We must give Buhari reasonable time to recuperate, says Ighodalo
• Deadline given to Ndigbo is unfortunate
Ituah Ighodalo is the Senior Pastor of Trinity House, a group of churches. The church clocked seven recently. In this interview with CHRIS IREKAMBA, the accountant-turned pastor, spoke on the seventh anniversary of his church, quit notice given to Igbos in the north, as well as applaud current administration for good performance, among other issues.
Today’s church is being criticised from all angles. For instance, former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently accused the church of encouraging corruption. Acting Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo also said churches should stop receiving stolen money. What is your take on all this?
Well, it’s a tough one, but they both have their points in that some churches, though not all, have no barriers, no boundaries with regards to the kind of people they honour, elevate and so on. Some churches have a strong or what you may call monetary or if you like, prosperity drive, and in that manner, they tend not to discipline people. In those days, if you came home to your parents with a new car or you built a house, they would ask how you came about it.
I think what they are saying is that churches should take more responsibility, by asking people who make huge donations, who bring their tithes and offerings, how they get such. For instance, they can say: “my friend, you are a civil servant, or you are a corporate person or you are in the military or armed forces. Does this donation reflect your earnings?”
Churches should question and challenge people, and not just turn a blind eye to all manner of gifts and donations that people bring. Even in the Bible, there was a man called Simon, who wanted a gift of the apostles and was ready to pay them. Previously, he was an idol worshipper, who had used magic powers to bewitch people. But Peter and other apostles rejected his money, saying you cannot buy the gift of God with money. Similarly, Elisha also rejected the gifts Naaman brought all the way from Syria. Elisha said this business is not about receiving money, but about the grace of God. The Bible says ‘freely you have received and freely give.’
So, I think both of them are asking churches to be more responsible and a bit stricter, in terms of ensuring that we are also not blinded by filthy lucre.
So, do you think churches are asking questions about the source of money they receive from members?
Not all churches are doing this. Some are asking questions about the source of money members bring in. To a lot of people, churches need money here and there. And then again, people are entitled to their privacy. In fairness, sometimes you don’t even know, because when people are dropping their tithes and offerings, you are not there; they just drop it in the offering bags and after counting, the ushers pay into the bank. You don’t know exactly who has paid what, but as a pastor, if you are close to your people, you can tell by their lifestyle. For example, some people are making good money in an honest way. There is nothing anybody can do about that, but if you know one or two people whose sources of wealth is a little doubtful, then you need to be careful. However, one also needs to be careful about interfering with other people’s privacy, but as a pastor, you have that right to question.
There is agitation everywhere in the land and some people are calling for restructuring of the country. Do you think the panacea lies in the implementation of the resolutions of 2014 National Conference?
I think what is happening in Nigeria is a reaction to what seems to be an inequitable situation. It is as though the people producing the resources and working for the country don’t seem to be getting the benefits of their effort adequately. But the problem lies in the fact that previous governments, by centralising the federal system, especially in terms of earnings from oil have inadvertently discouraged other regions and states from being economically productive and viable. So, what happens now is that they take the money from oil and share it among the states and tell them to run their governments that way. But some of them have not been wise enough to develop their own natural resources, because the allocation formula does not encourage it. If you exploit your own natural resources, the federal government takes it all, so what is the point?
I would suggest that the states should be given 60 to 70 per cent of their resources, while 20 to 30 per cent or maximum 40 per cent can go to the centre for federal projects. Sixty to 70 percent should go to the states and if possible, to local governments or individuals, who have access to their resources, so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of their labour and use the money to develop their local environment and whatever goes to federal maybe in a pool. There could be another five to 10 per cent that can now be given to states for subvention, but let each state be viable. This might not be implementable immediately, but we can give a tenure, for instance, five to 10 years maximum 15 years that this is where we are going and let each state begin to plan how to become economically viable, even with the cooperation and support of the federal government. If we don’t do that, we are going to be having major problems all over the place and the whole nation may end up not being economically viable in future.
On the resolutions of 2014 conference, I think the conference results should be reviewed. I won’t say I am very conversant with it, but the results should be reviewed, if they meet the yearnings that would ensure that there is greater economic development in this country. I think they should look at it very seriously.
What is your position on the quit notice given to Igbos to vacate North by October?
I think it’s treasonable. I think it’s unfortunate. I think Nigeria is here to stay and nobody has the right to tell any Nigerian that he has no right to live peacefully wherever he desires. If all the states and regions come together to hold a conference and from there, all agreed to disagree, that is a different ball game entirely. But there is no Nigerian that has the moral or legal right to say another Nigerian cannot live where he has chosen to. I think such move should be nipped in the bud, and the Federal Government should take a very hard stance on it. They shouldn’t try that, because that is what led to the 1966 to 67 civil war and the killing and wastage of many precious lives. We must never let it happen again.
Aso Rock has been vacant without the president and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. So, some Nigerians are saying President Buhari should resign so he can take care of his health. What is your view on the present administration?
This administration is trying. It came in at a very difficult time, when oil price was down. They started a bit slowly and seemed a little bit unprepared. Maybe it was the magnitude of the problem that overwhelmed them, but right now they are getting there. I would not say there is a vacuum. The Nigerian Constitution is very clear on issues regarding the president. He is allowed to be ill, as well as go on vacation, and the process is that he hands over to the vice president, who becomes acting and that has been done very well by Muhammadu Buhari and you cannot fault him. It is not his fault that he is ill, and until we get a doctor’s report telling us that he is unable to recover from his illness and continue in power, we are still expecting our president’s return. And if he comes and says he is not physically able to run the government, then let him say so. Until that is done, we must give him enough time to recuperate. Anybody can fall ill and we need to be careful about our statements. Those who are saying the man should resign are not the person who is ill. We should wait and see whether he recovers fully to take up the responsibility or not and within reasonable time, we will know.
Is there anything really special that warranted your rolling out the drums to celebrate the seventh anniversary of your church?
We clocked seven years on July 18, 2017 because we had our first service on Sunday, July 18, 2010 at the Civic Centre. We are thanking God because it’s not easy for a baby to be born and then survive seven years. We are thanking God because seven is the number of perfection and completion. So, we are praying and believing Him that He will perfect and complete that which He has started. We are grateful to God because He has been awesome. I want to thank members of the church; and appreciate the ministers who have done awesome job. We also want to thank the workers, who have been faithful and every single person who has supported us. Even those who are not members of the church, we want to thank them, especially the man who made it possible for us to acquire our own land. He is a great man, but I won’t mention his name.
Today being Friday, we would be having seven hours of praise to thank God and glorify Him. We should have the likes of Tope Alabi, Frank Edwards and our own Trinity Voices as part of activities marking the event, which started on July 7. Then, on July 23, we would have our celebration, as well as ordination services.
What is your vision for the next 10 to 15 years?
First of all, our motive is to do God’s will, which is why we are called of God to obey Him, hear His voice and do what He wants us to do. Two, I think we are called to save souls. We are called to change lives of ordinary people, who cannot help themselves. We try to make sure we help them, as well as pray, empower and encourage them to stand on their own. We want people who are already comfortable to fulfil their destiny, by doing what God designed for them here on earth. We hope that by so doing, we can help to transform nations into such that are desirable to God. That is our focus. And we are working assiduously day and night to ensure that God’s will is done here on earth.
Right now, we are in the United States of America. We are also in South Africa, in the United Kingdom and in various parts of Nigeria. We intend to continue like that just to preach the Word, especially unreached and places, where the gospel is not preached. That is our target. And above all, we want to ensure we all make it to heaven on that last day, which is very important. Life is not worth living, if we do not make it to heaven. So, all we are doing here can be a total waste of time, if heaven is not our goal and we pray that God will help us.
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