Human Mind @ Centre Of Ntn’l Devt, That’s Were We Invest – Bishop Ighele

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Bishop Charles Ighele

Superintendent of Holy Spirit Mission (HSM), Akowonjo, Lagos, popularly known as Happy Family Centrewith over 70 branches across the country, speaks to journalists on the state of the nation, challenges of insecurity, what needs to be done to turn the tide, the 2023 general elections, among other issues in the country. Odinaka Uruakpa brings excepts:

With your background in political science, can you tell why it is not possible for Nigerians to enjoy the dividends of democracy?

When we see how nations develop, there are times when things can become tough. This is the time. I believe that any of the three leading candidates in the 2023 presidential election will have the ability to rule this nation better than it has been. Any one of them has the capacity of making things better than they have been. It is said that our nation is going through the state of nature. I believe we can get out of it. In Rwanda, it was challenging for them some decades ago, and thankfully, they got out of it strong. We will get out of our present quagmire.

It is also instructive to note that the quality of elites of any nation will determine how far the country will go. To be frank with you, most of our elites in Nigeria think more of themselves and of their class. We live in a country where the law and the institutions established favour the elites more than the masses. Elites both at the village, local government, state and federal levels think more of themselves. For instance, some states that are struggling to survive and do not have money are building airports, and perhaps, it is when the governor is going to Abuja that an aircraft will land there. These airports are not commercially viable. This kind of project does not benefit the masses. So, when elites think that way, the people will not be able to enjoy the dividends of democracy.

We live in a state where there is one system for the poor and another for the rich. There are schools and medical facilities meant for the poor and there are also schools and medical facilities meant for the rich. Until we have elites across the board that love and care for the masses, we are not going to reach our promised land. Look at our primary and secondary schools; it has not helped human being to be more civilised, live a better life, live responsibly, see life as sacred, and exhibit ethics. The system makes people be more bush than they were. At any little provocation, they are ready to fight and die.

Recall that members of Idiginous People of Biafra (IPoB) asked the Deeper Life General Superintendent to call off his global crusade in Aba, what are your thoughts on this?

Well, it is not only happening in the East. It did not start with IPoB. There are places where you could hold crusades in this country that now you can’t do crusades there at all. Whether it is in the stadium or any public place, don’t think about it. The best is to hold programmes in the church. It did not start with IPoB. I do not say that it is right; it is just a system collapse.

The government seems to have lost control concerning security in the country. What is the implication of this for the Nigerian state and its democracy?

When a country loses its power to terrorists, it is an indication that the country has failed. The instrument of violence or war should be in the hands of the country, but when we see militia, bandits everywhere, and kidnappers everywhere, it is disturbing. If you look at it, it is like that in the Niger Delta, in the South-East, and it is the same across the regions. Irate youths are running riot and we seem helpless. They manifest themselves in different manners and in different ways. That shows a state or country that needs to reinvent itself; a country where its leadership has failed totally. Whosoever will come up as Nigeria’s next President has to be strong to face these challenges. A nation should monopolise the instrument of violence and it is not so here. To travel by road is a problem. To travel by train; people are afraid. We never thought this nation would be like this, it’s so sad. Unfortunately, our leaders don’t learn. We had a nationwide protest in Nigeria, and it is instructive to say if what led to the protest is not addressed, we may be in for more unrest. In 1978, I played a major role in the national student demonstration that Ali must go, under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. I took part in the protest because we discovered that education was getting out of the reach of the poor. My father could afford my fees, but I realised that it was getting out of the reach of the poor. I demonstrated, but now instead of reforms, the systems have gone down. You will not find a British or US citizen studying in Nigeria unlike in our days when we were in school. What people fight for is not addressed, and if they are, they are just palliatives, and palliatives will not bring about development.

Whoever becomes president in the next general elections, let them come up with a committee that will look at all the protests that had taken place in the past, compile them, and look at the reason for the protest, and come up with reforms, changes that will bring about the needed development. By the time the leader does this, the agitation will stop. Things are bad, and the next leaders must sit up. The next president must go beyond infrastructure development and invest in humans because the quality of the human mind is at the centre of national development.

The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) president was in Lagos recently and disclosed that the fellowship would speak on the forthcoming general elections; what card is the fellowship flying this time around?

PFN is a fellowship of a recognised body of Pentecostal churches in Nigeria. So, over the years, different churches have taken different stances on who to vote for where matters of elections come up. Even when the outgoing Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo, emerged in 2015, the church took a different stance which you know. Some people told their members to vote for him (Osibanjo) while some told their members to vote for former President, Goodluck Jonathan, as others are apolitical. They were not interested in the process. That is how it has always been. Specifically, some went for APC because of Osibanjo while some for Goodluck Jonathan. No order from PFN for the church to vote for Osibanjo or Jonathan. I know that PFN members have political sympathy for some. When we meet, the different sympathies were there. We still went on as the body of Christ in this country.

We, the leaders went on, despite the fact that we had different people that we supported. So, it is expected in the coming election. It is not going to be an issue, churches voted the way they felt things should go. I don’t think it will be an issue this time. When someone like Tunde Bakare contested with Buhari, it was not an issue. When Chris Okotie contested, it was not an issue.

Looking at the attack and gruesome murder of worshippers at St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, is the church under attack?

We have branches of our church all over the country. We have our churches in the areas where they (terrorists) have attacked; here and there. We are not afraid of terrorists. When as a people, we are afraid, sorry, the nation has been overwhelmed. Whatever we do, we do it with care and a sense of security. In the book of Nehemiah, while they were building, one hand was building while the other hands were with a sword girded by their side. As a church, we tell our people to have a sense of security and to know when danger lurks in. In our case, we try to make our churches to be community-friendly. That is a different way we try to affect the community positively in terms of giving food to the poor and empowering the people. With that, when the church is friendly and when there is a problem, the community defends the church. That is how we have been running our churches over the period. People who we don’t know come to our churches for help and what we have, we share. During the lockdown period, we tried to distribute food to the poor in the community. For me, community-friendly is the best form of defense. I have my friends and mission in the north that is always prepared and alert in case. But the attack in Owo should not be a source of worry for us in Lagos. The challenge is that if you employ four security operatives and you have bandits in their tens and twenties coming to attack a church, it is obvious that the security operatives will run. The government must up its game in protecting the people.

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