Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
General Overseer of World Harvest Ministry, Archbishop Leonard Kawas, is the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Senatorial candidate of Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).
He speaks on his chances and why clerics are in politics.
What is a cleric doing in politics?
Well, in the Bible days there were clerics that functioned both as a king and a priest. You have King David, he was a king and a priest, our Lord Jesus Christ functioned in three offices, a priest, prophet and king. But today people feel that a priest has no role in politics which is not true. Right now as we speak, 99 percent of people when they have problems run to the cleric, they run to the church or the mosque. So, the clerics have now found themselves in a very tight corner, we find ourselves solving problems that we have already elected government officials to solve, because, many of them have negated their responsibilities so the stress on the clerics have become unbearable. That is why we feel that if we (the clerics) are busy electing them in every election year and they keep deceiving us, they get there and forget about all the promises, then it is better that we, the promise keepers, the servants of God, the men that know that the judgement of God is without partiality, take up those responsibilities so that we can help the masses. So, you are going to see an influx of clerics in politics and it is so because there is need for a rescue mission.
How will you combine politics and spirituality, especially as the General Overseer of World Harvest Ministry?
The fact is that if politics will destroy the clergy, corrupt the clergy, it means the clergy does not know who he is as a clergy. For me, I am what I am whether I am in politics or I’m a Christian. For me, combining politics and religion is beautiful because in the first place politics and being a cleric are the two ways that you can easily be a blessing to the vast majority of the people at the same time. When you are a man of God, people come to you daily with their problems and the same goes for a politician. A politician is holding a public office; you are there not for yourself but for the people. So if you have this understanding you can easily blend. So for me holding an office is a trust given to man by God to be held on behalf of the people. That is why democracy is government of the people, for the people and by the people.
For me as a founder of a church which has been in existence for 30 years, I have raised enough workers including 12 Bishops that will be running the spiritual work while I will be in politics and be supporting them with evangelistic work from time to time. But I will never relinquish my responsibility as God’s servant, it will always be there. It will show in the work we do in public office, people will know this time around that a man of God is serving them.
Why did you decide to run for a seat in the Senate?
I decided to run because of the peculiarity of the Abuja situation. One, I have lived in Abuja for 23 years; I have been a pastor in this town for 23 years. I know every nook and cranny of this city. I was not born here but I have lived here for 23 years and I have participated in all aspects of community work. There is no law that says somebody has to be born in FCT before he can run for elections. The Federal Capital Territory is for every Nigerian, there is no tribal coloration to it, it is for everybody and I am coming to serve everybody, indigene or non-indigene, in fact the indigenes will enjoy more of my service because I have lived with them, I have participated in all their activities. It will be a wonderful time and experience for them.
What are the specific issues you intend to address should you make it to the Senate?
For example, the problem we have had over the years is that the FCT has not been lucky to have good representatives at the National Assembly. We have had selfish, self-cantered, redundant, non-creative people represent us. We have had people, who are passive on the floor of National Assembly, non contributors to what is happening in the legislative arm, people who go to National Assembly to sleep, they have been caught on camera sleeping severally rather than contributing. We have people who have been there for eight, 12, 16 years and have never sponsored a bill, they have never made any contribution to any bill, and they have never raised any matter of urgent national importance. They are just there signing allowances, collecting constituency funds every quarter and there is no visible impact on the lives of the people.
For me as a clergyman that my office is flooded everyday with different people – widows, orphans, jobless youths, I feel very bad about it and I feel there is need to do something on behalf of the people. I am not yet a senator, but if you come to my school, Lekced International School, there are at least 100 children that are there on scholarship from different tribes both indigenes and non-indigenes. Through the Church that I have the privilege to oversee, and the Leonard Kawas Foundation, we have carried out free medical treatment on FCT and there are pictures to back up my claims. We take a team of doctors and nurses to different parts of the FCT at weekends to treat people for free; we also take food items to IDPs camps from time to time to cushion the effect of their suffering. I was doing all these not knowing that I will one day have anything to do with politics. I was just being myself doing what I love to do, to be a blessing to my generation. Today, a lot of people are making references to those things. In recognition of my humanitarian activities in the FCT, the Federal Government even named a street after me.
How confident are you that you will win?
Whether the party is new or old that is not the issue, the issue is who works harder, who connects with the people, and who is more acceptable to the people. Nowadays, even if a party is formed today it can win elections because people are not really after party; but the quality of candidates. When people find qualitative candidate, they don’t mind what party he belongs to, they will go and vote his party. I can tell you honestly that a lot of people regardless of religion are thanking God that I answered the call to run. So, on their own they are doing the work of sensitisation, carrying out mobilisation, and campaigning for me. It will not be difficult for me to win because the people are with me; they are helping to spread the symbol of the party from mosque to mosque, church to church.