Rev’d. Samson Olasupo Adeniyi Ayokunle, the new National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN’s, interview, in which the cleric outlines the challenges ahead of him and calls on the Federal Government to hasten to restructure the nation and revamp the economy because the people are hungry.

Let him try it and he will know how people can shut down government. If he wants to kill, he will have so many people to kill. Let him try it. He will tell us whether it is only one set of religious students that have right and others don’t have. I have said it that people in that level of management should not, by their statements polarise the situation more than what was on ground before. What stops him from keeping quiet, than fuelling the situation?

The issue of hijab and many other issues like the proposed education curriculum tend to make many people believe there is a plot to Islamize this nation. Are you of the same opinion, and if yes, what will the Christian community do?

Whether there is Islamization or not, Christianity in Nigeria is under siege. We can all see what is on ground. I’m not talking about belief, I’m talking about facts. Christianity is under siege. How can somebody say that he is doing a reform in the curriculum and change Christian doctrine and think that we will keep quiet? They will be teaching in that new educational curriculum that Jesus Christ is not the son of God. Is that Christian teaching? And you call it Christian Religious Knowledge? Where did you bring that one from if you are not just provoking anger in other people? You want to be teaching that Jesus is not the son of God and that He did not die on the cross and that He did not rise from the dead. You are saying there’s nothing like Christianity. Is that education? Who drew the curriculum? It can never see the light of the day. You know that CAN is already on it. I think some time ago before I travelled, I saw government apologizing over that and I need to commend the government for that; that they knew that the curriculum was in bad taste. I think what the government ought to do is to investigate the people responsible for such a thing. If it is still in the National Educational Research Council, that person should be sanctioned. What was the intention? I think the best thing is to dismiss that individual from service. He or she wants to set the nation on fire. If you see what is happening…Joseph Zechariah Kura, an Evangelical Church Winning All pastor in Nassarawa State was butchered. The following week, a woman in Abuja was killed. Somebody was not a Muslim, he wanted to eat in his shop in Kaduna, he was stabbed. The one in Kano, you were doing ablution in front of another woman’s shop and she stopped them. She was killed. A Catholic Church opened for service in Niger State on Friday and you said Friday was specifically for you. Who told you that others should not worshiping God on Friday except you? Don’t we see other religious adherents do their service on Sunday? Has anybody attacked them? And our authorities keep quiet as if nothing is happening. We will not allow them to rest until they speak out and do something. There is a siege! And when we are talking, it is not because we want to set the nation on fire but because we don’t want the nation to be on fire. Let there be mutual respect. We used to live together mutually, it was not like this. Let’s return to that time, that’s what we are saying. When we had Muslims and Christians in the same family and they were eating and wining together. Where has this type of spirit come from? I think it’s the spirit of end time putting Christianity under siege. We are too many in this nation for somebody to think that they can overrun us. .as we live and as long as God gives us our breath, we will not allow anybody to force any religion on us.

What steps will you take to rebuild the churches in North East? Beyond the North East, what should the Christian community expect from your tenure? And there is also the fact that till now there are no Certificates of Occupancy issued to churches in the whole of the North…

Pastor Oritsejafor’s administration was very involved in rebuilding the lives of people who have been affe In terms of what Pastor Ayo has done, God gave that man resources and he spent it for the Church. It is very difficult for you to have another Christian leader that can have that advantage and that type of spirit. I am coming from an established organisation which does not allow me to spend half kobo from collection unless what it is approved. And before approval is given, it will pass through many tables. As an established organisation, you know that we have our own ministries; internally displaced people, widows and so on that we attend to with several millions. We will do our best but you better not compare because areas of ministry differ. What I can assure you is that I will not keep my mouth shut until all the people who are passing through suffering and hard times and people who have been victims of this insurgency have been properly taken care of either through CAN or through the government or non-governmental organisations. I was at the World Council of Churches and I was shouting at the top of my voice that internally displaced people in Nigeria should be attended to. And by the grace of God, from February or March this coming year, the World Council of Churches is coming to lay the foundation of an international inter-faith religious center in Kaduna so that what led to the Boko Haram insurgency might not repeat itself in our nation. And the Baptist World Alliance adopted a resolution which has already been passed to President Obama that he should employ an envoy to take care specifically of the internally displaced people in Nigeria. So we will build on what Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor has done but the style may be different because the access that we have to resources differs. On the issue of C of O for churches in the North, I think we will engage lawyers to address the matter. If any church is denied C of O, we will like to have the records and the reasons for the denial and we may challenge that in the court of law. Nigerians cannot be treated as aliens in their own land.

What will be your cardinal agenda? Will it be a two-point agenda or four-point agenda?

Go and get my acceptance speech, you will see my agenda there.

I have seen your acceptance speech; there was no mention of NIREC. What will be the new relationship of CAN with the Islamic community considering the fact that NIREC has been moribund for some time now…

Mine is to look at what happened. I have told the National Secretariat to send a letter to the Sultan of Sokoto to inform him that we have a new administration, a new CAN President, and I’ll take it up from there.

What’s your own approach to the proposal for grazing reserves?

We have shown our opposition to that. Ranches are better. Let the Fulani men who are professionals in cattle rearing, wherever they want to buy land, let them take money from their pockets and buy it because they sell cows to us; so why should it be government buying land for them? Will they buy land for mechanics also? Are they going to buy land for pastors to plant churches? What is good for the goose is good for the gander. They should not take our public funds to buying land for Fulani herdsmen. They are doing their private businesses. They amputated the leg of my cousin in our village. When the girl was coming from the river, they met her, they wanted to take her, she was running away, unfortunately she fell and they amputated her leg. It was Baptist hospital that helped us on that lady, an unmarried lady. It pains my hearts. What wickedness. I cannot allow herdsmen in my backyard. Any family who wants to sell land to them, I’m not hindering you; you can go ahead and sell but let them buy it themselves.

in 2014, the Jonathan administration organized a National Conference where recommendations were made including the one in favour of the restructuring of the nation. But the Buhari government says it has nothing to do with the recommendations. How do you respond?

The statement of the President is that he has not even opened the report of the National Conference. How can you conclude that a document is not good when you have not seen the content? Someone occupying such a position who is looking for the best solution to move us forward will not have that type of bias. You can’t condemn what you don’t know about. People gathered from all over the nation, money was spent on it; even for the sake of the money that was spent on it, public money, wouldn’t you read the report? If you don’t have time, give it to people that will analyse it critically for you and you will be able to bring certain things up that you are going to use. Somebody looking for a way out will not throw away completely a suggestion that is coming from another angle. We have seen this in Nigeria government, not with this administration alone. We have seen it in the past, where many projects will just be abandoned because the party in power does not buy into it and the citizens suffer for it. Everybody sees that this present federal system is not the way federalism is operated. I read political science in the university. In the U.S, to a large extent, each of the states has autonomy. We need to restructure.

On the issue of the states being in charge of their resources, the Niger Delta Avengers and other groups are clamouring for that and they are bombing pipelines. What do you have to say concerning that? Is it good or is it bad?

There is a theorem in psychology that says that resort to aggression depends on the degree of frustration. The more frustrated people are, the more aggressive they are. I think the government in power made some miscalculations because before they came on board, these people have been checkmated and there was an agreement that made them to continue to feel satisfied and government satisfied for natural revenue to be coming. That shouldn’t have been jettisoned. And if there will be moderation to it, it should be minimal so that it will not degenerate into the present situation that we are experiencing. I was reading the newspaper some days ago that the revenue has fallen by over 40%. What is anybody gaining from that? That is the reason I told you they need a more potent economic outfit to move this country forward. The Avengers are not doing the best thing by taking the law into their hands. But it is good for the government to have time to sit down with them because for every problem, there is a solution.

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