Rev. Felix Omobude is the General Overseer of New Covenant Gospel Church and president of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN). In this interview with select Journalists, he spoke on the incessant killings across the country and other issues affecting the polity. TITUS AKHIGBE was there for The Daily Times.
The situation in the country as it affects security has been very troubling, there is hardly any day that you don’t hear of bloodshed, killings either by Boko Haram, suicide bombings or herdsmen across the country, how do you react to the development?
The PFN is greatly worried that Nigeria is degenerating to a failed state, whereas we have a government in office. It appears that this situation is overwhelming to our security forces.
The PFN calls on government at the various levels to ensure the safety and security of Nigerians irrespective of their tribes or religion. We hold the current administration to their campaign promises of change for the better.
We call on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and his government and the ruling party to take a look at the promises made to Nigerians and make every effort to fulfill them. Like you will know, the cost of living is becoming very high.
When this government came into power in 2015, the price of petrol was N87, but as at today, it is N145. I can go on and on; I mean those who do international business knows the value of Naira four years ago and what it is today. It is two or three times more than what it was.
So, we are calling on the government to rise up and do the needful by making Nigeria a safe country. Reduce the poverty level and make life more meaningful.
How would you react to the statement from some persons especially from the North that perpetrators of criminal activities which many Nigerians describe as herdsmen are armed bandits from outside the country?
Well, we are amazed that our President can announce that in the UK and the US and has not said it at home. But even if that was the truth; if someone is using my name to perpetrate evil I should fight it, I should stop it and I will say don’t do so.
So, if these people are from outside, it is the government’s responsibility to check the borders, fish them out, because it is not your (press) responsibility or mine to do that. So, they should do the needful.
The country has never had it so bad as on daily basis people are massacred in different parts of the country. Would you say that it is appropriate to describe the perpetrators as terrorists?
Honestly, whatever language you use to describe their activities, it all runs to terrorism. But do you go out and say that they are cattle herders only to sneak out and bring AK 47, kill owner of farms, rape their wives and then disappear into the tin air. So, it is terrorism.
Would you say that Buhari has done enough to stop these killings since it started. Has the President done enough?
Well, I will leave that to Nigerians to decide, but the PFN is saying that the responsibility of government is to safe guard the people. So, if it was enough, we will not have been crying.
The cries are all over the place, I mean across party lines, I mean when we are dealing with this issue, we should not be thinking that his is in my party or your party, we want these things stopped.
It doesn’t really matter to us which party is ruling, we want good government, and we want peace and security for all Nigerians.
The issue of hate speech; people see it as an instrument being used by the government of the day to control church leaders especially the clampdown on some churches mostly from the Southern part of the country. What is your take on that?
It is a Christian virtue to speak things that are true and things that portrait the peaceful coexistence and we stand by that.
We don’t encourage hate speeches, because it really can degenerate into problem that we cannot control, but while clampdown on religious leaders, politicians who on daily basis are speaking hate, who rise up and say one party is put in a coffin, what do you call that? It is hate speech.
So, I call on Nigerians, we can play politics and be civil and show understanding. You can criticise an issue, but not necessarily rubbishing the person.
There is concern as the 2019 election draws near; in the Nigeria of today, there is a high level of ethnic and religious intolerance, how do you view that circumstance now that we are moving closer to electioneering year?
We can only but appeal to Nigerians to be tolerant. You cannot tell them not to speak the truth. You see, peace and equity are important.
Justice and equity are kind of fulcrum on which egalitarianism thrives. Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to have been done.
If you look at the nation today, some ethnic groups feel marginalised, left behind and some religious groups feels governors/government is tilting towards that direction. Those driving the ship of state must not only be true, but must be seen to be just and must be convincingly too.
On the issue of restructuring, do you subscribe to the restructuring of the country?
Honestly, I believe that democracy provides for it. I believe that if restructuring will give us a safer, equitable and just society, why not go for it.
In the North-East, education is amongst one of those things that is lacking due to the impact of insurgency in the area, the Chibok girls, Dapchi girls. How do you think we can reposition the educational system in the North-East in the face of series of attacks on daily basis? They seem to be lagging behind?
Education is the easiest way of developing the mind and the society. The insurgency that came and occupies a certain region of the country is as a result of the neglect of education, especially in that region for a long time.
I believe that government at various levels should pay more attention to the education of the Nigerian child no matter where they are. Now, looking at the North-East, certainly we have a monumental challenge with the occasional show by Boko Haram and the other sects; many people are afraid to send their children to school.
I think that government has made some efforts, but they should improve on the security situations, encourage parents to send their children to school and making it an offence if you fail to send your children to school.
One of the Dapchi School girl that is still in the captivity of the Boko Haram sect, Leah Sharibu on account of her refusal to renounce Christianity and become a Muslim. What is your advice to the government concerning her freedom?
Well, the case of Leah Sharibu has become a very troubling situation because if those who adopted her did not say the reason why they kept her back, one would understand.
But very vocally from what we have read, they said they were keeping her because she refused to renounce her faith. This is one of the banes of society, the reason why there is mis-trust on the part of one side of the Nigerian society and of the other.
Why will several teenage girls be adopted? And you release the rest and you retain one just because she is a Christian. So, if the government at home do not do anything, it just left us to believe that the mission that we have not yet known is under playing.
Everyday that Leah stays behind is creating some tension among the religious groups in the country and I will call on the government to do everything possible to show that they are impartial.
And that they are not with Boko Haram. Even if it is ransom or whatever they want to pay, they should pay it and get Leah back.
Concerning the security challenge facing the nation, what can the church do to assist the government to end these violent killings in the country?
Well, we will continue to advocate for peace, because if God wanted Nigeria to be solely a Christian country, it was not an impossible thing for Him to do.
If He wanted Nigeria to be solely a Muslim country, He had the power to do it, but He did not do it. He wanted us together and we must respect that.
We have continued to speak the truth to the powers that be; advocate for justice. Besides, we know the power of prayers and we are actively engaged in praying for the peace, safety and prosperity of Nigeria.
Recently, the PFN declared a one year prayer programme for the nation. I would want you to throw more light on it?
We have put in place a programme where every hour of the day for the next one year is covered by some people praying for Nigeria every hour. On hour per hour basis and it is on chain basis across the country. It started on the 1st of this month (May) and it is going to go through to the next year.
The utterances and activities of some politicians have started to overheat the political system in the country. Examples are the trial of Senator Dino Melaye and attack on Senator Matthew Urhoghide at the Benin Airport. Sir, are these development not of concern to PFN?
Honestly, I thought we have gone past this stage, politically. When I heard what happened at the Airport to Senator Urhoghide; on a personal note, I do not believe that impeaching President Buhari at this time is in the interest of the country.
I don’t believe so, but Senator Urhoghide was doing his job and he ought to have been allowed to do his job without harm and there is need for political leaders to call their followers to order, because 2019 election is around the corner.
You will have no Nigeria to rule when you burn it before then. So, let us follow the rule of law and do things as civilized people. That is what I will say.
Would you advise the President to change the security apparatus owing to what has been happening in the country?
Well, it is not my duty to advise him. I have heard calls from various quarters asking him to sack this or that.
Being the President, he is the President of Nigeria and if he has any staff working for him that is not meeting his need, he should know what to do because, the success or failure of his administration depends on the activities of the people that he puts in offices.
So, I think from time to time, a good leader should have an over view of those who are working for him and those not leaving to the billing should be dropped and those that need to be lifted, should be lifted.
Would you agree that the security situation in the country is being politicised by some persons?
You cannot rule out politics, but when people are being killed daily and we know it, will you say that is politics? When a bomb explodes in the market, church or mosque, do you see that as politics? I think that they should not think that Nigerians don’t know what they are doing. We have problem at hand, face it and solve it.
The PFN is greatly worried that Nigeria is degenerating to a failed state, whereas we have a government in office. It appears that this situation is overwhelming to our security forces. The PFN calls on government at the various levels to ensure the safety and security of Nigerians irrespective of their tribes or religion. We hold the current administration to their campaign promises of change for the better.