By Simeon Mpamugoh
Senior Pastor, Rhema Deliverance Mission, Lagos Prophet Anenechukwu Nwachukwu has urged the Nigerian youth to register their own political party, saying the present crop of leaders were not ready to allow them lead the country.
He said the agitation of the Nigerian youth against the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) “rests on one common objective which is better life for all Nigerians. He spoke on various issues.
We witnessed #EndSARS protests organised by the Nigerian youth recently against the excesses of the disbanded Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS). What is your assessment of the demonstration?
I believe that anywhere in the world, youth are the same. The agitation of the Nigerian youth against police brutality rests on one common objective which is better life for all Nigerians. When you look at the slant of the protests and how they came out from different parts of the states to express their views over governments’ inability to provide employment and make life bearable for young people, you would notice that the protesters had one common objective, which is good governance. Yes, everyone saw that it was all about #EndSARS, yet it was a purpose-driven demonstration towards achieving some goals. When you mention police brutality, it has become almost a commonplace and daily occurrence. Police brutalise citizens, especially SARS operatives. They believe they are above the law. They wield arms as if it is a catapult; they shoot and kill people without punishment. Some of them operate without a name tag, putting on jean trousers, T-shirts and face caps looking like armed robbers. They will tell their victims without qualms: “I will kill you here, and nothing will happen.” We have seen those they killed and nothing happened. So, it is like Nigerians are at their mercy. When you narrow it down to the protests, it appears the general agitation is on good governance. When you have good governance, people will be gainfully employed and the youth will have their dignity. The protests were further exacerbated by unemployment, which is the heart of it. Regrettably, some hoodlums along the line cashed in on it, and turned it violent. The intention of the youth was really to call the attention of the government to their plight but it was like some hoodlums were mobilised to destabilise the once peaceful dissent and it degenerated into arson, looting, maiming and killing of people, which was not its main purpose. This is wrong and highly condemnable. I told one of my brothers when President Muhammadu Buhari disbanded SARS and replaced it with Special Weapons and Tactical Team (SWAT), that the message of the youth was not all about #EndSARS but good governance. This was what happened because after disbanding the squad, the protest continued. And the protesters were expecting Mr. President to address them; but it took him about two weeks to speak to the youth. When he eventually did, he didn’t address the killings in Lekki Toll gate hence it deteriorated to wanton destruction of public property, and looting of palliatives allegedly hoarded in different warehouses across the country. If President Buhari had made a national broadcast, assuring our youth that the government would look into their demands, and ensure they are gainfully employed, the protests wouldn’t have reached the level we witnessed.
Do you see the possibility of the spirit they exhibited during the peaceful protest encouraging youth participation in politics in 2023?
I must state that Nigerian youth are tired of hearing that they are the leaders of tomorrow. They have heard it umptheen times. When I was in secondary school in 1984, I worked hard to become a leader of tomorrow. President Muhammadu Buhari was the then Military Head of State then. I watched him on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) network news, and was told I could be like him if I study hard. In fact, I earnestly dreamt of becoming a leader of tomorrow. From 1984-2020 is about 36 years, the then Military Head of State is still the civilian president of Nigeria. When will my tomorrow come? You will notice that Buhari became Military Head of State as a youth, at the age of 41 years; Gowon was 31, and Ibrahim Babangida 44 years. If these past leaders ruled the country as youth, why should we not give opportunities to the younger generation like us to become leaders? Let me state it categorically and emphatically that those who determine events of this country do not want Nigerian youth to become leaders of tomorrow. If for instance I’m qualified to become the president, the leaders of the political parties will tell you to pay N10m for expression of interest. Who among the youth today can afford it? Secondly, the money needed to contest elections in Nigeria is huge. You will start spending from ward to the local government and down to the state levels. And anyone of your supporters would always demand money from you to mobilize group supports. All these bottlenecks are impediment to youth participation in leadership, which I think should be abolished. The way out now is for the Federal Government through the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to allow youth to register their own political party. In the manifestoes of other political parties, there should also be an age bracket of who shouldn’t contest the presidential election if the government truly wants Nigerian youth to become leaders of tomorrow. Once you are 60 years, you should not be allowed to contest. It should be from 18-59 years. Let our elder statesmen stay by the side and offer wise counsel to the youth knowing full well that their time has come and gone.
The #EndSARS protests has seen some policemen abandoning their duty posts due perhaps to the killing of their members and setting ablaze their stations. What are the short and long term effects of this to the body polity even though some of them have started returning to their beats?
Essentially, anything that happens to a man in life is for him to learn some lessons. The #EndSARS issue is an eye-opener to every Nigerian. I condemn the killing of the men in uniform and burning of police stations, which is not the aim of the protests. Some of us know that hoodlums hijacked it and made nonsense of it. I sympathise with the families of the policemen who were victims in the line of duty as well as the civilians who lost their lives fighting for good governance for entire Nigerians. These people are human beings created by God. Setting a police station ablaze does not solve the problem, instead it has reduced the morale of our men in uniform and brought it to ebb because they believe they have not been well treated and there is no doubt about it. If officers of SARS are molesting, maiming and intimidating people, there are still genuine and transparent police officers in Nigerian Police Force. In every organization, there are bad eggs. What our policemen need now is encouragement, and to heed the call by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to return to their various posts in order to perform their functions of protecting lives and property of the citizens as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I believe that some of the governors in Nigeria have done their best. Worthy of mention is the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo Olu who visited some of the victims of the protests in the hospital and condoled with families of those who lost their lives during the protest. As a leader who has the interest of Lagosians at heart, he has shown maturity and commitment. I understand he placed the families of the slain officers on scholarships and equally made cash donations.
The governor has set up judicial panel of enquiry into the killings, and those who have one way or the other suffered in the hands of officers of SARS were enjoined to turn in their petitions. However, it was reported that some members of the committee were asked to swear oaths of secrecy. Is that not against canons of freedom of expression?
First and foremost, I don’t believe there was such a thing. We have purveyors of fake news here and there. Every Nigerian is constitutionally guaranteed freedom to express his views about what happened during the protests. And if one comes to the panel, and he is limited to what to say, the person should raise an alarm; no one should be tongue-tied from speaking out. One can also grant a press interview after the meeting that he was a participant at the panel but was not allowed to say this or that and I’m sure Nigerians will be united in condemning it. But as we speak, nobody has come up to say that; so for me, it is rumour which cannot stand the test of time.
Anambra State election is coming up next year. What are your views about the election?
I can assure you that the 2021 election in Anambra State is not going to be among the trio of Obiano, Ngige and Obi but light and darkness. Peter Obi was a good governor ditto Chris Ngige but that does not mean they have a monopoly of who will emerge standard bearer of their political parties. The people of Anambra State are wiser now than before. And politics of 2021 in the state is no longer about parties but individuals. Nigerians are also wiser today than 2015. Gone were the days when they say one party is leprous and the other is our party in the state. People pay more attention now to individuals. I foresee a new governor in Anambra State as someone who has not been in politics before; he has not been tested in the nation’s political waters. He is a successful businessman to the core who is emerging from a strange place where people never believed a governor could be produced and by the grace of God, he will push Anambra State to greater height.
In August 7, President Buhari signed the Companies and Allied Matters bill into law. The Act was reviewed with the introduction of 247 additional sections, which affect churches. What is your reaction considering that churches are regarded as NGOs abroad?
Government has a major responsibility to look after the welfare of the people, rather than meddling into the affairs of the churches. If you look at the churches today, you will observe that some of them are well managed than some states in Nigeria. Let’s look at Winners Chapel run by Bishop David Oyedepo for instance; he has a group of schools and large congregations. And there has not been a day it was heard he owed his workers salaries or his bank were insolvent. A visit to Canaan land will reveal a city with 24/7 electricity supply, and members are being transported to and fro with church buses, jus like we do in our church. Also there has never been a day there is uproar, demonstration within the church or members fighting and throwing chairs because they want to elect a new general overseer. Everybody is happy and the church is moving foºrward. We have never heard lecturers of the university are on strike over unpaid salaries; the church is being managed by an individual, but in our publicly managed universities, it has become a norm for ASUU to go on strike every year, shutting down universities such that a course one has to do in four years drag on to six years. I believe the government’s focus should be on providing better standards of living for civil servants rather than legislating on the affairs of churches. If the government wants to get at someone they perceived as an enemy, it shouldn’t be by legislation, thus drawing backward what God is using people to do for humanity. The government of the church is theocratic not democratic. It is an entity of its own, flourishing as evidenced by the likes of Enoch Adeboye of Redeemed Christian Church of God, which has in place good leadership, infrastructure of good roads, electricity supply and solar energy with branches spread in different parts of the country. Since many of these churches began, there has never been any petition against their leaders or Board of Trustees (BoT) over corruption charges. So, why is the government sticking their nose in their affairs? Government should rather focus on politicians who are stashing money away in foreign accounts, buying private jets and estates by probing them instead of non-governing organizations like churches, which is an institution on its own.