Senior Pastor, Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC), Matthew Ashimolowo, in this interview with Senior Correspondent, DANIEL KANU, speaks on President Umaru Yar’Adua’s ailment, agenda for Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, the problem with the country and the giant strides of the church despite societal limitations, among other sensitive issues. ExcerptsÉ
Present Yar’Adua was out of the country for 93 days, and since he purportedly came back, Nigerians have expressed dissatisfaction on how the situation is being handled.
I want to show my sympathy for the state of health of our President and also to express concern for his family. From a supernatural or revelation point of view, two weeks after he left the country, I had a vision and it was quite challenging; so I have not been surprised at what has been happening. In the vision, I just saw him not in his normal kaftan and agbada but in a deep grey three-piece suit with a tie. He was also wearing the badge of his GCON (Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger). And then there was a doctor who happens to be my cousin telling every other person who wanted to come in to stop as they could not see him any longer. Then I woke up and told a few people that it will take a miracle for this man to come back, with all that I saw in that revelation. Few weeks later, again I saw another vision pointing to the same revelation. I prayed as much as I could as a person and the indications I saw were still not different. So it is very painful that his family could go through the experience, but in my opinion Nigeria is colossal. A state is bigger than any individual. I thought that his kind of person and nature is such that he would gladly have stepped down. But for an oligarchy, a cabal that may have been using his presence for their own means. We are glad that at least some steps have been taken now to remedy the situation.
What do you think should be the agenda for Jonathan?
All men will be remembered either for the problem they caused or the ones they solved. It is my opinion that he should be a man of awesome leadership who has his heads in the clouds and his feet on ground – his heads in the clouds to be able to see greater dreams; his feet on the ground to be able to fulfil those dreams. Of all the needs confronting Nigeria, if I were Jonathan, I would focus two major things, one of which is energy. By energy, I mean electricity. If you solve the power problem, foreign direct investment will come in and Nigerians will be able to function. The amount of money wasted on diesel would be cut down. Power needs to be resolved and let him bring in major players. Let him tell them: I only have 14 months and I want to bequeath this nation energy. I have travelled widely. Even within Africa, there is no power cut. In Ghana, if there will be any, they will announce it, you could be there weeks and the light will not blink. Solving the power problem will create what in leadership principle is called the corridor principle. If you want to go through a corridor, once you open the first major door, other doors will begin to open. If the power problem is solved, industries will reopen, factories will start to work, prices will go down, other problems will be resolved, and more people will be hired. People are already hearing all over the world that Nigeria is one of the best places to invest, so you will be able to attract them. The second major area is security. The nation is insecure; people are just so afraid; armed robbers have a field day, and they kill at random. You can’t drive on Nigerian motorway during the day, not even at night, without being afraid that there will be armed robbers on the way.
Let me use an acronym LEAP for the kind of leadership that Jonathan should give us in 14 months. LEAP: L for leading. Let him not be afraid that some cabal, some oligarchy, may want to derail his government. Let him lead with confidence. The E stands for either equipping or empowering. Nigerians need to be empowered. The A stands for aligning. We are a nation of diverse opinions, visions and dreams; so he should not allow one geo-political location make noise and say they are the only ones. He should not be ashamed to help Niger Delta because he comes from there; the need is awesome. He should not be afraid to help the North because although a good number of people from the North have been in power but the educational level there is very poor. He should not be afraid to get involved in Yoruba land because that Obasanjo was once the President does not mean that he really helped Yoruba land. He should not be afraid to help the (South) East. We know great entrepreneurs come from the East; industrialists, people who can dream, people who can replicate technology. Then the P is for perseverance. He should know that leadership is tough, he should persevere and keep his focus, and he will do well.
Many people believe that despite that there are many churches and other religious groups, corruption still abound?
You can only operate within the contest in which you find yourself. It’s like a frog in the kettle situation. If you put a frog in the kettle and you place it on a gas cooker, when you put the burner of the gas cooker on low, the frog will adjust to the water in the kettle. It doesn’t actually realise that one day even if the burner is low, the water will boil and cook the frog. The Church in the nation cannot be different from the nation, in the sense that – and I don’t say that with joy – it is the people in the nation who comes to church. The ministers can only preach the Word to them and unfortunately we may be expecting too much from the Church to change a nation when the people’s encounter with the Church is for few hours but their encounter with the government, with the system, is for all of the day. Secondly, we need to be fair to the Church; if there were no churches in Nigeria, there would have been a bigger problem than the Biafran civil war, because many people are placated by the fact that they trust God; they believe God. The other benefit of the Church is that it is teaching young men and women to live right. Do you realise that with 150 million population, Nigerians have the lowest HIV/AIDS problem in Sub-Saharan Africa – South Africa 30 per cent, Uganda 30 per cent, Botswana 40 per cent, Namibia 45 per cent even Ghana is now about eight or nine per cent, but Nigeria is between three and five per cent. What is the reason our hospitals? No, we have a broken down medical system. The only reason HIV/AIDS is low in Nigeria is because of the Church, which teaching young people, grabbing them young and helping them to learn to live right. I am proud to be a Nigerian. We have a generation in this nation that if we were to have a good leader, we would have developed into the greatest nation in this side of the world.
Many also believe that the Church is shifting from the gospel of salvation and soul-winning to the gospel of prosperity?
We have to preach the
Ordo Salutis of God as they say in Latin, which means the total order of salvation. Jesus saviour, baptised by the Holy Spirit, healer, coming king, the victorious life, how to be a good neighbour, civic duties etc. The Church preaches all that. The only reason we hear the prosperity message all the loud is because, let’s face it, you cannot be preaching as if you are talking to people who live on mars; you have to speak to people who live where you are and preach a message that is relevant to their situation. If not for that message, many people wouldn’t have the innovation to start a small business that will help their family. Our governments are so out of touch with what is going on. That people are not dying on the streets is because the Church is teaching people financial empowerment, economic empowerment, success motivation, to stop looking to the government and start believing God and learning how to prosper with whatever that is in their hands. Those teachings have helped this nation. So the Church has been an agent for teaching what people need now and that is the reason for that message. What do you see as the problem with Nigeria and what do you think should be done?
The biggest problem is leadership. Unfortunately the Constitution, the birthing of Nigeria, the method of managing Nigeria, have already created a problem. Nigeria is like a package being delivered by DHL, but that package was damaged on delivery because so many tribes and people who have practically no cultural, traditional, spiritual, social similarity were amalgamated. They have been trying their best since 1914, but the challenge is there and enormous. They have not been able to create a system that evolves good leaders. Nigeria is suffering from leadership. In mineral resources, we are one of the wealthiest in the world; we are the second largest deposit of natural gas, we have the seventh largest deposit of petroleum. In human resources, Nigeria is one of the wealthiest in the world; the number of graduates in Nigeria is unbelievable. Nigerians have overwhelmed university system in Ghana, Britain, and they have the passion to read. Go to the rest of Africa, most Blacks don’t want to read. But here, young people are eager; they are fired up. We need leaders who have certain qualities. Two things are needed: credible, capable (leaders). Many of the people we have seen, some may seem credible in our society but they don’t seem to have the capability. Some who seem to have capability have credibility problem. So we are facing a dilemma. The day we find leaders who combine credibility with capability then we are on our way to succeeding as a country.
What should Nigeria do to encourage Blacks in the Diaspora to think home?
Number one, solve the energy problem; number two, solve the security problem, number three create an enabling environment. Do you know that if you want to register a company in the United Kingdom, it takes five minutes online? In the United States, if you walk into a business office, you do it in seven minutes. If you want to register a company in Nigeria, there are 14 processes; each one of them horrendous. So create an enabling environment, a secured society. It is a complete contradiction, an anachronism, that a society like London and other great cities of the world that are so bereft of spirituality are more secured than our own where all of us are in church and mosque everyday.