interviewBy Orkula Shaagee
Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor of the Word of Life Bible Church is noted for being outspoken on national issues. Oritsejafor, who is also the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (ACN) and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), spoke to reporters in Warri on the recent declaration of Boko Haram to cease fire, the conditions for cease fire and those behind the sect, among others. Excerpt:
Just recently, the Boko Haram sect announced their readiness for cease fire giving some conditions such as release of their members in detention, that the dialogue should hold in Saudi Arabia. It also named former Head of State General Muhammadu Buhari and Ali Mongumo to be members of the to mediate on their behalf in the ceasefire. They also demanded for the arrest and prosecution of former Borno State Governor Ali Modu Sheriff. What is your reaction to this?
First of all, is this really Boko Haram? I don't know. I want to sit back and watch the unfolding events, because what we are hearing is much more interesting than what we are seeing.
So, my first question is, is this really Boko Haram or is it somebody else? We will know in the next few days whether it is Boko Haram or not. The next question is, are they sincere if actually they are Boko Haram or it is just blackmail. I am puzzled, I don't understand how a criminal terrorist organization would give conditions to a legitimate sitting government of a country.
There are many things I would want to say, but again like I said earlier I am learning more to understand it more.
But if you have heard me say some things in the past, as time goes on I will be vindicated in Nigeria. The thing about truth is that you can't bury it. Jesus in the Bible is referred to as the truth, they killed and buried him, but the third day he rose again. So there is nothing much you can do about truth. I would advise that we work for and with the truth. Why Saudi Arabi? So many whys; so many things to look at in the whole thing. Why Buhari, why all those names?; these are the things going on in my mind. To me what has happened raises more questions than answers, so this is as far as I can go for now. A day or two after that, a retired General was killed; so the questions keep increasing, I am a little puzzled. So, I reserve my comments for now.
How sincere is the Federal Government in handling the Boko Haram issue?
Oh! The sincerity of the Federal Government on the problems on ground, first of all I am not a member of the Jonathan cabinet, so I am not in the inner circle, I am not in the government and I don't know anything that goes on in the government, so it will be hard for me sitting here to tell you how sincere he is but I will be surprised if President Goodluck Jonathan is not sincere, because it won't do him any good. He has nothing to gain from Boko Haram destroying Nigeria. First of all, it will not be good of him to be said it was during his time as president that an extremist group broke up the nation. Second, I believe as a good president he would want to do something for this country, but in this kind of situation, what can he do? Challenges come at different levels, ways and forms; so I think in my opinion he is sincere, whether they are doing enough is another thing.
There are many things that I think need to be done. For example, there is need to look again at the security agencies, they need to be trained and retrained, and constantly retrained.
If you look at the police, to be specific, they are under-equipped, under-funded and the problem with funding again is fraud, because there is no part of Nigerian that you don't find fraud. Everywhere you turn to and loom at there is fraud. Greed in Nigeria is so high.
He must find a way of funding the police and bring them up to date with what is happening in the world. Their salary should be increased, because you don't expect a man earning a meagre amount to risk his life and die for how much you will give him. Even after you provide the good weapons, he has a wife and children. What is going to happen to them, how much has he been able to save, what kind of pension does he have, what kind of security have you put in place for his future and his family? These things must be looked at.
There is another very sensitive issue. Among our security agents, there are some who are more loyal to their religion than Nigeria, it is a major problem and we all pretend. Most of our security agents don't believe in Nigeria the way they believe in their religion, they are ready to sell Nigeria and protect their religion and that is dangerous for a country like Nigeria, and I don't know how far we can go as a nation. Many times, Boko Haram gets information about their movement, plans and intentions before they are carried. From who? From the same people who are planning it. It is a major thing that President Jonathan would look at, and God should help him find few trusted capable hands who will help him look for ways to fish out some of these people, some of whom are in strategic positions; so that if they know them, remove them and make them redundant and send them to places where they cannot get information and put then right people in right places. It may help.
Finally, Muslim leaders must go beyond condemning it. Boko Haram is first and foremost a fundamentalist ideology. They are Islamists, who take ideas from the Quran, not from the Bible. If they took it from the Bible, probably they would have invited people like us now that they say they want to dialogue, but you can see the list of names, they can't invite people like us.
So, whatever way you look at it, there are certain beliefs they have and it comes from a certain very important holy book. So, they should look for the Sheiks, Imams and some of these people that may know these people and get in contact with them and convince them that Nigeria cannot be Somalia, Afghanistan and Nigeria cannot become a country of one religion. It is not possible.
The Imams who teach every Friday in the Mosque must begin to teach every average Muslim that this is their country; they should not say things that will help separate Nigeria from their minds. What I am saying is that we can join hands, they can work and we will support them in any way they want us to help fish out these people in their midst. They are giving a bad name to a great religion. I know there is fear, some are afraid they will kill them, but life is full of racers, you cannot live in this world without race. So, if you don't want to take a risk with Boko Haram, you may take a risk with another thing tomorrow. Why not take this risk and have a better future. Look at the economy of the north now, it is gone.
What is your advice to others outside sports and security?
I am troubled by what is happening in Nigeria today, with regards to what our politicians are doing. So my advice is that those coming after them should know that there are many things more than acquiring wealth. There is nothing wrong in acquiring things, but if you cannot afford it, leave it alone. Life is not about what you have, life is about who you are and what you do with what you have, that is what it is all about.
What is the experience like, having spent 40 years doing the work of God, what are the challenges, the high points and low points?
To be a pastor for 40 years definitely there are so many challenges. Anyone who is an achiever, there must be problems somewhere, achievers are not ordinary people, extraordinary people because success and trouble were born on the same day, so when you see success, you see trouble, they go together. People who want success should be ready for trouble. So, when you talk about high points and low points. The one I have been sharing in recent times is I was married for 20 years and my wife died, that was my low point in my 40 years of ministering. It was very painful, a woman you slept on the same bed with for 20 years. In fact, she even died in my hands. It was painful.
As a pastor, people think you are not human being, though you have a head, two eyes and two legs like them. Pastors go through hard time, they go through pains.
But after her death, God was good to me because about two years later, I met my present wife, an incredible woman. God used her to wipe my tears, took away the pain and sorrow, and changed everything. I am so grateful to God.
I don't feel that pain anymore; all that I feel now is joy and fulfillment, because of what He has done for me.