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Third term is bad omen

Posted by By Abdulfatah Oladeinde on 2006/04/16 | Views: 449 |

Third term is bad omen

The move to extend the tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo has elicited ecclesiastical opposition from the immediate past president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Bishop Mike Okonkwo.

The move to extend the tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo has elicited ecclesiastical opposition from the immediate past president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Bishop Mike Okonkwo.

Okonkwo, who is also the presiding bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), also said in an exclusive interview with Daily Sun that former military president, Ibrahim Babangida would not win the 2007 presidential contest even if all his supporters queued up behind him.

"Babangida should just forget about the presidency and be contended with the role of elder statesman," the bishop said, querying why the president wants to make a come-back.
Okonkwo described as unacceptable any attempt to change the nationís constitution simply to facilitate tenure extension for President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Describing the third term as a bad omen, he advised Obasanjo to seek Godís guidance as well as counsel from credible clerics on the matter.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) vice chairman also has an idea about the kind of president Nigeria needs, urging that the politicians should make way for the new breed and technocrats who have made impact in their various businesses and other fields of endeavour to take the nation to greater heights.

Below is the full interview:
The nation is gradually sliding into crisis. Our political leaders are divided over the form 2007 should take. They are not talking about peopleís welfare any longer but tenure extension. To what extent are you disturbed by this development?
The assignment of the government is to ensure that they secure the welfare of the nation. Unfortunately, given the present challenges, no one is talking about development any longer. Itís the third term issue and itís very bad omen as far as Iím concerned because once there is confusion within the set up, little can be achieved.
PDP is already divided. The vice president is not in support and one will begin to wonder how do you achieve the third term bid when your vice is not going with you? So, thereís already confusion and my advice is for them to shelve this idea in the interest of peace of our nation.
One of the arguments of the third term campaigners is that the present administration needs tenure extension for the ongoing reforms to take root in the interest of the nation.

I donít think that should be the case. All they need to do is to put people in place. There are other people that can further move the nation forward. Letís look at it this way. Itís only God that is absolute. Human beings have frailties. Are they saying that if the president fall sick or dies, the reforms will now ground to a halt? These are possibilities that should not be the case. I feel strongly that the majority of people championing this third term thing, it may not really be the president, but some people who want to continue enjoying the benefit of being in government. Because obviously, if they advance the cause and it pulls through they have some benefits. It may or may not really be the president.

Yes, in the interview President Obasanjo granted while on his recent visit to the US, he didnít categorically say he would go for third term. That may suggest that he is being goaded by some people really. So, assuming this is the case, what advice do you have for him?
My advice to him is to seek the face of God and wise counsel from men of God. In fact, he should pull back from most of these political gurus who are around him and really seek the face of God and the advice of credible men of God who will give him guidance on what to do. This is because with the present situation and pressure. He alone may not be able to decide.
In essence youíre advising the president not to go for third term.

Itís difficult to say go or donít go because he has not said heís running for third term.
But all indications in the National Assembly and PDP leadership are pointing to that directionÖ
No, my view concerning the National Assembly is that they want to amend the constitution.
Everyone knows that thereís need to amend the constitution because the current one was carefully put in place for Abacha. It was not really a fair constitution. It requires amendment no doubt but my argument is that if itís for the purpose of third term that they want to amend the constitution, thatís wrong. Itís not acceptable.

Sir, can you recollect instances in biblical history that leaders faced challenges like this and they damned the consequences. What fate befell them?
Itís tragic. I know that Saul was told what to do by God. And there in 1 Kings, Chapter 13, Samuel that anointed him told him, a battle is raging, Iíll be coming to stand by you. Wait for me to come and make sacrifices so that we can win the battle. But when the pressure was coming left, right and centre, Saul decided to Ö. When the pressure was coming, all those who stood by him had run away for fear of the enemy. Samuel had told him to wait but Saul amid pressure went and made sacrifice, which he was not authorised to offer as a king. Soon after he finished it, Samuel arrived and said Ďyouíve done a foolish thingí. That was when Saulís kingdom started to crumble.

And then Saul said it was people that pressured him. Itís a dangerous thing for a leader to be pressured more especially when you know the circumstances under which you came, that it was an act of God. Itís very dangerous to yield to pressure.

And again when you look at the children of Israel, when Moses went up the mountain to pray, the Bible says that Aaron who was the first high priest, listened to the people who felt that Moses was not coming back and they asked Aaron to make a god for them to worship. And Aaron asked them to bring all their earrings and moulded a calf for them to worship. Soon after, Moses came down. They had broken the commandment and that prevented Aaron from entering the Promised Land.

And when you look at the Book of Hebrews, where they call the Hall of Fame in the Bible, you will not see the name of Aaron mentioned because of that act. As high priest one would have expected his name to be mentioned.
The scripture is replete with examples of people who go out of the plan of God and the consequence is grave.

Another argument is that many of the presidential aspirants that have indicated interest are discredited and cannot be trusted to move the nation forward. Do you see a personality like Ibrahim Babangida coming back to power and making things right?
I donít think Babangida is coming back. I donít think heís going to make it. To me, all those people should just get out of the way. Letís give a chance to new breed technocrats. What this nation needs now is not just politicians but people who have distinguished themselves in their various businesses and fields of endeavour. For instance, look at the reforms weíre having in the banks. The man (Charles Soludo) is not a politician. But you will agree with me that he has so much restructured the banks that we are being recognised internationally. Look at Okonjo-Iweala, Dora Akunyili, theyíre not politicians. To me, sometimes political structure is counter productive. We must restructure the entire political structure in the country so that credible people will emerge.

You must be aware now that Rev Kris Okotieís party has been registered. That gives him a good platform to be able to move forward if the election is not rigged, I can assure you that heíll pose a major threat.

Sir, thereís the concern that with the exception of Rev Okotie, we donít get to see the technocrats you mentioned, come out to seek for elective offices?
You know why? Because they donít have a platform. One, they donít have the money. You cannot deny the fact that money still plays a crucial role in our politics. Thatís why weíre having all these money-bags and godfathers all over the place. People, who stand up, talk nonsense and rubbish the political office and theyíre allowed to go free.

What then can we do to have a president of our dream, one that will make the difference in this country?
Now that itís possible to get registered, people of like minds should join the new parties that are emerging. Like FRESH, why wonít they join fresh parties? Kris Okotie is a Christian and we can be sure he will not do anything contrary to the scriptures. So, such technocrats should join such parties. Iím sure they will be willing to accept them. Itís not that thereís a dearth of people. We have people, the problem is Ďwill they give me the chance?í The reason that Soludo, Oby Ezekwesili, Okonjo-Iweala and Akunyili are performing is that they didnít go through the political structure. If they had, they would have been dancing to the political godfathers. And so, there will be no performance.
Let me take you back to the question on Babangida. You said he would not make it. What makes you feel so?

I donít think heíll make it. I doubt it.
But he has a large political followership, people jubilating after he said he would contest the next presidential election?
Heís not going to win. Yes, let them all jump out for him. But he wonít win.
But what makes you so confident?

Iím sure heís not going to win. He should just forget about the presidency.
What role do you think he should playÖ?
He should stay behind and be an elder statesman. Why does he want to come back in the first instance? Why would he want to? Is it that we donít have people? It doesnít make sense. Why should we continue to go round and round? It doesnít make sense to me. Some said he wants to come back and mend what he messed up. Too late. Let somebody else mend it.

How do you think Nigerians should react in case the third term is foisted on the nation?
This is democracy. People should talk. Everybody is entitled to air his views in newspapers, radio, whatever, you can make your views. We donít want to turn this nation to another thing. The country has lots of potentials. It is the plan of God, we donít want any foolishness to destroy this country or to go back 20 years behind. No individual is bigger than this country. If the proponents of third term are convinced about what they are talking about let them convince Nigerians. So far, they havenít preferred serious reasons to justify the third term.

What are Christian bodies, CAN, PFN, doing to mobilize the people for 2007?
I wouldnít know what the PFN is doing now because Iím not the president of PFN or what the plans on grounds are. But one thing is obvious, that is we, as Christians, I still belong to the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, that time has come for those of us who are Christians who believe that we have something to offer, to begin to step out. In the light of that, we have begun to sensitize our members who believe they have a call into politics to indicate interest and we will encourage them to join credible parties. And like I said, now that Kris Okotieís party is registered, that will be a good one to move into and letís give him grassroots support to be able to make it.
Sir, we also have the problem of Niger Delta militants destroying oil installations, hostage taking and the rest.

How are we to effectively solve these nagging problems?
Everyone knows that the Niger Delta is marginalized. Unless one wants to be dishonest. Thereís no doubt that they havenít been treated fairly. But now, that the matter has come to a head, and government is like accepting that truly, these people has been neglected, and is moving in to develop the place, the government should be given a chance. The militants should step down and give the government a chance. Thereís no place in this world that violence helps. You destroy what we have. Everybody is affected. People are dying. What have you achieved? Letís deal with it through dialogue. I believe the problem can be solved. Destruction cannot help us.
Letís talk about TREM now. Itís been 25 years since you started the ministry, how was the beginning like.

Did you have any feeling that it would go this far?
No, all I know is that God assured me that itís a ministry that would go worldwide. But I didnít know how ordinarily. Looking at how I started, with all the challenges, difficulties and various pressures, a small beginning, itís difficult to say I expect it will go this far. God takes us step by step and we are grateful to Him.

Ok, whatís the greatest achievement of TREM in the last 25 years?
Iíll say that more than anything else leadership development. I know we have structures. I know we have churches around the world, but personally, one of the things we have been able to achieve is leadership development. A lot of people were raised through this ministry, some of them are heading ministries of their own, everywhere. You can see the multiple effects in the society, not just in Nigeria, but outside. Often you find people walking up to you to say ĎI was a TREMITEí, around the world. To me ministry is about people and now we are moving into African countries, develop their lives and make them affect their nations positively.

Whatís been your saddest moment?
We have different sad moments. I was involved in the ministry when I lost my first daughter, my younger brother who was a medical doctor and surgeon lieutenant in the Navy. He was shot by armed robbers in the church compound. He was my greatest supporter, not financially. He stood by me when I went into the ministry at a time when it was not the in-thing to go into. These are some of the things one has suffered. And of course, you experience backstabbing in the ministry. When you helped people and expect they will turn around to assist you in moving the ministry forward, only for them to disappoint you.
I understand the church is going through restructuring now. Whatís this about?
For the next level of our assignment after the foundation has been laid, we want to start getting into some of the things that God has spoken about people to be put into leadership positions to be able to achieve those visions. For instance, weíre consecrating bishops on April 22 and weíre separating our international office from the national. Weíre having group director for administrative and another for pastoral.

Whatís your prayer for Nigeria at Easter and message to Nigeria?
My prayer is that God will grant us peace and stability. We should not allow this nation to disintegrate. No one should allow anyone to guide them into bloodshed and violence. We should seek the face of God so that His grace will rest upon our nation because of the challenges we are encountering. I believe that thereís no situation God cannot handle. And in the spirit of resurrection, that the peace that Jesus gives to us we should take and prosper by it.

For Easter, Jesus is about peace, every Nigerian should ensure his relationship with God is intact. Letís try to follow the standards that Jesus laid. I believe that the country will be better off.

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