Sunday Magazine

Democracy alien to us in Nigeria –Femi Emmanuel

Pastor Femi Emmanuel is the Senior Pastor Living Springs Chapel Internatinal, Lagos and Ibadan. In this interview with JOHNSON AYANTUNJI and CHINYERE ABIAZIEM, the one- time Deputy Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly talks about the role of Christians in politics, why the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) set up the Directorate of Politics and Governance (DPG) and sundry issues in the polity. Excerpts

 

Recently you had first in the Femi Emmanuel Annual Lecture Series, what is it all about?

Well, it is all about propagating my ideals, my ideas about the state of the nation. I was a one – time deputy speaker in Oyo State House of Assembly. Now, I am a Christian and a pastor and the journey into politics opened my eyes like never before. Like I keep saying, what I saw in politics cannot be seen from the pulpit.

 

That is why many times I do not blame Pastors, General Overseers, or faith fathers. I do not blame them too much, because over the years and from inception, Christians had been told that politics is evil. Politics is devilish. No true child of God should go into politics. They would tell you ‘don’t bring politics to church and don’t do church with politics.

 

We are not partisan. Leave politics for the politicians, let us just face prayer, face soul winning, preparing the bride for the bridegroom.’ That was what we all grew up with. So we see politics and politicians as an archenemy, as people you do not get close to. Let them do their things, and let us just live our lives. The best we do is to pray for them.

 

That notion, that belief, the indoctrination brought us to where we are now. The Bible says we are the light that shines in darkness. Matthew 5 verse 14, says you are the light of the earth.

 

Now darkness has enveloped our nation. It is as if there is no God. It is as if the God we pray to is dead. Why should we be praying to the God we ascribe all powers to, all knowing, ever present, all powerful, doing miracles? I have been praying through God over this nation for decades.

 

This year makes it 50 years that I gave my life to Christ, that I answered what we Christians call the altar call. Getting born again, baptized and started working in Sunday school, I never knew I would be a pastor but I was a fervent and zealous young man. I was in my teens and since then, I have been praying for Nigeria. How can you be praying for Nigeria for 50 years, some people earlier than me 60 years, 40 years 30 years is that God deaf?

 

The more we pray, the more it deteriorates. Where is that God? Then my eyes opened when I went into politics, that you cannot change a thing you are not involved in. There is no way you can change a thing you are not involved in. He said in Matthew 5 verses 13, ‘You are the salt of the earth’, I am talking to the church. I sat by revelation that how does salt change the character of the soup or whatever you are cooking?

 

Does it stay there on the shelf? It gets involved and it would change the character of the soup by bringing sweetness. The Church of God is God’s kingdom on earth, the representative of God on earth, and we chose not to be involved. We are praying to God to come and change the thing we are not involved in, something stole our mind, something brought darkness over the church in that aspect.

 

He said in Isaiah 9 verse 6, ‘Unto us a child is born unto  us a son is given and the kingdom shall be on his shoulder.’ Jesus is the head of the church, church is the body. The body starts from the shoulder. So if you say the government shall be on his shoulder, it means the government will be on the church. The church should give direction to the nation.

In the Old Testament, the King went to the Priest to receive God’s mind as to ruling the nation. We have avoided the nation and we are waiting for the king, the executive, and other people in power that we did not contribute to their emergence to come to us, it is foolishness, it is blindness.

 

So, I see myself as God sent to educate the body. I am not looking for political appointments. What I am doing now is bigger than the President.

 

The Presidents are called for eight years maximum and are gone. But General Overseers are there for life. So I feel guilty to know this much and not educate the body, then the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) came for me and said, we appoint you to educate the body of Christ.

So they called me a National Director of the Directorate of Politics and Governance. So that gave me the leverage to be able to talk to the body so when I talk to the General Overseers they listen, because I am also a General Overseer and I am not with less results. So I tell them there is nothing you are that I am not, so when I talk to you, you should listen.

 

I have visited several of the General Overseers; I visited Daddy Adeboye three times, Bishop Oyedepo, Dr. Olukoya of Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministry. I sit and tell them, ‘See this aspect? We are missing it somewhere and a lot of people are beginning to doubt if this God is available? Where is this God?’

Our God is powerful. We went into education; see what the church is doing with education today. Some churches have numbers of primary schools, secondary schools and they even have universities, everything we step into, we see the power of God in demonstration.

So if we do not step  into this, He said everywhere your feet shall step upon. He gives to you. He said when the righteous are in power, the people rejoice. It is when and not if.

So He expects the righteous to be in power. So why do we not aspire? There are good people all over Nigeria including churches, good people that can fix this nation; they are in this country, people who fear God. There are people in this nation believe me, who cannot be corrupted, who will not steal. They fear God, they love the people. They are content and will not be tempted.

Their vision is clear. Politics for God’s sake should be to go there and make the people better but it has been turned around here. You go there to steal the money, stick it up and leave the people in destitution. The people to fix this are in church, but we cage them. The church community is an imprisoned community because you know the way Jesus described the church – the sheep and shepherd. Members of the church are sheep, sheep will not see well than the  shepherd that led them.

So that is why I appeal to General Overseers and Senior Pastors, especially the Pentecostals, our people follow us like devotees, because our people believe in us. They see us as their shepherd. They respond. If you tell a Christian body, we are fasting for the next 40 days. No eating during the day. They will see food in their kitchen and they will not go there.

They will see drinks in the refrigerators and they will not go there because the pastor has announced a fast. There are some churches that hold services from 5:30 a.m and 6:30 a.m till evening.

Our people follow us like devotees, why don’t we then enlighten them, support them and let them go into taking over the power, after all politics is about the people. I say to people next to God’s power is political power and political power is people given and God has given us people. The Pentecostal fellowship of Nigeria alone from the data we have is 65 million people. The Redeemed Christian Church of God alone is over 11 million and has close to over 50,000 parishes.

Winners have over 30,000, not to mention MFM, Deeper Life, Chosen, Christ Embassy and TREM, these are churches with national spread. Not to talk of those which are regional powers. Have you gone to Abuja to see Dunamis and have you gone to Salvation Ministries in Portharcourt.

Even us, our church has national spread. These people are under us but we cage them, saying, ‘Don’t go into politics. Leave it for them. Let’s face the gospel.’ I think the General Overseers need to wake up. It is like God handed these people to us and we watch them die.

How many pastors have been kidnapped?

Look at the Catholics. I have not mentioned the Evangelicals, I have not mentioned the Orthodox, Anglicans, Baptists and Methodist, the Aladuras and we are in this country and this country is like this?

I went to Daddy Adeboye one time, Daddy (Adeboye) is a listening man. I said to him, ‘I am very sorry, at my level. I am a small pastor, with what I am doing at my level. When you go out of this country, with your green passport, you are asked to step out, they sniff you. They take you to a special room. Every Nigerian is a potential drug addict and fraudster.

They suspect you; the green passport has become ridiculous. I said if I am at this level, I am ashamed and disturbed of what my country has been turned to. So what about you that prime ministers of nations and presidents kneel down before you?’ Then they say ‘this, great man of God, where are you from, and you say Nigeria. How can light be in a place and darkness take over? So that is my job. It is an attempt to start educating. What the church needs is education. When we call the church it is about General Overseers because church members respond to them.

Since you were appointed National Director of the Directorate of Politics and Governance, how has it been, how has the response been so far?

It is a difficult task because you are talking to people who have been indoctrinated. Doctrine is very powerful, I just said the other time that    someone will see food and will not eat because their Pastor declared a fast. If their Pastor says they are going on retreat, they will go because they believe in the man of God.

They follow you, that is indoctrination. I do not know if you have met an average Winner, Deeper Life member or Catholic, he or she is a totally different human being, because it is the doctrine that guides him or her. Now, these are the people I am now working with, to change that mindset. You know, it is not going to be easy. But as we speak now, the DPG has established the structure that we have appointed 36 State Directors, 774 Local Government Directors and we are trying to install the 8080 wards. You know in Nigeria we have 36 states, 774 local governments, 8080 wards.

That is how Nigeria operates. The involvement that I am calling the church to is not just to register and have voters’ cards. So what we have done so far is that we have had this structure and we have been holding meetings. PFN is a good platform for me. I have held meetings with the 36 National Directors. I am moving from state to state. I will be in Ogun State next Friday (September 2). All the Local Government Directors are coming, all the State Directors are coming, all the GOs are coming for us to educate them.

 

If you talk to our fathers in faith, you will be amazed at their level of their ignorance politically. They did not just see their involvement. But as the nation is deteriorating, they are also worried that all these labours, see what the nation has become. But they do not know what else to do, and I am telling them what else to do is to be involved. Politics is about people, you have the people. The people must be moved not just to vote but to the grassroots.

Now talking about mobilization, it definitely involves a lot of funding and finances. So how are you going to get people to be able to support those who are inclined in going into politics?

Nigeria’s situation is unfortunate. What is a political party? A political party is an association of people of the same ideologies, we have the same ideology about our nation, we come together, we prepare a manifesto, we give our party a name. We try to sell this manifesto to people that if you elect us this is what we will do for you.

That is the concept of political party and democracy. They said democracy is the government of the people by the people for the people. But in Nigeria it is a different thing, it is a totally different thing. This is the education I am giving not just to the church but the entire populace.

There are patriotic Nigerians, there are Nigerians who do not really go to church or a mosque, but they are patriotic. Look at the body of youth, they are patriotic, they want a change, but they do not know where the change will come from. You know, democracy is alien to us.

 

It is not our way of life. Our way of life in this part of the country is ‘Kabiyesi’, when the British colonial came, that is what they met. There was a form of government when they came but Kabiyesi owns everything but our allegiance is to Kabiyesi, but democracy is the opposite of it. Democracy gives you room to express your mind, consensus of opinion. But our way of life is not like that.

 

Even in homes, when the father talks, the children must keep quiet. That is our orientation and we brought that to Nigeria type of party politics. The Nigerian system is totally different, political parties in Nigeria are owned by individuals, it is not everybody coming together with the same ideology to discuss, and somebody owns the party.

You cannot become anything except for political entrepreneurs, I call them political principalities and it is from area to area. Look at Lagos, for instance, we know who owns the political party in this country. This goes for every state, sometimes it is senatorial, some people own it. If you want to be a counselor and you go to your local government, they will ask you, ‘do you know Baba’ A baba owns it and unless he puts you there, you can’t get there.

The people’s allegiance is to the baba. If you see those who do political parties in Nigeria you will weep for this country because those political principalities, I call them political entrepreneurs, run it as their own enterprise and they fund it.

They mobilize the literates, the novices, the poor, to the ward level, because the constitution presupposes that it is the people in a particular ward that set their representatives up.

The representatives from the ward are called a delegate that is why I said to them last week that without delegates there can be no candidate. That is what the body does not know.

The youth also do not know, if they had used the power of #Endsars to understand how political parties work, they would take it over. So it is not as costly as it is here, it is those who own it and have taken it over that makes it costly?

 

So how do we get it away from them?

 

To get it away for them, we have to go to the grassroots. Politics is grass-  roots.

How do we actually get people to go into it?

 

 

You had the structure I said we have put in place 36 state directors, 774 local government directors and we are putting in place the 8080 wards and we now have what we call church officers of politics. Which means every church assembly will appoint one officer.

The pastor will appoint one officer who will register the adult members in that parish. In fact, they will even have a WhatsApp group where they can talk to themselves and mobilize them to join other churches in the same ward.

Then we will become a caucus. Political parties are in caucuses, as you see them meet in the ward and local government they are in caucuses. Those caucuses are put there by the political godfather that wants to take that ward power. It is that ward executive that is called power in politics.

That 10 to 15 people that form the ward exco, the Chairman, the Vice Chairman and the Secretary, Assistant Secretary, the Social Secretary, the Youth Representative, are about 10 or 15 in each ward. As they meet in each ward they appoint their officers who are the delegates that go to elect the governor, the senator and largely the president. That is what ordinary Nigerians do not know. Not just the church, educated Nigerians they are not there.

If you see the people that meet at the wards like I said, you will weep for this country. These are the people organized there by the political ‘wardlords’ to put their own people there.

They give them a list of people who will do their bidding. If the church understands that we are many enough and when you put Redeemed, Anglican, MFM etc in a ward you will get 1000 or 2000 Christians. So they too go as a caucus and at the ward congresses you put forward those you want to elect.

 

 

 

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