Rt. Reverend Justus N. Mogekwu is the Bishop of Asaba Diocese, Anglican Communion. He spoke with Otas Osayande in Asaba recently on the activities of the APC-led Federal Government, urging Nigerians not to re-elect President Muhammadu Buhari. He also called on religious leaders, especially ministers who prophesy doom to desist from such.
Most clergymen endorse politicians for political positions. Do you think the church is doing well with all these endorsements?
Thank you very much. In the first place, I will like to tell you straightaway that every human being, who is an adult and mature, must in one way or another, be involved in politics. But not politics in the sense that you join a political party or arrogate to yourself the right to decide which party will win or which party will not win.
As the guide of the people, a minister of God, a pastor must speak out against the evil or the malpractices or the wicked acts of any political leader, be it the governor, legislator or president, who is not committed to fulfilling his campaign promises, who does not have good plans for the people, who seems to be deceiving the people and stealing the people’s money.
On the other hand, the minister has the duty to endorse or even applaud politicians, who are committed to making life better for the people, thank him as well as encourage him to do better and more. It is not out of place if a pastor or minister of God does that kind of thing. That does not take him into the realm of being partisan.
He must be seen to be just, unbiased in his assessment of political leaders. But he must do that without any desire for personal gain, personal aggrandizement. If tomorrow, a political leader of the people, chosen and voted in by the people, makes a statement that is insulting to the average Nigerian, I, Bishop, have a right to get up and say sir, you are wrong, apologise to the people or rescind that decision.
Some time ago, for example, Nasir el-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, when he was minister of the Federal Capital Territory, got up and said something blasphemous against Jesus Christ. You won’t expect me to keep quiet; he insulted Jesus Christ in that statement, openly. As a leader of the church, I have a right to get up and say man, you are wrong and reprimand him in such a way as to let people know the seriousness of what he has said.
And because I know that such man is not likely to change, I can tell my people don’t vote for him in the next election. I can tell my people, for instance, that Buhari has not lived up to expectations, even the change mantra he has promoted over the years, and he has not done anything. I’m not sure this man is capable of doing justice to this anti-corruption crusade. That is irrespective of his party, somebody in PDP or APC stands equal before me to get my commendation or vituperations.
So, to that extent the church leader, a pastor can be involved in politics. I know that for a number of years during which I have been bishop here, in my bishop’s charge, I have consistently warned against the activities of the Muslims, particularly the Fulani herdsmen. I have used the word, irredentists. They are irredentists, they have expansionist plan over Nigeria. When I came in and said these things, some people say why are you saying all these things, I have lived in the North for years. I had warned people that what was coming ahead if you give these people the slightest opportunity. And today, what has played out has proved me right.
And I have said to people Buhari has several times said there is nothing he can do to the Fulani herdsmen because they are his own people. That means if you give him another four years, Nigeria will become a Fulani republic. That is my conviction. I have the right to tell people beware of voting Buhari in again. Yes, that is my stand.
But it is going to be on the basis of empirical evidence of the person’s performance, character and action. And so, to that extent, I, as a church leader, by my calling, I am a politician. A politician is somebody who is interested in governance of the people. When you do what is right I commend you, when you do what is wrong, I blast you, I tell you my mind. I tell you there is need for you to change from that.
If I see a government official, a politician that is stealing money, I have the right to say you are stealing money. This is not what people voted you in to do. That is politics. If the opposition party takes advantage of that, that is their business. But my business is to speak out. Prophets in the Bible spoke out, because they knew what their calling was. They spoke to the point that even kings came to them to seek people’s opinion. That is politics.
However, I wouldn’t endorse the idea of a pastor, a minister of God being involved in active politics. This is because the human beings you find in APC are the same human beings in PDP. They are the same flesh and blood. So, if you allow yourselves to support one against the other, you discover that at the end you may have your fingers burnt.
However, pastors and church leaders who begin to say this person will win, this person will not will win, they are going now beyond their boundary because you can see that a lot of them are doing it for personal aggrandizement. They need money, they want money. They want to be in the good books of those to be in power. And this is where I have grouse with church leaders who tell you this man is going to win or that man is not going to win. This is where I stand.
Sir, there are some church leaders that also prophesy; this leader will die at the end of such a year as the year is coming to an end. Do you think that is godly?
It is very ungodly. You have no right, even if you know somebody will die, what does it amount to you proclaiming it? Does that stop the death from coming? If God has revealed to you that so, so person will die unless he changes his status that is a different matter. In that case, you go and meet the person and tell him this is what God has said about you. This you are doing will attract death to you, but if you change, God will forgive you. You don’t go to the public so that you draw credit to yourself. That is what a lot of them are doing.
Sometimes, these things are based on mere logic. If I come out and say by the end of the year one politician will die, do you need to even guess that a politician will die; there are many of them that are dying every day. So, these are people, pastors and ministers who do not have work to do, because you have so much of the gospel to preach. I have so much doing that I do not have time to begin to dream about those who will die. God has no plan for that kind of thing.
If I dream that so, so person will die does that change the person’s death? You don’t do anything without a purpose. There is a purpose for everything. Will this prophecy bring the people to repentance or to bring them to confusion as regards God’s judgment? But if it is just to draw attention to myself, to let people know how powerful I am, I do not support it. It is a waste of time. They are called to preach the gospel of Christ and to make men unto righteousness. If you spend time doing such prophecies, you are an idle pastor.
So, sir, those gospel ministers who are going for political positions, do you see them to be in the right direction?
If you think God has called you to do what you are doing, thank God for that. I am not called to be a politician. Because I am a pastor, I am called to speak out against the evils in politics. As a pastor or bishop, I use my position to say gentlemen, you are not doing the right thing. Even as governor, if the governor we have here is not doing the right thing, I will take my phone and say Your Excellency, can I have a word with you and he will listen. Sometimes, he will come here or he will say bishop, can we meet in my office? This you are doing is not right. He takes it and does amendment.
How do you see President Buhari’s anti-corruption fight? What is your stand as Nigerians go to the polls less than month?
When Buhari was campaigning, I was one of those who said don’t vote for this man, I can still tell you today. I know he has a penchant for promoting Islam. Buhari has been head of state before and we know the kind of things he did. When he came, touting this anti-corruption fight, I knew that underneath it, Buhari was going to use that to demobilise some people. And what we are seeing so far shows that I am not far from the truth.
When somebody tells you the truth, yes, you can be doing the wrong thing but telling somebody the truth. When Buhari said some years ago that he would be glad to see the entire Nigerians, becoming Muslims if possible, that shows the kind of person he is. He has not deviated from it. What I will tell you is that as far as I am concerned, on the basis of empirical failures of Buhari, he has used the anti-corruption mantra, to victimise those who are opposed to him. He carries out selective victimisation and punishment. You know how many millions he was supposed to pay to get his party’s endorsement, where did he get the money from? If you calculate all his earnings as former military head of state, could he have been able to make such kind of money? His anti-corruption stance as far as I am concerned is a farce, it is a charade.
I’m not impressed by it because he himself does not have a clean heart. He came into power with a biased mind against Christianity, western education, against the church. So, Buhari has not fared very well. And it will be a tragedy if we give Buhari a second chance. I say so not because he is APC, the fact is that Buhari is part of the game plan to Islamise Nigeria. And I can see it coming now as this is his last chance. Whatever he can do within this period he will do. I tell people don’t vote for him. I can say it anywhere, from the pulpit; I say it in the interest of the church. I say it in the interest of the nation.
That is why I cannot encourage people to vote for Buhari. How many herdsmen, who have slaughtered and killed Nigerians has Buhari arrested and prosecuted? Does that speak well of a good leader? So, on that basis, I say we cannot trust him. People should not vote for him. See what they are doing in the security forces. Driving away Christians and putting their people in all the places. Look at the percentage of Katsina and Kano people in the armed forces and the police, compared to what we have in the South-South and South-East. Such a person is not a man of equity and, therefore, dangerous to the well-being of Nigerians.
My stand as Nigerians go to the polls now that elections are around the corner, please, do not accept bribe in order to vote anybody into power. If you do that, it is at your own risk and to the destruction of our future. Many politicians have loads of ill-gotten wealth and they can distribute it because they want you to vote for them.