In the spirit of celebrating Nigeria’s Democracy Day 2022, the General Superintendent of Holy Spirit Mission Church (the Happy Family Chapel), Charles Ighele, spoke with the Association of Christians Correspondence of Nigeria (ACCoN) on the dividends of democracy and other national issues. Excerpts by SEYI JOHN SALAU:
With your background in political science, why is it difficult for everyday Nigerians to enjoy the dividends of democracy?
When we see how nations develop, there are times when things can become turf. This is the time, l believe that any of the three leading candidates in the 2023 election will have the ability to rule this nation better than it has been. Any one of them has the capacity of making things better than they have been. It is said that our nation is going to the state of nature. l believe we can get out of it. ln Rwanda, it was challenging for them some decades ago and thankfully, they got out of it strong. We will get out of our present quagmire.
lt is also instructive to note that the quality of elites of any nation will determine how far the country will go. To be frank with you, most of our elites in Nigeria think more of themselves and of their class. We live in a country where the law and the institutions established favours the elites more than the masses. elite both at the villages, local government, and states and federal levels think more of themselves. For instance, some states that are struggling to survive and do not have money but are building airports where perhaps, it is when the governor is going to Abuja that an aircraft will land there. These airports are not commercially viable. This kind of project does not benefit the masses. So, when the elite think that way, the people will not be able to enjoy the dividends of democracy.
We live in a system where one system is for the poor and another system is for the rich. There are schools, and medical facilities met for the poor and another one met for the rich. Until we have elites across the board that loves and cares for the masses, we are not going to reach our promised land. Look at our primary and secondary schools; it has not helped human being to be more civilised, live a better life, live responsibly, see life as sacred, and exhibit ethics. The system makes people be more bush than they were. Anything good, any little thing, they are ready to fight and died.
Recall that members of IPOB equally advised the Deeper Life General Superintendent to call off his global crusade in Aba…?
Well, it is not only in the East. It did not start with IPOB. There are places where you could hold crusades in this country that now you can’t do crusades there at all. Whether is in the stadium or any public place, don’t think about it. The best is to hold programmes in the church. It did not start with IPOB. I do not say that it is right but it is a system collapse.
The government seems to have lost the monopoly of violence in the Nigerian state: what is the implication for democracy and the Nigerian state in general?
When a country loses its power to terrorists is an indication that the country has failed. The instrument of violence or war should be in the hand of the country, but when we see militia, bandits everywhere, and kidnappers everywhere, it is disturbing. Look at it, it is like that in the Niger Delta, in the South East, and is the same across the regions, irate youths are running riots and we seem helpless. They manifest themselves in a different manner and in different ways. That shows a state or country that needs to reinvent itself, a country where its leadership has failed totally. Whosever will come up as Nigeria’s next President have to be strong to face these challenges. A nation should monopolise the instrument of violence. It is not so, to travel by road, is a problem, to travel by train, people are afraid. We have never thought this nation will be like this, is so sad. Unfortunately, our leaders don’t learn. We had a nationwide protest in Nigeria, and it is instructive to say if what led to the protest is not addressed, we may be in for another unrest. In 1978, I played a major role in the national student demonstration that ‘Ali must go’ under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. I took part in the protest because we discovered that education was getting out of the hand of the poor. My father could afford my fee but I realise that it was getting out of the poor. I demonstrated but now instead of reforms, the systems have gone down. You will not find a British or US citizen studying in Nigeria unlike before in our days when we were in school. What people fight for is not addressed and if they are, they are just palliatives and palliatives will not bring about development.
Read also: Nigeria must invest in human capital development to achieve impressive growth rates
Whoever becomes President in the next general election, let them come up with a committee that will look at all the protests that had taken place in the past, compiled them, and look at the reason for the protest and come up with reforms, changes that will bring about the needed development. By the time such a leader, the agitation will stop. Things are bad and the next leaders must sit up. The next president must go beyond infrastructure development and invest in humans because the quality of the human mind is at the centre of the development.
The PFN President was in Lagos recently and disclosed that the fellowship will speak on the forthcoming general election, what card is the fellowship flying this time around
PFN is a fellowship of a recognised body of Pentecostal churches in Nigeria. So, over the years, different churches have taken different stances on who to vote for where matters of the election coming up. Even when the outgoing Vice President, Yemi Osinbanjo emerged in 2015, the church took a different stance which you know. Some people told their members to vote for him- Osinbajo while some told their members to vote for Former President Goodluck Jonathan and others are apolitical. They were not interested in the process; that is how it has always been. Specifically, some went for APC because of Osinbajo while some for Goodluck Jonathan. No order from PFN for the church to vote for Osinbajo or Jonathan. I know that PFN members have political sympathy for some. When we meet, the different sympathies were there. We still went on as the body of Christ in this country. We, the leader went on, despite the fact that we had different people that we supported. So, it expects the coming election. It is not going to be an issue, churches voted, the way they felt things should vote, I don’t think it will be an issue this time. When someone like Tunde Bakare contested with Buhari, it was not an issue. When Chris Okotie contested, it was not an issue.
Looking at the recent terrorist attack on worshippers in St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State; is the church under attack?
The churches have their branches in parts of the country. We have our churches in the areas where they have attacked there and there. We are not afraid of terrorists. When as a people, we are afraid, sorry, the nation has been overwhelmed. Whatever we do, we do it with care and a sense of security. In the Book of Nehemiah, while they were building, one hand was building while the other hands were with a sword girded by their side.
As a church, we tell our people to have a sense of security and to know when danger lurks in. In our case, we try to make our churches to be community-friendly. That is a different way we try to affect the community positively in terms to given food to the poor and empowering the people. With that, when the church is friendly and when there is a problem, the community defends the church. That is how we have been running our churches over the period. People who don’t know come to our churches for help and what we have, we share. During the lockdown period, we try to distribute food to the poor in the community. For me, community-friendly is the best form of defense. I have my friends and mission in the north that is away prepared and alert in case, but the attack in Owo should not be a source of worry for us in Lagos. The challenge is that if you employ four securities operatives and you have bandits in their tens and twenties coming to attack a church, it is obvious that the security operatives will run. The government must up its game in protecting the people.