In March, His Grace, Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, succeeded Most Rev Nicholas Okoh, as the Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). In this interview with FRED EZEH in Abuja, he spoke about national issues, the church and others.
You took leadership of the church at a difficult time. How does it feel?
It’s indeed a difficult time for the church in Nigeria. And the context is a challenging one, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic that had crippled socio-economic activities across the world. In addition to that, Nigeria has been struggling with several national issues particularly insecurity which has worsened recently. From banditry to kidnapping, insurgency to youth restiveness, among several others. Evidently, each region of this country has one security challenge or the other that it’s battling with. Obviously, Nigeria is facing a very difficult time as a country.
Who will solve these problems; government, the church or collectively?
No government, no matter how resourced and empowered the government is, can solve these problems alone. It will require the support and patriotic spirit of the citizens, in this case, Nigerians. The church also has a role to play to birth solutions to these problems. The responsibility of the government is to create the enabling environment. They encourage policies and investments that would herald job and wealth creation. Corruption, which has eaten deep into the fabrics of Nigeria must be minimised, and those that unite us must be encouraged.
What about the elites that have piloted the affairs of Nigeria for long?
Regrettably, we have a group of elites and leaders that are after their own interest. All they do is to use any available opportunity to accumulate wealth for themselves. However, it’s not time to criticise or blame any political party or government, but time to forge ahead and look for credible leaders that would bring solutions to our problems and not give excuses. Nigeria belongs to all of us. If it’s good, we would all benefit, if it’s bad we would also suffer it.
What are the roles of religious leaders in this?
Some of them are not helping matters. You find out that, instead of these leaders, some of who command huge loyalty from their followers to teach the people the way of God, they would dilute, twist the messages to fit into their own interest. That’s unscriptural. The message, some of them are preaching is not the authentic word of God. They see religion as a means of making wealth. They compete with luxury houses, cars, private jets and so many other material things. That’s total misleading of the people of God, some of whom are poor and can’t afford basic things of life. These so-called men of God know themselves and there’s need for them to retrace their steps to escape the wrath of God. We have elevated material things instead of salvation.
What’s your assessment of the current government?
People in government have successfully distorted the plan and vision of our forefathers that founded this country. Also, our democratic governance system has been comprised. They have manipulated the system to favour the political class. In this case, the vote of the ordinary citizens doesn’t count anymore, hence politicians don’t feel accountable to their constituents. Many of them are not truly connected to their people because they rigged themselves into power. Sometimes, it looks like a hopeless situation but God is always there for His people.
COVID-19 has hit the world hard. Do you think we have learnt necessary lessons?
It has indeed taught the world a big lesson, Nigeria inclusive. It has brought us to the basics of the things that matter. It has taught us that life of the people is very important, and that material things would, one day, fail. You can bear me witness that during total global lockdown that lasted for two to three months, no one bothered about their fleet of cars, expensive dresses, neither did they bother about private jets or foreign trips. Everybody was kept indoors alone with family. It’s a call for us to strengthen our family system, the community system and focus on things that unite us. COVID-19 has further exposed the poor and weak state of our healthcare system. It has given us the opportunity to make a fresh start, redefine our priorities and make necessary investments to secure the lives of our people.
Increasingly, Nigeria is being overrun by bandits and other crimes, particularly in the north. Are you worried?
Of course, I am bothered. Please note that the insecurity is not in the north alone, even though it’s more pronounced there now than other regions, states in the south are not free of these crimes too. On daily basis, communities are reportedly reduced to rubbles by some unknown attackers. And women and children are always at the receiving end in all these. From Taraba state to Benue to Plateau, Christian communities are being destroyed. If you dig further into the crisis, you will discover that political elites in those areas have their hands in the crisis, perhaps, for some gains. In Zamfara, the governor deposed a traditional ruler for secretly supporting the crisis in his community. In Katsina, similar allegations are being raised against some people. The issue of killer herdsmen has been over pampered and the truth has not been spoken. We focus on treating the symptoms, leaving the real issue unsolved. Some people, particularly the elites are gaining from the insecurity in Nigeria and they don’t want it stopped. Obviously, political leadership in Nigeria is not ready to solve the problem of Nigeria.
But all these problems have been with for us years now. Is it majorly foundational or leadership problem?
We have foundational problems made worst by poor leadership recruitment process. Our concept of leadership is faulty. Imagine, our forefathers had plans for a nation of justice, peace, equity and fairness. Unfortunately, the current managers of the nation promoted the culture of ‘winner takes it all’. It’s now the survival of the fittest. They harp on things that promote division instead of unity. Today, stealing, nepotism, favoritism and other forms of corruption are not termed as evil as long as it favours a particular person. And that is why people can fight and kill to get to power so they can control the resources. We have laws and policies that would have guided us and ensure equity and justice, but the politicians choose to relegate them to the background for their own gain. We really need to have a rethink, particularly in the way we administer the resources of Nigeria to avoid crisis in the future.
Are you now advocating for restructuring?
Yes! But not the restructuring being championed by some selfish politicians. These politicians who are advocating for restructuring have their own hidden agenda. I don’t support the one they are campaigning for. My support is for true federalism. That’s the way to go. The practice of coming to grab resources in Abuja should stop forthwith.