Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Bishop Dan Nkemjika Olinya is the Anglican Bishop of Eha-Amufu Diocese, Enugu State. Recently, after the 2nd and 3rd session of the Synod held at St. Mathew Church, Mgbuji, Eha-Amufu, the bishop spoke on national issues.
What is your assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in last few years.
President Buhari has done well within his strength and capacity. Many people may be unhappy with his style of administration, but that does not change the fact that he is doing his best. Being a human, he has shortcomings in capacity and otherwise, and that could be seen in his actions. Nigerians voted for him massively in 2015 because they were so sure that he was prepared to offer Nigerians more than what they are getting now. Unfortunately, something went wrong along the way.
At what point did he go wrong?
His failure began when he displayed open preferences to people in his religion and ethnic group. He was quick to forget that he is the president of all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion, political affiliations and other differences. He installed his kinsmen in all political positions, disregarding Federal Character and the need to carry other parts of Nigeria along. In a country like Nigeria, such actions could generate unfriendly reactions from other parts of the country that feel unfairly and unjustly treated.
In your Charge at last synod, you complained bitterly about the governance style of Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
I needed to call his attention to something going wrong in the state. I won’t pretend that we the Anglican Church leaders in Enugu State are happy with him. We are obviously not and this stems from his silence over our continuous appeal for him to rewrite the wrongs done to us by previous administrations. He has refused to return our schools to us as done to our brothers, the Catholics. We don’t want to believe that the silence was a calculated plan by the Catholic governors to show Anglicans that we mean nothing in Enugu State. We don’t want to talk about the lopsided appointment in Enugu State on denominational ground because it is very obvious. It is only in Enugu State in Southeast that the governor, his deputy, Chief of Staff, the Speaker, and the Secretary to State Government (SSG) are Catholic members. It’s unfair and unjust treatment. Before we blame President Buhari for lopsided appointment, let us examine ourselves because he who must go to equity must go with clean hands. Christian leaders in Enugu State are unhappy. The political class sees our importance during electioneering, but we become irrelevant after the election. We are never allowed access to the government house. Even when we write letters to him, they are either not delivered or he deliberately refused to attend to it. He don’t pick calls neither does he respond to text messages, and doesn’t attend our programmes.
But it’s widely believed that religious leaders enjoy unlimited access to government officials because of their role in the society?
It’s not completely true here. During electioneering period, they quickly realised that we are servants of God that command respect and loyalty from people. Christian leaders in states like Anambra and Ebonyi are well celebrated by their state governors. There is no bishop of main line churches and mega pentecostal churches in Anambra State that has not been appreciated heavily by their governor. In 2019, the governor of Ebonyi State gave every bishop in the state a merit award with a new SUV attached. He gives millions of naira as subvention to CAN monthly which they share to denominations for the less privileges and widows in the church. A priest has remained the Special Assistant to the Governor on religion and welfare matters. In 2019, the governor dedicated the best ecumenical centre in the entire country, which he built and handed over to CAN. Ebonyi is not richer than Enugu State. Ugwuanyi should not forget that nobody preaches and maintains peace anywhere like the religious leaders. lf this is the best style of PDP administration in Enugu State, we advise that he changes before it’s too late. He should also remember that it will not forever be business as usual. One day, election in Enugu State will not be one party system as usual. That day, the PDP in Enugu State will find out too late that many Christian leaders of other denominations in Enugu State would show open dislike with their system of operation.
You are obviously unhappy with the governor. Has he not done anything for you or your people?
I am just pointing out areas that he need to correct as quickly as possible. He has done well in certain areas, particularly security and infrastructure. For instance, the reconstruction of part of the lkem-Eha-Amufu Federal road, from Federal College of Education gate to Ochin River (8.8km) was duly appreciated by our people. The road was abandoned in sorry state for about 36 years. It was the former governor, Jim Nwobodo, that worked on the road. We are happy and he saw it the day he commissioned the road. However, we appeal that he complete, the remaining part of the road to Ikem as promised. lf the remaining part is not reconstructed, the road will not yield its full economic dividend to the people of lsi-Uzo and Enugu State.
The insecurity situation in Nigeria has worsened, are you concern?
It’s a thing of serious concern in Nigeria now. During the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan it was Boko Haram, but we were told by the current government officials that the insurgents have been technically defeated even when otherwise seems to be the case. Boko Haram is still wasting hundreds of lives, including soldiers and civilians, sacking and burning down villages. ISWAP and bandits have joined them too. Their activities used to be only in the Northeast, but it has escalated to other regions. Zamfara, Katsina, Niger and Kaduna states are their new headquarters. The menace of the terrorist Fulani herdsmen has also assumed an unimaginable proportion. Not only that travellers are attacked, schools are now the new target. Pupils, students, teachers, principals and other school workers are kidnapped in schools as was the case in Kaduna, Kano, Adamawa and Taraba states. Federal Government should swallow their pride and tell the world that the insecurity situation in Nigeria has gone beyond control and request the help of the super power nations. We should stop pretending that all is well and cry out for help before all of us are consumed. President Buhari should know that as far as security is concerned, he has failed and Nigerians have lost hope in his administration.
What could be responsible for this rise in insecurity in Nigeria?
Unemployment and hopelessness. As of third quarter of 2018, the calculated unemployment rate in Nigeria was 23.1 per cent, the underemployment rate was 20.1 per cent. The combined unemployment and underemployment rate was 43.3 per cent. This was according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). This shows that the total number of the unemployed and underemployed in Nigeria will soon out-number the employed. Government should wake up and provide job opportunities for the people. The teeming unemployed youths in Nigeria is a bomb waiting to explode and when it does, Nigeria will go up in flames. People should get job on merit and not otherwise. A situation where recruitment is done internally in most public institutions, only the children of the few privileged are employed is disastrous. Others are those who are able to buy the employment which is always too high for the poor. National Assembly should enact law prohibiting public institutions from employment without advertising it except where it is replacement of few workers.
What about the issue of power in Nigeria?
It’s a pathetic situation where we have found ourselves. Nigeria is running a generator economy and that will take us to nowhere. The issue of power should be faced squarely and solved. lf power problem is solved in Nigeria, it will solve more than half of the unemployment problem. Nigerians are naturally skilled. Therefore, if we have constant power, Nigerian youths would not beg for white-collar jobs. If there is constant power Nigerian youths will turn this nation to an industrial and super power nation. We are not lazy people, but our leaders have incapacitated us and made many us turn to crimes to make ends meet. Increase in crime in Nigeria is directly caused by bad leadership. Federal Government deprivatized power because the Distribution Companies (DISCOs) have worsened the situation. People now pay for the power they never used because of estimated billing which the DISCOs have refused to stop. Since the privatalisation of power, the rate of transformer and other power equipment vandalisation has increased to unbearable proportion. DISCOs are not working and can never work. And we have began to hear rumours of hike in electricity tarrif.
Nigerian borders have remained closed for months, is it the best decision from government?
Obviously not. Our leaders don’t consider issues very critically before executing them. The closure of land borders on ‘flimsy excuses’ of smuggling foreign rice and some other goods into Nigeria and our petrol to other countries should be reconsidered. We see the closure of land borders as one of the policies to punish the poor masses and also cripple Igbo men who depend on buying and selling since they have been schemed out of every other thing in Nigeria. I have attended many functions organised by the government and Nigerian leaders since the closure of the land borders and local rice was not served in any of them. How many tons of rice do we even produce to satisfy local needs? What incentives have the government given to farmers to encourage more local production. Most farmers do not have access to land, modern farming implements and so forth. Again, there are no access roads to farms. These things must be put in place and the government is sure that enough food is being produced before such foreign products are completely banned. If not, it will amount to punishing the usual people (the poor). Government should reopen the land borders immediately because the cost of food has skyrocketed again. Poor masses in Nigeria have received enough punishment. What Nigerian government should ban is the importation of generator, foreign medical trip, and foreign schools for the children of political leaders and not food, fairly used cars and clothings. The truth is that not many Nigerians, except politicians, can afford brand new cars, or clothing any longer in Nigeria. How many of our leaders, especially the politicians eat our locally produced food and drinks? How many of them wear locally produced cloths or drive made in Nigeria vehicles? I want to see the president, senators, Rep members, governors, Speakers, ministers patronise Innoson Motors and use lnnoson motors as their official vehicles. Let our leaders be in the fore front of encouraging local manufacturers and not media statements.
There’s outcry that Muslims are taking over lands and that Nigeria is being lslamized. Are you worried?
Of course, I am concerned. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and other religious leaders have continued to accuse the Federal Government of underground plans to islamise Nigeria, but my question is, what are we doing to Christianise Nigeria? Muslims seem committed to the biddings of their religion. They are very serious about it and we, the Christians are complaining. Why are we complaining? Are they stopping us from doing our father’s business? We have more Christians in the North than Muslims in the South. Muslims in government positions are using both their positions and resources to spread Islam, but many rich Christians and those in positions of authority are using their positions and resources to destroy Christianity. Both Boko Haram, terrorists Fulani herdsmen, and the rest of them are sponsored by some very rich Muslims to further their religion. But most rich Christians are stashing every bank in Nigeria and abroad with their money, building monument for themselves and making savings for their great, great grand children. Majority of our rich Christians don’t go to church. They only remember church when they have needs. How many rich Christians are sponsoring missions? Paul University, Awka, owned by 55 Dioceses East of the Niger is dying because we cannot fund it when we have several Anglican billionaires in the Southeast and South-south. Many missionary dioceses were created by Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) without sponsors, and bishops of such Dioceses go cap in hand everywhere begging for financial help and receiving insults. Some well to do dioceses and bishops see them as beggars and avoid them like plagues, forgetting that we are a communion, people of common goal, common interest, vision, mission, and service and unto one God. The truth remains that if the work is done in Lagos Diocese and it is not done in Ngbo Diocese, the work has not yet been done. If it is done in Enugu Diocese and not done in Enugu North Diocese, it has not yet been done. lf it is done in the Niger, lbadan, Nsukka, Evo, Abuja, Oji River, Lagos West Dioceses and it is not done in Afikpo, the work remains undone. This is the bitter truth about our ‘Communionism’ (my own coinage). This was the reason CMS came to Africa for mission. They understood that, it is a communion; and more than that, they knew that God’s mission is a global mission. Your country, region, town or Diocese is just a little fraction of the Father’s business. Our Father’s business must be done by us, the children of God. Unbelievers, the strangers, the aliens cannot do it for us.