“I also feel that it is an ungodly thing for us to use a man’s sickness to wish him evil. When our president was sick, we all prayed for him to be well”
Tony Osauzo, and Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
The President, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Dr Felix Omobude, is a man who does not play to the gallery. He calls a spade a spade.
In this interview, he bared his mind on the state of affairs in the country, giving kudos and knocks where necessary. He urged all Nigerians to contribute their quota to build a virile nation.
Tell us your mind concerning the state of affairs in Nigeria today, sir?
A lot is happening; there are challenges of economy, there are challenges politically, there are challenges socially. How we handle the economy is important. I believe that we have come a long way and we have what it takes to make it work out. I believe that Nigeria has a future, a great nation with human and natural resources. But the problem has been that of management.
Nigeria is presently rated among the world’s poorest nations. What is your take on this?
Well, the average Nigerian is really not concerned as much with the world’s index, but it is important for us in assessing the performance of a government to ask; are we making progress or we are retrogressing? We have fallen so much as to be among the poorest nations is not something to glory about. The average Nigerian knows that life is getting harder by the day, and to have a meal on the table is becoming more difficult. So, we call on the government at all levels to assuage the pains of Nigerians, and that should be done as urgently as possible.
Are you pleased with the methods being used in tackling the security situation in the country today?
To be fair to the Buhari-led government, I believe they have tried in the area of battling with the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast. While we can agree that Boko Haram is not completely decimated, we can also agree with the government that a lot has been accomplished and I give them credit for it, but there is still a lot to be done. When you talk about security generally, Nigeria has not been as violent as we have it today. Recent reports said Nigeria is the third most terrorized nation in the world, and apart from Boko Haram, kidnapping is on the increase, herders/farmers clashes have been on the rise, a lot of innocent blood has been shed on Nigeria’s soil and very sadly, those who did this things are walking about free.
What is your advice to the government on the way forward?
The primary responsibility of any government is to ensure the security and safety of her citizens. If the government cannot provide that then the government has failed in its primary responsibility. The government should rise up to the challenge, equip our security agencies to be able to tackle this menace. Just a few days ago, one of my church members was among the five people that were kidnapped. It is happening all over the country. We can’t continue like this. So, the government should equip the police, equip the other security services for them to deal with this menace that has come on our land. I also think it is time to decentralise the police so that there can be local government police, state police, to handle those local problems. It is too much to be centralised in one place. We call on the government to act speedily on decentralising the police.
Many believe that the anti-corruption war of this government is selective, while others believe that the government is doing well, what is PFN’s opinion on this?
We must all agree that corruption has reduced this country to the floor, and that is the truth. It is cancer that needs to be dealt with in the country. And I must commend President Muhammadu Buhari for at least, identifying it and making attempt to fight the scourge. I commend him because no one has come up to say that Buhari himself has some skeletons in his cupboard, I commend him for that. But the method with which the war is being fought, we are worried that APC seems to become Noah’s Ark that if you run into it, the flood of anti-corruption will not meet you. We are worried about that. We are worried that people who we know, who have governed or want to govern this country at various levels and are known to the people, once they decamp to the ruling party, the lenses of EFCC seem turn away from them. That is very worrisome. We are worried that the anti-corruption organs seem to be a tool in embarrassing the opposition. It is something we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to look into very quickly. We hope for an anti-corruption system that is not tied to the apron string of any of the ruling government, it should be truly independent, it should go all out and investigate purely independently. We also feel very strongly that the sources of money for political campaigns should be looked into because it is open secret that the money they are using in hiring jets, both in the 2015 election and this (2019) election, comes from somewhere. So, such money should be looked into and investigated.
2019 is just about two months away, how prepared is the church for the general election?
I believe that like all Nigerians, we should all have our hands on the deck to ensure a free, credible election in 2019. President Muhammadu Buhari has again given his words that it will be free and fair and we hold him by that. INEC should play her role, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu must understand that he has his name at stake and should know that all Nigerians are looking at what he is going to do. All the INEC commissioners and staff should do a credible service to the nation by being fair, by being just, by being honest and dedicated to their task and ensure that the election comes up freely and fairly as we all expect.
Would you say that the signals coming from various sides point towards a credible election or otherwise?
I want Nigerians to be patient and do their own part well. If you are an election monitor or a journalist or an INEC official, do your work creditably well, it is a national assignment, so they should do their job well. But I think it is too early to say whether there is any doubt, I think all those concerned are working towards 2019 and so, we should give INEC a chance. And also don’t forget that in this nation, it is only in few cases that we have had people lose elections and accept defeat. We love to see a situation where when you know that you have fairly lost out, you congratulate the winner and so, we move on. But it has always been a battle, as people lose, they either blame the system or blame the position. We think that former President Jonathan set a pace that people should emulate.
What’s your take on the issue of whether President Buhari is alive or that the one we have now is fake?
For me, I believe that the Buhari we have as president is our president. I don’t know whatever those thinking otherwise the basis for their belief, but for me, I believe the one we have is President Buhari. Again, I also feel that it is an ungodly thing for us to use a man’s sickness to wish him evil. When our president was sick, we all prayed for him to be well and as far as I and our fellowship are concerned, we genuinely prayed for his recovery and I believe that God answered our prayers and we are happy for that.
What is the role of the church in nation building?
The church remains in partnership with government in any project that is aimed at lifting the standard of the people. The church stands for truth and justice. When government stands for what is right, the church stands to encourage it. The church is against oppression of any kind, the church must stand against any act of any government that enslaves the people. So, the church speaks as the mouthpiece of the ordinary person. The church intercedes to God for divine guidance for those leading the people, the church educates the people, the church is involved in the social emancipation of the people and we’ll continue to do that.
Why are Christian leaders becoming cold in pressuring the government to do more to secure the release of Leah Sharibu, one of the Dapchi school girls who was held back by Boko Haram because of her faith?
We have never ceased on calling on the government to do everything within its power to release Leah from captivity. Leah’s case is a soured grape in the mouth of the government in this country. If they had just kept her without proffering reasons for keeping her behind, one will say well, it is like that, but to say because she failed to renounce her Christian faith, that shows the imbalance, the injustice in the country today. Recently, the president of our nation, Muhammadu Buhari, reaffirmed that he would work hard to ensure Leah’s release alongside others that are in captivity. We hold him by his word and I believe that he is working hard and that Leah will be released soon.
Prominent church leaders have been enmeshed in partisan politics in recent times. What is the role of PFN in correcting this?
Don’t forget that every human being is a political animal and people have their political persuasion and they have legal rights to assert that political persuasion. But as the President of the PFN, I ensure that the PFN is apolitical because people in PDP, people in APC, people in other political parties are our children and members. The PFN amplifies our position, the kind of leaders that we want. Nigerians are tired of politics of ‘give them bag of rice’ and sew the same Aso Ebi for them. We want that one dealt with.
Nigerians are not asking for too much, Nigerians want to put on their switch and have electricity, Nigerians want to turn their faucet on and see water. When we were growing up in this city, we were going to public water tap to fetch water. Do you still have any of such today? No! People are digging boreholes all over the places because of the absence of government’s provisions. The church stands to see this corrected. I can tell you, I wouldn’t have gone to school if not for government policy of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Here I am today, I’m expressing myself, I’m addressing you because government policy made it possible for me to go to school. When I see a number of children roaming the streets, you go to the Northeast, all this tension and crisis and killings that we are seeing, came about basically from the negligence of successive governments in training our future generations.
So, the PFN amplifies our position. I don’t care where you come from, we are in need of a government that can make these basic provisions available for our people and I don’t care what party that is.
How do you rate the performance of this present administration in the area of security and provision of social amenities?
Let me call on the Nigerian populace to learn to hold government accountable, especially when they come to you and promise you what they are going to do if you vote for them. When you vote for them, ask them, you promised x, y, z, why have you not delivered? When this government came in, $1 was about N170 in 2015. Now, what is it today? It is N360 to $1. Whether that is a pass mark, it is left for Nigerians to judge. When this government came in, without being sensational, Nigerians were buying petrol at N87, what is it today? Is that the change that we wanted? When this government came in, some local governments were still under the control of Boko Haram and to their credit, at least, from what I hear, no local government is presently under the total control of insurgency and I give them credit for that. But, between yourself and myself, are you getting electricity better today than in 2015? I live in the GRA, I spend much more, running my generator than what it was in 2015. This is the truth, I’m not saying this to fault the government, but this is the truth. There has been no positive change! If the naira is now 360 to one dollar and wages of workers have not been increased, technically, today’s worker is getting less than 50 per cent of what he got in 2015. That is the truth. So, Nigerians must learn to hold their government accountable for their actions. Democracy provides that every four years as it is in Nigeria, they come to you, ask the right questions.
But in spite of all these, are there reasons for Nigerians to be hopeful?
Of course, Nigerians should be optimistic. We are very godly and religious people, we must look to the future with hope. Nigerians are very determined people. All over the world, wherever they are, Nigerians shine, we weather the storm. I will call on Nigerians, since we have this opportunity offered us by democratic process to vote in credible people, not because he is from my town or he is from my ethnic or religious group. Set agenda for your political leaders and hold them accountable. Vote in credible people who will not deceive you, and be ready to work hard with them. No politician has a magic wand, Nigeria must be willing to change the tide against her by doing her best and everyone of us contributing his or her quota to build a virile nation, and I wish all Nigerians a happy Christmas and a prosperous year, 2019.