Pastor Femi Emmanuel has been at the vanguard of campaigning for the effective participation of Nigerians especially Christians in the political process.
A one-time member of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Pastor Femi Emmanuel is the Director of Politics and Governance of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. He is also the lead Pastor of Living Spring Chapel International Churches with branches in Ibadan, Lagos, and several parts of the country and abroad.
In this interview which was done with a few media organisations including Church Times, Femi Emmanuel gives insight on how Nigeria can make 2023 work. Excerpts:
You have spent about six months in your present assignment as the Director of Politics and Governance of the PFN. What has been the experience so far?
It’s been great. What we have done so far is sensitizing the church fathers on the need to encourage their church members to be part of the political process. It will amaze you that there are churches that have over 11 million members. And these are members that can easily be encouraged to join the political process, especially from the grassroots. The good thing about the Pentecostals is that they are aggressive and vibrant. They follow their pastors as devotees.
Pentecostals are doctrinal people there is the tendency for them to be able to be influenced by their pastors. They believe in their pastors. In fact, some call them papa. There are churches in this country that have branches everywhere. So for us in the DPG, we believe churches can take advantage of their number to influence the political process so as to put good people there.
There are only 8,080 wards where decisions of delegates that will select those who will vote for are made. Our position is; why don’t we overwhelm these wards and put good people there so they can elect credible representatives to vie for election.
So what has been the outcome of your sensitization?
People are beginning to understand that apart from having their PVC they need to know who to vote for and be able to influence the process. And efforts are being made in that direction so that we don’t keep recycling the old politicians. You can see that it is the same old people that have been there before independence and shortly after that are still in the political space.
We need to sensitize the young people so that they don’t need to protest but be part of the political process. The church can form a caucus and have a massive following. The church must not just wait for the election day It must be part of those who produce those we are to vote for. That is what the Directorate of Politics and Governance is doing so far. That is the message we are spreading to all churches. Until we have credible people to vote for we will just be going in cycles. That is why I have a lot of concerns about 2023.
Would you agree that 2023 has already been decided in favour of some people?
I think the 2023 election should be handled with a lot of care. There are many things we are supposed to settle that have not been settled. But then the election is here we have to do it. If I have my way, we need to restructure first.
Our natural inclination is towards regionalism. Look at those who are coming up as presidential candidates. You will find out that wherever they emerge from, their people support them. South West, Tinubu Osinbajo, You go up north Atiku and his people, in the east you see Okorocha and his people.
The truth is that we are many nations in a nation. We have been unified forcefully. Until we resolve the national question we will just be going in circles. But then, the 2023 election will still have to be done. I just feel that there is a need for us to go back to the drawing board and address the question of our nationality.
We need to address the foundation. The constitutional reviews and elections we have been having are deception. We need to go back to 1966, have one prime minister and six regions and let every region develop at its own pace. The truth is that we are not one people. We are diverse.
And the Bible tells us that a people cannot work together except they agree. We are just lying to ourselves. But those who are benefiting from this present charade will want it so. A senator who earns over N30 million in a month won’t want a change. I think we need to correct this fraud.
What exactly could be done in the interim?
There is the constitutional Conference of 2014. That would have been the best for this government to implement. But from day one, they said they have nothing to do with it. That is the closest I have ever seen to solving Nigeria’s problem.
Until we come back to addressing true federalism Nigeria may not make appreciable progress. We are just postponing the evil days and the agitation of the people. We are more divided now than before. But then, we have to do the election. The next president will perhaps have more challenges in his hands. There are in fact too many challenges starring us in the face.
2023 is a fait accompli what is your idea of an ideal president?
The next government may not fair better because we are building on a lie. The different groups will still be crying. The ethnic group oppressing others has entrenched their hold. It will take God and the effort of good people to uproot address the injustice because no person wants to hand over power willingly.
I think the next president should go back to the 2014 constitutional conference re-durst it and implement the recommendations. We are operating a constitution that has no provision for a referendum. That is worrisome. And these are some of the traps that have just been set. Except we address it, we won’t be going anywhere. Our problem is foundational.
You have been in politics before as a lawmaker. What is it about the power that Africans misbehave when they get there?
You don’t know who is not a thief until there is money around him and nobody is looking. You must also understand that those who get political power are put there because they belong to a structure that threw them up.
Unless the person dances to the tune of the structure that puts him there, he won’t be allowed to function. In fact, he won’t even get there. That is the dilemma of those who run public offices. It is either you are the owner of the structure or a structure that puts you there. People can’t get there on their own.
Somebody owns the party and he gives direction to the people who get there. From what we can see, things are deteriorating. Buhari came and could not fulfill his promises. We have to address the challenge of this country from the foundation.
How then will you react to incidences of coups in Africa in this age?
It is a lot of concern. Sometimes it makes me ask, what is wrong with the black man. It’s like the black man’s plague. When he gets to power he does not want to leave. In other climes, people resign just because of allegations of immorality. But not in Nigeria. Can somebody resign here? Even his own people will kill him. There is something about being black except for a few who have distinguished themselves like Nelson Mandela.
It is unfortunate that we are experiencing what is happening. Sometimes I think we are not ripe for democracy. There is something about us that we are not getting right. It is unfortunate we are still having military coups. But then democracy is still the best. Unfortunately for a black man, it is not working. Because democracy is give and take. The black man does not see it that way. It is a product of mind poverty. That is for historians and academicians to find out.
But the church is also guilty of the sins of the larger society. Some pastors are sit-tight pastors. They don’t want to leave?
The church is different. We operate a theocracy. The Pentecostal leader believes “thus says the holy spirit”. He believes the call of God is personal and that God gives direction to the ministry, not human beings.
He starts preaching and many people start joining the church and the vision. The church starts growing. He remains the General Overseer. But we need to get to a level where we need to talk about succession. In the Pentecostal setting, it is death that removes the G.O. Peter was there until he died. Paul was there until he died.
How can the church help the nation make 2023 work?
One of the ways is this sensitization we are doing. There is serious voter apathy in Nigeria. It is worse in the church. This is because there is a problem of trust deficit. People are saying they have trusted so much nothing positive is happening. So they are just fed up with the system. Prof. Charles Soludo won the election in Anambra with about 200,000 votes out of over 1,000,000 registered voters.
Nigerians don’t vote. DPG is waking the church and saying don’t abandon this thing. Prayer alone will not change Nigeria. By the grace of God, we are succeeding. We are making them go to the grassroots and be part of the system because that is where the action is.
What the political godfathers have is the grassroots. It was because of the grassroots that Oshiomhole was deposed in Edo. Except we are there in the grassroots, we can’t change anything. There is a lot of monetization going on in the political space. But we are telling the church to go to the grassroots. If the church wakes up today, it can change the status quo.
Unfortunately, many Christians are imprisoned by their G.Os. There is no parish pastor that will do anything different from what the G.O is saying. That is why we are calling on the church fathers to sensitize their members on the need to be part of the process from the grassroots.
All the big churches are listening to us now and we pray they will listen to us all through.
Some people believe Nigeria is not working. Some are in fact moving out in droves. Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
There is light if we do the needful. There are people who can fix this nation but they are not getting the opportunity of being there. What goes on in the grassroots is pathetic. They fight over money and do all sorts of things. If good people go to the grassroots deliberately they will make a difference. Except we have credible people in power there is no hope.
All these young people leaving the country are making a mistake. I will advise them to stay back in the country and let us salvage it. Instead of running out of the country they should run to the ward level and put good people there. It is when we put credible people there we can have a change. Democracy presupposes that the masses send their representatives up. But it does not work like that in Nigeria. Parties are owned and funded by vested interests.
I was saying to a set of doctors, Britain was coming to recruit people here. I asked, was Britain doing that before? If you are a doctor, before you can get their license to operate, you will start all over again in the UK. Today they are coming to recruit you, don’t you know they are taking you to the war zone. They are killing you, people, because they have dangled carrots before you. Can’t you think?
And I tell people there is nobody whose destiny can be totally fulfilled outside their roots. I am a pastor I have churches all over. I see a lot. You are at best a second-class citizen in another man’s country. I have had to counsel people tirelessly abroad and sometimes I tell them why don’t you just return home. But they can’t come because of what they hear.
Here you buy houses, you forget. But over there you take a mortgage and over the next 25 years you are still paying. The things you use are on credit. I was in London and wanted to pay for what I bought they were asking for my credit card. I said must I die paying debts?
There is no Nigerian abroad who does not want to come home if the home front is good. So it is the home-front we must sanitize. We must drive away these corrupt politicians so that good people can take over. How many Germans want to become Koreans. How many English people want to become Indians? It’s only here we want to become people of other countries. It was not like that in those days. Then, our people after completing their studies come back home.
So where do we go from here?
The power of the politicians is at the root. By the time this understanding dawns on us, we would be able to take care of the bad politicians in this country. My message to all Nigerians and indeed to the Church is to ensure that good people flood the wards and make a difference. I was in Portharcourt with my friend, David Ibiyeomie of Salvation Ministries and I was amazed at the thousands of people in the church. God just gave a whole state to one man. There were 350 viewing centres that are linked to the church. The Pentecostals have massive followership that does the bidding of their leaders.
God has answered our prayers by giving us people. God will not become a delegate for us. The answer to the youth exodus is in fixing the country. How can we have 65 percent of the population running away instead of joining to fix this nation?
There is a disturbing trend among young people now. Many are going into yahoo, yahoo. In what way can the Church help stop this trend?
The church is preaching and calling for change. We will keep telling the truth and warning them. Unfortunately, there are no good examples for the youths to follow. Somebody just went to the House of Assembly and before you know it, the person is living an extremely expensive life.
The young people are seeing this. We display wealth without caution. All the laws about money laundering are just on paper. The banks are not helping matters. Somebody said if this yahoo yahoo phenomenon is not checked, it will get to a point that people will be harassed on the road by these young people.
We should begin to question sources of people’s money. Our legislators are the most well paid in the world. Which country do you have a senator earning more than the American President or the British PM? I am convinced that good leadership will address all these things in a short while.