Reaching Out to Nigeria at 48

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Nigeria marks her 48th independence anniversary today with the campaign to re-orientate Nigerians for national rebirth entering its second year. But Christ Embassy Church, which started the campaign last year says it is reaching out to Nigerians with a specially packaged independence edition today, insisting that the programme was specifically designed to also provoke a patriotic spirit within the citizenry. Olaolu Olushina writes

The euphoria, no doubt, is still in the air and members and admirers of the Believers' LoveWord Inc., also known as The Christ Embassy, are still basking in it. The success of the maiden edition of the Reach Out Nigeria campaign has triggered off a new sensation even as the current edition programmed to commemorate Nigeria's 48th independence anniversary reaches its peak today.

This is coming as the Nigerian leadership declared a low-key celebration, preferring to use the occasion to pray for the country instead of the usual funfare. There is no doubting the fact that Nigeria really needs prayer to cure our land so that the great change that we really need can be delivered without much ado. Analysts are also of the view that the time for national re-awakening is now. Perhaps, this is what informed the decision of the Christ Embassy Church to jump-start the campaign last year.

Pastor Lanre Alabi who spoke at a media briefing in Lagos recently gave a background to the campaign. He said the programme that started as a vision and movement inspired by the Holy Spirit, was also designed to provoke a patriotic spirit within the citizenry.

"Last year, a vision was birthed. A movement, inspired by the Holy Spirit, began. Appropriately named Reach Out Nigeria, it was timed to coincide with the commemoration of Nigeria's independence day. The objective was straightforward-'To bless our nation with God's word'. It was also designed to provoke a patriotic spirit within the citizenry," he explained. THISDAY gathered that two million copies of Rhapsody of Realities, Christ Embassy's daily devotional book, co-authored by the church's General Overseer, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome and his wife, Pastor Anita Oyakhilome, were distributed freely to Nigerians across the country during the campaign last year.

The plan this year, the paper was told, is to further increase the free copies of a specially prepared independence edition of the daily devotional, with topics specifically targeted to address the problems of nation building in Nigeria, to ten million copies.

The vision , THISDAY further learnt, is borne out of the conviction that "the nation can't change without the people changing and the only way the people can change is by the word of God.”

According to Pastor Alabi, "So armed with this vision and mission, we launched out last year to distribute millions of copies of a special commemorative edition of the Rhapsody of Realities," adding, "As with all things born of God's spirit, the inaugural edition of Reach Out Nigeria exceeded our expectations."

He said the participation, impact and result were tremendous, stressing that "across every sector of enterprise and section of society, copies of Rhapsody of Realities were distributed, the word of God was publicised and the Nigerian nation was celebrated."

Putting the programme in proper perspective as a backdrop to what to expect in this year's programme, Pastor Alabi said: "For the first time, many saw that they could contribute to nation building. As they saw hundreds of thousands of people celebrating Nigeria, spreading the word of God, they too had reason to hope and rejoice. It was infectious. A new era of possibility was born. Many started to see a light through the darkness.”

Quoting from the Bible, Pastor Alabi expressed optimism and uncommon confidence that the campaign that was launched in Lagos on September 19 and Abuja on September 25 would surpass the experience last year. "The word of God assures us that 'the glory of this latter house shall be greater than the former...'(Haggai 2:9).," he said, as he assured that the coverage this year will be greater. Explaining the vision further, Pastor Tuoyo Edun, in a keynote address, said the church is reaching out to Nigerians with an 'elixir of life' through the distribution of the daily devotional.

"We all yearn for a country with great socio-economic policies that help the citizens, a nation that provides a level- playing field for all types of endeavour...We see all these happening elsewhere and we desire such here at home. "Pastor Chris and his wife, Pastor Anita however discovered that achieving the dream that we all desire is not a myth but can be a reality. But they realised that there is a low mental output in Nigeria and the only thing that can increase the mental output is by exposing the mind to, and enriching it with, life-changing word of God.

"And this can be achieved through the Rhapsody of Realities, a daily motivational and devotional book, written through the inspiration of God by Pastor Chris and his wife, Pastor Anita," Pastor Edun said. Also stressing the need for a re-orientation of the country, Pastor Chris Akiri, said the daily devotional that has been distributed in 61 languages in over 150 countries comes in handy. "The book is a compedious daily devotional that is couched to elicit words by the Holy spirit," he said as he described Rhapsody of Realities as "an elixir of life that leads its readers into the inexhaustible resources of the world."

According to him, Nigerian leaders will also benefit a lot from the book, saying "the leaders are also Nigerians and Rhapsody of Realities is targeted at changing our mentality about leadership as leadership is also about change." Speaking on the logistics for the distribution, Dr. Wale Thomas said this would be done through the church branches in the major cities of Nigeria and through the church campus fellowships.

He said: "Public distribution which will take place on October 1 will be a symbolic capping of the free distribution campaign. There will also be presentations to various government bodies and markets. In Lagos, at present, we have over 500 churches and across the nation, we have more than 1, 000 churches and fellowships in the institutions of higher learning.

"These are our major coordinating centres and the major cities of that state where materials will be received prior to that date of distribution. We have over one million members in this country and they will fully participate in the distribution programme."

He said the book would not only have a positive impact on the youths, but also the leaders at all levels of responsibility would benefit immensely from it, thereby affecting their decision in any matter that has to do with the country. There is no doubt that the promoters are set for a swell experience starting today, as Nigerians mark their 48th independence. This is more so, with the massive distribution network and channels that have already been put in place.

The ability of the organisers to succeed, analysts however believe, will to a greater extent depend on effective coordination and mobilisation of men and resources for the campaign. But the church appears to be ready for a mass mobilisation, especially for the Street storms and Independence Day celebrations.

"On October 1, Christ Embassy members nationwide will be mobilised for mass public distribution involving 'street storms' and colourful carnival floats in different parts of the nation. They will also distribute copies at gatherings commemorating the independence across the country," Pastor Edun said. Though, Christ Embassy said the campaign was not out to evangelise per se, observers believe that since it is often said that religion is the opium of the people, many people would still get converted through the programme. Analysts, also agree, that the impact is better seen in the lives and real actions of Nigerians through a change in behaviours, life patterns and perceptions of the country and her leadership. The church seems to be aware of these concerns as well , saying "At the unveiling, testimonies will be taken on the impact of last year's programme on the people and the October edition of the Rhapsody of Realities will be reviewed in detail."