-Says Call By Catholic Church To Scrap CAN Reflects Selfishness
Rt. Rev. Dr. Curtis Fianu is the Bishop of Church of God Mission, New Warri Bishopric.
The outspoken bishop, during an exclusive interview with Oasis Magazine crew, spoke on several sensitive matters as Nigeria clocked 57. His response to issues bordering on Nigeria’s unity, restructuring, CAN’s activities, IPOB and many others, make the interview a must read.
As Nigeria celebrates her 57th independence day, is there anything worth celebrating?
Well, the fact that we are united and not fighting is worth celebrating. The Bible says ‘in all things we should give thanks’. There are good sides and there are downsides. The fact that there is life, there is hope. So there is cause to celebrate.
Talking about the journey, are you satisfied with how Nigeria is presently?
No! We are supposed to be better than this. Nigeria is supposed to be one of the first world countries. Malaysia is living on palm oil which is got from Nigeria. Nigeria that gave them the oil is closed. We are the 6th oil producing nation in the world and our oil used to be one of the best according to OPEC ranking. We have made so much; Nigeria is blessed many mineral resources. Talk of gold, coal, we have too many of mineral resources. When you talk of brains, Nigeria has the brains; but we have had bad leaders. Leadership has been Nigeria’s problem. If we had good leaders, we are not supposed to be importing things from China by this time. This is terrible. People have advanced and gone far, yet we have a minister who is proud and said that very soon we will start producing pencil! This shows how backward we are. We are supposed to have gone far beyond this level.
Someone said the product of a country’s leadership reflects on the society. So do you think it is our leaders that are bad, or the mindset of the populace is messed up?
Bad leadership is one and then our orientation is also very bad. It is an endemic problem. That a parent can pay for his or her child to pass examinations is already a way of teaching them corruption. So there is no way that child will grow up and not be corrupt. So, it is a very serious problem.
If you are to enumerate Nigeria’s problems what would they be?
Well, as I said, our major problem is leadership. John Maxwell said: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” We have leaders that are not prepared for leadership. Almost all of our presidents were not ready for leadership. All of them are circumstantial leaders. So it is like they get into the office not knowing what to do and become clueless. So number 1, we need to get our leadership right. Secondly, corruption is too much. You see corruption taking place from the top to the bottom. Everywhere you go to there is corruption. You go to an office somebody would want you to pay before he signs a paper for you, even though it is your right. So, corruption is a problem eating Nigeria seriously in all sincerity.
There seems to be a growing disunity on the basis of ethnicity and religion. How can this be dealt with?
As I already quoted, everything rises and falls on leadership. The leaders need to change what they say to their followers. I tell people those who lead one political revolution or the other and are making you kill people, where are their children? Where are their relations? They send their children abroad to school and come to you and give you maybe a Thousand Naira and say go and kill somebody for me and it does not make sense. I spoke to them in Delta Broadcasting Service and I said our problem is what we preach from the pulpit. When I preach hate, what do I expect my followers to do? Hate! If I am an ‘imam’ in the mosque and all I say is anyone not in my religion is my enemy, anywhere you see my enemy, kill him. What will that result to? Let’s stop preaching hate, let’s preach love. The fact that you don’t believe in what I believe in does not make you my enemy. If all of us believe in the same thing then this world would be boring. Even God believes in varieties, so He didn’t create us the same. If God had created us to behave in the same way I would have a boring world. But, God has a sense of humor. The way I behave is not the way you behave. The way I talk is not the way you talk. All of us cannot be the same. But the fact that we can live together is what makes life beautiful.
What are your thoughts on restructuring Nigeria?
I think that Nigeria has to be restructured. The centre is too powerful and then you come to Niger Delta where the resources of the country are coming from. You do not have water to drink. Have you gone to Abuja? It is like America. But look at where the money is coming from, there is no road in Warri and it is terrible. So, we need to restructure. If you go to America, every state controls her resources and pays a percentage. The states should develop their states. There are things that need to be changed. For me, where we have Senators and have House of Representatives members is a waste of resources because it is the same thing. So why not collapse the two into one and reduce the number. It will save Nigeria a lot of money. So, we actually need to restructure. There are a lot of things that need to change. I believe in restructuring and I believe we should accept it. All these agitations is because people are not being taken care of. If everybody is satisfied, nobody will carry his things and say I want to go. You have 15 positions in a company and you give 10 to one geo-political zone. It is not fair. Why do you think people will not react?
What do you have to say about the agitations of those clamoring for IPOB?
They took it too far. Sometimes violence is not the answer, but negotiation. I do not need to fight you to get what I am looking for. But, we can sit down and talk and dialogue. I tell people when two people are arguing, and I keep quiet, it does not make me a looser. But because I want us to move forward I can keep quiet and also for peace sake.
Some have said the church has overstepped her boundaries by getting too involved in politics. I read somewhere how the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) was referred to as the religious wing of PDP. What do you have to say about that?
For me they are not. CAN is the voice of the church. So, when things are going wrong, CAN has to speak out. The church needs a voice and CAN is the voice. Anywhere things were not going well in a nation in the Bible, God raises a prophet. CAN is like the prophetic voice that is speaking for the church. If they do not speak against what will not favor the church they are not doing the church well. They are not overstepping their bounds. The church has a right to go into politics. You hear people say politics is dirty. We have stayed outside for too long and those we say are dirty are the ones making decisions for us. If a governor says we should sleep from 6a.m. to 6p.m. and directs that we do not go out, we cannot. Every decision he makes will affect you. The Bible says: “If the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice. But, when the wicked are there, the people will mourn.” We have left the wicked for too long to be in charge. So, it is time for the church to go in and take over power. Let the righteous rule. But, unfortunately when we go, we are corrupted.
I also read somewhere that the Catholic Church called for the scrap of CAN. What do you make of that?
Catholics are being selfish. When they were leading CAN, nobody called for its scrap. But when Pentecostals took over that was when they started having issues. Now Pentecostals have finished their tenure. The man that is there now is a Baptist. So, it will go round and then come back to them. When it does will they ask for its scrap?
What role should the church play in getting Nigeria back on track?
The church holds the key because we have the truth. But unfortunately, we are not teaching the truth. Many of us pastors are just after what we can get. Somebody is paying a big tithe and you will not ask him where he got the money from, but go ahead to collect it. I was saying in DBS this morning ‘if we can stand for the truth and preach the truth, we can change Nigeria. Because if I do not change your soul, you cannot do the right thing and only the word of God can work on the soul of a man. When the soul of a man is affected, then he can do the right thing. Your soul controls every other thing. It is like the engine of a car. If the engine is not good, the car cannot move. Many of us have compromised today. So all we preach is grace. I was telling somebody; ‘grace is not a new doctrine’. Grace has always been there. We just now use grace to cover up our iniquities and make it a license to do the wrong things. You do not need to be a Christian for God to bless you. Therefore, I do not need to preach how you will prosper before God blesses you. Prosperity is good, success message is good but it has to be balanced up. It is not the real thing. Dangote is not a Christian, yet he is the richest man in Africa. So this ‘give your life to Christ and be rich gospel’ is wrong. So, we need to stick to the truth because only the truth will set us free; then we can change Nigeria.
What is your message to CAN as Nigeria celebrates?
They should be fearless, courageous, be a voice like that of Idahosa. He was a voice who was ready to tell the truth even at the point of death. That is what I expect them to do and not be intimidated by anybody. CAN must always stand for the truth. For me, I asked myself many times when the Archbishop was around before he died, what is he looking for that he does not have that he should be afraid of death? Most of our religious leaders are afraid of death. What have you not seen before that you are afraid of death for? If your ways are pure, you are sure of heaven then.
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