This thing has to be taken in context. The position of the Anglican Church is that we cannot, as far as our understanding of Bible is concerned, accept it. But we know that there are a good number of men and women who have chosen this lifestyle. We cannot vilify them, we cannot condemn them. We don’t agree with them but they are members of the church and there is nothing we can do about them. What we can do is to live them and hope that the will change. That is the position of the Anglican Church. Other churches have taken different positions…It is a situation that is dividing the church, but are trying as much as possible to hold on together as a family.
It is gratifying to know that you would be returning home for peace building, unfortunately Nigeria is seriously divided along ethnic, religious and regional lines, with some people agitating for cessation. Is it the kind of Nigeria that you will like to come back to?
When you have a family, you must be prepared to operate with broad mind without loosing your identity. Nigeria is my country, I have lived in the UK for six years now and I am qualified to become a British citizen if I want to, but Nigeria is my country. The problem with Nigeria is very simple. Is it Biafra, Oduduwa or Middle Belt? What each of these groups is asking for is recognition. If our politicians will accept that each of us have an identity and recognise our identity, that will reduce individual selfish politics. What the government of Kaduna needs to do is to see that every group is recognised. There can be no equality, what we are asking for is equity. When you talk about justice, you are talking about equity. Equity is giving me what is due to me… Everybody is looking for recognition. Recognition is biblical because we are created in the image of God.
You are the chairman of the Kaduna State Peace Commission, what is the level of peaceful coexistence in Kaduna?
As we speak, there is mutual suspicion among the people of the state. There has been frequent attacks by the fulanis. I am concerned about identifying all the bandits with a particular tribe because it could lead to genocide and that was what happened in Rwanda. Banditry is not new in Africa even in the Far East. I have been doing some studies on banditry in Algeria, Morocco and Pakistan. We have a big problem at hand. This horrible thing that is killing us in the northwest in particular and is moving out to other parts of the country, until we all come together and fight it, the daily bombing by the airforce, the army, the task forces will not stop it. There are questions we need to ask. Where do the bandits get arms from? Who are the people supplying them with drugs? Airforce will continue to bomb, the more they bomb, the more the bandits will mushroom. There are people among us who are benefiting from this crisis. We keep on blaming government, you and I know that government is pumping a lot of money that is meant for development to have better schools, good roads, water supply, electricity and provide security. Part of the money that should be used for development is going into fighting banditry. For me, we need to organise ourselves at various levels to see that we join hands and fight this menace. The media has a lot of role to play in this… It is in our interest to tell our political leaders to join hands to fight this menace, let’s restore peace and then we can vote in or vote out whoever we want, this is my position.
Nigeria is 61, how do you think we can address the challenges of leadership, corruption, ethnicity and nepotism which have retarded our progress?
Unfortunately, our religious organisations are guilty of this. Just pick one church, pick on my own church. If you look at the Anglican Church in Nigeria, you will know that what is happening with our political leaders is exactly what is happening there. That is our problem! The church is a reflection of the political state we found ourselves. Therefore, what do we do? We need education. Information, they say is power. The media most exposed these things. Even the way we elect our leaders, in most elections in the north, you know that you and I will just cast our votes, in some places, they tell us what to do. It is not the person you want to vote for that the leadership will want you to support. Somebody who is 61, is not a child. We must begin to look at ourselves and that is what I said earlier on – identity. Nigerians must accept that we are diverse. And as the Qur’an made us understand, God deliberately has so, in order to understand one another. There is no understanding in Nigeria. We need to understand one another and then we can cooperate, we can live with our differences, Let’s live together with our differences. Kaduna is the best state in this country because we are blessed in terms of human and mineral resources and we have some good leaders. I will want to say that as we celebrate 61 years of our country, this question of winner takes all, we must think seriously. For example, Mallam won (elections) in Kaduna, but I would have expected him, to look for some qualified people as he is doing to bring them into his government irrespective of whatever party they belong to. That’s very difficult, but until we used our diversity to our own advantage, we will just keep on going round and round like fish in the well. We need to go beyond. Mallam has tried to pick from even outside the state, but we have qualified people also in the state.
How will your Centre for the study of Muslim -Christian relations enhanced peace in Kaduna and Nigeria in general?
We have already started. We are engaging in peace building because among our students, we have Imams who have congregation, we have pastors who have congregations, then you have women who are very influential. We plan to even go beyond Kaduna, that is why we’ve just invested over N1million on virtual facilities at the centre so that we can get people from anywhere to enrol on our programme, without necessarily coming to Kaduna, you can join online and take your course. But we emphasise pairing people- a Muslim and a Christian. We are trying to influence one another, but one thing we do not do at our centre is to indoctrinate people. You are free to be who you are as long as you do not infringe on another person’s freedom.
What are the preparations towards the 2022 Lambert Conference which is going to be your last as Secretary General of the Anglican Communion? How many countries are likely to attend?
We have 42 Provinces, 39 are registered. Of the 39, not every Bishop, as far as I know, in four Provinces have agreed. Even in these four Provinces, over 60 -70 per cent registered. So in terms of attendance, Alhamdulillah! COVID-19 has been a problem but we are committed to having face to face Lambert conference. We are worried about the disparity in the availability of COVID vaccine. We are making every effort to see that we make vaccines available. We will use our connection with governments in each country to see that we get vaccines. If there is a need we can approach World Health Organisation (WHO), to allow us liaise with the country concerned for people to get vaccinated. The big problem is at the global south. As at last week, only 2.6 per cent of Africans have been vaccinated. So there is inequality and this is one of the key things we plan to address at the Lambert conference. We intend to address climate warming – the environment. It is a big problem and we are everything possible, getting the real people involved to come and address and encourage bishops to take this very seriously.We shall be discussing the role of women in the church. We are taking that very seriously. Economy is another issue. The preparations are on. The Archbishop is committed to making sure that if you don’t attend, it is not because you cannot afford it. It is because it is your choice, but as I said I am really excited. It is going to be my last Lambert conference.
What is your call to the 19 northern states governors as regards insecurity and the poverty level in the region?
Insecurity, we advise that if they do not coordinate their various individual efforts, it will not work. So the governors must cooperate. The governors in the north west must pull their resources together and see that they fight this insecurity together. North east and north central should do the same. But if Kaduna state is spending so much money, then Katsina is not liaising or cooperating with Kaduna, it doesn’t work.They should pull their resources together, they shouldn’t wait on the federal government, that is my honest advise. Invest together and see that all of us who voted you are secured.In terms of poverty, once we are able to address the problem of insecurity, we can face the challenges of poverty.There no jobs, people cannot go to farm. Look at all our big farms! Most of our farmers have abandoned their farms to bandits. Poverty can only be solved when there is security.