Pastor Adesoji Ajayi is the president of the Christ Apostolic Mission Church, Abule Egba, Lagos. The cleric, who has been at the helm of affairs for 20 years, spoke with journalists recently. SEYI SOKOYA brings excerpts of the interview.
Report has it that you believe God wanted President Muhammadu Buhari to be Nigeria’s leader; what has changed?
The vision was released and again, when the whole thing went haywire, I enquired of the Lord. The Lord said not all prophecies are meant to come to pass. If the Lord says you will live for 1,000 years and your lifestyle does not go in line with that, the prophecy will not come to pass. Is Buhari a good person? The majority men of God would say yes, going by his antecedents and pedigree, but with the way the Fulani hegemony hijacked things, it is sad to say that this is not the Buhari we used to know.
The military is one united entity. The military does not care whether you are Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba. When Buhari ruled this country then, it was like that, but along the line, he faltered. How did that happen? A few months after he got to power, he started arresting those in a section of the country. The governors of the South-West then were picked up. What did Jakande, who was about the best in the whole of Africa got to do with being arrested? What had Bisi Onabanjo got to do with corruption? What did Ajasin of all people do that suggested corruption? The idea was to silence those people. Ajasin built Owo High School, he did not build any house except the one he built before we were born. Ambrose Ali, Bisi Onabanjo and Bola Ige were arrested. So, they corrupted this man and the people know he is not the Buhari they used to know. On a personal level, he is a good person, but today, sorry to say, Buhari has become a fundamentalist, he is not the Buhari we used to know.
Buhari’s hands got tied. If Buhari says he is not going to do the bidding of the political leaders, he may be impeached. It is either you impeach or tolerate him. If I know that something will affect the fortunes of the mission and it is not spiritual, I will say no, my spiritual leader said okay, go ahead. In politics, it is not so, as they tell you what to do. They negotiate things. During appointments, there was nothing he could do. Ministers you picked that cannot declare their assets insisted they would not declare. So, Buhari has some very powerful forces he could not control, but by and large, without politics, there are some programmes on ground like the rail project which I never believed could work again. I did not know my eyes can see train again and billions of dollars have been spent. See our roads, they were death traps, but Nigerians have failed in one thing then, because Buhari cannot be said to be a devil when it comes to that aspect. In the area of security, constitutionally, he is the chief security officer of the country, but how can Buhari look into everything? The governors who are receiving security votes, millions of naira every month should be in charge of their states. When any fails, Buhari has failed; what is happening in Kaduna, is it his fault? The problem Buhari had was caused by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It was 16 years of waste. Now the constitution approved N30,000 minimum wage, 50 per cent of the states cannot pay, is it Buhari’s fault? We are sitting on a keg of gun powder. 774 local government areas, 774 chairmen, assistants, cars, drivers, among others. It is only Lagos and Ogun states that can pay because of their internally generated revenue (IGR).
We have been asking for restructuring and it seems not in sight; what is happening, how do we go about it?
He who pays the piper dictates the tune. Buhari is a Muslim, Senate President is a Muslim, Speaker of the House of Representatives is a Muslim, do you think Buhari will wake up one day and say he wants to do it? The constitution needs to be revisited; do you think the National Assembly would want it? They will talk with their constituencies. I have told you that the Buhari we used to know in 1984/85 is not the Buhari of today. Then he only talked with his Supreme Military Council, about 24 of them, and that was law. The one Goodluck Jonathan did, people did not take it to be legal, because the National Assembly did not ratify it, even after National Assembly says go ahead. For it to be done, we need 24 of the 36 states to approve it. In the North, there are 19 states which may not give a go ahead, they only need five more from the South to make the 24. The South cannot get that figure easily. Buhari cannot do it and it will be an exercise in futility for him. It will not favour those who do not want it. Go to Abuja and see what oil money is being used for. When Ken Saro-Wiwa, Asari Dokubo and others went to Abuja and saw what the money of the oil was being used for, they spoke up. Restructuring is not going to be easy.
So, what is the way out?
If we avoid peaceful change, we cannot avoid violent change in the face of poverty, banditry and kidnapping. It is not easy to go through violent change, we should be mindful of the human and financial costs, material waste. Violence cannot achieve anything. Hitler tried it and over 24 million people were killed. Ojukwu tried it too. Where two elephants fight, it is the grass that will suffer; the innocent will suffer. Wait till there is an election and express your view with the ballot paper. See what is happening in the East, the rich are not affected, it is the poor innocent people that are suffering. Nigerian politics is a complex one. There are people who don’t want anybody to match their records. Buhari was a military leader, but it is a different thing now. The people who don’t want their records matched are still very powerful, Buhari cannot touch them. Touch them and see the wrath of their followers. The situation is complex, we pray the military does not take over, it will be a curse and retrogression. And who are at the top in the military? Even if they take over, will they do the bidding of the people? So, let’s wait for the election. The Igbo don’t have anything militarily, despite what Ojukwu piled up, he could not, not even now, it will not be an easy thing, so let us wait for the election.
Restructuring is a cardinal point of the campaign, but they are changing things; even the Senate President said it will destroy the country, don’t you smell an element of betrayal?
You have the will power to change your mind. Do you want Nigerian politicians to say what will not favour them? You expect them to do everything they say? It is easier said than done. You want to win the votes of the people, it is easier said than done. It is like a man wooing a lady, saying ‘if you marry me, you will get a Lincoln Navigator’, but after getting her, he would say ‘do you want to kill me?’ That is the case of the Nigerian politicians, they would say yes when they mean no.
Don’t you think the fears of the North about restructuring are misplaced?
They are politicians, they are sittng; it is not a misplaced thing. They know if they restructure, things would go the other way – As regards oil, they have tried all they could, wasted billions of dollars without getting oil, you think they will favour restructuring? Buhari’s hands are tied. Military man would say let this be and it is an order, it is not easy as a politician. This is not the United States (US) or the United Kingdom (UK). In the US, one voice, over 400 million people; it is English but not so, in Nigeria. The North has a lot to lose if they allow restructuring and they know. We are not even practising true federalism.
Can Nigeria survive if restructuring won’t sail through and we are stuck with a president you said has been hijacked? Won’t Nigeria disintegrate?
Hard times don’t last. If we persevere, we will survive but eventually, willingly, this nation would disintegrate into three or four.
The problem the East is having now is that Rivers State is saying they are not part of the core Igbo nation, but politically, they fought together in 1967 up to Benin.
The southern governors recently met in Asaba and banned open grazing as well as asked for a national dialogue. What is your take on this?
Whether the Southern governors want it or not, the constitution must still ratify it. It is a wishful thinking. The National Assembly is still the representative of the people. I can assure you that the National Assembly will never rule against open grazing, they are more than us. The North has 19 states. There is nothing anybody can do about it for now.
You are a church leader and father in the Lord to a lot of people, what is the Lord saying about all these?
We caused it. Are we closer to God? They are closer to God than us. A typical northerner will call on God five times a day; you can see it on their foreheads. And it is only those who call upon God that He answers. What a minority people do cannot be taken to be what the majority believe, the minority of the Muslims are the ones saying these things you are mentioning and not the majority. The majority of the Muslims do not believe in what the minority misrepresenting them are doing.
That is just it and we all know Islam itself has its roots in violence in a way. The Bible tells us that when Ishmael was born and Sarah told Hagar to take the child away that the son of the bond woman will not be heir with her son and Abraham danced to the tune.
An Angel of the Lord met them in the wilderness and told her I have seen your travails and your torment, this boy is also the son of Abraham and I will make him great and make of him 12 nations. Even the promise of 12 nations came before the son of Abraham’s own promise; our father Abraham caused it. There is nobody that Satan cannot tempt. He tempted Abraham. God said Ishmael will be a trouble maker, and heaven and earth will pass away but the words of God will go away unfulfilled and it is happening today. May God forgive us when we say the God of the Muslim is different. Or are we saying armed robbers who bear Christian names, from Christian homes are not from the same God? In every religion, there is the good, the bad and the ugly. So, we serve the same God, but Satan has hijacked God from the lives of some people. We, Christians, must be careful. What some Christians are practising is worse than what some of these people are doing. May God forgive us all.
You have been president of the church for 20 years, how has the journey been?
It has been progressing. Once God is with you, you will succeed in spite of all the problems here and there – political and economic turbulence. The church is waxing stronger. Last year in particular, we felt we won’t have anything to celebrate, but it turned out to be one of the best years of the church. Once God is on your side, failure is not an option. He said ‘gather my people, I want to make a covenant of prosperity with them’. To the glory of God, the covenant thing has been fully manifested in the lives of members and that is enough to thank God for.
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