The chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Akwa Ibom State Chapter, Dr Cletus Bassey was in the centre of storm towards the end of last year when he anointed Gov. Godswill Akpabio for a second term on the day he was enthroned bishop in his Destiny International Mission. Though not then CAN boss, the controversy still dogged himeven after he was elected CAN chairman a few weeks after. In this interview with our correspondent, the man of God explained the circumstances behind his action and even debunked the allegation that he did that for pecuniary expectations, among other things. Excerpts.

Kidnapping in the Church:
Something that you all are aware is the issue of the kidnapping that has been going on. We strongly believe that for whatever reason that our young people have allowed themselves to either be used or to find a way of addressing their pains should not be in a criminal fashion. You will be surprised that kidnapping did not begin today, it had been there long time ago, it's in the Bible and God had warned that such things should not be mentioned in our community. Kidnapping is not anything new to God and if God should address any matter and one of the issues that God has addressed in the bible is the issue of kidnapping.

The church believes that this people are our young people, they live among us, some of them even are in churches and we have also noticed that before today the issue had been that we should pray against them so that they will die and demand that fire should come and destroy and burn them. But we in CAN having put our heads together feel that is not the best way of dealing with the issue of kidnapping. Before a man begins to behave the way they have behaved it means there's something that would have made them to behave like that. We must look for the root that has made them to go the extent of kidnapping people.

And whatever would have been the reason why they have gone to this extent, we should call them to know that they are laying foundation for the future. And if they are the future leaders of this nation and this community, what kind of a foundation have they laid whereby they will come into? Because tomorrow they will be the leaders of this nation, they will be the leaders of this state. What will they tell those that they are going to lead? So we want to tell them that it is not the best thing for them to continue to indulge themselves in carrying out criminal acts that by tomorrow when the law catches up with them their lives are cut short or they are left in the prison where their dreams and their ideas that that they would have built this nation would have been turned into a place of imprisonment.

We want to ask our youths that instead of them using their energy and strength and skills to make these negative stories, that they should find a better way of addressing their pains. We also want to say that the church was never a place where people will go and kill or kidnap or carry out acts of this nature. If you have committed sin outside, is it not the church you go back to confess and tell the priest to pray that God will forgive you of your sins? But if you now go and commit the act inside the church and probably kidnap a pastor or kill a member of the church, who will then ask God to forgive your own sins? And we must have to understand that God has given us that authority.

He says whoever sins you have forgiven on earth will be forgiven in heaven and whosoever sin you say you have not forgiven, he says, heaven will not forgive. They know the church does not have anything to fight them. You don't demonstrate your own strength and energy over somebody you know is honourable; and we want to ask that the church in Akwa Ibom State condemns in its entirely the issue of them going into church to kidnap, that they should not do that.

The priests are the people that pray for them and if they now turn their own faces on the priest and begin now to pick pastors, pick members of the churches, CAN in Akwa Ibom State condemns that action. We do not also say that they should go ahead kidnapping people only that they should not go to church, No. That we are asking them that government is doing projects, they are trying to reach out in different ways of ensuring that the youths are being empowered by opening of places for them to learn skills; and we know that some of these people are graduates. If there is no job today, God in his own way will help the government to create jobs to the people.

Pastors should know what they preach:
And also that the pastors who are preaching, there are certain unnecessary statements they make on the pulpit that are called for. That pastors should concentrate themselves in preaching the gospel of Christ, leading people to give their lives to Christ and living right because it seems to a great extent that churches have stopped preaching what they used to preach, it's like the fear of God has departed from the altar whereby men will now think that the church is the best place to now go and carry out atrocities.

Don't be afraid to go to Church:
Finally that we will love the members of the church not to be afraid to go to church especially those of us who are in leadership position, who by the reason of the thing that have happened at this point has decided to stay in their homes and not go to church.

The church is society-friendly and we need the people to know that the church is not at war with our society but that the church is society friendly. That is why we build schools, we build hospitals, we open orphanage homes, and we have welfare departments in different churches to assist. We send them into schools, we give scholarships, we help people to learn different trades; we try our best to ensure that the society is conducive enough for everybody to live. People should not look at the church as a place that we bring unnecessary challenges and then try to cause violent situation in the church.

Government should take care of the common man:
Our government should continue to do best in assuring the common man that he is safe and the security put in place to take care of every citizen. We know that very soon the political development processes and exercise will begin in full swing. We have talked to our church people to be careful that they do not cheapen themselves by looking for who to prophesy on and believing that everybody that they pray for or anoint to become local government chairman or whatever, that the church should careful about such actions knowing that at this point in time it will create more problem than bring the peace that is necessary. And so let politicians not use the church, let politician not make the church become a tool in their hands and whereby they carry pastors along to see visions for them and things like that. The majority of the problem that the churches are facing today are the demands that the community has made upon the churches that even when the pastor is not gifted to prophesying they make him to 'prophelie' by putting pressure on him to see vision for them. And that are issue that we'll like that our community should be aware of and that our politicians as much as possible, they should stop the politics of bitterness.

Too close to government?
You that every man has right to his own opinion it does not mean that every opinion is correct. Accusations are part of the community; criticisms are part of ways of growth, it allows you to also examine yourself if what people are saying is true and then they ask you to re-order yourself and your steps. I would say that I am not close to the government. I have my responsibility as the leader of the church to first of all pray for government because you are commanded by God in the Bible to pray for the government. And the reason why God said that is so that we may live peaceably. If the church begins to now begin to fight government, you know definitely there will be no peace. And so what you are preaching you are also working against it. If we have any issue that we need to talk to the governor about anything, we will talk to him.

Governor is part of the church and so he listens to the church and there is no way the church could tell him something and condemn any issue that he will not listen to. But as people are talking about Cletus Bassey and Governor Akpabio, I think that they have not been able to address the fact. Most of the things people are talking are speculation; I don't live with him. I don't see him every day; I meet with him mostly when we have programmes, or once in a while we may have a time of interaction, we have a programme we are all invited by him to government house and then we interact.

And when people think that I sleep up, wake up, I think that it is an assumption that should be directed properly.

The church should not be at loggerheads with government. We must understand that fact because we produced the government through our prayers. I don't know if you understand what we are talking about. It is like if you give birth to your child will you now begin to say you want to kill your own child if he does something wrong. If you want to correct the child, correct the child but make sure that you help your child to succeed in life.

I believe it is the place of the church to advice and comment if the government is wrong, the church should still address the government and say, in this aspect these are the issues. We don't always come out to talk and then noise and carry cameras around but I can tell you that Governor Akpabio is someone who listens and if we have the opportunity to talk to him, we need to talk to him. So it's not issues of being close to the government. I don't know if anybody can accuse me and say these are the issues you've not talked about or you don't bring up. I don't know which issue anybody can accuse me of. So they are petty talks. If you now ask the people, what are the issues that you can say that Bishop Cletus had been informed and has been told or is aware that is not being handed or addressed, and if we have opportunities such issues are not then we can say the man is not doing something.

But you know that the church is a government of its own and the church is a government with own principles that is why when we are preaching; when we are talking we talk based on the principles of the kingdom. So all these things are insinuations, are accusations which everybody has the right to their own view. The major issue is our conscience, so I walk with my conscience.

Akpabio's N100m donation to CAN
The issue of N100m, you know when you listen to it, it's a very big money in the ears but when you then come down to the real practical it's a different thing. Look at it, if a few days ago we were able to gather 40,000 youths in one place. How much will N100m do to empower 40,000.

If your look at it, so when you put N100m into the whole church and you're talking about the whole body of Christ in Akwa Ibom State, the church is far bigger in number than that amount of money but yet that was a good investment because you never had that before and through the generosity of the governor made that available. I came in September and I am studying the books, from what I have discovered we have about N75million released already to the different blocks and groupings and the different churches.

Now you have to understand that it is not CAN that is giving out this money. CAN has contacted banks who are the people giving out this money. One is Ikpe Annang Community Bank. it is one of the major banks that are handling this loan and the people that will go, look at the people, know if they are actually doing something, and what can they do to help, and they have been loaning out this money across the state and many of our people have actually given testimonies of this.

I have set up a monitoring team at the state exco level that will now go in and monitor what and what has been going on in the different places where this money has been given and in no distant time we'll be able to gather the fact, our information and we'll let the world know how. Far this money has gone, what it has done and the people it has helped. But I can tell you the money has been in safe hands.

Pastors anointing politicians
Everybody has right s as far as Nigeria is concerned in terms of freedom of worship and freedom of speech. But we're also very careful that when it comes to matters like this that is going to bring unnecessary conflict or tension, we begin to think how we are going to manage it. It does not mean that a pastor cannot pray for you, but let it not be that anybody that comes you anoint them.

You will observe that since I prayed Gov. Akpabio there is no other person that has gone to pray for another person. It is new ot that pastors could not pray for others who have come out. The issue is we pastors at this level have integrity and integrity is what we are talking about. If we begin to run around because of money and anoint whoever, then we have lost focus.

Why I anointed Akpabio
Yes, I prayed for Gov. Akpabio and I want you to understand the circumstances. As the first citizen of this state, on the day of my enthronement (as bishop) he was personally there. Who do you think should be the first partaker of that anointing? It is not what people are doing today that I went out that God called me to come and anoint Akpabio. Can you see the difference? The man was in my church and I prayed for him. So many people have talked about it but I haven't raised any unnecessary argument. Not that anybody cannot pray, but you see, I have prayed to no other person as far as that matter (2011governorship) is concerned because we believe that this is the man who also have come behind the church. I think that we have to bring integrity into what we are doing. When I did that I had nothing in mind. In fact that was the first day Akpabio had ever come to my church. I never thought of buying any favour or taking anything from him.