Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo is the senior pastor of Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC), London, with branches in Nigeria and other parts of Africa countries.
The church in London has about 12,000 worshipers at the main church every Sunday, making it one of the largest black churches in the United Kingdom. The cleric hosts widows every first Saturday of the year, annually. At the event, that took place at Kings University premises Ode-Omu in Osun State, he spoke on the state of the nation and why he cares for widows.
Very soon Nigerians are going to the polls, how are you seeing the turnout of events in the polity?
I think everything boils down to two things. I have lived in Europe for 35 years. By February, it will be 35 years I have lived in Europe. The reasons United Kingdom works, the reasons United States of America works is not because they have more minerals than us, or human resource. But two things: Leadership and System. The system in Britain is so robust; the system in America is so robust. That’s why an actor could be their president and nothing changes. A farmer was once their president (Jimmy Carter) and nothing changed. A philanderer who had many girlfriends was their president and it didn’t shake the system. A man, we are not very sure where he stands is their president and nothing has shaken because the system is robust, same thing with the United Kingdom.
Can you believe when there’s an election in Britain, you don’t know anything is going on. You just walk into a school classroom designated, you vote and you go. No one is shouting, there are no thugs, you even can hardly see bill boards or papers on the wall. It’s very simple. Everything runs smoothly. The system is so robust; it can handle the tremor and the earthquake of the situation.
What should we do in Nigeria?
I speak with all due respect and with boldness. I am 76 years old. The challenge of Nigeria is absence of leadership. Many of the people we call our leader are tribal chiefs. You know a tribal chief by the fact that when he becomes the village head, he surrounds himself by the people from his village. That is a tribal chief. Secondly, our systems are very tiny. In Nigeria, we have big men and small systems. If we can develop these systems with good leadership, we wouldn’t be bothered who becomes the president, whether it is from the North, the South, the East or the West. Geography does not produce leadership; it is content that produces leadership. So, what do I say to the coming generation? Being a youth is not proof that you will not be corrupt. Kabila took over Congo at the age of 31or 32, he is now in his 50’s, and Congo is still broke, even though it has the largest deposit of minerals on earth. The phone with which you are interviewing me today has a battery which the material can only be found in Congo that is a monopoly and yet a policeman in Congo is paid US$10, N3,600, a month minimum wage in a nation that should only be second to a nation like China or United States. It is not youths that lead, it is content, it is capacity, so we need to develop capacity and we need to challenge our young people to participate. Don’t sit on the fence and watch things. Go and register, get your Permanent Voter’s Card. You know what? Join a party, some of the parties allowed their local ward to choose people. In your local ward, you can be part of the change.
Every first Saturday of the year, you host widows, what does that tell you about Nigeria?
It hurts me. With all due respect to our government, I think our statistics is total rubbish. There’s no 20-40 million unemployment, probably it is 70-80 million unemployed people in Nigeria. In my very opinion with due respect again, lots of our state governments are not even in touch with the people, they are not sensitive to the people, some of these people, the reasons they are widows is because their husband died of malaria, a challenge that can be cured with N1,000. The N1, 000 mint notes we give these women is like the first time they will hold a N1, 000 in one entity. So, it hurts you when you see this. Having said that, I’m proud to be a Nigerian; I was in eight African countries last year, Botswana, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana (several times), Ivory Coast and Nigeria (I have to count my country too). However, when you go to all these places and come back, you are excited to be a Nigerian. So, I’m proud to be a Nigerian.
What advice do you have for the electorate?
Firstly, I think we should pray for peace in our land, that elections would go smoothly without violence, we should all pray that the leaders that will emerge from the elections will be leaders who have fear of God; they will be leaders who have the heart to do good for the people. Leaders who will be selfless, who will go all out to roll up their sleeves and work for our nation to come back to the place where our economy will be good, where the future will be bright and the citizens will be excited about the nation that we call ours.
I will encourage everyone to go out and vote, I will encourage people to vote for the person that they have conviction will do good for Nigeria. They shouldn’t sell their votes; they shouldn’t be intimidated to vote for someone they don’t want. It’s our country and it is democracy. It is through our votes that we can do good for Nigeria and we should all be contented.