POST-ELECTION KILLINGS: WHAT CHRISTIANS EXPECT JONATHAN TO DO - ASSEMBLIES OF GOD GS
The General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God Nigeria and the Enugu State chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Prof Paul Emeka, has urged President Goodluck Jonathan to put security issues on his priority list, as a way of preventing unnecessary violence such as the post-election mayhem that occurred in the North in which many Christians lost their lives.
Rev Emeka, who spoke with Saturday Sun at the Assemblies of God Nigeria headquarters in Enugu, ahead of the annual Peniel celebration of the church, said that Christians do not believe that the violence that erupted in some parts of the North was politically motivated, insisting that the president must put down proactive measures to stem future unwarranted killings such that trailed the post-election violence.
He, therefore, said that they would use their upcoming Peniel, scheduled to hold along Abakaliki-Enugu Expressway, to review the unfortunate violence in which many Christians died, saying that the reports that have so far reached them showed that so many of their churches were burnt and some of their pastors killed.
The man of God also advised the newly sworn in members of the National Assembly to remember that they have the mandate of the people to serve, saying that they should always strive to make laws that would better the lots of their people.
He also looked into the Assemblies of God Nigeria Peniel programme, saying that it would be a wonderful outing as many miracles are bound to take place during the period.
Using Peniel, how would you look at the post-election violence that rocked the country?
It will be one of the major empathies of the Peniel this time because, prior to the elections, we prayed, the Assemblies of God Nigeria prayed very vehemently and we thank God that it was peaceful. It was peaceful quite well, but we also saw violence trailing the elections. What made us not to lose hope was that it was a violence we know why it occurred; it was not violence that was in-built in our elections. The people tried their best and the elections were okay, but the violence came and it was quite unfortunate as well as unnecessary. I thank God that Goodluck Jonathan and his men are planning to put a stop to that kind of occurrence in subsequent elections. Of course, all of us are saying that the president should put it in his top priority, the issue of security to make sure that this kind of killing does not occur again in this nation.
How did you feel during the post-election violence in the North?
I felt bad, like very many other Nigerians. Our bad feeling was very obvious; we went beyond that to hold prayers and also speak as well as we could through any available medium to let the people know how bad we felt because apart from being Christians our brothers and sisters were among the people that were killed and we didn't feel good about that at all. It will really stop so that everybody will be free to contest; those people who were the brain behind the violence should be greatly cautioned, not respecting any person, not even tolerating any one because of his high placed position.
The people did it and we did not like it. One problem we have here is that in our own view as Christians is that beyond politics, it was equally religiously motivated because if it was mere politics churches should not be burnt; the party headquarters should be burnt, but they left the party headquarters, institutions and structures connected directly with politics and began to burn churches, and that is where we began to discover and feel that the people who perpetrated this action were already having plans to destroy churches, but were just waiting for something to occur to give them a justification of what they did and we said the government should do something about it now.
What did your church lose in the violence?
The statistics are still being compiled by Christians as a whole and also the Assemblies of God, which I lead today; they burnt many of our churches and killed some of our pastors and members. Our people are sending in statistics of these things that happened; already the ones we have are very surprising and when we hear about the others, like Anglican, Catholic and other churches that have been destroyed, if you compile all of them together, it will be too much. So, we said that the government should do something proactively and not to wait until churches are destroyed and people are killed before they begin to set up commission of inquiries, nobody would like to have his or her brothers or sisters killed because even when you set up a commission; it will not resurrect the person that is dead. So, one of the things we are expecting Jonathan to do is to really sit up and go digital to make sure that these things do not happen again.
Members of the National Assembly were recently inaugurated. What advice will you give them?
My advice to them is to have the interest of the people they have come to make laws on their behalf at heart. A situation where we begin to see them in fisticuffs is not healthy enough; it doesn't put our image correctly to the outside world, they should be mature enough in the way they handle issues; disagreements are bound to occur, but let them handle them maturely, argue about them probably, but not to engage in fighting; like somebody polling his shirts and you will see it on the pages of the newspapers and viewing it on the international cable network, that is not healthy enough. I will also say that we are expecting them to make laws that are relevant, laws that will help the people, laws that can get Nigeria going.
So far, I will say that I like the style of David Mark to an extent because we came to begin to believe that a legislature that is working hard is the one that is engaged in continuous battle with the executive, but in this case he had applied principles and strategies of conflict management and resolution; so, let's not begin to notice so many impeachments and too many breaches with the executive, let them put their intelligence to work.
I will also like to say that the Nigerian citizens are expecting them not to vote too much money for themselves, otherwise we won't take them seriously, let them just take some money, we know they are doing a very good job, but to begin to take pays that are very outlandish when you hear them, it will be very discouraging and also makes us to suspect them, a moderate amount of money will make us to believe that they are very serious. But when you take pays just because you are there to make laws for ourselves, you are encouraging corruption. The EFCC is chasing people around and the same members of the legislature as soon as somebody steps down, he is not voted again or he served his tenure, you will see the EFCC going to hound the person and takes him to cell, it is not healthy too, it doesn't bring respect to the people. We also promised to be backing them up with prayers.
What's your view on ordained men of God going into politics?
My stand, as a person? What I believe is that it is good for Christians to get involved in politics, but a clergyman who is called to preach the word of God should concentrate on preaching and leave getting into partisan politics. I feel that if a clergyman comes up and said God, He told me to go and contest, we are expecting that the same God that told you to go should make a way for you to win. And when you go first, you don't win, you go second, you don't win, you go third, you don't win, if you go another one, don't tell us that God asked you to go, you are just going in as every other Nigerian is going in and not that God said that you should go. But I would like to say that the ideal thing is for the prophet to concentrate on the word of God and the ministry that God has committed into his hands and leave politics alone.
You church's Peniel programme is coming this month. What's all about?
Peniel is the programme of the Assemblies of God; it is an annual event and, in fact, we call it the national revival summit of the Assemblies of God. It is a period we come together to worship God, to fellowship together, and hear the word of God. And we also use that opportunity to pray for the church, pray for the nation and pick on relevant and important issues to address to get us going. It really attracts a great number of people between 100, 000 and 120,000 to the Km 48, Enugu-Abakaliki Road, where our camp is. Peniel, by definition, simply means the face of God in the Bible, so we use the period to seek the face of God, fellowship with Him and have a feel of the presence of God.
We don't rotate the programme because of the size of the crowd; it is only the camp that can hold it, and there is no other administrative unit we have, like Lagos that can accommodate the people that come for Peniel unless we decide to go to another church or denomination to hire their camp, which is expensive. Every member of the Assemblies of God knows that at this time of the year all roads lead to Abakaliki where we have a large camp that accommodate the large number; that is why we do not rotate the programme.
The Penile will begin on Monday and end on Thursday, in four days it will end, taking into consideration the arrival and the departure dates.
How many people are you expecting?
Right now I cannot estimate the number, but they will really be many. Assemblies of God alone has a population of about more than 12, 000 pastors and evangelists who are going to be there. Then men of God from other denominations are expected and they will be there too and some will be coming from outside Nigeria. We are also expecting the General Superintendent of Assemblies of God, Ghana, Rev Dr Paul, he will be there and we are expecting him greatly, he is a great man of God and other people will be coming too.
What would your members expect?
Peniel is a period we emphasize empowerment; we preach devotionally and we preach revival. It is also a period of physical healing; God performs miracles; people receive divine healing when we come there; people receive different kinds of miracles there, people fellowship with God; it is also a period of business contacts because we make forum for business empowerment in the worship. It is also a period people come to showcase products of their creativity, they show them to other people and they buy; there are so many things that are expected to take place. It is thrown open, although the Assemblies of God organizes it, it's inter-denominational in outlook, in emphasis, everybody comes and he is blessed, that is the nature of Peniel.
What have you doing since your appointment?
Yes, God is helping us. I told you last time that one of the things I will be engaging in is touring round and teaching, bringing our people back to the correct track because of so many pitfalls in the Pentecostal movement; I have already started that. I have put up two books to that effect that are being used as study materials. I also talked about satellite network that the Assemblies of God will like to engage in, some people and companies had invited me to come and buy time from theirs to begin to speak, but we said no, that we would build our own; we are constructing the studio, if you look at this way you will see that the building is already being finished and we have already reached an agreement with the companies and placed order for the equipment; in fact, the whole thing is costing us about N100 million and we have gone half way into it. There are other things we have started implementing, but they are not as measurable as I can tell you, but they are taking place and as time goes on they will all be coming out. We have done some internal reorganization too.
Will there be any difference in this year's Peniel?
The difference may not be very visible, but it will be in the quality of the whole package; we crave and believe that God will visit us. If you get to the venue of the Peniel, which is calm, there are many structures on ground, new ones we have put on to accommodate the people that will come; one of the things will be the equipment that will be used, we are putting finishing touches to see that we have large screens that will serve the audience and the sound system will also improve. Basically, these will be the improvement, when you get there you will notice that there is a difference; that was why I said it may not be visible.
The security arrangement is intact; we have always made adequate security arrangement, the only difference is that of this year is tighter because of the things happening right now; the SSS will be there, policemen will be there and there is this special squad that detect bombs, we are also getting them along.