We will die as martyrs to resist islamization of Nigeria —Rev. Fr. Abaka
Firebrand Catholic priest, Rev Fr Abaka in this interview held in his office at the FUPRE, Ugbomro, Effurun, spoke to Spy News Online Editor, Jon Egie, on a number of issues of national concern. We serve you the excerpts for your savour.
Kindly introduce yourself sir.
My name is Rev Father Abaka Oghenejode (Ph.D), I am the Chaplain of St John Chaplainry of Federal University of Petroleum Resources and also the Head of Department, Public Affairs of the university. I was born in Warri, I attended primary and secondary school in Warri, and so I am a Wafarian by any standard.
As a priest who is versed in the scripture, there are biblical prophecies about the end of time, going by the realities in the world today with cases of wars, hunger, pestilences; do these portend the fulfillment of the biblical prophecies of the end of time?
The end of time is a mystery that is in the mind of God and only God knows when and how. There are different interpretations given to the end of time but I think that is something that supersedes human intelligence. Christ has emphasized that point severally in scriptures that nobody knows the time or the hour. The time and the hour belong to God. We can talk about it, brainstorm and give our various interpretations based on the doctrines of our various churches, but it is only proper fit that we work within the framework of the teachings of the church which does not specifically define the end of time. There are many strange things happening in the world today and people can there from interpret that God is going to destroy the world with all these strange, fearful and wicked things that are happening in the world today. But no one can tell and predict the end of time that is something that supersedes the intelligence of man, it is a mystery and nobody can interpret the mind of God.
Recently a coalition of groups of Northern youths gave quit notice to the Igbo in the northern part of Nigeria, what do you think would be the political and economic impact this will have on the Nigeria State and the Church?
In the first place, let us go back to our old National Anthem which tells us that though tribes and tongues may differ in brotherhood we stand, on this plane of the old National Anthem I begin my discourse on the question of the IBO being asked to quit the northern part of this country, I think all that is unnecessary. It is unnecessary because we all belong to this nation and we must all work together to see the economic, political, social, human capital and infrastructural development of Nigeria as a country. All that will go a long way to accept and bring about the transformation of the living standard of Nigerians. No section of the country has the right to say that one particular section of the country should vacate their area. All that negate the unity and oneness that we truly deserve in Nigeria today to make our country a great nation. But, to some extent we find that there is social exclusion of some tribes in the country and except there is social recognition of every part of this country and then we work together as a team to build our country, we will not be able to achieve anything meaningful. And then the restructuring that we are talking about, there is a need for this country to be restructured based on the last national confab recommendations which were made by Nigerians from different parts of Nigeria and if they have made the recommendations for restructuring, I think it is imperative on the government to implement the restructuring of this country because all that is predicated on a very solid foundation that will work for the common good and the greatness of this country. If you send some people from a part of this country it affects economically because, the Ibos, of course, they are traders and they have assets in the North; if you send them away how do they begin? So I think we need to practice the system of inclusion in the context of carrying every one along, we must work together as brothers and then that will go a long way to bring our country Nigeria to great heights. You know Nigeria is a country that is blessed in both human and natural resources and equity demands that the distribution of the gains from our country should be shared; and we must also put into consideration the very fundamental things that we need in terms of water, light, roads, health education. It is imperative on the local governments and the States to see what can be done to alleviate the sufferings and pains of Nigerians.
With the menace of Boko Haram and the threat of the coalition of groups of youths in northern Nigeria, do you think the Church has been disturbed and will the Church still be disturbed?
Many churches have been burnt, many Christians have been killed; the Church has been disturbed even in some other Muslim areas where mosques and villages have been destroyed by the Boko Haram, the Catholic church has refugee camps where we look after them, whether you are a Muslim or Christian or atheist all that does not count in terms of support to the society; the Catholic Church has always done that. We are not trained to kill people, bomb people as suicide bombers, and burn churches of other people. Christians don’t do that, it is not our culture. By our religion, practice, culture and tradition we don’t do things like that and that is no sign of weakness rather it is a sign of spiritual maturity and there cases when the Christians get really annoyed to the extent of wanting to revenge but their Bishops discourage them not to do such things because it is not part of our upbringing, to do that is to do something that is shameful before God so we don’t but that does not mean that we are weak.
It is on record that Turkey was once a Christian country before it was overrun by Muslims; going by the posture of Christian upbringing and display of spiritual maturity one day Muslims will over run Nigeria and Islamise the country through the much hyped Islamisation Agenda?
Turkey was a Christian country in the past but today it has changed completely but the fact that it has happened in Turkey and some other countries does not mean it can happen in Nigeria, that you are going to overrun the church in Nigeria and then Islamize the country, it will not work because the Christians will resist, when it gets to that extent we will resist and then we are ready to die as martyrs. I profess what I know and what I believe in, you don’t force religion on people. Religion is what you believ in, it is what you want to live, it makes meaning to you to practice your faith in this perspective, there is no way you can force the Christians to accept Islam in Nigeria, we are ready to die when it comes to that extent and it si not going to be possible in this country. If that is what they think it will never work, not in Nigeria except they are going to kill all the Christians, kill all of us then it will work.
Did you see the mass killing of Christians in Southern Kaduna as a systematic way of eliminating Christianity from that area?
I remember there was a meeting in Kaduna, at that meeting the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, His Eminence, John Onayinko with the former Head of State, Gen Abdulsalam; the Bishop of Sokoto, Matthew Kukah and then with the governor of Kaduna State, Malam El Rufai; I strongly believe that the governor of Kaduna State has some questions to answer about the killings of Christians in Southern Kaduna. It was a cordial meeting held to redress the happenings in Kaduna and I think that the Christians too could do otherwise, they could go and burn mosques but in the Catholic faith we listen to our bishops whatever they say is what you do and you can never find any Catholic bishop any where asking people to go and fight. The Kaduna issue has been there for a very long time it now becomes imperative on the Muslim leaders to speak to their people because what they are doing will lead to the division of this country and nobody wants that. You see the Christian leaders always preaching peace and what can be done to redress the issues despite the fact that most of them are dying. In governance you don’t support any body. As chief security officer of the State you are in charge of the State and anything that concerns anybody in the State concerns you.
The Bible says the heart of the king is in the hands of God, do you see the hand of God in the affairs of Nigeria today?
I strongly believe that God is with us. If God was not with us this country would have been divided. The fact that we are not divided despite the challenges and conflicts everywhere is a sign that God is with us and that all of us should look at that sign on the wall that God is with us despite all the trials we have been passing through and to a large extent you still find people talking about peace, reconciliation, restructuring, the common good and unity of the country; all that goes to show that God is with us. For example, you find a man like our former Head of State, Gen Yakubu Gowon goes about the whole country with his group called Pray- Nigeria, and they go everywhere and pray for peace in the country. That is a sign of a great man witnessing to the gospel of Christ. He has never mentioned one day that there should be division or getting angry to utter very poor utterances. We all should work in that direction and there should be respect for people and tribes. All the problems we are passing through today are because of social exclusion, you don’t exclude anybody, and we all have rights as Nigerians. Preferential treatment should not be given to a particular sect within the country, no!
Father, your voice is one of the revered voices in Delta State but in this your home State especially in this Okowa administration, there is palpable and tangible suffering that can be felt in the streets; local government workers are owed salaries up to 13 months, primary school teachers are owed up to four months, there are tax levies on the tomato seller, there is suffering across every sector of the State; given the opportunity as one of those whose voice is revered in the State, how would you advise Governor Okowa?
Well, I have great respect for my governor, His Excellency Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, as my governor he deserves my respect and prayer, he deserves my encouragement and support but for these workers that have not been paid for over eight or nine months that I cannot understand. I cannot imagine how a man can live for nine months, ten months without salaries and he has a wife and children, the children need to go to school, he has to pay school fees and he too has to pay house rents and so on and so forth. It is unimaginable; I don’t know what to say about that. I think the government should find a way to pay salaries to the local government. Actually, I have always wanted the local government salaries to be paid directly to them. Why should it pass through the States? The local government councils were created so that they would have impact at the grassroots level and if the federal allocations do not come directly to the local governments then it will have no impact, and this id the responsibility of the National Assembly to make it possible that the local government allocations goes directly to them. You are a priest working in the church and you have a parishioner working in the local government they cannot feed they cannot do anything, it is a pain. There is a school in Alegbo where the gatemen have not been paid salaries for a very long time, gatemen; wives could run away, children could do anything because there is no control, all that will go a long way to affect the society again because there is no proper formation because they need to eat so they can do anything; they go stealing, they can prostitute, they do anything and all that is not good for the society. It is very sad that the local governments have not received salaries for so long. I want to believe that it is not easy for the governor, there must be many challenges right there before he came in, we know that, but he should find a way to make sure that the salaries are paid. If you go to the local government councils you find that the places are not functional, deserted, the workers cannot pay transport to work and so son and so forth. The governor should find a way to alleviate the pains and suffering of the local government workers.
To round up this interview you know that Nigeria stands on the props of ethnicity, as a federal institution does ethnicity play a vital role in the running of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources in terms of staffing and admission of students?
This is a federal institution and because it is a federal institution the workers should come from all parts of the country. The only thing there is that for the junior staff, when we want to employ cleaners and gardeners, drivers and so on, we take them from the host community just to support the community and give them sense of belonging and this is line with federal government regulation to give such menial jobs to the catchment area. But apart from that when you talk about the professors and other senior staff there is nothing like ethnicity here. The Vice Chancellor is an Esan man, the deputy Vice Chancellor is from Effurun, the Bursar is from Bayelsa, the Librarian is from Urhobo and then the Deans of the colleges; one is Delta from Agbor and the other one is from Bayelsa; they cut across board, there is no ethnic rivalry in this school.
Thank you very much sir.