Gyang Bere, Jos
The Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Plateau State, Rev. Fr. Polycarp Lubo, has said that CAN would not take side with any political party ahead of the 2023 general elections. He said that the role of the church is to pray for the emergence of credible leaders and to advise politicians to stick to their manifestos of improving the living standard of the poor masses. Excerpt:
You said CAN will not be silent over killings in Plateau and Nigeria, how do you intend to handle the situation given the fact that it has persisted for decades?
Well, CAN is an umbrella organization for Christians in the country and we will always stand for justice and the right of the people. Anywhere there is oppression and suppression of justice, there is bound to be violence; therefore, as far as we are concerned, we will always stand for justice in the interest of peace. I have always said that nobody have the monopoly of violence, even in the Arabic law there is where it is written that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but if we are to allow that, the world will go wild. Also, in Christiandom, there is a golden rule, do to others what you want others to do to you, if we are to live by this golden rule, we will all live in peace, but if we have a situation where there is a selective justice in the society or if we have a situation where the other religion is protected more than the other, then we will have to speak out because something is wrong, but if we do not speak then it will show that we have accepted defeat or we have allowed the wrong to prevail over what is right. For Christians, we live based on Christian ethics, where justice must prevail, injustice must be condemned, unity must be encouraged and sense of understanding with other religions must be promoted, that is inter-faith. When we collaborate with one religion and the other, people who perpetrate evil will not have a place in the society.
Since the 2001 Jos crisis where most churches were burnt, destroyed and many people were displaced, some are still wallowing without homes, how do you intend to help their situation under your leadership?
We have not been quiet about what is happening in the state and we will continue to talk on the need to address their situation. For the N10 billion that was promised through the Vice President, we have not heard about the money, the state and Federal Government will have to make clarification on that. On the issue of internally displaced persons, as Christians, we live as brothers and sisters, most of the displaced persons in Plateau don’t stay in IDPs camps, they live with their relations in their houses. Government has taken a measure to rebuild their burnt houses and take them back, I am happy that government is doing something serious about it, but I don’t know how far they have gone. In have not gone there, but we will do a thorough follow up to ensure that things are done in the right way. We will soon visit the village to see things for ourselves, if they have not done anything, we will put pressure to ensure that something is done. On the issues of people not going to their farms due to fear, it is still a problem, I have been attacked by the Fulani myself. We don’t know where the kind of Fulani we are having today are coming from, but they Fulani we know before now are people that we live together, we do inter-marriages, we were living in peace, we don’t know where this issues came from. Today, if a native sees a Fulani man coming close to him, he beleives that he is going to be attacked, so that mutual trust is no longer there and it has created room for division. Also, the Fulani are being careless with people’s farm where their cows feed on the crops and that has also been a serious challenge; by the time you attack the Fulani man, his cows will be scattered and when you have a good farm, they will grass freely on it, there should be a mutual trust between the natives, the Fulani, the Muslims. We will speak about these issues and ask the government to do something urgently about that so that people will not take the laws into their hands. We are happy that the securitymen are up and doing now, you can see that there is a level of calmness between the natives and the Fulani.
What will you say are some of the challenges that Christians in Plateau are passing through and what will you do to ameliorate the issues?
As far as we are concerned, Christians have some challenges and it borders on ethnicity. Also, we have challenges of denominational differences, we are supposed to be one. Like in Bass Local Government, we have the Miango and the Rukuba, if the Miango are being attacked, the Rukuba will say leave them, if the Rukuba is attacked, the Miango will say leave them, but what makes you think that the enemy of your friend is your friend, but when these people see themselves as Plateau people they will be victorious, that is why like what the governor said: “Think Plateau, act Plateau.” Plateau people must see themselves as one and keep aside ethnic and denominational issues that is why we want to work on ourselves as Christians. The issue is that they will say this one is Catholic, this one is COCIN, this one is ECWA, whatever comes our way, instead of prompting it, we want to pull the persons down. It is the same thing that happened during the CAN election, which I became victorious, it is not because of anything, but I know how to negotiate. The election also came with fierce interest for positions that are not being paid for; and I think it is time for us to be under an umbrella of Christ and I think that will help a lot. Another thing is that Christians are always at the disadvantage position when it comes to appointment at the Federal level, you will see Christians and Plateau people are being marginalized, but if you go to other states, you will see appointments. If somebody is about to be promoted even in the civil service, they will ask if he is a Christians or a Muslim. I like the member representing Pankshin, Kanke, Kanam Federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon Yusuf Gagdi, he is a Muslim, but he has been coming out to support Christians in his constituency, he doesn’t look at whether you are a Christian or Muslim and these are the kind of things we should encourage. Also, unemployment is creating a lot of trouble for us, we will talk to our people to engage in skills acquisition, we don’t have to wait for white colar jobs, people are doing corporate things, no we should go to farm, we should engage ourselves in good ventures that will help to keep live going. As far as we are concerned, white colar job makes one more poorer, once you are self-reliance you will be doing well; and another thing that I am concerned about is the use of speech when preaching, we encourage people to preach peace, not to incite people and not to preach denominational differences, we should preach about Christian ethnics and not denominations, back biting and attacking churches. You don’t know the culture and tradition of other churches, therefore, you should not talk about it. When Catholics are making the sign of the cross, people will be wondering, they have symbols like in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which other Churches do, but some people criticize it, why do you go into a Church system that you do not know anything about, why can’t you concentrate on what you know and believe in. One of the things we are going to encourage is for people to respect the culture and manner in which they approach God, I want to look at that so that we can be united. When you see Pentecostals jump and shout, you should know that is the way they worship God, you don’t expect a Catholic to worship God in the same manner and when a Catholic is doing the sign of the Cross, the person should be respected too. When we cultivate respects among churches, we will be more united and stronger. We should be able to know why a Church worships God the way they do instead of criticizng it, if you live a life of criticism, you will not have the time to love and hatred will come in, we will ensure that we make people respect why churches operate the way they do.
Your predecessor raised fears about the 2019 elections which he said almost consumed him and he warned you to be careful about 2023, what will you do to remain as a father to all during the 2023 elections?
Every human being is a political animal and when you are in position, you should be able to know how you move with people. Even as a priest, whatever you do in the Church is politicking, how to carry people along to Christ. Politics is a game of manipulation and a game of convincing, for me in particular, I am not partisan. When you become partisan in politics and you take side, that is where you will have a problem. If you look at the Church during my inauguration, you will see Muslims there, the Chairman of the occasion was not a Catholic, the persons that preached was a Catholic, we made sure that everybody was carried along, people in PDP were there, people in APC were there and other political parties, that is how a leader should be able to bring people together irrespective of their political parties. I have a lot of friends who are politicians, they come to me to seek advice, some come to seek opinion, it cuts across all political parties. I know as a Catholic priest, if I stand for PDP I will break my Church, if I stand for APC I will break my Church, there will be disrespect, there will be fight and you will divide your people. When people talk about the fears of 2023, I am longing for the 2023 election to come, I have the right to vote for the person I want, it is not the party that I am going to vote for.
Are you saying that CAN will not work for any political party?
CAN is a non-partisan organization, if you take side, that is when you will have problem, your duty is to pray for politicians and let them stick to their manifesto. I give people advice from both political parties, but the way you conduct yourself and from your speech people will know where you belong. If you avoid partisanship as a leader you will excel, your role is to pray for all and to tell people to vote for the right person at the right time. If you vote for someone, he will be there for four years and you must accept all the difficulties that you will pass through, if you vote for a political party that has bad manifestos then you should know that you are going to suffer it, if you become a leader, you should know that you are a leader for all. For me, I know that I am not partisan, I can be a friend to PDP and I can be a friend to APC and I have so many friends in those political parties. If they come for advice, I will do that without sentiment, if you are capable I will tell you, if you don’t have the strength I will equally tell you, but it is not for me to go and advise a political party to change their candidate, no it is their work. People should not see us as leaders taking side, we will lose our respect instantly. If you love PDP what do you expect from APC, you will get the hatred there. For me, I am longing for 2023, I am not afraid of 2023, I am not and CAN will not take side.