Pastor Olakunle Yusuf is the chief executive officer and lead consultant, Above Productions Company. He shared his views on politics and governance, including the controversial companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA).
Nigeria just marked its 60th Independence anniversary on October 1. What is your impression on the state of the country?
Well, let us start by congratulating Nigeria and Nigerians on this historic milestone. Through thick and thin, we are together; 60 years is no joke. Having attained this height, our leaders must rethink governance. We’ve been lured into settling for average and so long, that average seems acceptable. But I believe a desire burns within the heart of many Nigerians to make a difference, to leave a mark. Unfortunately, we’ve been average for so long that when people are above average, we tend to think they are eccentric.
My worries are legion. Nigerians trust in government is in decline. After banishing military and the return of democracy in 1999, people were happy, thinking prosperity was back. Later, Nigerians’ healthy scepticism toward government deteriorated into a distrust that today appears as a rigid cynicism. Left unchecked, such a profound distrust threatening to become dangerous, undermining the viability of our democratic process. A 60-year-old individual is a full adult, who can take proper care of him/herself with grown-up children responsible and responsive. Is that the story of Nigeria at 60? Are we responsible and responsive? We are divided along ethnic and religious lines. So many fault lines. Our leaders are trying but this is never the best.
The Chinese have a saying that, translated very roughly, means, ‘First, we must name things what they are.’ Nowhere is this sentence more salient than in the subtle and sometimes confusing world of measuring and evaluating the productivity of public management. It’s never too late, we can retrace our steps and do the needful.
How do you rate the six years of President Buhari’s government especially against the backdrop of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s admonition that the country is heading towards a failed state?
There’s federal fixation in Nigeria. States and local governments must start working. Yes, he is the President of all and everything stops on his table. We must all play our parts. He is doing much with little. For instance, oil revenues tumbled immediately he was sworn in as the President. Shortly after that, we entered into unprecedented recession. We managed to scale through. Yes, some would argue these are not enough excuses. Sometimes, we need a reason beyond emotion to face reality. However, I must add that as a leader you must prioritise. You must be purpose-driven. If for instance, President Muhammadu Buhari could fix the power sector, metering every household, making it cost-effective during his second term in office, this would rub-off on other sectors. President Olusegun Obasanjo did something similar while in office. Loathe him or like him, he was able to revolutionise telecommunication sector. There was a time in this country when owning a telephone was a status symbol. Only the upper class could afford it. But now, with just N5,000, you would purchase handset and sim card of choice. This is laudable.
Now, imagine a world without GSM. Everything is done virtually. Even imagine this unusual period of the global health crisis- COVID-19 without communication. You see, advantages of what the Ota farmer did are numerous. This government could take a cue from that. Obasanjo was able to achieve this with the assistance of world-class technocrats he brought into governance. So, if such a highly placed individual in the calibre of ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo sneezes, we must all catc cold. He is not alone, Nobel laurelate, Professor Oluwole Soyinka and I dare say several Nigerians echoed these thoughts. We had never been this divided. Therefore, this line of thinking must never be handled in kid gloves.
What is your take on the accusations of ethnic and religious bias against President Buhari?
Baseless. See, Nigeria as a country is complex. And as a leader, you must act above these sentiments. You must understand the dynamics. Our president is a Northern Muslim. Vice President Yemi Osibajo is not just a Christian but a Pastor. Senate President, Northern Muslim while Deputy Senate President are Southern Christians. Are appointments into key offices lopsided? I do not think so. All these accusations are fuelled by a lack of good governance. If you asked, what do Nigerians really want? From South to West, East to North, the answer is simple: ‘good governance’. See what followed when President Buhari honoured acclaimed winner of June 12 election. Decorating him with the highest honour and declaring June 12 as a public holiday. Nigerians from all walks of life celebrated this gesture. Such humongous goodwill must not be sacrificed at the altar of politics. It shows without any shadow of a doubt that Nigerians appreciate positive and good intention. Nothing stops the government at every level to do what is central to the need of the masses. This is no rocket science!
What is your take on the new Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) regarding churches?
I was expecting this. As earlier alluded to, Nigeria is a complex entity and whatever could lead to crisis must be avoided. CAMA as an instrument of law is not bad. But that obnoxious clause would have been avoided. This ‘cut and paste’ approach to governance must stop. Those saying this is what obtained abroad miss the point. Over there, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) including churches get regular financial support from the government. If government therefore interferes, this is understandable. But in Nigeria, the story is the opposite. Look at what churches contribute as Christian Social Responsibility otherwise known as CSR. The government must as a matter of priority compliment religious bodies. Not stiffen it. Churches are not business centres; rather a place of refuge. Therefore, if a law was grumpily acknowledged by Christian leaders, then the government must take a second look at it.
But some of these Churches and worship centres are privately owned, and at best operate like business centres?
A church or worship centre could be privately established but opens its doors to expansion and worship to diverse people. For me, the intention was never to gather what the Bible referred to as filthy lucre. Let’s go back in history.
The early Christian Church began in Jerusalem and the surrounding area grew out of the Jewish tradition. Jesus and his disciples were all Jews. The first Christians, therefore, did not meet in separate churches but continued to meet in the local Jewish synagogues.
St. Paul was one of the main leaders in the early church and he believed that the good news of Jesus was for all people and not just the Jews. This belief led Paul to set up Christian churches throughout the Roman empire, including Europe and even into Africa. You can read about Paul in the Bible, in the book of Acts of the Apostles.
While business centres are solely established for making a profit, a church is established for the advancement of the kingdom of God here on earth.
Why do some Nigerians Pastors live in splendour while their congregation live in penury?
It depends on what you mean by splendour. These pastors are first human beings. I must confess that some of them had sacrificed a lot before reaching enviable heights. They are well educated. Like Pastor E.A. Adeboye, some of them hold PhDs. They do have branches all over the world. They might start very small. But as the holy book says, their latter end must be great. To the congregation, I think it is important to stop worshipping pastors. Understand your purpose. Focus on God who is the author and finisher of your faith, not any pastor. Read your bible to receive direct revelation from God.