■Satan used Paul Emeka –Amawo, General Secretary
By CHIDI OBINECHE
IN the 80-plus years that the Assemblies of God has existed in Nigeria, right from 1934 when it was founded in the country, it has been a vibrant Pentecostal church, noted for its evangelistic fervor.
It has produced many notable ministers of the gospel, who in due time moved on to establish successful ministries. As always happens when a pebble is thrown into a very calm pool of water, ripples spread out. For the past two years, Assemblies of God has treated Nigerian Christendom to a ripples of controversies as the battle for leadership of the church raged in the media and the courts. The rumbling in the leadership group finally erupted liked a volcano when the General Superintendent, Rev. Prof Paul Emeka was suspended and purportedly excommunicated by a faction of the General Council of the church, opening a floodgate of confusion, disorder and endless litigations. The once cohesive church is now lying prostrate, viciously battered and fragmented. Sunday Sun serves you the stories from the leaders of the two factions, in their own words.
Rev Dr Godwin Amawo, General Secretary speaks
Can you give us a brief overview of the crisis in Assemblies of God?
At the time the crisis started, I was the District Superintendent of Eket District and also a member of the Executive Committee (EC). I had the privilege of witnessing the crisis from the beginning till now. At the time, Dr Paul Emeka was our General Superintendent and Chairman of the Executive Committee. If the crisis had been handled with sincerity, honesty, and fear of God, we would not be where we are today. In our attempts to resolve the issues, 11 members of the EC charted a roadmap, which require the EC to look at the matter from the level of the executive officers and then invite the Ambassadors of the Kingdom, who actually wrote the petition against Paul Emeka and by implication the then Executive Committee. But Paul Emeka and two others who shared his views took the contrary position that the four general officers and the EC should look at and then address the Ambassadors without hearing from them and without them hearing from us. We rejected this arrangement, on the grounds that it was not in accord with civilized practice. Emeka declared the meeting deadlock: a situation where you had 11 people against three in the EC. Given our overwhelming majority, we decided to follow the roadmap. When we regrouped for the meeting, we observed that there was no reference at all to the word ‘deadlock’ in the minutes. I drew the attention of the house to the omission, but Emeka denied that he never said anything like that. I nearly suffered a heart attack. I threatened to leave the Executive Committee, but the two others who were with him confirmed that he really uttered the word. So he apologized over the lingering crisis. This was on March 5, 2014. We thought that would be the end of the crisis. No sooner than he apologized, he stood up again and said, “By the way, why am I apologizing? Apologizing for what? Secretary, I know you were waiting to write that. Don’t write it. I withdraw the apology.” The following day, he was suspended, because he refused to attend the General Committee meeting.
Was the suspension done in line with laid down rules and regulations of the church?
The decision to suspend him was 100 per cent in conformity with rules of the church. The Assemblies of God is not a one-man church. There are rules and laid down procedure. We have congregational style of governance. We follow due process. If there is a crisis or if there are allegations, we set up a panel to look into such matters and report to the house. We inherited a disciplined church from our fathers. Emeka himself used to set up panels. This time around, we followed that principle. Even the retired officers of the Executive Committee like Rev. Osueke and others met and said that the way out was to allow the General Committee (GC) to meet and deliberate since the then Executive Committee could not handle it. Emeka being the Chairman of the General Committee frustrated all the processes and refused to convene it. Instead he banned all meetings: the retiree officers, the Ambassadors and the 11-member EC. He began publishing decrees like a typical dictator. Anyway, the General Committee was convened and we expected him to come and clear himself. Instead of coming to the GC meeting, he went to court and obtained an injunction against the meeting. In our church, Article 2 of no 21 says nobody should take the church to court for any reason because we have a process of adjudicating on matters. This is also in accordance with 1st Corinthians, chapter 6, which says that we should not take the church to court. We should not take the brethren to court. We have wise men, knowledgeable enough to handle matters. For taking the church to court, he was suspended. He also suspended people when he was General Superintendent. Who breached the constitution? When we set up a panel, he went back to court and got an injunction restraining the panel from sitting.
With deep insight, what do you think is behind this crisis?
I would say it is the devil. He used Emeka. I say this unequivocally. When you hear a Christian saying, ‘I cannot sit with them, I cannot talk with them, they have hurt my pride,’ these are satanic words. Emeka refused to apologize or even dialogue. That is unchristian. A Christian is not supposed to talk about his pride, talk about his ego. If he was transparent in all his dealings, why should he obtain an injunction against the sitting of the panel that came to investigate him? No one has immunity in the church.
Talking about transparency, does he have issues with money?
Oh, certainly. Concerning the purse of the church and the university, Emeka used to say, especially concerning our purse in the church and the university, he used to say, “I don’t care what the NUC (National Universities Commission) says; I don’t care what the Central Bank says. I am the General Superintendent of Assemblies of God, Nigeria, I need cash. Give me cash when I need it. Give me money when I need it. Did they give him the cash?
I was not an officer, but an EC member. Truly I cannot give a full account of what happened with the German property. When we came on board and he announced it, I challenged him and asked how he solely decided to invest so much money in the German property. Are we richer than Assemblies of God, USA? We have projects in Nigeria that need funds such as our university and Evangel camp. We have churches to plant. We asked him why he should go all the way to Germany to buy a property? Rev Ejike Ejim who is now the Senior General Superintendent also condemned it. Other EC members condemned the acquisition of the German property because it did not follow due process. Surprisingly when we came for the next meeting, all the things we said regarding the German property were not reflected in the minutes, we did not see what we said in the minutes. So on the eve of his suspension, when he brought the transaction, I stood up and asked, ‘Why is it that you are bringing this thing to us now? A transaction that took place three years ago, in January 2011, you are bringing the receipt now. Do you intend to make me your witness? I then said: “I, Godwin Akpan Amawo will not be a witness in this matter. Take this document to those that accused you. Go and defend yourself there. We did not see that document until March 5, 2014. He never consulted us.