- Calls for National Conference to address the myriad of problems confronting the country
- Seeks equitable representation on presidential amnesty committee on Boko Haram
- Warns the nation to embark on serious reflection ahead of the centennial celebration in 2014
- Urges leaders not ready to give accountability and offer servant-leadership to resign
- Reaffirms CofN opposition to gay marriage and homosexualityABUJA, MAY 14, 2013 — The Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh , on Monday in Abuja addressed a press conference on the forthcoming 3rd Session of the Eight Synod of the Diocese of Abuja with the theme: Christian Stewardship. 1st Cor 4:1&2.
Archbishop Okoh used the occasion of the press conference to throw light on the theme of the Synod. The Primate also delivered his message to the nation on issues ranging from insecurity, amnesty for members of the violent Islamic group, Boko Haram, emergency rule in some parts of the country and grazing reserves in the country.
Excerpts from the conference:
THEME OF THE SYNOD
The year before last the theme of our Synod session was WHEN THE RIGHTEOUS RULES and last year we dwelt on GOD IS OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH, A VERY PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE. This year, we are continuing in that same direction to talk about CHRISTIAN STEWARDSHIP.
The idea behind it is that, if we understand what it means to be a steward, then we will manage God’s resources with better prudence and judiciousness in such a way that people will be blessed and the country will move forward. It is another way of saying that Christians in government and Christians out of government we all do have a role to play in the struggle to fight corruption in our country and that idea springs from the fact that whatever resources God has given to us is not to be wasted. A steward is required to have certain characteristics and certain qualities. One of it is to be faithful, a steward is not the owner of what he has, he is a caretaker and so he should be faithful in dispensing what is given to him.
Furthermore, he is to be trustworthy to the master, he should have a behaviour that will enable the master to trust him. He should be obedient to the master and be responsible, judicious and prudence in the management of resources. We want to say that a steward in this sense is not limited to people that clean houses or who arrange tables. When God created he put man in the garden and made him a steward of his creation and whatever God has created therefore, we are caretakers of it. We must exploit them responsibly, therefore corruption therefore is an aberration, it is unchristian, it’s ungodly and it’s unfair. It is an unfair treatment of one’s neighbour because if something is meant for everybody and one person decides to embezzle it, that is maltreatment, and from John chapter 6, we know that the Lord has no room for surplus budgeting. When he fed 5000 people or more, what was left was not wasted, he had to gather what was left so that it could be shared among those in need. So it’s not a question of I am in a place where I can gather as much as I can so that one person can gather as much as he wants to the detriment of others.
The basic problem in our country therefore is that we should be able to have a fair distribution so that those who are in the leadership and those who are out of leadership will be catered for adequately. There should be no room for a group of people or individual to have more than he needs and even waste part of it while others have nothing at all. This is the sense of stewardship. On this issue, who are the stewards we are talking about? Parents for instance are stewards of children. Children are supposed to be directed towards fulfilling God’s mandate and when you do so then you are a steward of God in looking after the children he has given you. Government officials are called ministers because they are supposed to serve. Their joy comes from serving the people, their dignity comes from serving the people, their honour comes from serving the people not Lording it over the people and anybody who is unable to apply himself to fit into that mode ought to resign because that office is for service. This is more so from the Christian point of view because the principle of leadership of our Lord Jesus Christ is that of servant leadership. When you take for instance our Lord’s attitude to leadership, he brought a young person and said the person who wants to be great among you should be like this young person. Then he took the towel, tied around his waist, washed his disciple’s feet and cleaned them. That was the role of a servant and he said what I have done to you, go and do to others. Elsewhere in Mark 10:45: He says the Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. Also in Philippians 2: 7, He said he has the form of a slave to serve so the biblical warrant for the Christian leader anytime, the mandate from our Lord Jesus, who is our supreme leader per excellence, is that leadership should be based on servant leadership.
The principle of servant leadership and that tallies very well with the understanding of Christian stewardship that whatever you are doing, you will give account. If you ask your son or daughter to do something, there comes a time when you ask, how did you do it? It’s not an optional extra; it is something that is normal. Therefore God who has given us this assignment will ask us how it was done in our individual lives. You were given money, how did you use it? Do you have children, you had opportunity in public service, you have opportunity in the local market, how did you use it? Do you cheat and oppress people? You had an opportunity to be a fuel dealer, petroleum dealer did you hoard it? Did u hoard food? Take the example of a good young man Joseph, when he was in charge in Egypt, there was no food. He supplied food to the whole of the Middle East. If he were the crooked type, he will create a parallel market some will come to his own shop to buy at very exorbitant price and there will be cheap price in government shop but there will be no food, he didn’t do that. He allowed the government store to be well stocked and the price was cheap enough for everybody to buy from. We have a lot of examples to copy from and it shows what we understand by stewardship. The gifts which God has entrusted unto us include creation; the whole of creation. You cannot say after all it is oil money let me take it. Oil money is not there by accident it is a divine gift, a divine gift for a purpose and so our managers, money managers, our government leaders, our parliament, our civil service, our workers, the trade unions and pressure groups must all realize that we will give account that we are stewards of what God has kept for us.
I remember that as a young man, when you go to school, your mother will leave food for you somewhere. You’ll be told that by the time you will return, they will not be at home. You will be told where you will find the key, you will be told where you will find your food, you will be told where to meet them in the farm. The same thing God has done. He has kept the oil somewhere; he has given us the technology to explore it. Now the money coming from it should not be treated as if it is to no purpose. It is intended to achieve an aim so that the children of God will praise God for what he is doing for them in their lives. When we treat the money or whatever comes from it in such a way that people regret and they and they are grumbling or they are crying then God is not happy. So in the daily life we go through every day, God is interested. He is interested in the way the civil servant carries out his assignment, in the way minister carries out assignment, in the way members of the parliament carry out their assignment, God is interested not only the way we do it in the church for the whole world is God’s parish, we have the gift of time, how do we spend the gift of time? The same thing on money and the talent we received naturally and the ones we acquired by training. Again our body is also a gift. There are certain Christian beliefs where they think the body is bad and only the spirit is good. But you cannot separate a spirit from the body otherwise you dissolve into nothingness. The spirit and the body must co-habit and the body is the vehicle of expression of the spirit so it is very important that we know all these things.
For those of us working in the church, the word of God is entrusted to us and we are stewards of the word of God, peaking the truth for the truth sets people free. The truth liberates and the truth is God. Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and life’’, therefore when you are not on the side of truth you are on the side of falsehood, you are on the side of the evil one. When you are on the side of righteousness and truth, you are on the side of God no matter the inconveniences. That is why the Lord says “Never fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the spirit because the value of your life is worth more than the temporal things around you. So brothers, there will be a day of reckoning in the life of a steward. Remember the man in the bible who wasted his master’s goods and business and therefore the trust that was placed on him was misplaced. For those of us in the Church it is written that judgment will begin from the house of God so we are mindful of what is written Amos 2 vs 3: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth therefore I will punish you”. It is very important that whatever we do we must remember that there will be a day of reckoning and Nigerians must remember that God created the world, he has not abdicated, he rules in the affairs of men. Daniel 4: 17 tells us: God rules in the affairs of men and because he puts us here as stewards, at best we are God’s own treasurers, we must give account of what he has given to us.
PRESIDENTIAL AMNESTY COMMITTEE FOR BOKO HARAM
We must say inasmuch as the proposed amnesty committee is as desirable as it is for us to have peace, we must not have peace negotiated in Boko Haram terms- that is to say whatever they want we agree so far they stop fighting. If we do so, that will be like saving 10 people and destroying 160 million others. One would have loved a situation where amnesty is the climax of a drawn out programme of discussion, not secret discussion but public discussion. Nigerians will like to know from Boko Haram: Why did you take up arms? What have we done that you are so aggrieved that there will be no solution otherwise other than taking up arms? Where did you get the arms? Who are the people providing the arms and supplying the money? It will be necessary to know not in secret but in public, It will be equally necessary to know why was the church targeted? If you are fighting the government why have you not continued to fight government installations and so on and so forth? Why are you changing over to the church? What brought you together with the church? It will be interesting to know. This is important because of tomorrow and for record purposes.
Again it will be important to know also that even though amnesty may be an ultimate thing, there is a kind of peace and reconciliation process like what we had in South Africa. If at the end we are guilty and we have cheated Boko Haram then Nigerians will apologize and if Nigerians have not cheated but they violated our rights and constitutional peace, then they should apologize to Nigerians publicly not setting up a group of people who may never allow us to know what they discussed and the process through which they arrived at their decision. I want to say emphatically that the matter about Boko Haram is not a northern affair, it’s not an Islamic affair, it’s an issue of national security and because it’s an issue of national security, the representation in that committee ought to be wide spread across the country. This committee that is set up; if it submits a report to Mr. President ant the report is narrow, the president will have problem because if he approves it, it will be a problem, if he refuses to approve it, it will be a problem. This is why every section of the country that has been disturbed by the operations of Boko Haram ought to make an input in the solution that we are looking for. Fix-it-quick will not bring a permanent solution to the Boko Haram crisis. It has taken us a lot of mental torture to arrive at where we are, it will not be too long if we take additional time to do it and do it properly.
HOMOSEXUALITY AND CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE
The Church of Nigeria (Anglican communion) continues to uphold the traditional understanding or the biblical understanding of Christian marriage. It is true that across the world, homosexuality and lesbianism and what we call same sex marriage is sweeping everywhere but we want to counsel our people, do not succumb to that aberration. It is not a healthy life style for two men to join themselves together and two women to join themselves together. Humanity is at risk.
Therefore we call upon our Church people wherever they may be found, such people; they should be counselled, they should be given spiritual guidance to live normal life and to desist from that aberration. It is detestable and does nor augur well for human society. The Anglican Church in Nigeria position is that marriage is between a man and a woman in other to realize God’s purpose for them coming together.
MEDICAL TOURISM TO INDIA
The Church of Nigeria (Anglican communion) deplores the high traffic of medical tourism to India and calls upon our government to provide a solution to that. It’s almost certain now that out of three families or four, one person is heading to India. We have the knowledge; we have the money, let us save our people from that exploitation.
FULANI HERDSMEN AND GRAZING RESERVES
Before now in every community in Nigeria, the cattle Fulani is a welcome friend. They come, they speak their language, you try to make them speak your own but today they have become a type of militia, carrying weapons, shooting village people, raping women and all sorts of things. We want to alert the government that if they are not disarmed, what will come out of this group will be worse than Boko Haram. If the cattle Fulani is not disarmed, what will eventually come out of it will be worse that the trouble of Boko Haram. Everywhere they are shooting people without provocation. You come to somebody’s house; somebody’s land and you are trying to take things by force. you rape women, they can’t go to farm, you take over everything; that is another colonization and I think we should come out now and solve that problem. I don’t know whether the small arms committee set up by government has responsibility on that but if not they should because the matter is getting to an explosive level.
SUBSIDY RE-INVESTMENT AND EMPOWERMENT PROGRAMME (SURE-P)
We want to thank the government for trying to create jobs through the SURE-P but we want to advise the government to look deeper than the surface. Some people are stealing the money through fraudulent means. The government arrangement is that each state should have at least 3000 people who are on salaries after working for 5 hours of so but the leaders are short changing the government. Instead of 3000, some are employing 1000 and they will still collect the money for 3000, some are employing 2000 and at the end of the month they collect the same amount of money. We are actually enriching individuals in this SURE-P project. Government should look at it because it has good intentions to reduce unemployment and people depending on others but the greedy people in our society are making it impossible and making government programme of no effect.
MORIBUND GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS/COMPANIES
We want to ask government to look at the possibility of fighting again after a defeat. We used to have Nigerian airways and it collapsed and even its property can hardly be accounted for. The same thing happened to NITEL. We thank God the railway system is being resuscitated can we do a similar thing in the area of air travel? Just imagine the number of foreign airlines coming to Nigeria. They come fully loaded on daily basis and they take away our money. We are losing in so many directions, we are not training our manpower for air travel, we don’t have pilots. Our youths are languishing for nothing.
RELIEF TO VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE AND FLOOD IN NIGERIA
The relief being granted to victims of political violence, if our experience in the flood money management is anything to go by, government must ensure that funds it releases is traced to the beneficiaries. It is not enough to make announcement on the television that monies have been released; the individuals affected must be seen to have received the money. The flood money some people received N1, 500, some people received a bar of soap, some a packet of Omo, tell me how that can solve the problem of man who has lot a whole farm.
UNIVERSITY EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
The number of universities in Nigeria is growing but the quality is not there. You can hardly find a young man or woman from the universities who can write a clean application. We want to challenge ourselves, if we are not leading ourselves to irrelevance. We should do something about the quality of those leading our universities.
CALLS FOR EMERGENCY RULE IN NASARAWA, BORNO AND OTHERS FOLLOWING RECENT KILLINGS IN THE AREA
I was out of the country when it happened and the information gathered so far has not given me any proof. But I believe “The information I have gathered so far have not given me any proof.
“But I believe that insecurity should be addressed comprehensively. If you are declaring state of emergency in Nasarawa state and the people move to Benue, then you declare in Benue and they move to Abuja or somewhere else.
“We have tried that selected state of emergency when we had the Borno this and that and they said they have declared state of emergency, it didn’t change anything.
“So I will rather say that the insecurity in our land should be addressed comprehensively and it goes back to what I am saying that the matter is not a Northern affair. It is not an Islamic Affair, it is a national issue.
“The Country should gather together, particularly as we are approaching the amalgamation year anniversary.
“If we are not going to sit down in our geo-political zones and later submit report to a central body to vet, let us set up at least one to say how did we come to this point, and what is the way out’’.
Thinking and reflection is very crucial at this moment. Adhoc measures will not work rather let’s look at the whole country.
People should stop playing politics with national security because if there is no Nigeria their will be no political party.