Ahead of the last general election, the Methodist Church Nigeria was so vocal in a the polity. Why was the church involved so much in politics?
Basically, as you know, we the Methodist church, see ourselves as a
major stakeholder in the Nigeria project. The Methodist Church Nigeria is the first church or let me say it’s the first Christian mission in Nigeria because we came in September 1842. We have invested so much in terms of our involvement in the development and growth of Nigeria. Don’t forget we have schools that have impacted so much.
The Methodist Boys High Schools as well as the Methodist Girls High Schools. Don’t also forget that in the area of hospital ministering and healthcare development we are part of it through the Wesley Hospital. So we have been everywhere. Nigeria to us is like a baby that we were part of nurturing and so at every phase of its life, you want to ensure that the baby has a good footing; a successful outcome and that is the vision. So our role in terms of nation-building , we can’t at this point jettison it for any other mission. Secondly, the Bible tells us that we should go all out because we are the light of the world. So, if we as Christians or we as a church being the light of the world, we must show that light and allow it to glow. So that people will understand that we are not just all about our own members but about people; our community, about societal development and that is why is said our involvement in the socio-political life of Nigeria is something that we cannot afford not to be part of and not just being part of it but being an integral part in its development.
How satisfied or otherwise are you in the policies of the present government so far?
We have expressed our satisfaction through our bishops’ council. They met and we agreed after looking at the indices that guides electioneering and election process we were satisfied. Not because there are no hitches here and there but the entire world accepted to a large extent, we held one of the fairest elections in recent time.
And then the will of the people was reflected in the outcome. The moment you see an incumbent it shows that the people were allowed to make their choice; it shows the will of the people. The election shows that it is what the people wanted. Coming to the policy of the government so far, we as a church have expressed our satisfaction as the fact that we know and recognized, and we
acknowledged what the present government intends to do is not to witch-hunt anybody; its not to bring discomfort to people but to build effective blocks that will make democracy last and that is what the government is trying to do. We acknowledged that there have been a lot of rots in the system because there is a near-systemic collapse. The Nigerian state was in a state of coma and what the present government is trying to do is to build the foundation that is necessary for democracy to stand financially, economically and socio politically and for us to grow, we must be able to build the necessary blocks and I think that is what the government is trying to do and so far we are satisfied.
Recently the government gave tips that it may go into negotiations with Boko Haram. Are you backing the government’s possibilities of
dialogue with the terrorists group?
I think the president was taken from the point of speaking from the last option. So far what he has done shows that militarily, he intends to deal with the issue of Boko Haram, there are some efforts in the last few months of the last administration and the president need to consolidate. And in doing that, he has met with all the stakeholders. He has also met with the Lake Chad Basin Commission. They have a clear brief, a clear vision. He has gone to the US and very soon he will be going to Britain to drum up support Because Nigeria is now a giant that must play among the global giants because the war on terror is a global phenomenon.
So what we are having here is what they are having in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and some other countries are also dealing with Some are saying why we need US stating it’s a jamboree but it’s a war that we cannot fight alone. It has been identified that the terrorists are having some kind of backing from groups which means we can’t battle alone. You must enlist people who have the experience in tackling them. Talking about negotiations, what the president said was And I quote “If what it will take to get the girls out alive, will mean for them to negotiate, he will not hesitate and I don’t think anyone can question that. He is not saying we are not ready to battle Boko Haram. Or saying we are not ready to flush them out of Chad Niger Cameroun and wherever they are found. He said for the sake of the Chibok Girls and that was what Christian Amanpour asked on that CNN interview. That if he has the opportunity of negotiating to take the girls out alive and I don’t think any government in the world will say it will not negotiate.
The peace of Nigeria is very paramount amid our religious and ethnicity difference, but how can a lasting peace be maintained in the country?
Fortunately, Methodist Church Nigeria has been the most hit churches in the north apart from our sister churches like the ECWA, TEGAN and some Catholic and Anglican churches Methodist Church has suffered more that others because we have a strong footings in the North. Don’t forget we have a Theological college in the north, Fongwa in Kaduna state. If you break it down, we are one of those that will like to see an end to these act of terror. But I can tell you personally that the act of terror has been fanned by intolerance. It was this religious intolerance that gave wings to this level of terrorism that we are witnessing today.
We have said overtime that religious intolerance is unacceptable. If you say you want to get through to God in whatever way, you cannot say you don’t tolerate what the other person believed. And you cannot say in a country where we are all dependent on tax payers’ money and yet you want to determine how that taxpayers’ money will run their life as far as their faith is concerned. So one of the things we must get out of our system is religious intolerance.
Talking of moral issues, the Most Reverend Kanu Uche of the Methodist Church Nigeria recently expressed worries about man’s drifting from God’s Kingdom through their way of life. Coming on the heels of the recent legalization of gay marriage in the United States of America, a country with so much influence in today’s world, how worried is the Methodist Church about this development?
To a large extend, I pity the United States government for the decision they had to take. As far as what we called sin or things we called immoral is concerned, the issue of same-sex marriage, act of gay, lesbianism, heterosexual, homosexual and all that. What happened in the United States must be contextualized;
what happened is not a victory for sin. For them, it’s a victory for the law. You see, the law is not always moral. What is termed legal is not always moral. So what has happened is a case of morality versus legality. It was the Supreme Court that upheld the agreement of some people that went to court to press for their freedom, their rights of association. And because the constitution is not the Bible they arrived at that decision and that is the most unfortunate part of it. The constitution may have derived what we called canonical laws from the religious books. We may have derived some laws that guide our moral compass on what is right and what is wrong. Some of these were dictated by the tenets of our faith guided by the principles espoused in the Bible. The challenge here is that secularism is guided principally by the constitution. That is what I think happened; it’s a case of legalism versus morality.
But for me, the church is the bastion, the custodian of the mind of God concerning several and many issues which is what is the principle, the concise definition of marriage as far as Biblical interpretation is concerned. And whatever way you want to look at it. Even the presence of Jesus at the wedding in Canaan in Galilee as recorded in the book of St. John clearly tells you that union, marriage, sex is between a man and a woman.
Then I have asked questions about have you ever seen a female chicken lying with a fellow female? No; have you seen a female lizard lying with a female lizard? No; have you seen a female goat, a she-goat meeting with a female colleague? No. so if at their level they know that it is conventional that they can’t copulate. It’s an inordinate ambition; inordinate quest to lay with a person of the same sex its fundamentally wrong. It’s like I looking at another man’s wife and say I desire to sleep with her. I can have such an ambition, but it is inordinate and that makes it wrong but does it mean some people don’t have their way? They have their way but it is immoral.
So, let those who have their way today with the issue of gay marriage, lesbianism, homosexual and all that know that they may have their way, they may have won the battle but they will surely lose the war because, whether we like it or not, it is not conventional and the church in Nigeria will not succumb to any pressure. Even if the Nigerian government was to like follow the footstep of the American,
Britain, Irish counterparts that says same-sex marriage is now constitutional, the church will, fight the moral angle of the story and that we will not be forced into any gay marriage and other Sodom-like principle.