Says, 2019 is going to be very dicey

 

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By Kingsley Abavo

 

Henry Best Iriabo, Edo State Secretary of CAN is vexed about the way Nigeria is presently run. He advises Christians across the country to sit up and take the bull by the horn to secure a safe future.

 

Excerpts…

 

 

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Considering the continued scourge of herdsmen attack and killings across the country and Government seeming inability to curb the menace, what would you suggest as panacea?

 

We have at different fora expressed our disdain over the nefarious activities of some persons hiding under the guise of Boko – Haram or Fulani herdsmen to be precise, persecuting Christians.  Each time they say it is not a religious war, what is happening is a mere conflict and stuff like that. But we have said having looked at the trend, that this indeed is a religious problem. We have identified as Christians that what is happening in Nigeria is a battle between Sharia and democracy and it is very funny that we have a country; these two conflicting ideologies exist; Sharia and democracy. Proponents of Sharia; our Muslim brothers and sisters particularly the Islamists want to rule the country by means of Sharia. But democracy is the norm globally today but Islamists want to use Sharia to rule the world so the Islamists in Nigeria perhaps sponsored by their cohorts internationally want to ensure that our country is fully Islamized and if you are not ready to conform to their whims and caprices, they will resort to the use of violence.  So, we totally condemn that. As Christians, we know that Nigeria is a secular State and it should be seen just as that. But with the passage of time, we have discovered that they want to ensure that Nigeria is ruled by one kind of religion.

Sir, apart from the condemnation, what exactly do you think C.A.N should suggest to government as panacea?

The point that we have made all the time is that Nigeria is a secular State, it is a democracy so Governor of any State, or the Chairman of any local Government must ensure that the tenets of the constitution that make Nigeria a secular State are completely adhered to. But this is not what is happening today. That is our first recommendation; that the constitution must be strictly adhered to ; the principles of democracy must be strictly adhered to rather than using clandestine approaches to want to use one religion platform to lord it over Nigeria. I have said it at different fora, that we have arrived at a period that we don’t need to use innuendos or euphemism to describe the situation. We must call what is happening today by its name; Boko – Haram is on the prowl and it has formed its membership at the high echelon of government and therefore all eyes must be opened to denounce it. Therefore, we are not going to rest on our oars, we will continue to preach the secularity of Nigeria; we also know religious wise, that there are people who belong to different divide; we have Christians, we have Muslims, we have adherents of African traditional religion and these people must be allowed to practice their faith wherever they find themselves and that no one religion should dominate the other. If that continues to be the case, as we are seeing; the body language of Mr. President has not shown that he is a lover or believer of true democracy. Therefore, the Christians are advocating that a time is coming and it is very close at hand where all Christians must rise up if the secularity of Nigeria is no longer guaranteed, then we should now begin to develop what I will call a ‘Christian Democratic Party.’ It is happening in other developed climes. In Italy for several years, over 200 years, they were ruled by the Christian Democratic Party. Over there in Germany the Christian Democratic Party are in Government. So, why not in Nigeria? We are not interested in measuring height.

Recently, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (P.F.N) declared one year fasting and prayer programme against the scourge of Boko – Haram and Cattle Herdsmen. Apart from this, what other action has C.A.N taken or is contemplating in effort to curb the menace?

Traditionally, our responsibility as Christians is to pray in and out of season; whether there is trouble or not and we are not unmindful that the Christian religion has always received attack right from the crucifixion of Jesus. So, we have always prayed and the Bible makes it clear that the battle we fight as Christians is not against flesh and blood; the weapon of our warfare are not canal but they are mighty through God to the pulling down of every stronghold and it is prayer. But outside prayer; to answer directly, we have discovered as Christians that silence is no longer golden therefore, we must continue to talk. That is why the C. A. N, P.F. N is just a branch, has called conferences to denounce what is going on. You have heard me using the word ‘herdsmen’ because I no longer want to pretend. So we are not using euphemism anymore, and we don’t want to buy into government propaganda that it is a clash. The Catholic Reverend Fathers that were recently slaughtered, who were they fighting? They were in the Church. So it is not a clash but grand design to Islamize the country, and we are saying that we must mount a prophetic protest on the status quo. C. A.N is made up of five groups; the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Catholic Sectarian of Nigeria; Organization of African Sectarian Churches; all the White Garment Churches; Christian Council of Nigeria made up of Presbisterian, Anglican, Baptist e.t.c, and E.C.W.A. So, the Church is one. One of our members; the Catholic Sectarian of Nigeria, made it unequivocally clear recently when they met in Rome that if the President of Nigeria can no longer run this country as a secular State, and that he lacks the capacity both mentally, morally and otherwise, he should step aside.

Sir, some Christian leaders overtime have called on members to defend themselves. What is your thinking?

First of all, the Christian religion does not permit adherents to attack people; it is a religion of peace. But that is not to say that we should fold our hands even when under attack. We are not going to be the aggressors, but we have told our people to open their eyes; if the aggressor is coming, they should either run away or find a way to defend themselves. So, we are very clear on that matter now. And that is why we told the Nigeria Police when we met the other day; look, people have arms registered with you. For God’s sake such people should not surrender their arms. We are thinking that what they are doing now is a grand ploy to disarm the Christians who genuinely have registered their arms so that when the time of trouble comes; we will just be caught napping and be like sheep led to the slaughter slab. When we visited the Edo State House of Assembly, we told them what we feel about the prevailing situation and our stand. We are going to meet the Immigration operatives; we believe that they are not doing their job and that as we speak, there are very strange young men already surrounding us in Edo State. They are everywhere; through the nine gates of entering Benin – City, and we have drawn the attention of the security agencies to it, and that such persons should be profiled because we believe that they are not Nigerians, even if they are Nigerians, they are Islamists ready to wreak havoc when the whistle is sounded. So, we are on ground, we are shouting, and we are talking; we will say it repeatedly; our people must now be ready to defend themselves in whatever way deemed possible.

If you are privileged to advice the government on security challenges as they affect the country, what would you advice?  

I have said it before that the President by his body language is no longer in position to run affairs of the country. Senility has crept into his modus – Vivendi therefore, what is required, is that he should step aside.

 Could your statement  be an indication of the position of C.A.N towards 2019 in relation to the direction of members’ votes?

2019 is around the corner and we are saying that with the antecedents of the President who told Nigerians that there was going to be a change; that the lot of Nigerians will be better during his administration, contrarily, we have seen that is not the case. Therefore, 2019 is going to be very dicey. We have told our members not to give their votes to somebody who cannot guaranty their safety, who cannot guaranty that they have food on their table every day. That is what we have told our people in clear terms.

What is C.A.N doing in helping to facilitate the release of Shaibu Leah still in Boko – Haram captivity?

That is why we have declared publicly that the fight going on in Nigeria is between Sharia; the Muslim religion and the Christian religion Q.E.D. That is a very clear example that we point to whereas, the other ones who are Muslims were released, and the one who profess Christianity has been held back. We were to engage the President on the 11 May, 2018 but he told us all of a sudden that he was going to the United Kingdom for medical checks. So, we are waiting to him across the table that he should ensure Shaibu release immediately and you see, the world is a global village and the President should not think that he can just stay here in Nigeria or his cohorts or his ministers and tell the world what is going on in Nigeria. CNN is here, the world media; they are all here so he cannot tell them what is happening; they know firsthand.  And in the first instance in Christendom, we have the intelligentias; before the President went to America, we got there before him. And that explains why Donald Trump while he was sitting down with Buhari made it very clear that Christians are being killed in Nigeria; we are not going to allow that. He was jolted even though the American President praised him that he was doing well. So that has sent a terrible signal to the Buhari led Nigerian Government and this was made possible by our intervention.

 

What is the reaction of C.A.N regarding President Buhari statement again in America that the armed herdsmen killing people in Nigeria are Gadhafi men from Libya civil war?

Assuming that is the case, is that an excuse for not attacking and wiping them away? This same Buhari when he was G.O.C in the north during the Maitasine uprising that entered Nigeria through the Chad border; it was he that was sent to wipe them away. That Ghadafi men are responsible for the killings; is that the reason for not effectively policing our borders? Is that the reason the territorial integrity of Nigeria should not be defended? That statement of Buhari is laughable which even has further put him in bad light. So, we are engaging him. We also have the group called the Christian Elders; it is an arm of C. A.N, they are our think – tank, made up of eminent personalities across all professions. They are engaging him.

Flowing from your deposition, should we now believe that C. A. N is disappointed in the Buhari led – A.P.C administration so far? 

As a matter of fact, we are disappointed; apart from the A.P.C as a ruling party, we are disappointed in the political class. This is because C.A.N has found out that they are the same; there is no difference. They belong to the same tribe; the tribe of money sharing without conscience. They don’t have any ideology. In the time past, when you say U.P.N; Awolowo’s Action Group, what comes to mind is the principal ideology of eradication of ignorance hence the declaration of free education as far back; 1955. That was a basic ideology. This is because the Party’s belief was that when there is ignorance, the people wallow’s in abject poverty. For instance, this is why the chunk of Professors in the country today is from the West. Similarly, in the Eastern part of the country, the ruling party; National Congress of Nigeria and the Cameroun (N.C.N.C), pushed for the promotion of commerce among its people. Can one today pin – point the principal ideology of these political parties? How do you know that they are one? They may be divided on television and insulting themselves, go look when they are holding social events; they hug, and kiss. Hence, they are one and the same. So, we find it difficult to trust and believe them.

But most of these politicians are also Christians?

We have discovered over time that is the bane of Christianity in Nigeria that we still do not have one of our own in governance. The people on the corridor of power in the name of being Christians are cosmetic Christians; they are mere church goers who are not ready to defend the faith when the chips are down. You can imagine a small girl like Shaibu in the face of adversity, and death; she did not deny Jesus. This is exactly what our forbears did. In the Catholic Church, there is what is called the saints. In Hebrew Chapter 12,it is written, ‘we have a great crowd of witness.’ These are people who lost their lives for the faith we enjoy today and the young girl; Shaibu is one of them. How many Christians will be in position of authority and refuse to participate in the sharing of money? Truly they are members of one church or the other, but they are cosmetic Christians who exist only in name. Hence, we have asked our members to come out even pastors; let us identify you and we will pull resources together both morally and financially to sponsor you. Then when you get there you will be accountable to us. All the so called Christian politicians are not accountable to us, and we have told ourselves that the time has come when we should trust Jesus to take care of his own church because the people we talk about go there to steal money and come to pay for harvest and do fantastic thanks giving. They bring millions of money, we accept and clap for them and even pray for them. We have issued a statement, when we met at the Bishop Kelly Pastoral Centre, we gathered all the pastors in the land; Bishop Margaret Idahosa, Arch – Bishop of the Catholic Church, Akubeze, Papa Omobude, Osasuyi, Godspower, all of them and they were vexed in their spirit to lay curse because we identified this issue of human trafficking. A curse was laid upon any pastor whom because of pecuniary motive will begin to sponsor people across the Mediterranean sea for prostitution or to even aid and abet any politician. And we are no longer ready to accept their money; they should keep their blood money, Jesus will run his Church. Our eyes are open, we have monitoring teams. We even told the Church; those who would say; everybody come, when I see your face, they will give you visa. We told him in clear term that the Church is not a visa office. Any time that is done again, we will report such pastor to the police, ensure he is arrested and prosecuted.

From the position of C.A.N your advice to the people so that probably we can have the much desired change

The position of C.A.N is very clear. We are studying the political climate. It is very nebulous now and we are asking that Christians should open their eyes both spiritually and physically. And we are no longer going to fall prey to wolfs who put on sheep clothing whether at the national, state, or local government levels. You see, we have played the fool for long. Remember in this country when there was a Muslim-Muslim ticket, the Christians did not see it as discriminatory. We saw it as one Nigeria, we never raised any eye brow, but now we can no longer be fooled. We don’t want to begin to lament what happened in 1914. Rather, where do we go from here? Anybody who is not ready to guaranty the safety of Nigerians and ensure that they have daily bread on their table, and that they can be free anywhere in the country, we are not going to vote for such person. Instead, we will vote for a person on the platform even though we will not win, we will give our block votes as protest. They will manipulate the process but that would not be the end of life but we will have satisfied our conscience that we did not vote for him and we will be bold to say so, that you may have won as President by whatever means; we didn’t vote for you, you are on your own.

Lastly, what other method should we look out for from C.A.N to actualizing its planned action towards 2019?

Yes, it is good to preach the gospel but in any forum we find ourselves, let us now begin to enlighten our people. The followership must wake up as it is an affront to our collective intelligence for somebody to come every Christmas and begin to throw rice at people. Imagine people fighting for 12 cups of rice that have been packaged in a bag and what is the intended end; the man has an ulterior motive. So it is an affront on our collective intelligence. We can’t continue like this hence we are telling our people not to accept such rice anymore. We have told ourselves that we are not going to cheapen the Church anymore. So, this is among the modalities that we intend to deploy in addressing some of the issues and we are enlightening the followership not to be so cheap. Towards 2019, we intend to mount the rostrum; many of us could be killed. As the politicians leave the rostrum campaigning, we will mount it to ask that the people vote for Jesus; vote for someone who will hearken to their plight. Vote for someone who will know that you are hungry and would ensure you get food; one that will know there is need for the people to have decent housing and he will ensure it is available. We are aware of the plot to bribe Christians with bags of money but they will be disappointed.