“Next Level” Agenda Must Not Be One That Takes Us From Frying Pan To Fire – Rev Ebukiba
The chairman of Conference of United Evangelical Church Worldwide, Rev Samuel Ebukiba, was on a three-day pastoral visit to the Lagos Township Superintendency of the church where he had interactive session with journalists on disturbing national issues and called for unity among Nigerians as the panacea to defeating insecurity and ethnicity plaguing the nation. Our Lagos correspondent, ABRAHAM AKPABIO, was there and brings back the story. Excerpts: What prompted your visit to Lagos Township Superintendency of the church?
It is a three-day pastoral visit that God was planning for me to use to ignite a new fire of revival in the Lagos Township Superintendency because when the church is revived, the Holy Spirit will energize us to advance gloriously.
It is an opportunity of re-uniting and interacting with my members on spiritual matters of our church to improve the quality of the church. The Lagos Township Superintendency is the 29th unit I have visited so far.
What is the vision and mission of UEC and when was it established?
The church was founded as Qua Iboe Church in 1887 but later changed its name to United Evangelical Church and it is 132 years now as I speak.
Its vision is a purpose-driven church, united in worship and service to God and humanity, holistically towards rapture, while the mission is, UEC exists to glorify God and reach the unreached for Christ through evangelism and missions, equipping and empowering the saints and embarking on social actions for the benefit of mankind.
What is the position of the church in members participation in governance?
We encourage our members to be fully involved in governance. As a church, we pray for our leaders. God had instructed us on this and we don’t have to stop at that because we know that leaders in government are the ones to come up with policies and if our members are not involved in governance, that means the wrong people that would fill up such positions of authority will come up with wrong policies that will also affect our members. It is now left for some of us who are in the position of church leadership to enlighten our members to participate actively in politics as the Bible rightly says when the righteous is on the throne, the people rejoice, and vice versa. Therefore, our members are advised to participate in governance, they should not be left out.
There is so much insecurity in the country. What do you think is the cause and how could it be tackled?
It is very unfortunate that we experience the level of insecurity that we have today in the land, and we feel that part of the reasons for it is the issue of our leaders in government not carrying the entire nation along, the issue of leaders being somehow bias. We are talking about one Nigeria but from the look of things, some of our leaders allow the issue of ethnicity to play out as some sections of the nation now feel cheated and they feel not being carried along by those in hierarchy of government. Let me say here, we should not give up on our nation Nigeria. Let us all unite. Unity is the panacea to defeating insecurity and ethnicity plaguing the nation.
For us as the church, we feel that once somebody assumes the position of leadership, such a person should know that he belongs to all and should look after the welfare of all, not only considering part of the section of the nation that he comes from. Apart from that, we also are praying asking God to watch over the nation because no matter how the watchmen may watch over the nation, God is the very and only one that can bring about security. As the church, we also pray earnestly for God’s intervention and for God to help and direct our leaders to ensure the welfare of the entire citizens of the country Nigeria is taking into consideration.
You are talking about some of our leaders being bias, issues of ethnicity and sentiment. There was a boiling issue in the country recently, though government has suspended it, I mean the issue of Ruga Settlement project, cattle colony. What is your view about this?
Let me begin by commending President Muhammadu Buhari-led government for listening to the witty advice of Nigerians and suspending the project. Such issue, if it were to be looked into, should have been voluntary and not mandatory but thank God it was suspended.
The Federal Government should not try to impose such on states, even when states have declared that they don’t have such lands. Acquiring free lands for certain group of people for them to begin to occupy strategic locations could be disastrous for the nation. If such is granted and colonies created, those they may send to dwell in such land, colonies and in the midst of those who do not want such to happen, how will they relate? The government should have a rethink to avoid problem. For us, we want such idea to be on voluntary basis.
Do you see that as a ploy to Islamize the country?
Not at all! We are in a country of educated people who cannot be easily manipulated. Gone by were days people were in darkness. Let me make it known to our leaders that Nigeria is a secular state. We have freedom of worship, therefore, no particular religion should try to enforce their own religion on all others. They should allow us to operate according to our constitution, Nigeria being a secular state.
What is your take on the Next Level agenda of the Federal Government?
The Next Level agenda of the Federal Government and particularly the Buhari-led administration is a welcome development but we want to advise that the issue of the next level should not be something that may go from frying pan to fire.
We have challenges in our nation which we are advising government to tackle these challenges to see how to overcome them. Those problems are not yet solved and we are talking about next level. Please and please, let it be positive next level and not negative side of it – of more hardship, suffering – rather, next level of good things, development and progress. That is what our expectations are. If that is so, we will be very happy to see the next level of development, blessings for our nation and people.
It is seen and heard that Christianity has been bedevilled by the act of some pastors who are involved in crime such as rape, killings, self-kidnapping, robbery, etc. What is your advice on these?
The Bible says in Ecclesiastes12 from Verse 13 – “fear God and do what is right.” Those in positions of authority as church leaders or followers, if they make God and His word their watchword, there are things they are not supposed to do. The word Christian means Christ-like. Everyone called a Christian is expected to behave and do everything like Christ, to live a life that Jesus Christ will be happy to see. In Matthew 5:13 Jesus gave us identity calling us the salt of the earth, light of the world, saying let their light shine before men.
Therefore, whatsoever that is not in consonance with the word of God, we speak against it.
Situations should not force people to go and do what is not right, what they ought not to have done, rather, situations expose people of what they are already. Anything contrary to the word of God should be avoided. We condemn anything outside the word of God.
In a related development, these days youths are into various crimes such as yahoo yahoo and other related crimes. What is the position of the church by way of advice to them?
Our youths that are involved in certain crimes also boils down to the word of God. The Bible says remember thy creator in your days of your youth. If at their youthful age they remember and have their creator in them, they will not be forced to do things contrary to the word of God.
Again in Proverbs 22:6 the Bible says, train up a child in the way of the Lord so that when he grows up he would not depart from it. Therefore, parents have the responsibility to bring up their children in the way/fear of God. We have seen in the Scripture; there were young people, because they had the fear of God in them, they stood out. Somebody like Daniel, the Bible says he determined not to defile himself in those things that were ungodly.
Once the youth hear the word of God and be ready to practicalize them, they would not be involved in those things that may tarnish their image, that of their family and nation.
I will therefore advise the youth to be mindful of the company they keep. The Bible also makes us to know and understand in 1 Corinthians 15:13 that bad company corrupts good character. Once somebody is mindful of the group he or she keeps, that will also help to know the kind of life he or she lives so that they may not fall into temptation or criminality.
As you round off your visit to Lagos Township Superintendency of UEC, what is your message to members in particular and Nigerians in general?
UEC has existed for 132 years by this year with so many branches. The visit was divinely directed and I want to advise our members in particular and Nigerians in general to stand firm in their commitment to the service of the Lord, fear the Lord in whatever they do. They should know that after this life, there is no life again on earth. The question is, after our lives here on this planet earth, what shall we be remembered for? They should continue to serve God faithfully, hold Him and be an example to others.
Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians. 11:1, “Be ye imitators of me as I am imitating Christ.” As members of the body of Christ, and Nigerians in general, they should live by example and show love to one another in charity, words and actions. They should be channels of blessing to one another and above all hold unto God at all times.
Let me also appeal to our religious leaders and clerics to guide the nation’s leaders both at state and national levels with scriptural wisdom to re-direct the focus of the nation building.