THE crisis started on March 5, 2014 when an illegal meeting of the General Committee was called. The constitution of Assemblies of God expressly says that it is only the General Superintendent that should call such a meeting, whether it is a regular one, emergency one, or even a special one. But in the case of setting up a General Committee meeting, the constitution says that if the General Superintendent would not want to call, then the people who want to call it should obtain 33 per cent of the members, and then that meeting would be called. I didn’t feel like calling it, and left these other people to obtain the 33 per cent. They couldn’t get it, and because they wanted to do something sinister, they brought all sorts of people. People who should not have been part of that meeting, including their drivers, were allowed to vote and they said they had suspended me. Such a thing had never happened in the history of Assemblies of God Church. By the way, the purpose of the General Committee is not to try the General Superintendent, because the constitution expressly states the things that could make the General Superintendent to be removed if he is guilty of crime and convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction. The other reasons include if he is sick, or living in a different country from Nigeria. And if he is removed, he will still wait until the subsequent General Council sits in session. The General Council is composed of all the ordained delegates and ministers. They are almost about 20,000 when they gather together, but the people who can vote are about 8,000. Then if two-thirds of the General Council-in-session ratifies the decision, then the General Superintendent would stand removed. But these people didn’t go through this guideline because they never knew that anybody could challenge them. So they just went ahead and did it. That was how trouble started. As soon as they did it, they decided to come and evict me from my official residence and bar me from my office. To enforce my fundamental rights, I sought an injunction from the Enugu High Court. They will tell you that the reason they suspended the General Superintendent was that he went to court, that the constitution forbids it. If you don’t want to go to court, don’t commit crime. They committed a crime, so somebody had to stop them from evil. The court granted the injunction and said that we should return to status quo ante. They refused because my former assistant, Rev Chidi Okoroafor wanted to be General Superintendent, a move that was ethically wrong. Two things were wrong: my assistant should not for any reason have attempted to remove me; secondly, the man that I succeeded should not have presided at an illegal meeting called solely to carry out a coup against me. They rejected the High Court ruling and went to the Appeal Court in Enugu. After examining the matter, the court struck it out on technical grounds. The matter went to the Supreme Court. They still tried to short circuit the process by asking that I stop acting or parading myself as the General Superintendent of Assemblies of God Church until the substantive matter was decided upon. The number two thing was that they equally filed a motion asking the Supreme Court to dismiss the appeal, the main appeal sent to the Supreme Court, on the ground that we had run out of time; that we were outside the stipulated time. Both of these were two dangerous things, which if they were granted, these people would have come to take over my office and throw me out of where I am living.
To what extent has the Supreme Court ruling brought reprieve to you?
I thank God that on January 19, 2016, the Supreme Court struck out two applications they made, and said that they will not go ahead to entertain the application for interlocutory injunction. Rather, they would prefer to go into the main matter when the time comes. Number two, they told them to prove that we were late, they could not prove it, because our lawyer came and proved that everything was in order. The Justices told them to withdraw it, and they withdrew it, and it was pronounced and struck off. That was why Assemblies of God all over the nation rejoiced. It is quite unfortunate that they are doing what they are doing. But I must say also that the Supreme Court took time to advise both parties and later concentrated on their own side through their lawyer, Barrister Agabi that they should go and reconcile. That this is a church and the church is an institution where men of integrity are supposed to be found. The justices said that men of peace that are even more than those in the Supreme Court are found in the church. At that juncture, my own counsel, Barrister Offiah made the Supreme Court to know that for two years now, there had been different fora where we went for peace making and reconciliation. We went to force headquarters to meet the Inspector General of Police, IGP. The IGP tried to mediate and they rejected it. The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, the umbrella body of all the Pentecostal churches in Nigeria, came in and we went to meet them in July 2014 in Benin. The eminent clergymen wondered why all these men should wake up to do what they did. They discovered that they simply wanted to grab power. We accepted the decision of the PFN but they rejected it. Later on, the IGP sent the matter to the Christian Association of Nigeria on December 18, 2014. We all met in Lagos. We made statements. After looking into it, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN adjourned. Finally, CAN came up with a paper containing its decisions. They rejected the decisions of CAN. All over the nation they have instituted no fewer than 40 cases against me. And they are the people who said that the constitution of the Assemblies of God church stipulates that you shouldn’t take anybody to court. I never took anybody, any church to court. The people I took to court were those who came to interfere in the affairs of the church, because I, as at that time, and till today, I am the General Superintendent and there is no way I can sue myself. I never sued the registered Trustees of the church; I never sued the General Council. The individuals that were causing this problem were the people that turned around and made themselves the church. I see them as hoodlums; I see them as a mafia group, I see them playing in the field of the church and mistook themselves for the church because they didn’t need constitutional requirement to be called the church. They gathered drivers and people who call themselves Ambassadors of the kingdom to suspend the General Superincourt were those who came to interfere in tendent who has a constitutional place in the system. So there was confusion which led us to this protracted crisis. Anyway, I must say that they have left and abandoned us for another place. They are talking of ex-communication. If you ex-communicated anybody, you never ate with the person, nor talked with the person; nor touched the person. The person wouldn’t come to the premises of the church. These people were talking about ex-communicating me; a very wicked measure. The reason they did what they did was to give me no chance to explain to anybody, so that people could regard whatever they did, no matter how nefarious as being correct, believing that I would hear of the ex-communication and go away. I told them no; in the first place that body is not the church, secondly, there is no ex-communication. But as you can see things, here (the interview venue) is the headquarters of Assemblies of God, Nigeria where we have been. When the pope wrote his bulls; when he wrote his ex-communication bulls, it was done so that the person doesn’t go to the Vatican to chase the pope away and occupy it. But in our case, those who ex-communicated me ran out, and I am still here. They are living inside the bush, and we regard them as prodigal sons. We are willing to receive them, if they come back. We will welcome them, so that Assemblies of God will continue to be one. We wish they will come back if they realize what they have done. We will forgive them. They also will forgive us . It is a pity that Assemblies of God Church in Nigeria has actually been battered, but I still believe that God will help us to come again to be what we used to be. That’s where we are. We are thanking God greatly, and will continue to thank God because these people did not succeed in their plan. That is not to say they would have taken here anyway, but they would have introduced confusion of national magnitude which we wouldn’t want to enter. The Supreme Court has done well by stopping them in their tracks. What happened is that you never tell a man where to worship. There are certain things you cannot achieve by force. Even when I went to court, it was not that the court will drag people to worship here. Let me tell you this. When they pronounced the suspension on March 6, 2014, the people of Assemblies of God, knowing the meaning of ex-communication and suspension were not discerning enough to know that the people who did it shouldn’t have done it, and that the reason for which they did it did not exist. They succumbed to it. As at that day, I was standing alone in the whole Assemblies of God in the nation. As at that time, we had about 104 districts, but I am happy to let you know that we have about 50 districts that have come back to us. If I were wrong they wouldn’t have been coming back. These people are coup plotters. If you execute a coup that does not work after two days, it is as good as dead. But for two years they have been trying to execute a coup, and we said no. I also use this chance to appreciate the other churches that quickly came to sympathize with us. They threw in their contributions and were also vocal to condemn what these people did. I thank God for them. This is our story.
What actually did they hold as a straw to pin you down this long?
They said I embezzled money. At the last count it came up to N1.05b. They said that I embezzled the money given to me to buy a house in Germany. They moved a step forward because the retired General Superintendent who actually was a very great protagonist was there. I asked him to explain his role, after leading this church for 22 years and decided to buy a house in Germany for our branch there that requested it. He said N20 million was transferred to the company we wanted to acquire the building from. He retired before he could pay. I was elected to succeed him. The first meeting we had, it was decided that we continue from where Rev Osueke stopped. But unfortunately, we didn’t have money to continue. We took a decision to borrow money from a bank, and the General Treasurer was told to apply on behalf of the church, which he did.