Bishop Theophilus Ajose is the Lagos State Director of the Directorate of Politics and Governance of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. In this interview with Church Times, he shares his experience overseeing the directorate since it was established. Below are excerpts:
The much-awaited election is just a few days away, what has been your experience so far overseeing the Lagos Directorate of the Politics and Governance of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria?
Let me say first that the DPG is a great innovation by the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. Before now we were used to politicians coming to canvass for votes and asking us to give them support.
But this time around, we have come to the realisation that the church must be integrated into the political system. The truth is that the PFN has the highest number of voting population if we put ourselves together. The only way we can utilise our voting population is to be involved in the system and not just cast our votes.
Our vision in DPG is to put the church in a position where it can have a say in the polity. All along we have had Christians who are political but are not partisan.
How do you mean?
The point I am making is that many Christians don’t understand the practicality of partisan politics. That is why after every election we just let go. We can’t determine who is who. But with the DPG we have been able to create a template for the church and have projections. We believe the church must be able to sit down and project for the next political dispensation.
So what has DPG put in place to achieve this vision?
The first thing for us is to ensure that our people take part in the party structures down to the ward level. To make that a reality we have created our own political structure from the ward level to the state.
We have coordinators at all levels. With this structure, it is easy for us to make negotiations and create a formidable ground for the person we think should occupy certain positions.
Has this been helpful?
Yes. I can say for now we have Christians who are candidates in various political parties. Some of them are members of the political campaign committees at the local and at the state level of some of these parties. The DPG has really helped to galvanise support for them using our own independent structures. We are so particular about the grassroots because it is from the grassroots that politicians build support.
Many people don’t know what is happening at the grassroots. What we have found out is that experience is acquired by participation. Unfortunately with all our efforts, it seems the leadership of some churches is not ready for the actual work. Some people still believe in the old order. They don’t want to be involved in partisan politics.
Are you saying even with the DPG that you still face some challenges with church leaders?
We still have issues with the leadership of some churches. They still don’t understand what we are trying to pass across. Some still have an aversion to politics. This has not helped us to make reasonable progress.
Are you saying the essence of DPG has been defeated?
The essence has not been defeated. It is just that the church is yet to wake up to the reality that it cannot be business as usual. Some people have caught the vision, But some church leaders have been committed to some political parties so they don’t want to see the DPG. But what they don’t know is that even in the party they are committed to, the church is not represented in the leadership of those parties.
So why can’t they join forces with us so we can make a statement? What they don’t know is that the major political candidates we have now, none of them came through the church even though they may be Christians. Some of them just have Christian names.
But if church people are at the grassroots it will be easy for them to influence the choice of their parties. The reason we have a pastor contest primaries and come out with zero vote is because all the people there did not come through the church. It’s unfortunate that many still don’t understand what we are doing.
So we are not likely to see any serious change in the present dispensation?
The only change we have is that we now have some of our people contesting from the Church. When I say from the church, I mean we have been able to influence the voting pattern at the grassroots to favour the church in some parties. Before, the politicians just come and ask for our votes, But now we are able to present candidates for some offices to compensate for our votes. Now we have people who are contesting in state assemblies, and some governorship candidates though not in the main parties.
If you look at APC, it was a conglomeration of various parties. Nobody knew them before they call came together to form a force. Some of the unknown parties can also come together. This is what the church fathers have been unable to do before. What we were used to is pray, and prophesy. But that scenario has changed.
But then what have you been able to do to convince church leaders about what you do?
God took me to Exodus 15 and I told some church leaders that when Joshua was lifting up the rod, the Joshuas were on the field fighting, The question is: Where is our own Joshua in the church? So no matter the prophecy we will continue to be oppressed.
We have been able to make a change. The irony is that the major parties don’t even have the structures we have. It is just that we are not taking advantage of what we have.
How do you manage the issue of loyalty to parties? There is a tendency to want to favour a particular party more than the other. How do you balance this?
If you look at the north, it does not see PDP, APC, or whatever. That is why you see them in all parties. They see their agenda and not the party. We too must have an agenda and we must go to the parties to speak our own language. It should not only be about winning the election. We have our people in all parties. We are not fighting ourselves. Whatever you want to say in your party say it. We can’t afford to force people to belong to one party. In not being partisan, we maintain that people are free to join the parties they want and make an impact there.
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There is the case of the CAN chairman being a member of the campaign council of the APC. How will you react to this?
Everything people do is a function of conviction. People have known themselves for years and they seem loyal to the people they know. Morality demands that you stand by your own. We are not all going to go in the same direction.
God is a God of free choices. At the end of the day, it is not God that told us we must vote for a particular party. Even if it is God that told us, he will still give us the freedom to make our choices. So you can’t reprimand people for their choices because you don’t know where they are coming from. You don’t know their story. That is why you don’t see people from the other divide castigating themselves.
Time will unfold many things. Things will sort themselves out. Even when people were trying to come together in Genesis 11, God scattered them because that is not the way of God. People should be free to make their choices. God is a God of free choices