National publicity secretary of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and general overseer of the Christian Central Chapel International (CCCI), Bishop Emmah Isong, in this interview with some newsmen in Calabar, spoke on the economic recession in the country, the killings in Southern Kaduna, restructuring of the country, among other emerging issues. UBONG INYANG was there for TNN. Excerpts:
President Muhammadu Buhari will mark two years in office anytime from now, how do you think he has fared so far?
I hate to assess a government. This is because the assessment of a government is not an individual criterion. It is a mass criterion. In the first place what is a democratic government? It is a government of the people, for the people and by the people. You and I know that the Buhari-led government has done very well in the area of anti-corruption with a lot of question marks and has done very well in the area of transparency of governance-freedom of information. But it has done very badly and very poorly, almost to the point of failure in the area of economy. It is no more a secret both in public and private domain. Even the APC chieftains have agreed that this government is the worst government in economic formulas. It has not been able to put food on the table of ordinary Nigerians. They have goofed, stumbled and fallen in the area of cash circulation, fiscal policies, baking regulations and basic commercial laws. They have failed woefully in the area of commerce. I think the question answered itself even before I answered. You can put what I just said on public opinion and tell them to vote, and you will see that it would be the same result. Everyone is feeling the pains of the stringent and almost lack of economic policy. It has never been like this. We are lacking good hands around the President, intelligent, experience men around the President who has the wherewithal to advise him economically for Nigeria to come out of recession which has ravaged every sector of the economy. Even the President's kinsmen are complaining- this is no more one man's voice, even the President himself confessed that things are tough and Nigerians are hungry. I believe that what this government lack is that they were politically prepared to take over government but they were not economically armed to manage government. Winning of an election is different from managing of an economy and this is a big lesson for future governments. To win an election and constitute a government does not tantamount to having key players that can drive the economy.
How can the country get out of recession?
I have proffered one solution- we lack mature and experienced hands to advice Mr. President. He (Buhari) may have good intentions but wrong inventions- I mean the way to go about it. Just having a good heart is not enough for Mr. President. Just being a good man, just being nice and wishing Nigeria well does to tantamount to economic development.
What is your take on the killings in Southern Kaduna?
The issue of Southern Kaduna has three dimensions which Nigerians don't know- it has dimension of tribe, it has a traditional dimension because it is an age-long tribal feud. It has religious dimension- the perpetrators on one wing are Christians, the other wing unfortunately are Muslims. It also has political dimension. Politicians have capitalized on the issue to perpetrate their political aggrandizement. So the Southern Kaduna crisis is a traditional old dog that can bite, it has a religious name but is always woken up by political noise. If you are intelligent enough to mix what I just said you can see that it is a scenario that is manipulated. Kaduna crisis happened before some of you were born; it has been there for years. There is only one way to solve the Kaduna crisis. One- all plans by any religion in Nigeria to show Supremacy, a certain religion is calling the other people our slaves, our tenants, have you seen where the traditional angle comes in? Just like if we have some Muslims in Akpabuyo and we call them our slaves, that will continue to detect how we treat those Muslims in Akpabuyo. It is a traditional angle not yet religious. It is religious when the politicians who are pursuing their selfish interest decide to divide the electorates into religious divides- if you don't believe it is more political than religious, how come more than 800 people were killed in one night even when there was curfew. There was curfew on the day of killing showing that the killers had permission to move freely, showing that the killers were not civilians. Every civilian during curfew were locked in, who are the killers- the killers are people that were allowed to move, permitted to move or people whose movement were known. There were enough military and security guard in Kaduna during the killings. It is either some demons fell down from somewhere and started killing or people who are on uniform had used their good offices to perpetrate the killings.
Still talking about the killings in Southern Kaduna, recently Apostle Suleiman made a statement which some people feel could trigger ethnic and religious crisis. As a leader would you advise Christians to resort to self-help on issues like this?
You cannot beat a child and expect him not to cry. Which is more criminal? To kill 808 people and nobody was arrested or to comment that you should defend yourself? And somebody was picked up by DSS- We should think about this thing. You killed 808 people and DSS didn't arrest anybody up till now. No suspect is paraded then somebody now spoke carelessly about that killing, he is to be killed, he is to be arrested. People say he is making hate speech. When you push a man to the wall, slap him and burn down his house the hate speech principle does not apply again. I ask again, which one is more criminal? To kill 808 people and no one is arrested and to raise alarm over the killings. It is not right. If you had grabbed the killers and parade them it would have been a different thing because we would have been convinced that they are handling the issue. You are not handling the issue. Of course, Suleiman himself is a former Muslim- I am not saying he should have spoken like that but I am saying that punish the people that carried out the killings and then come and punish him (Suleiman). Government should not seem to be biased on enforcement of law, and government should not seem to be religious or prejudice in apprehending hate speech. A lot of northern and Muslim leaders have made a lot of hate speeches. Somebody woke up one day and said tell the Igbos to go to hell we don't need Biafra - that is a hate speech. Another religious leader said the other day if you arrest a Boko Haram members please don't kill them bring them to me-somebody has said that, it is on the news. A Muslim leader had said the other day that if somebody stops you from practicing your religion kill him. This is discriminate application of Nigerian laws - it is showing that the Nigerian nation is not one- it is showing that we are laying foundation for terrible upheavals and division of this country. You cannot magnify someone statement of that level and make it look as if the whole world has collapsed when there are hundreds of such statements.
It is just like the probe of the PDP campaign funds which I am still saying the government is right to probe it. It is not right if they used our oil money to invest in their election- I condemn it. But can I also have another roll call of APC Campaign funds. Where did APC get money to do their elections- nobody is talking about this? Where did PDP money come from? We all know that it came from Billions of dollars through the office of the National Security Adviser- that is quite clear. So where did APC get their money from. The person that won spent more money than the one that lost. Where did that money come from? I want an answer as a Nigerian- my name is Bishop Dr Emma Isong. Give me answer. The country is not one. We are not using the Nigerian law to treat people equally. Maybe our laws are good but the execution of these laws are biased, prejudiced, and tribalized which is not good for the running of the nation.
Do you agree that Islam is a threat to the world?
Nations that are 100 per cent Muslims have no peace. Mention one Muslim country that has peace? So I tell my Muslim brothers in Nigeria if they want the whole Nigeria to be Islamized, you want to deep the Koran in River Niger? You want all of us to convert to Muslim? I am ready. If you want everybody in Nigeria to be Muslims so that we have peace then I am ready. Me and my family we can become Muslim but are you ready to answer one question. After this nation is fully Islamized, would we have peace? But you will be shock that the country will be even more violent than Syria, than Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, and Yemen. Recently, a group of Muslim terrorist tried to bomb the grave of Mohammed; five meters the bomb missed the grave. You could imagine bombing the grave of your revered leader. So I am ready to be a Muslim if they can convince me that there will be peace. Turkey, Yemen is 98 per cent Muslim but there is no peace. Islam has been infiltrated by a group of radicals, senseless bigots who are not themselves Muslims.
Just recently Pastor Adeboye's wife said Christian leaders are the worst leaders, what is your reaction to this?
I was with Pastor Adeboye few days ago in his office, we sat together and talked. What she meant by worse leaders is that in Christianity we should learn to bear one voice. Like in other religion, if one of them speaks it is the final say but in Christianity if one of us speak who is a leader there are divergent views under that one view. We are not ready to obey. For instance, if Christian leaders come out to say we are not going to work on Monday, Christian A will ask why we are not going to work, Christian B will comment me -I am going to work I don't know what you people mean- there will be no convergent and synergy to speak in one voice. That is the meaning of what Adeboye's wife said, not that we are bad leaders in our endeavors. Bad leaders in terms of we don't listen to one leader. For instance Papa Ayo Oritsejafor, who is a Christian leader, speaks now the other people may fight him. It does not happen in other religions. No matter who you are you can never oppose the voice of your revered leader.
There have been calls in some quarters for the restructuring of Nigeria in line with the report of the 2014 National Conference, are you also in support of restructuring?
Former President Goodluck Jonathan has sent a message to Buhari that he should implement the 2014 national confab report and I think that report clearly stood for restructuring. Most of the national issues we are debating now were answered at the confab and they were jointly from north, south, east and west. The Biafra case will die if you implement the report, Niger Delta crisis would die, and even the Boko Haram will end if you implement that report. Even the Yoruba nation, their eyes are on that report, they want the report out. Call any governor now that you want to see him, the answer would be that he is in Abuja. All the governors spend their time in Abuja. What are they doing in Abuja? Pursuing their allocation, national wealth, following the money. All local government Chairmen are not in the local government, they are in the state capital.