“We have extended the olive branch. Over 90 percent of the Assemblies of God is here. The other, which is less than 10 per cent is on the other side.”
Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
Recently, the members of the Assemblies of God Church Nigeria converged on Evangel Camp located at Km 48 Enugu/Abakaliki Expressway, Okpoto/Ntezi, in Ebonyi State, for its 36th General Council Meeting.
The gathering, according to the stakeholders of the church, was among others, convened for the purpose of electing key officers that would pilot the affairs of the church in the next four years.
At the occasion, the General Council of the Church re-elected Rev. (Dr) Chidi Okoroafor as its General Superintendent for another term of four years following the expiration of his first tenure.
Okoroafor polled a total of 5,990 votes to clinch victory while the first and second runners-up in the election, Rev. Ejikeme Ejim, and Rev. Gabriel Michael polled a total of 467 and 49 votes respectively. Five other clerics garnered different vote figures.
Aside the position of General Superintendent, other officers emerged in the positions of the Assistant General Superintendent, General Secretary, General Treasurer, among others.
According to the electoral committee (Tellers Committee) chaired by Hon. Justice Onyiri Frank of the Rivers State Judiciary, a total of 10,145 delegates were to vote in the elections.
In the case of the General Superintendent, the Tellers Committee disclosed that the total votes cast were 6,782 while 4,521 votes were required in that poll to determine the winner.
Okoroafor was first elected by the General Council in 2014.
Sunday Sun gathered that there was neither formal declaration of interest by those whose names appeared on the ballot papers nor purchase of forms as they were written by the delegates who felt they could occupy the same post.
Shortly after, journalists who monitored the exercise engaged the newly elected General Superintendent, Rev Okoroafor, in a brief chat.
You have just been re-elected General Superintendent of your church. How do you feel?
I feel like I have been assessed and evaluated by the Assemblies of God. You can see, this Assemblies of God we have over 10,000 eligible voters and then, as required by the constitution of the Assemblies of God, leadership at the national level in the church is for four years and this is the end of the tenure and then, fresh election just took place. I feel humbled that the Assemblies of God Nigeria re-elected me at a nominative ballot. It was not that the election was done two times. The constitution requires two-third majority before you are considered elected. So, they didn’t let the vote go two times. They gave me this overwhelming vote, which means they reposed confidence in me and I appreciate the entire church and I dedicate myself to serve.
What would the members of your church expect from you in the next four years?
In the next four years we shall be ringing gospel bells because we have already made some plans to take the church back to our purpose of being which is evangelization. So, we are getting into evangelism so that which the Assemblies of God was known for will be reactivated by the grace of God. And, of course, we shall do some infrastructural development and also take some administrative decisions that will help the church and also we shall open up our doors; extending our olive branch to any person who deviated or left the church. Maybe the person may have been deceived, but the door is open because the Lord spoke to me and said treat everybody as souls not as animals and that has been the philosophy that has influenced the way we go about these things.
We are in election period in Nigeria. What role would the members of the Assemblies of God be playing in this coming election?
You know Assemblies of God is pro-democratic just like we have done now. So, election is a normal thing. But we are asking that there be fair play in the elections next year. I have seen that in Nigeria we don’t seem to have political parties with distinct philosophy. People regard what we call political parties as simply a platform or a window through which people get into office, which is politically unfortunate. There should be a philosophy or ideology whether you are losing or winning you become a member of that party for life. However, as the election approaches, we are praying that the right candidates will emerge. Of course, Assemblies of God as a denomination cannot be partisan; we cannot be advocating for a particular political party even if our members are in that party. We cannot use our altar to advocate for a political party, but we will pray that the Lord will give grace and enable the right candidates to emerge for the betterment of the economy; for the betterment of security in Nigeria and also for infrastructural development.
Your church in terms of leadership has been enmeshed in crisis. Still I don’t know the magic wand you still have to achieve this growth?
Thank God that you witnessed what happened here. What had been happening is that an infinitesimal decimal of the church, but which make so much noise that some people outside seem to see the church as divided. But look at this hall filled up; these are ministers, thousands of ministers. What will you do when you have a child, assuming you have 10 children and one of them is behaving somehow, but we have extended the generous olive branch. This is where the church is. Over 90 percent of the Assemblies of God is here. The other percentage, which is less than 10 percent is on the other side. But we don’t glory that they are out. We are not happy that they are out. We are still praying that they return; we are still praying that God will touch their hearts so that they will come and get united with us to pursue what God wants us to do. So, you have seen it with your eyes, this is where the Assemblies of God is. You don’t become a leader on the Internet or social media. This is practically where the church is.
Talking of people who are out, have you made any personal moves to reach out to them?
(Cuts in) Several, several; multidimensional. I have made several moves, we have had platforms, we have spoken to their leader, we have asked him to come back that there is still opening for him to return to the church, but for reasons best known to him he has not accessed the olive branch. But we are still praying that someday, somehow he will access the olive branch. AG is a corporate thing, can you imagine, this is how we are distinct from other denominations. I am the General Superintendent, but today you must be assessed by election and it’s by secret balloting. If the people believe you should continue, they will vote for you, if they say you shouldn’t, they will vote you out and the heavens will not fall. So, that is the Assemblies of God for you and that is its peculiar aspect.
Recently, an international institute pronounced Nigeria as the world’s capital of poverty. It is possible that some of the members of your church are partakers in this. What arrangement…
(Cuts in) We are Nigerians. You see, man is a product of his environment, nature and nurture. Because we are part and parcel of Nigeria, what happens in Nigerian economy also affects members of our church. Of course, there is no way you can have a church of only rich men; that must be a dangerous church. We must have the rich, the middle class, and also the poor. Let that finding by that institution be a challenge to our leaders. Nigeria is stupendously blessed; blessed with mineral and human resources. Can you imagine the brain drain syndrome where many our intellectuals and scientists are being sought after all over the world. Our problem is not about divine blessings, it is the management of the blessings God gave to us. That is why we are shouting and praying to God to give us leaders with foresight, leaders that will take us to the Promised Land and let every Nigerian begin to pray, something is here. There are blessings in this country both mineral and human resources. We only need great leaders that will harness all these and take us to the land of prosperity.