FULL TEXT + VIDEO: Primatial Address at the 14th General Synod of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion.September 22, 2023
- NGOZI ADIGHIBE
- May 22, 2016
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He keeps a tight schedule day and night, with additional responsibility as the Head Global Anglican Future Conference Primates Council (GAFCON). Yet, the pulpit imposes on him multiple and complex tasks which he must perform at record time. Indeed, being a Clergy, a reputable one at that is never as easy as many believed. For the Primate of Church Of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. That was the impression the interviewers Mr Folu Olamiti and Mr Idowu Samuel had when we met the Primate for a session of interview on sundry issues in Nigeria. The revered man of God, at the moment, is the head of Anglican Communion in Nigeria with over 20 million members in 164 Dioceses.
He also leads 14 Archbishops and 168 Bishops. Notwithstanding his busy schedules, the Primate remains a stickler for time. He kept to the agreed 2.00pm time for the chat and had to usher us in on the dot, with the assistance of his able lieutenant, Venerable Ifeanyi Akunna of the Cathedral Church Of Advent Gwarinpa, Abuja and a close friend, Venerable Foluso Taiwo, Vicar Holy Cross Wuye, Abuja who doubles as the Chief Communicator for the Church Of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). Primate Okoh, an embodiment of humility and infectious carriage took time to bare his mind on religious, political and economic matters in Nigeria, which he considers very worrisome. He also unfolds his vision for the church, his worries and high expectations on Nigeria.
I wake up very early to enable me have morning devotion with my family, because that is another church. During devotions we don’t just read the bible, we read the bible and listen to comments. We seek the opinion of the young people about the scriptures and then I give my own. More than the scripture, we also look at issues around the family. If there is anyone that has anything, we discus and pray, so that church will close. The next thing to do would be to go for my exercise. I got to a park; I do jogging and trekking as far as my strength can carry me. After those, I have a little rest in the morning, which leads to breakfast. I thereafter have my birth and get ready for the office. All these things are before 10 am, so that I can be at the main church. We start from 10am and sometimes we leave here 6pm. After closing, we have meetings, which usually draw farther into late night.
My Advise To Clergymen on exercises
I joined the army as a boy, so it has always been a part of my life. It is not something you throw away because it has become part of your life. When you do not have it, you begin to slow down. Clergymen are very young, by the time they are getting older, if they do not do it, doctor would recommend it for them.
GAFCON And My New Role
GAFCON is Global Anglican Future Conference, and it came to be in 2008 when homosexuality became an issue and some churches in the Anglican Communion refused to go to the Lambert conference because of the issue. Instead, they went to Jerusalem to hold their own conference. That conference was planned in Nairobi under Archbishop Peter Akinnola and executed in Jerusalem. That conference adopted a statement, which is commonly known as the GAFCON statement and Jerusalem declarations. That is the creed of the body of Anglicans who objected to revisionism agenda, that is to say, it is not just about homosexuality and lesbianism, it has to do with the attitude to the bible, the people who hold the bible very dear, because there are some people who do not, who think that their own culture and interpretation should supersede what is in the scriptures. But the GAFCON group said no, and that is what it is all about. Then, my duty will be to organise them as the chairman and ensure that we move forward. For example, the conference we had in 2008 at Jerusalem, after five years we had another one in Nairobi and this time around, we are going to have another one in 2018. Efforts are being made to get the venue, but we have not succeeded. In the last conference, it was decided that because 2018 will be ten years when GAFCON was born, it will be very important for us to go back to Jerusalem, in other to observe ten years of the existence of GAFCON, and after the next five years we could go to another place.
In Africa, we have Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and we have other associates from some part of Australia, UK and US particularly from a part we call Acna, it is a province there. Those are the people who also say no to this way of life as church leaders. We also have members in south East Asia.
Why Homosexualism Is Ruling The World Today
Secularism has a lot to do with it and the philosophy of relativism. Relativism means that what seems good to you may not be good to another. In fact, homosexualism is what is ruling the world today, and then you will not be surprised that we have come to where we are. It is a very difficult situation that people are accepting what used to be a real aberration and it becomes their way of life. The quarrel is not that people have not practiced it before, or that it is not in our society in a way. The problem is that they say it is good. If the people who are practicing it had said we are weak, we have sinned or done what we shouldn’t do, the problem may not grow. But when people commit adultery, and they insist it is the way, then people who were not committing adultery before will begin to see it as stated. The fact is God has made adequate provision for human sexuality, so it is not an accident or a new thing to have sex. He made an arrangement for it, in the human and animal world and everywhere. What is making the evil of homosexuality more difficult is that it has become a political ideology. They now use it for campaign. They now do gay pride parade that those who do not do it are being encouraged to join. There were comments made on the new Muslim Mayor of London that he won because he accepted homosexuality just to gain popularity. That is the world we are living in now. Young people particularly thinks whatever an elder does is also good, because America has legislated on it and their supreme court has taken it up, same with the UK and France. So, anyone who says homosexuality is bad is looked upon with suspicion. And our church leaders in the west criticize us and look at us as wrong people for opposing such a thing.
Devil Has Infiltrated The Church
Yes, what is happening is that, the enemy is fighting from within the church. The devil knows that fighting outside is not enough. He has to recruit Archbishops, Bishops and Pastors to say homosexuality is the way of life. So, what else can the devil get other than what it has done? The solution is for the remnant church to hold on. In every generation, people look onto the remnant church, so that in the face of evil, they should not bow or yield, they have to remain dogged. They may be ridiculed, muffed but even at the threat of their life; they should remain focused and steadfast.
My Plan For The Church
My first assignment is my dioceses; the Abuja diocese. Our programme is to continue to raise new churches and ensure that they are properly pastored with pastors who will provide good spiritual diet for the people. Following that, based on our church of Nigeria vision, and our church being a caring church, this means we must provide schools and hospitals. That is why we are negotiating for land in other to establish a hospital for the care of the sick and people who are unwell. This is our area of interest. More than that, we are moving out during the synod to the rural areas. We are going to lay more emphasis now on the rural areas in the suburb of the city, because that is where the people who matter are. They are the people who need the message and pass it on to their children, so that the gospel can be domesticated in this place.
The 2016 Synod
The theme for this year’s synod is “Poverty Of Riches”. We are taking that from Revelation 3 verse 17. In that passage, the Laodecians were very comfortable and rich in money, but they did not please the Lord, so he condemned their attitude, not a single thing was said in their favour because they trusted so much in their wealth and all around them. But the Lord said that they were poor and wretched in the midst of their wealth. So, we want to bring that out, like in our environment here in comparison with other part of the country, you have many things in abundance, but there is poverty here, both spiritual and material, We must use this to judge ourselves to see how we can improve in our service to God.
Church Of Nigeria Waiting For Buhari’s Invitation.
Really if you have watched the TV, as a member of the peace committee, I had taken part in all the discussions held to make sure that there is peace in the country. Then we had written letters; we invited the authorities to Akure, they never showed up. We invited them to Kubwa, it was only the Vice President who came. The Anglican Bishops wrote to the President that we wanted to visit; we did not even receive an acknowledgement, let alone an invitation. What we concluded is that the letter might have gotten lost somewhere, because we could not imagine why the letter could be dishonored in that manner. We are thinking that we should allow him to settle down more, and then we can make more effort to get in touch. We have written three times to get his audience, but it did not work out fine. That is not to say that we are not with them, we are with them because of the work they are doing. We believe what the president is doing now is very good especially on the issue of corruption. The fight against corruption is very good. If not for corruption, maybe we would have risen far beyond where we found ourselves today in Nigeria. If all the money budgeted in Nigeria had been spent for the people, then we could have gone very far. We are body and soul with Mr President in this agenda, because it is for the people. It is for the interest of our communal life. No Christian who is worth his name can be against an administration that is fighting corruption. It is very important. God is just and righteous, and fighting corruption is righteousness. But the battle is an ongoing one, it is not over, so we are available. We are part of the crusade against the evil in the land.
Insurgency And Damage To The Church
Not much has been done to restructure or review the trend. In Damaturu, we have not been able to do much because if you go there; even the Bishop himself is in exile in Jos. He lives in Jos and only goes there to see things. A lot was damaged in Mubi area under Yola diocese and Maiduguri of course. These things take time, and we hope that the effort being made by government to rebuild the Northeast will also include rehabilitating the religious facilities that had been damaged by the Boko Haram insurgency. So it is not just their houses or farms that were affected, there are certain other facilities that were destroyed.
The Anti Graft War
The war against corruption is very necessary. What we consider to be absent now is the fact that the states are not being carried along. The local governments are not being carried along at the federal level. The real effect of government is at the local government. All the money they collect on monthly basis, what do they do with it, who is the person embezzling it? The states need to be brought along in order to make the war against corruption effective. If you succeed with the federal, what happens to the states and local government, or is it a dash or a gift to them.
Success On The Anti-Graft War
It is still at its elementary stages. The President has a long time to rule, so this question would be very appropriate at the end of his term. With just his one year of administration, you can see that he has ruffled everybody. What I mean is that people are not comfortable with their loot, so that if you want to steal money now, his family will tell him please take it easy.
On Cameron Describing Nigeria As Fantastically corrupt .
The fault of that statement is that it has no time frame and you cannot conclude that Nigerians are not corrupt. There is hardly any area where you mention corruption and Nigeria’s name will not appear. Look at the Panama documents, Nigerians are mentioned there. That was why I said the fight against corruption is at its infancy; it is going to go very far for the impact to really be felt in the society. First is that it has to go from the federal to the states, then to the local governments, the universities, to the market, to the industries, banks, churches and all places. It is a comprehensive crusade.
The Rampage Of Fulani Herdsmen
The Fulani herdsmen are a common sight in any part of Nigeria. Everywhere you go, you meet them and they have always been used as good examples of diligence, devotion and dedication to duty in the way they graze their animals while they eat scanty food. You cannot really fault them for doing anything and so they were a welcome sight in any village or community with their stick and so on. Sometimes, they carry musical instrument and radio feeling very happy in the bush. But in recent times, what we are seeing of them does not give us the confidence to refer to them as herdsmen. We are dealing with terrorist organizations that are devoted to killing people. Where it matters to us now is that the major policy of this government on economic revival hangs on agriculture. But people cannot go to farm anymore.
They can no longer eat because somebody is waiting with a rifle in the bush to kill and rape. That is brigandage. We appeal to government to quickly intervene because this is not the set of Fulanis that we were used to. To us, something has happened and we do not know what has happened. This problem could have arisen from the negligence of the government in guarding our boarders. People crossed over into our country to perpetrate evil and we must watch it. Whichever way you look at it, it is the government’s responsibility, whether immigration, custom, military or police, they are all government agencies. So at what point did this people come in. Are they foreigners or Nigerians, when we look at it that way, we will see that something evil has entered the country. Nobody can solve the problem, but only the government. That is why is it important to solve the problem? One element in human being is the desire for self-survival, if I come to your village today and kill 10, then I go away only to come back and kill same number of people. Those whose people you are killing will not wait for you to continue to come and kill. They will find a way to stop you, even if it means sacrificing their children. They will find a way to stop you. Before we get to that point where security becomes the affairs of ethnic nationalities organizing their militias, there is a need for government to look at this matter with the urgency it requires before things eventually degenerates.
Challenges Facing The Church
One of the major challenges of the church to day is tribalism. Because of tribalism in the church, we find it difficult to really understand the true message of the gospel and practice it. Another is the gap between what we teach and what we preach. There is a yawning gap between profession and practice. Thirdly, the church finds it very difficult to unite. People get into disagreement and because of that they leave the fold to start a new church; this disunity is really becoming a big problem.
First and foremost, we have been told in the media that due to the fact that the budget has not been released, money has not been flowing; economy has not been properly fixed. They said what they are running are programmes made by past administration and there is a disconnect between that administration and this one. Our hope is that now that the budget has been signed, we give it a while to see whether the approval of the budget will bring new life. If it does, then we clap hands and rejoice. If it does not, then we begin to think more and more of where to find our salvation.
Buhari’s Score Card
To be frank, everybody is surprised at the revelations coming up on the amount of monies stolen from the government, how much money some individuals took away. So on that note, we have to congratulate the man because he is fighting the evil while he is doing his best to uproot it. How well he will succeed remain to be seen, but we pray that he succeeds because he made a lot of promises. If he choses to fail, people will lose hope in governance. So he cannot afford to fail.