By Gbenga Osinaike
Former head of state, General Yakubu Gowon has given account of what led to the establishment of Nigeria Prays in 1996 recalling also his meetings with the late General Sani Abacha whose tenure as head of State was a torn in the flesh of many Nigerians.
Gowon who was addressing a group of eminent Nigerians at a dinner, held at the Olive Tree Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God on Saturday, August 15 said the group was born out of the need to put an end to the various problems plaguing Nigeria.
He said though he had a strong burden to lead a group that would be interceding for Nigeria, he had to walk with caution because of the prevailing circumstance at that time. “I did not want to go to jail because at that time the situation in the country was not palatable. You never know what you could do that would lead you to jail. And I did not want to experience the mosquitoes in Kirikiri (Nigeria’s metaphor for prison). That was why I had to get the nod of General Abacha because he probably would not understand why we had to pray and could in fact have read meaning to our prayers.
He said, “In all fairness to General Abacha, he welcomed the idea from the depth of his heart and gave his nod that I could go ahead with the group. But he (Abacha) however requested that Muslims be incorporated in such prayer group. When he made the suggestion I requested that he should allow me to seek counsel from my Christian brothers if such arrangement would work.”
But church leaders objected to the idea of making the body an inter-religious organization. The Muslims too, according to him did not like the idea of a joint prayer with Christians. “That was why he had to resolve to have a prayer group that is solely Christian while also advising that the Muslims could also say their prayers as they deemed fit.” He said
He confessed that after three months of holding prayer sessions for Nigeria he thought all the problems of the country would disappear. “I was wrong about God’s timing. I thought within three months all the problems plaguing us would be a thing of the past. But I soon found out that God’s timing is different from our own timing.”
What however came as a surprise to the ex-head of state was the miraculous way God answered the prayer of the country. “I remember we went to Ekiti to hold the prayer rally. It was at Ekiti that the Lord really heard our prayers. The attendance at the meeting was incredible and the people who came really prayed. At that time some army officers had been sentenced to death according military rule.
“Some of the officers were from Ekiti. I recall that some of their colleagues had expressed concern about these officers. I remember telling them that if the Lord says nothing would happen to the officers that would be it. God Himself will deliver them. I tried to instill faith in the heart of those who expressed such concern. They probably did not believe me.”
But by the following day after the series of intercession in Ekiti, Abacha was reported to have died. “I actually did not know he had died. It was one my security men that came to tell me Abacha had gone. He told me in Hausa. I thought he was trying to tell me he travelled because in those days he rarely travelled out of Nigeria. So when he said he had gone, I asked gone where? I never knew he had passed on.”
He emphasized that the prayers said was not that the head of state should die. “All we were concerned about was that there would be peace in Nigeria.”
He then urged Nigerians to pray consistently for their nation noting that prayer works wonders. “I want all Nigerians to imbibe the culture of praying for Nigeria. We should refrain from selfish prayers and prayers that are not nationalistic. Praying for Nigeria is the only way to peace in the land”
Commenting on the civil war, Gowon who ruled Nigeria between 1967 and 1975 said the war was fought for the sake of re-uniting Nigeria. “We did not prosecute the war out of hatred for any particular tribe. It was a war that was fought to keep Nigeria one.”
Also speaking at the event, a regional pastor of the RCCG, Pastor Mrs.Adetola Oretayo observed that Nigeria had survived many upheavals adding however that, “God had spoken. He spoke during the last election. Either way the election was to go, we would have been in trouble. But somehow the Lord intervened and the aftermath of the elections was peaceful. It could only have been God.”
She observed further that “never in the history of Nigeria has the church been involved in the rescue operation of the country. That is why we can’t afford not to pray for Nigeria. We should go out with the new determination to pray as never before. If there is no peace in Nigeria individual peace will be a mirage. We should constantly call on God to perfect that which He has started. We must pray the prophecy of God to manifestation.”
The National Director of Nigeria Prays, Pastor Moses Aransiola gave an insight into the fulcrum of the prayer movement noting, “There are three Ps that are involved in the destiny of a man and a nation. God will not do anything without first speaking it forth. That is prophecy and then there is performance of that which he had said. Between the prophecy and the performance, there is prayer. It is prayer that ensures that prophecies are turned to performance. The coming of Jesus was prophesied hundreds of years before he came. But there were intercessions carried out by Simeon and Ana for the fulfillment of that prophecy. From my calculation Ana probably prayed for over 80 years. So if God could institute prayers for his own project how much more his creations.”
Present at the dinner were Mr. Felix Ohiwerei who was the chairman of the occasion, Pastor Felix Meduoye who delivered a brief message at the event and also led a prayer session for Nigeria, Professor Fola Aboaba, Captain Paul Tahir who was the official pilot of General Gowon when he was the head of state and reputed to be the first pilot to come from the north, Dr. Moses Ihonde, Gowon’s Chief Press Secretary when he was head of state and a host of other dignitaries including top church leaders
Nigeria Prays will hold its zonal prayer rally today August 16 at the Olive Tree Parish of the RCCG by 2 pm.