Sunday, October 28, 2012

I see revolution coming –Okoh


GODDY OFULUE/PUNCH INTERVIEW

The Primate/Head of Anglican Church in Nigeria, The Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, in this interview with GODDY OFULUE, warns that the rich in Nigeria will be targets of attack in a revolution if quick preventive steps are not taken

As a soldier, you fought during the civil war on the side of the Nigerian Army, with the war slogan, ‘To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.’ Do you still believe in that slogan, especially now that some Nigerians have advanced reasons why the country should split into independent states?

Yes, I still strongly believe in that slogan, I believe that Nigeria should remain one country. There are a lot of gains that come with diversity.

But those calling for a split argue that it’s been woes all the way.

What is happening now is that the diversity is being mismanaged; diversity is being misconstrued to mean that you don’t have to work but you can eat, especially as there is only one source of income. So, you don’t have to do anything as long as every month, people gather at the centre to share money.

But my belief is that even if we remain one and we continue this process of sharing money, we cannot be a great country; we need to go beyond that and work. Every segment of the country must be doing something and contributing to the economy.

It is because of this sharing-money mentality that people are asking for so many states. If states have to depend on what they gather, you will see that there will be less demand for the creation of states.

Would you then agree with those who blame the elite squarely for Nigeria’s woes?

I think all of us are to be blamed. The elite have not led well; the poor man also has practised wickedness. The four students who were burnt alive, that was not done by the elite. The killing of students in Mubi was the handiwork of poor people who have surrendered themselves to be manipulated by the elite. That they surrendered themselves to be manipulated is another evil. The railings on the bridges have been dismantled and yet these things were put there for public benefit. So, it is not just the elite. If you go to the market, you see how they have manipulated measures, all to maximise profit. So, it is both the elite and the so-called poor in our society. As far as all of us are concerned, there is a moral failure and our values have vanished.

What solutions would you proffer?

The solution to Nigeria’s problem is that, firstly, we should all appreciate the fact that if we continue to tear Nigeria the way we are tearing it, it will collapse; and when it collapses, all of us will suffer for it. The West African sub-region cannot contain us; we will all become refugees in our own places. You can’t go to Ghana, you can’t go to Benin, you can’t go to Cote d’voire, these places can’t contain us. So, it is in our common interest to sink our differences and behave ourselves.

The people who think they can force Nigeria to become an Islamic state should realise that it is an unattainable goal because people cannot just sit down and allow themselves to be turned into what other people desire.

Some Nigerians believe the convocation of a sovereign national conference will provide the solutions. Do you subscribe to this?

I don’t know what name it may be called, but a discussion forum is necessary.

Some say one of the solutions lie in the creation of state police…

Some say it (state police) is not due; but I believe that if checks and balances are put in place and we pursue it with open mind, it is practicable. They should have an unbiased mind; that is what I mean by an open mind. They should work out the operational mode; the relationship between the state police and the federal police; the roles of governors should be defined and state police commissions should be established to give operational guidelines and to ensure that the guidelines are followed. We will benefit more from the state police than we are benefitting from the federal structure.

When you have state police, the criminals will not have hiding places again because those who are going to be recruited already know the terrain. The national police commission will give state police what to do and what not to do.

There is nothing as permanent as change but in Nigeria, we are afraid of change. Why should we be afraid of change? Let’s practise it first and fine-tune the rough edges as we go on.

Look at what the vigilance group in Osun State accomplished by rescuing the wife of the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, who was abducted. I’m telling you the police would not have rescued that woman, but the vigilance group did because they are already familiar with the terrain.

Again, I believe that with state police, the accidental discharges by unknown police will no longer be there. If you shoot anybody, they will trace you to your family house. And this fact will prevent police officers from messing up.

What do you think is the major cause of the rising wave of violent crimes in the country?

One is lack of the fear of God. There is no meaningful teaching of religious knowledge in our schools again. Government should make the teaching of religious knowledge compulsory to restore the fear of God in the land. There is no sanctity of life again.

The second one is unemployment. Let there be employment. The devil uses idle hands. Most of the crimes in our land are committed by our graduates, highly educated graduates. Some of the okada riders are graduates.

I’m afraid of bloody revolution in the land. We’re sitting on a keg of gun powder, if they don’t take care of unemployment. Look at the sophisticated weapons being used by Boko Haram. Where are they getting them from? Look at the bombs they are using, even locally-made bombs. If there is revolution in the land, the rich will be the first target. So, we should take care of unemployment.

On the Boko Haram attacks, what is the church leadership doing to protect Christians?

Well, our charge is that Christians should defend themselves. The first law of nature is self-defence and self-preservation. They should not get involved in reprisal because the Bible says ‘thou shall not kill.’ But they should protect themselves from attacks, killing and maiming. They should protect themselves. God does not oppose self-protection.
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