In this interview, the Diocesan Anglican Bishop of Amichi,, Rt Rev Ephraim Ikeakor, speaks exclusively with Odogwu Emeka Odogwu on sundry issues.
People accuse the Federal government of insincerity in the fight against corruption, what is your take on that looking at the theme of this year's synod which says; thou shall not steal?
The fight against corruption in Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari is laughable. If you look at Romans Chapter 12 vs 1-2, that is where I will anchor my reason for saying that the APC led government's fight against corruption is laughable.
It reads thus: “I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is your reasonable service, and do not be conformed to this world but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind.
What this implies is that no man that has not been renewed in mind by God can meaningfully and feasibly fight corruption. The computer people will say, garbage in garbage out. Until God touches the heart of someone, there will be no peace. Which corruption in Nigeria is greater than marginalization and ethnic cleansing we are experiencing today in this country? What is corruption? What is stealing? Taking something that belongs to people.
I came back from Bayelsa last two weeks and wept for that part of the country. What greater corruption is this that these people are producing this oil but they are living like 9th century human beings. Living in huts and shattered places, no network, no good schools and we are still talking about fighting corruption. We can't fight corruption without justice and equity, it is not possible. Until we have renewed minds and allow God to renew our lives, fighting corruption can only be a political slogan in Nigeria.
Nigeria recently celebrated 19th anniversary of her democracy, what is your personal assessment of Nigeria's democracy?
I am happy you said my personal assessment which you are free to agree or disagree with. The truth of the matter is that I am still looking for the system of country we are operating in Nigeria. If you truly know the true meaning and operational guide of democracy, we are indeed far from democracy. From 1999, we assume to be operating a democracy, but what distance have we covered now in our economic development? In educational development and advancement? Our education system is almost the worst in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In a country where a professor in the university will be publishing an undergraduate's assignment as his own contribution to professional journals and periodicals, where do you think we are heading to?
Since 1999, I've been worried that if nothing is done and done urgently, this country will go into the pre-medieval period again because we have completely been a consumer nation since 1999 till date. Which nation in the world can survive by being consumers without contributing anything to economic development?
I think we are practicing Democrazy. If we want to face reality, we must sit down. How can we run a functional government without genuine democrats? Forget about party affiliation, God has blessed this country with intellectuals, forget who they are loyal to. Get these intellectuals together.
The best brains in universities that are lecturing the world over are Nigerians. Go and check Nigerian professors in the UK, Harvard, America, Russia. But here, the environment is too bad that they cannot operate here. I have met one of them who I prodded to come back and operate in Nigeria, but his response was that there is no facility in Nigeria and even if there is, what of kidnappers? My view is that we are moving backward. We keep patting ourselves on the back, we will never make an advancement. Technologically, educationally, economically, socially, we are moving backward.
You said in some areas they empower the youths, it is not true. If you know the full definition of empowerment, I have not seen a politician that empowers youths. The other day in Maiduguri, a man bought wheel barrows and one full bag of oranges on each, and gathered youths and termed it empowerment. Is that empowerment? A grown man ripe for university education, is that an empowerment for him? We don't need those physical things before empowerment can take place. We have young people with good brains. Gather them and push them abroad for training.
On what to do to them, both religious leaders and traditional rulers have to sit up. If they come to church, what type of sermon do we preach to them when they come to church? It is not only when they make donations. If a senator comes to one church and the religious leader there, speaks the bitter truth and he moves to another church, the same story, it is either he stops going to church or he starts changing. But what do we preach? We preach a satanic prosperity gospel to make them donate awesomely. How do we correct it? Society should be governed by the Church through the gospel. So, the traditional rulers, especially in Igboland, should go back to correct the anomaly.
So, I can blame ourselves, the Church, for not being disciplined enough to say no when we should and vice versa. If a governor owes workers salary, and comes to make a donation, we have the option of turning it down and request that he pays workers first.
What is your take on the mindless killings going on in the country by the Fulani herdsmen?
In 2011 when I was reading my presidential address, I said something which a lot of people did not agree with. That was when I hammered on the Islamization of Nigeria. I said it point black that Muslims were having serious plans from what Babaginda promised the Organization of the Islamic Council (OIC) during his tenure, to what the current Buhari promised. I want to tell you that it is the current agenda that is ongoing and these killing are not stopping tomorrow.
Our president is more than 80 years, quote me anywhere, go and check his records in the military. In 2011, if you listened to him, he said it clearly that he was running for one term. So, when he declared in April this year that he is running for the second term, Femi Adesina, his spokes person, was not ashamed to come to Channels Television to defend that promise. So, I ask myself, which is more reasonable, to run for one tenure when he was younger or to run for two terms when he has aged so that the killings will continue?
Since the killings have continued unabated, some stakeholders are calling on Christians to defend themselves, do you subscribe to that?
Coming to the issue of self defence, I cannot tell you openly that Christians should go and buy gun. But you must be a stupid man to submit yourself to a senseless Fulani man to kill you. That is where I will want to leave it. I cannot say go and buy gun or go and pray that God will hear you. There is a way that you will be killed and heaven will reject you that you committed suicide. That is why I keep saying that the people in the Southeast should not listen to that directive of getting our vigilante disarmed. We don't have security problem here. Have they disarmed them in the North or the Fulani Herdsmen, Boko Haram or the Miyette Allah? What is our problem here? Have you heard an Igbo man kill his fellow Igbo man? So, what I am saying is that the killing is organized and if we don't sit up, the problem will be out of hands. “That is why they didn't waste time in branding IPOB a terrorist group, and Fulani herdsmen, a branch of United Nations Peace Committee. What an irony!
What is your take on the recent demolition of shanties and illegal structures in Anambra?
One problem we have in Africa, particularly in Nigeria, is when we institutionalize indiscipline. Somebody that is coming for sanity becomes a wicked person. If you go to other developed countries of the world and see the way things are organized, you will enjoy it. Do you know that we have a master plan in Anambra and people never want to use it?
When I say things like this, I tell you I'm not a politician because I say them the way they are. Everybody is shouting that the government is wicked; I can only join in that condemnation if I have a master plan of an area where the government is demolishing things that do not correspond to the master plan arrangement. That is when I will say that the government is wicked. You don't run democracy on sentiments and emotions; if you must do the right thing, you must step on toes, but I always tell the clergy that they must step on the right toes.
What of the ban on Okada where over 15,000 citizens will be out of job?
I am still worried because of the level of criminality that we may experience in this state, we may not survive it if we ban this Okada without alternative means of livelihood. If I am around the governor, I will tell him to stop listening to what so many people are telling him because some are as a result of what they will gain from him. Think twice, before you ban Okada.
Anambra is a pure business area. May be, what he should have done was to limit their scope of operations in those cities. But coming to ban them at Nibo, Agu-Awka, Nise, Amawbia axis and where students are living, I think we are trying to chew the corn that we cannot vomit. My advice is that Anambra government should not rush the implementation of that policy of banning Okada in Awka and Onitsha. It is very deadly for Anambrarians.
Ohaneze Ndigbo recently organized a restructuring summit where a declaration was made but the pro-Biafran group, IPOB, said they were not part of that. Do you think the group is doing the Igbo nation any good by their stand?
I condemn in strong terms, the mode of operation of IPOB. We support IPOB ideology but their modus operandi, I don't support. You don't fight for freedom through confrontation and agitations. You don't raise another nation's flag within a nation that is still in existence. I recall in Onitsha while we were having a prayer march, suddenly the IPOB emerged with their flags to distort the activities and I was like, who will give them IPOB if not God? The point I am making is that their system needs to be polished and that is why I want to plead with Igbo intelligentsia not to leave this struggle to these young boys who are Okada riders.
Let us give it a fine-tuning and use the power of media and press to fight this war. It is an intellectual war that we will win through the press and media and not through carrying guns or fighting and the Ohaneze Ndigbo are getting it partly right and partly wrong. Why do I say that? You don't come outright to condemn these boys.
I advise Ohaneze Ndigbo not throw the boys away because they are fighting a just cause. Igbo nation is not needed in this nation, we cannot pretend for long. We are not needed in this country but we cannot fight again. Let us use what is intellectually sound to wage this war and if Ohaneze will support these boys, not with arms but with proper intelligence and intellectual approach, it will not be long, it will become a reality.
I agree with a man that said that you don't fight an ideology with machetes and guns. Biafra is our ideology, you cannot destroy it, it will only take time, but our approach determines the length of time it will take.