Nigerian Compass

Primate, Church of Aladura Worldwide and President, United Aladura Churches, Pope Rufus Okikiola Ositelu, paid a courtesy visit to the Nigerian Compass on Thursday. During the visit, he fielded questions from a group of the newspaper’s reporters on some burning national and religious issues, including the state of the nation vis-a-vis the ill health of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the rot in the house of God in the country today and what is in stock for the nation in 2010. Excerpts:

What will you say about the situation of the country given the absence of President Umar Yar’Adua on health ground?
We also, as a church and individual, have been praying for him and we call on other churches to continue to support him in prayer because the Bible tells us to desire the good of our leader. As long as he is the President of Nigeria, it is our duty to be concern about his interest, and in this case, his health. It is also very important that Nigerians should not leave a vacuum, we should allow the constitution to take its normal course. And from what I’ve read according to the constitution of Nigeria, if a President says he won’t be available for a particular period of time, he should tell when he will be back. So, in order not to create a vacuum, let the constitution take its course.

What is your Christmas message for Nigerians?
My Christmas message for Nigerians is that people should know that we are celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ knows love, represent loves and his message is love, not only at this period. But in this period, we should show love to our fellow human beings. Lack of love is part of what is causing the problem in Nigeria, because if some of our leaders are not self-centered, if they truly love their fellow Nigerians, they will want them to have good education, good roads. Even Yar’Adua should not be outside the country for medical treatment because if we have good hospitals in Nigeria, he would have been attended to and there won’t be any leader going out of the country for any treatment. So it is because of lack of love and sincerity that we are in the situation we are. It is not only about Yar’Adua but about the general leadership of this country. In this country they lack love, and love is the message of Christ.

What would you say is responsible for the high level of crime in spite of the churches in the country?
This is the same question that our people abroad always ask. They would say that before they left the country, it was usually only one church in their individual street and that when they come for holiday, they see that there are about 20 churches in their streets, and yet the level of crime is rising instead of decreasing. The reason is that we have a big problem with both our Muslim and Christian leaders. People are no more preaching salvation, whereas Jesus is about salvation; the salvation of our soul. Most churches in Nigeria, especially the new ones, are preaching prosperity. People are ready to do anything to prosper. There was a day, a Christian leader was preaching and he said ‘use what you have to get what you want’. If a young lady should hear that, she will say, I have my body, I can use it to get marks from my Professors. Instead, the preacher ought to say you must use what you have to get what you want in a godly way. Sometimes ago, some armed robbers were arrested and his colleagues were calling him pastor. But the police thought it was a nickname, they were surprised when his colleagues said he was a real pastor. And when he was asked why as a pastor he was engaged in robbery, he said he wants to use the money to build a big church with air-conditioner for Christ. Did God ask anybody to do that? That is part of the problem in this country, people worship money. Very few worship God. That is why crime is rising on a daily basis. And this will continue until we retrace our steps and go back to the fundamentals of our religion.

Religion is about love and the kingdom of God. It is only in this country you see politicians being arrested for corruption and he will still be celebrating. People will still wear uniform (aso-ebi) to go and support him in court. Everything about this country is upside down, it’s like we are not normal people. Corruption is normal in this country and righteousness is abnormal. That is the simple reason why the rate of crime is increasing.

Why are the private universities owned by churches are more expensive than public ones?
We have to look at it from different aspects. We have to look at why churches and missions have private universities. First it is good for the country, because the universities we have in this country are being crippled by either ASUU or government. In a situation where students go to universities for a four-year course and spent seven or eight years, is it not abnormal?. It is only in private universities that you go for a four-year course and you are not spending more than that four years. I know a lot of people that send their wards or children to Ghana so that they can go and school there because they know they don’t go on strike there. If they should go there for a four-year course they will spend only four years, if you they pass your exams. So, church private universities are there to really assist the masses. But then, how many of the people can afford it. Universities education is very expensive, no doubt. If you know how much government is paying universities lecturers as salaries, you will know it’s not an easy task. It is in billions of naira. If we want to take the whole Nigeria, it is in trillions. So, what we should do is to appeal to the government either through the PTDF or other agencies to assist all the private universities with financial grants. Even in overseas, it takes a responsible government to acknowledge in the first place that the private institutions are assisting it. But because we don’t have responsible government in this country that acknowledgement is not even there. I can give you an example, in Liberia private person that starts a school, the government is going to take 50% of the bill to pay all lecturers’ salary because government knew that he could not do it alone. So if a mission or an individual wants to start a school, the government would tell the person that they will pay 50% of the bill.

Therefore, it is an encouragement for them. And then, who gains at the end of the day? it is the masses. Instead of sitting down at home doing nothing, it is a win-win situation; the government wins, the mission that starts the school also wins. So it does not become a burden. With that situation in Liberia, you don’t see the kind of fees we have in Nigeria. Fees are almost none existent or very little. So, it is not a problem for parents to send their children to school. I think that is what we should do in Nigeria. Government should support all these private universities, but with a proviso, to bring down the fees. Once the fees go down, many people will send their children to private universities and it will stop ASUU from unreasonable demands at all times. I can give you an example of one of the ugly situations ASUU’S strike sometimes bring. Two universities were once striking in one of the states, I will not mention the state so that it would not be an attack on anybody. One of the state universities took to the law of no work no pay. But when the problem was settled, the government of the state went and released to the two universities the normal fund he used to pay them, which is 75%. There is this state university that generates internal revenue for itself, they run this CESAP or Part-time programmes, when they were on strike only the regular students were sent packing home.

The other university sent both the part-time and regular students home. So when everything was settled government did not take it on them and for the three months they strike they gave them their 75% salary for each month, they got it but it was not enough to pay the staff in a particular university but the other one collected the 75% salary for each month and together with the internal revenue they have made, they were able to pay the lecturers 100%. But the other one said they want to go on strike again because they cannot pay their staff 100%. Can you see what is going on? So, sometimes ASUU is not always right even though I sympathize with some of their positions. If you want to strike, strike with your brain. Even for government to be paying them while they are on strike is rubbish. Go to the developed world, if workers strike, it is their union that will pay them during the period that they were on strike. Therefore, there is a question to answer here. Do workers in Nigeria pay money to their unions? If so, what is the union doing with the money? Like I said, everything about this country is upside down. In Europe, unions have banks, they have establishments, they have houses, they invest the money, their members are paid for the period they are on strike, not government. They don’t care, they can go on strike for six months. They are not like Nigerians that will go on strike and will still want government to pay them for the work they did not do. It is unrighteous, how can I pay for the work a worker did not do. We need to get a lot of things right about this country.

This country has been in the wilderness for long, how do you think we can get out of it?
We must never give up hope, but we cannot allow ourselves to be deprived of our right. I read an article about two weeks ago, it said there is a cabal in this country and that the ruling elites are like a cult. They will get away with anything. They say Nigerians are so soft, understanding, and they don’t want problems, which is true because nobody wants problem, But in Europe, things are good now but it was not like that in the beginning. The people once suffered too; some people stood in and some lost their lives. In Germany, if you are not a school certificate holder you cannot vote. It is not so in Nigeria where a school certificate holder can be a governor or chairman of a local government. Women could not vote in Germany before, and even men who were farmers. Only men who had minimum of school certificate could vote. It was a revolution that brought the changes they are all enjoying today. With time, more people went to school and then with time people started fighting for their rights and then they started voting. Later they started fighting for the women and women too started voting. It is not more than 15 years now that women started voting in Switzerland. Before then it was men that could vote. Later men fought for women’s right and then they started voting. All these things come little by little, either by evolution or by revolution. So, our destiny is in our hands as Nigerians, we should not give up hope. But we should not forever allow this people to manipulate us and ride us, we must try and stand up for our rights and one day, I believe, if Nigerians are pushed to the wall, they will rise up and do something about it.

We are ending this year with anxiety, what are we expecting in the new year, are we going to have a stable government?
If I go by the revelation that was revealed to me last year August, there will be a lot of political turmoil in 2010. There will be a lot of disturbances here and there. Killing will not start in 2011, it will start in 2010; politicians will start killing one another but at the end of the day there will be relative stability. As regards the present situation and leadership of the country, I’m sure the politicians are working out a scenario. It is because we are not fully democratic, if it were in the US, it will be an open debate. It will be in public knowledge, it is not something that will be done in secret. I belief the leaders will work on how they will come together, we won’t have a problem as a nation. As long as they are concerned, it will be resolved one way or the other without any military take over. there won’t be anything like that. The killings has nothing to do with the leadership, it is only something that will result from political in-fighting over who will be the next candidate.

It is the belief of Pentecostal churches that white garment churches like C & S, Celestial are cultists and that they use fetish materials in their spiritual practice. What do you say to this?
Pentecostal churches are wrong. I wrote a book that was published in 2002 on some of the facts bordering on that sort of belief. To set the record straight, the word Pentecostal means spirit-filled and it applies to all churches that are identified with Jesus Christ, which of course is in every church in Nigeria, be it Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Church of the Lord, Baptist, C&S, Celestial etc. They are all spirit-filled and spirit-led. So, the appellate Pentecostal is just to identify, it does not really apply to any particular church. The way they see the Aladura churches, C & S, Church of the Lord and Celestial churches is very wrong and that is one of the reasons why God told me in 2004 to bring all the white garment churches together and this was what led to the United Aladura Churches (UAC). It is for this reason that C & S, Celestial, Church of the Lord and some independent churches came together to start the United Aladura Churches. And in every group, whether the new age churches, or the so-called Pentecostal, there are always some bad eggs. We have them in Pentecostal churches, Anglican, Methodist, Catholic etc. We once heard about a Catholic Father raping small children, small boys. You cannot because of that generalize that all Catholic Fathers are bad. These bad eggs, we also have them in white garment churches. That is why we started the United Aladura Churches. We want to expunge the bad ones among us and disown them. We want to expose them and let the public know that they do not belong to us, they are not part of us and they are really probably Babalawo in white garments. That is not the major frame or norm among the white garment churches. Most of the white garment churches are okay, there is nothing they are practicing that is different from what our Lord Jesus Christ practised while he was on earth.

Nigeria is the 6th largest producer of oil in the world, yet we are poor, what do you think is the problem?
Every problem in Nigeria is arises from insincerity and lack of love. Nigeria is so blessed with both natural and human resources but it’s unfortunate that we are still lacking a lot of things, which naturally we should be exporting. Instead of exporting them, we are importing. They want to start deregulation when we don’t even have enough for local consumption. How can you deregulate the market except we want to intentionally cause inflation. Such an action is nothing but lack of love. And the leaders do not care because they can use state money to buy anything. We read in newspapers how they want to use N7billion to build a house for the Vice President. Even, I don’t think you will need N7billion if you want to build a paradise, not to talk of a house for a Vice President. In this country we are so corrupt that we care less. The usual belief of our leaders is ‘let people say anything they want, they cannot do anything about it’. And the parliament will pass the bill for that kind of amount because they are birds of the same feather; there is no much difference in them. The President has set commission to go and look into the reformation of the electoral system and they came out with a paper that most Nigerian laws are out of date. But now we have a government that is saying no to all the proposed recommendations. But if government would say no to any aspect of the recommendations, it should be the fundamental ones. Nobody should be sworn in until a case has been settled in court. Why don’t we have a special court that will hear the case and deal with it within 3 or 6 months, whoever is the winner will later be sworn-in. But when we swear-in someone because we are really wicked and corrupt, we don’t care. We want to rig the election so that, that person we sworn-in can use his position as a governor to get the best lawyers in the country with state money and at the end of the day, with the state money, you can give some umbrellas, pen etc. to voters so that they can vote you in. In most cases, re-runs are usually won by the incumbent .

This is just pure political manipulation. If it was not an incumbent, in some places all the turn-overs we have were just because the court gave the verdicts. If they were all to go for a rerun, all the incumbents would have won. So the problem of this country is lack of love and sincerity to our neighbours. I want to plead to all leaders to please imbibe the spirit of Christmas, the spirit of Jesus Christ to love one another, fix the roads, schools, hospitals. We don’t need to go abroad, we have a lot of materials in this country, we have a lot of resources, both human and natural, and we can enjoy. Look at our budget for example, the road and other facilities are so bad and yet governments keep declaring bogus budget. We can as well tell the government then that they are useless and they don’t need to do anything. ‘Just give every Nigerian N10million each, it is still less than their budgets. Go and calculate it, 155 million times N10million. It is not up to the budget of the nation. If you give every Nigerian, a new born baby, the father, the mother, everybody, they will do something better for their lives, they will do bore hole for themselves, buy a generator, they can get a good generator for N5million, provide security and all other social amenities for themselves. A family of 6, the parent and 4 children, that will be given N60million can really manage that amount better than the way the government will manage it for them. Government is there to manage our resources in trust for us and instead of managing it, they are wasting it, they are putting it into their own pocket. Not all of them do that but majority of them.

There is the problem of too many churches springing up without any concomitant moral rejuvenation. What is CAN doing to correct this development?

Churches are like an associations that are found in drove everywhere. Today too, you can see a number of churches on a street, and we have discussed this issue severally at CAN meetings. CAN do not have the right or power to stop people from establishing churches. But what CAN has right and power to do is to ensure that churches do not bear the same name. My appeal to people establishing these churches are that they should not turn churches to money-making venture. Instead they should preach the word of God and salvation.

What revelation do you have for the President, Umar Yar’Adua?
God has not revealed anything to me about the President but what I know is that the President will come back to Nigeria alive and safely and when he comes back, it is he who will decide whether to resign or continue to rule the nation. But what I know is that he’s coming back to Nigeria alive.

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