- Category: POLITICS
- Published on Sunday, 05 August 2012 01:39
- Written by Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie
I thank God that many people don’t know my age unless i tell them. I try to be as close to my God as possible, and one with God is majority. No matter how difficult the job is, I smile over it even though I know I am not doing the correct thing. Anyone that annoys me, for example, I show it and within a moment it is gone. And
always before going to bed I ask myself ‘how have I spent the day?’ If the day is not well spent, I say ‘God forgive me; this maybe my last day here on earth’. That’s all. Another thing is that I am not afraid of death. I remember when I was in the war front, Third Marine Commando under the Black Scorpion (Gen Benjamin Adekunle). There was nothing that they did that I didn’t do except to shoot and kill people.
That is the joy in the priesthood. The main fact that you are a priest does not mean that you simply read your Bible and say mass and all that. No, you must be accessible to people and be ready for any eventually, and in doing it, of course, you must put God before you and smile over it. I remember the first time I was asked to go to the war front, I nearly died. I said ‘what for?’ And my bishop then, Archbishop Aggrey (God rest his soul) said ‘yes, you think you were made a priest to come and sit down and be talking to people? Come on go and do what you are told’. He too felt it, but like a meek man he didn’t show it, but I could see that this man was not too happy with this kind of assignment. But I just had to go; so that is one of the joys of priesthood.
I was ministering to those on the federal side. I also did to the other side, I think it was during a Christmas Eve when there was a truce for three hours, so those on the other side came down and then we did too. But unfortunately those who came down from the other side were actually looking for food not for prayers and as soon as they heard the beagle they rushed back. Of course, they didn’t have to wait; they had to go for dear lives.
We are all humans, we are not angels. We are not even holy. All these three things I mentioned they belong to God and it is only God that can keep you aright because if you are not a man of prayer you cannot now and again examine your conscience and try to sleep. See, if a priest runs foul of the law then you know. Let’s say they are priests today that do things outside the law that is a sign that this one will not go far. Personally I visit people everywhere I go. I just visited one, coming from Mcpherson I said let’s see if Asiwaju (Bola Tinubu) is in. I am not sent to see Asiwaju and if anything bad happens there, it is not church business. I just asked if he is there and they said he is in and they cleared the road for me to see him. I didn’t go there for money or anything. It’s like I was doing in the time of Abacha that everybody seemed to fear. I tell him the way you are going is bad. He then said bishop you will not understand, if I did it the way you want me to do it they will kill me. Why must you be afraid of death?
Once I had an audience with President Jonathan long before his election. We were four in the room I remember and after the audience he asked for prayer. I said ‘Your Excellency, what do you want from God; what is your intention? He told me ‘you are the first clergy man that will ask me for that; others will just say bow your head’. God has all the gifts in this world, they all belong to him, just mention one, is it women, just mention. He said ‘well, as you know it I am going in for the election’. So I said, ‘Your Excellency, for the election you have won, no problem; but you may not rule’. He shouted ‘what?’ What do you mean by that? So what is the use of winning the election?’ I said, ‘sir, you have so many sycophants around you and these people will rule through you’. It is happening now, so this is it. You see, God speaks through us, God doesn’t want us to make mistakes but because of human nature, human frailty, we make.
Before you do anything, before coming out, give yourself to God, he is the owner of life, you are not the owner of your life. But some people don’t believe it. ‘Oh, I must go, I must be here by 3.00 o’clock’. He is the owner of the life. This is one of the reasons I don’t care about death; death can come any moment provided you just have to examine your conscience. Death may hit you at the wrong side and in most cases something they like may be what will kill them. That is what happens. Look at some of our Nigerians in the Olympics that said ‘I am coming back with gold or at least bronze’. What have they got? This is it, you must put yourself before God; this is how it is.
When Jonathan called for prayer…Na only blessing I blessed him. I am just telling you because that was how it ended. It was not prayer, it only ended in blessing.
You cannot take a horse to the stream and force it to drink, no way. God has already told you that you will win the election; that is what you are looking for? Secondly, that you may not rule; thirdly, that there is much sycophancy around you. So what do you want? What do you want me to do? To ask God to show me the sycophants? No way. All he had to do was to clear the vision. I too receive people that say ‘oh, you must say this, you must say that’. But I have to use my head.
I am not challenged by the growth of Pentecostal churches. Obviously, traditional churches are losing member, but it seems they are losing members because they are like the seed that fell on the wrong path. Most of these people you saw are coming back to the church and they become even stronger than those that didn’t even go out. This is what you people don’t see.
The impression is that members are looking elsewhere because there are no miracles in the Catholic Church, but who said there are no miracles? We work miracles every day. Take your Bible and read, every day. If I pray for you and it happens, what is that? I may not see it, you don’t even have to see it, you don’t even have to say that I worked miracle for this man. Anybody that tells you I can do this, I can do that is a charlatan. A man of God cannot tell you he works miracles. If I am praying for you, you may not even know that I am praying for you. When I am praying I put in my intention; ‘that gentleman that was here, do this for him’. Okay, I may just bless you and you go your way and that is all, but it has some meaning. You just see the signals; see the hand moving. What is my intention? Is that blessing I am blessing you in the name of the trinity, is it really for you? Is my intention pure? Yours may be pure because you are looking for it, but if your intention is not pure, then there is nothing we can do.
A good number of people today because of economic hardship and because they can read the bible would say ‘yes, I am called’ and they use it to make money. This is what is happening in the society today because the moment they see you asking for prayer they know this man has no faith. God is the father of everybody, so if you don’t develop your own faith, your own faith is weak, then they pounce on you, and this is what is happening. You see two people, a husband and a wife starting church somewhere, church in inverted coma and start ringing bell here and dancing. Before you know it there are five people, they may get six or seven overnight. Of course, all of them claim they work miracles; what kind of miracles are they doing. And they are the ones that say they work miracles. Why are they all falling out gradually today?
On Boko Haram attacks and the measures being taken by government on security, let me start from the last part, no one is satisfied at all, not even a blind man is satisfied. Security in Nigeria is nil. As for Boko Haram, I don’t think you are right to say the Catholic Church suffered most. Look at what is happening today. They are turning against Muslims, they don’t even care. What is the root, why? Just because of the laxity of the law. They catch ABC today tomorrow, they say because they know this one they release him. That is what is happening. If you say the Catholic Church suffered most, what will you say of those Pentecostals and churches that were burnt down where you have hundreds dying? All those who perpetrate evil, they are not the champions, the champion is God himself and unfortunately for them the more Catholics that lost their lives, the more you have them increasing elsewhere.
There was a time they said Boko Haram said all Christians, they didn’t even say Catholics, should vacate the north within 48 hours otherwise this and that will happen. Did they succeed? What happens to Muslims married to Christians and they have issues? What do they want to do with that? They just open their mouths to talk, they are not God. Someone comes in here like when I was in the war front and points the gun at me and say ‘I will kill you’. I will say ‘if you want to kill, go ahead, there is no problem but you too will die. That is one thing you have to know’. A man came in here and was telling me about armed robbers who came to him to shoot him and he said, ‘shoot, if you want property, take them and you will see what will happen to you’. The only thing was they left him alone and carried the property away. This is life; that is not the end of life. Do you know what happens to such people who are killing their neighbours? You don’t know, they don’t announce it. They just shoot you and throw you somewhere.
The very first thing is dialogue with anyone of them. If you wait to catch the big fish, you won’t really go anywhere. There are some of these little ones that are caught and are jailed, you can talk to them, let them know that what they are doing is bad; probably there is something wrong with their senses. Let them know and when one or two are converted, they will now tell their brethren, ‘look what you are doing is not good’. Look at armed robbers in a group of five or six, when one is jailed and he comes back to tell his brothers, ‘don’t try it again, it is not good, I suffered in jail’. That is how we change. You don’t say because that one is carrying hemp or hard drugs and made money he should go again. No, that is not the way. You must be charitable and from there after dialogue and you think dialogue is not good enough then of course, the government should try and do something.
I don’t believe in saying an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; that is for the Old Testament. That was what the church was doing, but churches are now changing their style and saying ‘well, try and defend yourself’. Defend yourself can mean anything and so those who are bombing, they too will be afraid, what do I gain? So it is not an easy job. It is a pity we have not got strong government, it is a pity. Just like some of our politicians, look at what is happening, why do many people rush for elections, why do they go into politics? The answer is Money. They are not out to rule to correct the nation. No, just money. When I get there I will make money; some even sold their houses at the last election and since they lost the election what became of them? When will you stop borrowing?
On corruption and the way forward, like I said earlier on, example is the best teacher: don’t give and don’t take. But unfortunately in this country of ours they call Nigeria they believe that if you don’t give anything you will not achieve anything. But it’s wrong. The rule is don’t give. Look at the example (Lagos State Governor) Fashola gave on the army officer. That is the kind of example we are saying. He was led by God and by the spirit of God. That army officer was doing something wrong and the other cars had started following him. God gave him that courage to stop the man. If he had not done that they will still continue. Now they are going to make a strong law about traffic offence that even if you drive one way you will be jailed. So we learn every day.
If other states can emulate Lagos – I am not saying this is the best because I have not seen others – a lot of good things will come back. Why did people vote for Oshiomhole for example? That is because action speaks louder than words. Even he said it himself before the election that even if I do not campaign, my work will speak for me. How many governors can say that today? If they have to, they will say it on pages of newspapers to make wave, but go there and see what is done. He may not have done much within the short time he was there but at least he has done something. Look at a man like Fashola, the amount of money that Lagos State government is owing; but he is using it and others will come and say ‘ah, ah, how is he doing it’ until Lagos becomes another London.
You don’t need to bribe to get your way or things done, no. Just know that one with God is majority. Look at me today, look at where I started. But if you are sincere with yourself and sincere with your God you will never fail. Don’t go to any charlatan and say you want prayer, you want this. Unfortunately, somebody came here once and after prayer he said is there anything I can give him and I sent him out of my office.
Do you have personal property like house anywhere in this country?
I have no property. A new bishop has been appointed and I am going on retirement. Jesus Christ said it, when he sent his disciples, don’t take this, don’t take that because God is going to take care of you. Besides, have no wife, I have no children.
There are many things that bother me but the one that bothers me most about Nigeria is this corruption. Without that, I think there will be jobs for everybody. What are they doing with this money? This (former speaker of the House) Bankole, what has become of the story? Very soon you won’t hear anything about it and that is Nigeria for you. What of Otedola and Farouk Lawan? That will also be swept under the carpet. This bothers me. Why can’t we stand up and be counted? And these people, even the EFCC, how good are they? The men who are running it, how good are they? It bothers me, are we still thinking of the last end. If they think of their last end they won’t behave like that; last end means when they are dead, what happens to you? People die, their children come they sell them off because they want quick money, because it is not the result of their labour. If it were the sweat of their labour, they will not do it. They will reflect on if their parents or grand parents left them poor, they will not do it.
It boils down to the same thing: bribery and corruption, that’s all. They give licence to people that cannot even build but because there is money in education, they run there and then they start telling your parents our own is international just because they have one Ghanaian there. And then, again, the teachers are not well paid, they are not well looked after. These are the things. In those days you look out for moral, spiritual and intellectual standing, those three things. But these days they don’t care. Look at King’s College, for example. Those days, if your child is in King’s College they will give you kudos that that boy must be very intelligent; but today who cares?
Is it today you have people that will even give you the answers and say just mark the right one, so they give you the answers and say just shade it. What kind of nonsense is that and we complain we do not have quality education. We are not serious.
Excerpts from interview with THISDAY