From Obinna Odogwu, Awka
The Archbishop, Ecclesiastical Province of the Niger, and Bishop of Awka Diocese, Anglican Communion, Most Revd Alexander Ibezim, has said that the decision of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to field a Muslim-Muslim ticket for the 2023 presidential election was totally unacceptable to him.
He said by the action, the APC had sent a clear message to Christians in Nigeria that they do not matter and that they would be treated as second class citizens in their own country thenceforth.
Archbishop Ibezim, who spoke on other issues of national concern, advised Christians in the country to brace up for the challenges ahead. He also called on the people of Southern Nigeria to be more united so as to be able to take common decisions on issues that affect them.
What is your take on the Muslim-Muslim tick of the All Progressives Congress (APC)? Some people in that party say that it doesn’t matter. Do you agree with them that it doesn’t matter in view of the condition of Christians in Nigeria today?
If Nigeria is going to succeed, the country should not play with Christians in Nigeria. Whether you like it or not, Christianity has suffered persecution even right from the days of Christ up till now. But at whatever level, you find out that the church will always succeed. So, it is for the interest of Nigeria that the church succeeds in Nigeria because anywhere the church does not succeed, that place will go back into darkness. So, as for whether it is Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian ticket, it is important that Christians will have a say in government. We are not second class citizens and by the time you start treating Christians as second class citizens, you have finished yourself. So, I am looking at the Christian-Muslim leadership. A Christian should be on top this time around while a Muslim seconds him. That is what I am looking at. But if you now say Muslim-Muslim as if Christians are nothing, don’t neglect anybody. So, for Nigeria to be holistic, for us to be truthful to ourselves, we must recognise that the church must not be played with. When you’re playing with the church, you’re playing with fire. And nobody fights the fire of God and succeed.
Some weeks ago, some of the persons who attended the unveiling of the APC’s Vice-Presidential candidate in Abuja reportedly wore bishopric attire and posed as bishops. People have described them in different funny ways. How would you react to that development?
Well, I don’t blame them because proliferation entered into the churches. Nowadays, many people call themselves bishops. Is it not true? Even you yourself, you can now put on a cross, sew cloth and say you’re a bishop. If you come to the CAN’s meeting, many people come there and say that they’re bishops. Are they truthful to themselves? You think because that proliferation has come out through the churches, and so the enemy is using it to attack the church. But my own advice is this, if you claim that you’re a bishop, let it be that God has sent you. But if you’re using that to deceive the church and the nation, you will pay the price because nobody will deceive the church of God. It is a pity. We say it and laugh but I am sure that it is something that warrants… because what they are doing is not of God; very satanic and it is capable of destroying those lives. It is a warning. They say that money can buy anything. If when they give a man money he dresses like a woman and vice versa, they give you money and you dress like a masquerade. One day, they will give you money, you dress like somebody who is in hellfire because the ultimate is destruction. You’ll enjoy the money temporarily but your spirit is lost forever. How I wish that those that are putting on the garment of bishops will actually do the work of the bishop because the bishop is a soul winner. The bishop goes out to take care of the people. Let them tell us their testimonies. So, it is not bishop to go and collect money at a political rally. Let us not be playing with such. It is one of the signs of the end time. We are in the end time and the Bible says that in the end time, perilous things shall take place. And we see those things and we are laughing at it. So, I want to encourage everybody, no matter the amount of money you’re given or anything, don’t change your identity. If you’re a mechanic, be a mechanic. If you’re an agbero, be in the motor park. If you’re a clergyman, be a clergyman. If you’re a consecrated bishop or a presented archbishop like me, I cannot take off my cloth here and go out to become something that God has not called me to be. Let us be very careful.
When former Governor Willie Obiano was contesting for his second tenure, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo told Ndi Anambra that Obiano did very well and that he should be re-elected. In fact, he asked a rhetorical question: if not broken, why mend it? When he (Soludo) assumed office as governor, he told Ndi Anambra through some of the interviews he granted that the state’s coffers were near empty. Now, in his efforts to generate revenue to be able to work for Ndi Anambra, he came up with a tax regime which some people have described as neck breaking. Do you support Soludo’s new tax regime?
As the Archbishop here in the capital territory, whenever I have an issue about the governor, I seek personal audience with him. And that’s how I make my suggestions. If you watched for the past 12 years, I advise them. I remember the first service I conducted for Governor Obiano in St. Faith Cathedral, I remember that part of what I told him was to develop Awka capital territory. And I think these flyovers and other things were what he did. But now, I am more concerned because this Awka that we are in is a city that has been neglected. Roads in Awka town are worse than any road in any town in Anambra State. Agulu town is more organised than Awka. Go to Agulu and come to Awka. We have to be honest to ourselves. Is this really a capital? I am saying this because other administrations have erred in that. I want the Soludo administration to correct it because you need to travel from that junction to Okpuno. Even Okpuno community that has the biggest population of people, if you go there, it is a slum as we are talking. The point I am trying to make is this. Anambra is our state. When you become a governor or whatever, you find out that it is also good you develop your place but this capital territory must be well developed. There is a need to revisit it. Even if there are houses that are blocking places or whatever, for those of you who have gone on a pilgrimage, if you go to Palestine, you will see that they’re so jam-packed as they jam-pack themselves inside Awka community but they still have a way they did very good main roads; at least, for accessibility. Awka is not running through the express road and through Zik Avenue. I call their attention to that. I will still talk about it. I am not saying it to bring down any government but let us address it as something that is worthwhile. That is closely related to the question about taxation. Well, I read marketing in my first degree. I have a little idea about business and how things work. In marketing, we say that the consumer is the king. The people at the grassroots are the people that feel the impact of anything. All these things you see, whether you call it soap or whatever you buy in the market, it is these consumers that buy them. So, whatever you are setting up and it is affecting the consumers, you will find out that it is not going to work. That is why governance works through the grassroots. If the grassroots are happy, the government will succeed. But if it is the few people who said that they are the leaders here and they’re happy, and the grassroots are not happy, the government has failed. It is just like what we have at the federal level. With all that is happening in Nigeria, there may be some people telling Buhari that everything is working. You know now; because those around a leader determine whether that leader succeeds or not. So, I throw it to his economic advisers so that they will advise him in order to take the best possible decision.
There is an unwritten agreement that supports power rotation between the North and the South in Nigeria. The North will be completing its eight years in power next year. Do you consider it fair and just that the same North fielded presidential candidates for the next year’s poll considering the argument it advanced in 2015 that it was their turn to rule while the South was in charge?
You are in Nigeria now. The game is on. But listen to this; the North – south dichotomy or whatever, we are calling on the South to be united. The South seems to be too divided. Even in Igbo land now, you see division. It is a food for thought for all of us. Can the South be united so that they present a common front? That is a question you will take to them to answer. So, when we deal with that question of division, you’ll find out that the South can speak with one voice. But as long as there are so many divisions and all these, and of course, look at the Igbo land now, with all this that is going on, Imo is different, Ebonyi is different, Anambra is different, Abia is different and you want magic to happen? A house that is not united will always fail. That is a principle and that principle holds. United we stand, divided we fall.