How some Christian leaders cheated Buhari – Owojaiye
Evangelist Mathew Owojaiye is a former Chairman of Northern States Christian Elders Forum. In this interview, speaks on role of Christians in politics, Buhari’s endorsement by some Christian leaders and some other issues. Excerpts
There are reports about the purported endorsement of the APC Presidential flag bearer, Muhammadu Buhari by a group of Northern Christian leaders. It was also alleged that these clerics were bribed. How true is that?
We cannot say that they were paid money because we didn’t see any money. We didn’t see where money was given or being distributed but we saw it on screen where they were introduced as “Northern Christian Leaders” and the Northern Christians don’t know them as their leaders. I have been the chairman of Northern states Christian Elders Forum from 2007 to 2013. Elder Phillips Olaiya who took over from me and I don’t know them. Now, our father here, Archbishop Peter Jatau is the chairman of Northern CAN. I am a member of the Northern CAN; we don’t know them. We have gone to Channels Television in Lagos to go and let them know and tell the whole world that we don’t know them that they don’t represent the Christian Leaders of the north. Number two; we Christian leaders are not a political party so we don’t get to say one party is better than the other. Of course, we have permanent interests and not permanent enemies. We are to look which one that can benefit the body, which one that will keep the Christian interest solid and this will be changing from time to time. You may look at the gubernatorial candidates and find out that one person is better than the other and the same applies to the presidential elections and the candidates vying for office. That is on the basis of which rational people take decisions, think. It is annoying to us that some people went to cheat Buhari. How can they go and cheat an old man? As I said we were not there and would therefore not say if they gave them money.
Let us look at the role of religious leaders in politics and their utterances. What does this portend for the body of Christ; the Church?
The church has made mistakes in the past particularly by staying away from politics. The missionaries did us damage. They did not encourage Christians to do business and did also, not encourage Christians to play politics. So, what we expect is that each Christian leader will be watchful. If people want to wipe out Christianity, we don’t expect that Christian leader to team up with such people because heaven is watching. Now, if we don’t have one or two bold Christian leaders to talk, we might have been enslaved. So, we have chosen leaders; let me give you an example. Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor was nominated by Northern CAN because when we were under persecution, he came to speak on our behalf and showed concern. And, since he has been there, we are rejoicing that finally, we have one person who is ready to risk his life and stand for us. So, we made sure he got a second term to come back and not only that, Northern Christian Elders Forum gave him an award for being a true servant of God. So, such a person that we know that what he is saying is what we want him to say. Other people will not like it but they are not our constituency. We are his constituency and we are happy that if at a time like this, we didn’t have somebody to speak on our behalf, my brother it would have been real trouble. Some people will say they don’t like him but we prefer a man that speaks for us. And you may be surprised that he has been having discussions on how there can be peace with Muslim sheiks and clerics in Abuja. I have attended. When there was fracas in South-south and the Muslims ran somewhere, he protected them and got food for them until they could go safely. We Christians do not want to wipe people or believe in bloodshed. No! But our man should be able to speak on our behalf. When there was drought in Sokoto he donated his own money. He didn’t say it is a Muslim area and it is not his concern. You understand my point? A lot of people would not understand this. Others may say he is controversial because the church has been keeping silent.
The utterances of some of our politicians, particularly some elder statesmen have heated up the polity and the nation generally. What is your reaction on this?
We, the masses are fools. All the fracas that took place, how many children of the rich died? How many big men died? It is because we the masses have allowed them. If anybody says let us go and riot, tell them to bring their children to join us. They will not do that. So, we blame the masses. These people can scream at each other but we go and kill each other but they take tea together. So, my advice to the masses is that they stop being used by people who after all, will continue to steal our money and go overseas. All those who have oil blocks; let me ask you a question, all our northern politicians, what did they do for the North? Okorocha put up schools in Zaria, Kano and Jos for free. Our northern politicians, how many of them dipped their hands into their pockets to build free schools? How many of them took money from their pockets to build just a borehole that costs about half a million naira in a village or in a government secondary school? How many of them took small money from their pockets to provide laboratory equipment for the schools in their community?
All our schools are rickety. To me, if it is left to me, we as northerners should carry stones and stone them. What have they done for us? So, with money from their own pockets, in the South, you can now campaign. If you have not shown that with money in your pocket, you have shown that you care for them. If you cannot show that you care for the masses, you cannot campaign. It is only here that you can get up and distribute things to the people which would barely last for few days but if they provide boreholes, ten years down the lane, people are still benefitting from it. So, let the youths get up after the election and form another political party that is not based on money or allow a godfather that will put money down that will make him dictate to them. Then they will look for honest Nigerians that would help to rebuild a new Nigeria.
Today’s politics is said to centre on religion and ethnical lines. What is the effect of these on the country ?
The Christians and Muslims go to the same market, trade together with the same customers, do they quarrel? They take the same public transport, do they quarrel? They live in the same habitation, do they quarrel? When you go to the market to buy something, do they ask you for your religion before they tell you the price? So, that is what the issue is. The thing is sponsored because people want to use it to their advantage. But it is not the crucial thing. Like the railways that are working now, is it a Christian railway? The ten universities that have been opened in the North, is it only Christians alone that will be admitted? The airports that have been repaired, is it only Christians that will use them? No! Do things that everybody can benefit and this is what the masses should think about rather asking what the religion of this man is.
In Kaduna state and the north in general, many non-indigenes are relocating back to their home state for fear of the unknown especially with the elections around the corner. What are the implications of these?
That is the real reason why the fracas started. They found out that most of the non-indigenes are Christians and they voted for Jonathan which was the reason why he was able to get 25% in the 2011 elections. So, they discovered that if they are able to drive them out, he will not be able to get the 25%. So, if the people move out, they are just helping them achieve their real aim. Also, they should make sure that they can use their voters’ card where they are going and are able to vote wherever they are going since they were forced to leave the areas where they were for insecurity sake. I have said it before, our people are strangers there and by that, I mean they are strangers elsewhere. So, if after the elections they start attacking and killing people here, what about their own people out there? They know the businesses of Northerners. Many of them their businesses are not in the North. They all have investments in the south and if anything happens here, sorry for them. So, the best thing for everybody is to have peace. Peace will favour everybody. I know they can fly out before we can even get visas; who will give a poor man a visa? They can make phone calls to the Embassy and send somebody to go and collect it. So, let there be peace.
Former president, Olusegun Obasanjo recently tore his membership card of the PDP. What is the implication of such an act in the full glare of the general public?
First, the issue is that you don’t insult elders. So, we had better keep our opinion to ourselves but we should know that elders don’t throw tantrums. He is not the owner of Nigeria. What he has done is very good. Because, when Jonathon comes back, Jonathan will be free from his influence. So, if he is a bully, we don’t want him to bully the President of Nigeria. Nobody is God. Nobody owns Nigeria. The cabal that think they own Nigeria we are praying that God will deal with them so that Nigeria can be truly free.