Akwa Ibom State Deputy Governor, Mr Moses F. Ekpo, spoke on security and peace in his state at the 11th Annual Diocesan Synod of Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocese of Nkek Abak. Excerpts of address:
Ordinarily, a Synod is the exclusive gathering of the clergy convened to brainstorm on critical doctrinal issues. Not being a clergy, my participation at this gathering is therefore a matter of God's grace conveyed through the instrumentality of His Lordship, the Rt. Rev. Simeon Ekpo, the energetic Diocesan Bishop of NkekAbak.
But Your Lordship, let me add that I can justifiably claim to be a Methodist - perhaps not at Synod level. My uncle, the Late Sunny Ukwak, was a Knight of the church. Also, I was very close to him and shared the vision of the pioneers of the Diocese of NkekAbak with him. When meetings leading to the establishment of the Diocese were held at my uncle's residence, he would invite me. My being a neighbour to the church's Diocesan headquarters also situated me within the atmosphere of blessedness associated with Methodism. Your prayers have been the lodestar that has guided the trajectory of my life. My presence here is therefore in keeping with the plan of the Almighty.
Now, to the theme of the meeting: 'Watch and Pray', which I consider being very apt and instructive. In view of the happenings in the world, particularly our country, Nigeria, it is clear that we are at a major crossroad in history. And there could not have been a more appropriate subject of concern for any serious gathering of church leaders than interceding for God's favours. This is so because Christians believe that if there is a man or woman who would fervently pray, there is always a God in Heaven who would most assuredly provide answers to such prayers.
When a fervent man of faith kneels before an all-powerful, prayer-answering God, prayer becomes a matter of vigilant watchfulness and high expectation of divine response. Thus, the due process in intercession is to watch, pray and watch again until an answer is received.
As a matter of fact, every battle in life follows this procedure. There is a need, first, to survey the situation from a watch tower before striking, and then visually follow the dispatched arrow to see whether it has hit its intended target. I think the case is not different with the warfare of prayer.
For our model in the act of watching and praying, I also think that Elijah the prophet eminently fits the bill. In his encounter with King Ahab, he combined prayer with expectation to move from faith to reality - faith in God's ability to regulate everything and situation, including the coming and going of the rains, using the instrumentality of a watchful and prayerful human agency.
The idea as recorded in 1st Kings 18:42 - 46 are as follows:Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; there he bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees. He said to his servant, "Go up now, look towards the sea".He went up and looked, and said, "there is nothing". Then he said, "go again seven times". At the seventh time he told Elijah, "look, a little cloud no bigger than a person's hand is rising out of the sea". Then Elijah told his servant,"Go, say to Ahab, harness your chariot and go down before the rain stops you".In a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind; there was a heavy rain!
From Elijah we learn again that the first thing is to watch out for the challenge and the spiritual arsenal available in terms of scriptural promises regarding the particular situation. So when we pray, it is an act of faith in the validity of discovered promises. And when we thereafter watch out for results, it is an even greater step of faith because it means that we are expectant. Surely, nobody is expectant if he had not taken the preceding processes seriously!
As AkwaIbompeople, we can recall that we had prayed and watched and God reacted, first, by giving us AkwaAbasiIbom State, a development which was nothing short of a miracle. What about our victory over the nefarious on-shore/off-shore oil dichotomy, a victory which we snatched off the very jaw of defeat by turning the entire state into a huge prayer ground. And then this administration, the Udom Emmanuel administration, whose very advent; and, more so, its return for a second term have been a matter of answered prayers. Peace and security in the state have also been possible because we have watched and continued to pray.
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In the life of this administration, there have been security skirmishes in places like Ukanafun and EtimEkpo. In other states where we have witnessed full-blown crises, it all started in more or less the same way. But here God has answered our prayers by helping us nip these looming incidents of violence in the bud. Even the most recent crisis in EssienUdim has been so miraculously resolved that it is impossible not to see the finger of God at work.
With peace and security in the state, development has been witnessed in all its ramifications. Let us begin with the very novel one, the Ibom Air, the first state government-owned airline business in the country, which is currently making waves and getting set to expand its operational routes into the West African sub-region. Another important feat of this administration is the ultra-modern International Worship Centre, which Governor Udom Emmanuel himself has described as "an altar unto the Lord".
And in keeping with the goodwill and beatitude typical of the Godly mindset of this administration, abandoned projects have been revisited, including the 10,000 seater capacity Ibom Tropicana Mall; the Four Point by Sheraton Hotel, IkotEkpene and the Uyo/IkotEkpene Road to mention but a few. Great strides have been recorded in the health sector, in education, road infrastructure and agriculture. We have the Fertilizer Blending Company in Abak, the Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Company and the flour mill in Onna.
I am sure you know about St. Gabriel Coconut Plantation & Refinery in MkpatEnin Local Government Area, and the Electric Digital Metering Solutions Manufacturing Company, amongst others. These are all the results of hard work and answered prayers.
No wonder the governor does not mince words, nor allow an opportunity to pass without declaring the efficacy of prayer. Speaking only a week ago as Special Guest at the closing ceremony of the Annual Convention of Victory Life Bible Church in Abeokuta, Ogun State, he said and I quote:" with my meagre allocation, there is no way I could have paid salaries and still float the Ibom Airline, which today is making waves. It is a miracle and the result of vision backed by prayer and hard work".
In Akwa Ibom, we did not have to wait for Covid-19 to awaken us to the need to watch and pray. The "Only God" battle-cry which is typical of the Udom Emmanuel administration, anticipated the current urgency. Our dependency on God through vigilance and prayer actually originated from the Akwa Ibom church Fathers. The church Fathers, including you at this Synod, have also been instrumental in sustaining our prayer life through frequent resort to prayer in the course of this administration.
In trying to put this practice on the front burner, and stoke the fires at our spiritual hearth by way of this Synod and its theme, the Methodist Church is therefore acting true to type. I commend you again for raising the necessary alarm in these critical times.
The disruptions and dire consequences of Covid-19 cannot be overstated. For us as Christians in Nigeria, the Corona Virus challenge is worsened by the spectre of insurgency which is daily assuming the colouration of a well-planned eradication and occupation scheme. But for the watchful and prayerful, there are these reassuring words of God:
"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bonds and cast away their cords from us. He that sited in heaven shall laugh, the Lord shall have them in derision!" Psalm 2:1-4.
In conclusion, permit me to exhort this distinguished Synod and the rest of us, the Christian faithful, with the charge from the hymn-writer, William Henry Monk, namely:
"Christian seek not yet repose,
Hear thy gracious savior say;
Thou art in the midst of foes;
Watch and pray."
With faith in the ability of our God to protect and secure His own, it is my singular privilege to declare open the 11th Annual Diocesan Synod of Methodist Church, Nigeria, Diocese of NkekAbak.
I believe that the Almighty will bountifully reward your act of intercession and continue to strengthen you in your roles as leaders in the "WATCH TOWER" of prayer.