‘There is urgent need to revisit the basis of our togetherness as a country’


February 11, 2018 | 3:26 am
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Reverend (Dr) Oluyemi Ayankayode Ilupeju is the Pastor of Good News Baptist Church, Surulere, Lagos. In this interview with SEYI JOHN SALAU, Rev. Ilupeju speaks on some key national issues and why the nation as a whole has been performing poorly across various sectors. Excerpts:

2018 is a year of politicking that will likely witness political alignments and realignments in preparation for the 2019 general elections. What advice do you have for politicians?

My advice is not only for the politicians but the electorates as well. The electorates should get their permanent voter cards ready, while those who are not registered should go and register to vote. Politicians will continue to treat voters like they do not care as long as there is voter apathy. However, if voters vote based on their conscience, it will send a message to the politicians that the people will vote them out if they do not perform. Sometimes when you tell people to vote, they simply conclude that politicians are all the same. When you conclude like that, you only give away your power to make a difference in the polity. PDP was voted out in the 2015 general elections. If the people feel the APC is not living up to expectations and decide to vote out the party, politicians will realize it is no longer business as usual, that the electorates now have a pattern of voting that is based on performance and not party allegiance. Another problem with our political system is that Nigerian electorates do not ask questions from politicians. We should be asking politicians for their plans for the office they seek to occupy before voting them into office; instead, we just vote on party line.

The later part of last year exposed the plight of many young migrants in Libya; most of them were from Nigeria and other West African countries. Who do you think is to blame?

For me, both the government and the migrants are to blame for what is currently happening in Africa, especially in Libya. If government provides the necessary amenities and infrastructure needed for even development, most of the young people running out of the country would not. Truth is, there is a misuse of resources, people who have the means to make changes didn’t channel it properly; instead of investing in the country, most were investing outside or just storing the resources outside the country. When you talk about job or wealth creation, basically it’s to create room for people to do what they should have done. The country has been talking so much about agriculture; how much has been invested into it to create room for people to do what they should do. However, what is happening in Libya and other places are lessons for our youths to take. Where you are going to is not better than where you are coming from. Nigerian youths should look inward for greater opportunities here in Nigeria rather than trooping to other nations for greener pasture.

In line with that, what would be your advice to the youths, especially those still planning on travelling out of the country?

The youths need to understand that a living dog is better than a dead lion. Those who did not go to Libya are not dead, they are still alive. So, Nigerian youths should understand there is dignity in labour and must learn to work hard anywhere they find themselves. It is equally sad and worrisome that governments at both the federal and state levels are not willing to make the necessary sacrifice in initiating and implementing programmes and policies that will better the lots of the youths. As such, Nigerian youths are willing to migrate in search of greener pastures even to poor neighbouring African countries. Nigerians, especially the youths, are besieging embassies pleading for visas. The others who cannot foot the bills will risk the uncertainty of the desert or brave the horrors of the Mediterranean Sea. Many more at home get engaged as political thugs, hired assassins and involve in sundry anti-social vices to put food on their table. While not making excuses for crime, it is a truism that failure of past and present governments at various levels to make life meaningful for the citizens creates a fertile ground for crime to thrive.

President Muhammadu Buhari was roundly criticised for going to commission projects in Kaduna State without visiting Southern Kaduna for solidarity/support. Do you share a similar view?

I believe the president has not done well by not visiting the troubled spots in the country. He was in the hospital to visit his son who was said to be on a reckless bike ride in Abuja, yet he could not visit those people who were killed by the so-called rampaging Fulani herdsmen. Even for the Benue elders to visit the president in the Villa was also wrong. The government must work out a holistic approach to tackling the security issue in the country. The governor of Benue State has been calling for help over the killings in his state, and that shows the lopsided nature of our system of government. Why should everything be centred on Abuja while all the security apparatus of the country is being controlled by one section? Why is the governor the chief security officer of the state but the police is controlled by the federal government?

Should we take that as support for the call for restructuring?

It is not about supporting a call for restructuring or not. When we look at the system as it is currently, what can we say is working in the country? So, we need to open up our political system to allow for healthy competition that will bring about even development across all geo-political zones of the country. There is an urgent need to revisit the basis of our togetherness; the country should be restructured in a way that everybody feels that sense of belonging to the country, the system on ground now seems to segregate certain people and make some people feel they are not qualified to be part of the country. We cannot rightly claim to be one nation, where some people sit comfortably in certain place and some people can get away with some crime while others will not. Of course, there will be need for restructuring.

Your ministry believes strongly in holistic and developmental education. What, in your opinion, is wrong with the education sector in Nigeria?

The problem with education in Nigeria is that those managing our education system do not believe in education. It is the same with Nigeria, the people leading us as a country do not believe in the progress of the country called Nigeria. When the constitution says certain amount should be budgeted for education, and you consistently give lesser budgetary allocation to education yearly, do you believe in the system? Ironically, the same thing is attainable in the health and other vital sectors. If in Nigeria we have professors who do not believe in education, how can the education sector develop? Even those in ASUU do not believe in education; that is the problem with the education sector in Nigeria.

What is your goal for the church this year, and what do you wish for the nation?

The essence of the church basically is to change men from their wicked ways to a more godly way by the power of Christ. That is exactly the stand of the church – to develop people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ who are intentionally reaching those in their spheres of influence with opportunity to become devoted followers of Jesus Christ. The goal of the church is constant, even though we change our theme for the church from year to year. Good News Baptist Church is committed to reaching people for Jesus Christ and developing fully devoted Christians who have a growing relationship with Jesus through the Word, Worship and Prayer; who are committed to healthy accountable relationships within the Body of Christ, and have a balanced approach to stewardship of time, talent and treasure in fulfilling the Great Commission.


February 11, 2018 | 3:26 am
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