Olufemi Adesina, Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari was the guest of a media parley organised by the Christian Press Association of Nigeria. The parley which held at the Faith Revival Apostolic Church, Idimu on January 25 attracted Church leaders and Christians who came with their questions to the parley. Though Adesina could not be physically present at the event because of pressing national assignment, he engaged the audience through a phone conversation which lasted for about an hour. Below are excerpts from his speech and answers to the questions he was asked at the forum
We used to have more Christians than Muslims in this government
If we serve in government, people should see Christ in us. In this government despite the imperfection some people are seeing, we have a large number of Born Again Christians in cabinet. We have a good number of pastors. Before Ocholi died, I mean the Minister of State for Labour and Employment we had more Christians than Muslims after he died the number became equal. Apart from working with the president, anytime I need to be in his house I have access. I believe that if you serve in government and you know who you believe there is nothing that can happen to your testimony. Unfortunately the negative comments I have heard is from the church.
A senior pastor in Abuja in a church was telling me about an agenda against Christians in Nigeria, I said the vice president is a pastor he is a believer and I can vouch for him anywhere. He said I don’t believe in Osinbajo anymore. The question is who has made him a judge over Osinbajo? Who can judge another man’s servant? I believe that a Christian in government should not be discouraged just because he works with the government. The Christian in government who knows his God and continues to uphold his testimony should be encouraged by believers, they must be constantly pray for and prayed with him and I know a lot of people are praying in Nigeria. It gives me joy when I go to my local church in Lagos; Foursquare Gospel Church and they tell me we are praying for you. I know they are praying for me.
The negative side of it is when other people begin to say we don’t believe in those people again because we work with the government. Who appointed you to judge people? So when a Christian has opportunity to serve in government, he should take it but when he gets there, he should remember he is an ambassador.
Reverend Moses Iloh may God rest his soul, when he was here, we talked often. The moment he calls, he would say ambassador, how are you doing? He always gave me a good reminder I am an ambassador for the Lord. We should do everything as unto the Lord. Some people demarcate between their normal life and the church life. They would say let us put Christianity aside. No, we can’t put it aside. In whatever we do, we shouldn’t put Christianity aside.
How are you coping with some men of God who use their pulpit to criticize castigate your government?
Like I said earlier on I am a member of Foursquare Gospel Church now since 1988 and this year makes it 31 years. Once in a while I go to a church other than Foursquare. But I worship in Foursquare Gospel Church like three times a month. Do you know that as I speak I stopped attending a particular church I used to attend because the pastor will just decide to preach against the government which I believe is not needful. He would say negative things against the President.
The point I am making is that Nigeria is not a Christian country so you will not always have a Christian as our leader. Why I stopped going to that church was this: the Dapchi girls were abducted. The Sunday of the abduction he started saying all manner of things on the pulpit. The Dapchi girls were rescued within two weeks and the next Sunday he didn’t say a word about it and that was when I was convinced his messages were malicious.
That is what people can do and misuse the pulpit. He said people that have died during this government are more than people that died during the civil war when we have on record that about three million people died during the civil war. Have three million people been killed during this government? That is a lie. The pastor lied. One soul matters because it is not even good for a life to be lost not to talk about three million, so we should not even be comparing because no one can create a single soul. So when you go to the extent to say that more people have died than in the civil war, it’s unfortunate. That is the extent of abuse from the pulpit. I am not condemning him but from what we read from the scripture I have my reservation against such kind of pastors.
Two Pentecostal preachers went to the former governor of Akwa Ibom State before he decamped to the APC, they were in his house from 4pm to 4am when they heard he was going to decamp. They went to his house to plead with him not to decamp. They said God will judge those who have blood in their hands. They told him just announce you are sick and they would fly him abroad to say he was going for medical attention. They were telling him to lie simply because they didn’t want him to decamp. They need to purge themselves. Two big Pentecostal pastors teaching him to lie. They should know they are answerable to God and will give account.
Have you ever been faced with a difficult situation that will make you to lie?
What will now make me tell a lie? Sometimes Nigerians have made up their minds on what to believe. Two things account for that. Nigerians have made up their minds to believe that government spokesmen are liars. What is that thing that will make me to tell a lie? None. My conscience bears me witness that I have never lied to anybody and to Nigerians. Secondly I have a principal who does not want you to lie. One thing with President Buhari is that if you are wrong he will correct you, he will not want you to lie. Do I want to be exposed as a liar? Never! What is that thing that will make me to tell a lie and liable to hell. The Bible says all liars will have their place in hell fire.
Reuben Abati and Segun Adeniyi were in same office as you, they defended their principals and said they were having good intention, is good intention enough to run this society?
Good intentions are good and good intentions for the country are being carried out and that is why President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking a second term so he can continue to carry out his good intentions. President Buhari has a good intention.
Who do you think will give us constant electricity and when?
The truth about Nigeria is that there are many problems and we need enough resources to combat such problems. The former government spent N16bn and nothing came out of it. They rather gave us more darkness. Between 2012 and 2018 we know what oil price was. It went above $100. At a time it went to $142 and stabilized, it stayed like that for four to five years and what did we find? What happened to all the money? What happened to the billions of dollars? If it was only electricity that government did, Nigerians would say at least they did light. They didn’t do that, they didn’t do infrastructure. What went wrong with the money in the coffers? This administration met just above 2,800MW. We have 7,000MW now and not even enough.
Is it not a shame Nigeria has just 7,000MW? The target is that in 2019 we would have a minimum of 10,000MW. If Nigeria has 50,000MW today it is not too much. We have to build it, we have to spend money to build it. It takes time and it takes money and we know we would get there.
We are looking at Christians playing viable roles in politics and we all know there is a difference between being a politician and being a core political appointee. Our Lord Jesus Christ said my kingdom is not of this world so if we are to be seeking for political appointments which non-Christians are vying for, how do we situate these things in the light of the word of God?
We we get a better perspective to that scripture. When Jesus said my kingdom is not of this world I can recall two various things where that matter came up. When He was talking about the kingdom to come somebody asked him: Will you restore the kingdom to Jerusalem? Jerusalem was like the centre of the world so they were expecting the messiah that was going to restore Jerusalem as the leader of all kingdoms in the world. They were expecting a messiah that will make Israel the leader of the world and he told them my kingdom is not of this world. At another time when he was arrested and they were mocking him he said my kingdom is not of this world, if it was of this world my supporters will fight. What Jesus was talking about there was an earthy kingdom. He is not telling the believers not to take interest in the matters of this world, what he is saying is that you are in the world but not of the world so we are in the world we ought to take part in certain things that are common to humanity. That is my understanding of that. The question is: Why did Jesus tell the believers they must make their light shine? Christians cannot afford to fold their hands when we are supposed to impact our world.
Leah Sharibu has been in captivity what is this government doing to get her out?
The president has said it that whatever it will take to get her out will be done. People politicizing the matter of Leah Sharibu particularly from the church have been making acting as if the President deliberately left her in captivity because she is a Christian. We know that is not true, that is uncharitable. We know the nature of the people holding her. That is why there is a great need for tact to ensure her release so that it does not boomerang. Before Mallam Mamman Daura was removed as the DG of SSS, the last meeting we had, he was assuring me they were near the point to get her out. That means they were making efforts. It’s not as if she has been deliberately left there because she is a Christian. Boko Haram is holding her. People who are making it a political and religious matter is not helping the young girl at all. The president has said whatever it will take to get her out will be done. That I can assure you.
You said it is only the negative parts of Christians in government that people are. Don’t you think something is wrong somewhere as everybody is pointing accusing fingers at Christians in government? Don’t you think Christians in government should check themselves if they are still Christians they used to be before going to government because I happen to be one of those that do not believe in any Christian that goes into government can claim to be clean. May be with this kind of meeting I will have a change of mind. How will you react to this sir?
I think it is a mindset problem. Human beings usually have a mindset problem once people go to serve in government. They say they are all part of what is going on. I see people would say Femi Adesina that used to write this and that can he write it again? There is a saying that you cannot live in Rome and kick at the Pope, no you can’t. It is either you want to be in government and see things change from within. You can’t afford to kick against the government. Jimmy Carter as President of the United States of America was a Sunday school teacher in his church. I teach too in the Sunday school, that was what I was doing before I joined the government and when I leave I will still go back to be a Sunday school teacher but people don’t want to give me any opportunity at all just because I serve in government. Christians should not be like that. Christians would never have a negative mindset. We don’t have evidence and people will say oh I don’t trust Osinbajo again. People have their mindset that once you are in government you are this and that and you have compromised. I think they need to be careful and watch themselves lest they fall into error.
Don’t you think the system is designed to force Christians in government and politics to compromise in their stands?
I don’t agree. I am a Christian serving in government close to four years and I have not compromised my stand because of that. No I don’t believe in that at all. A Christian can serve in government and preserve his testimony.
You told us that as a Christian you do not lie and there is a word commonly used, they call it diplomacy. To me I interpret it as a lie because there is no diplomacy in my Bible. If it is A it is A. in the light of this sir, I want to take you back to the first question about the personality and the identity of our current President. Are you saying he is the same man or a surgical manipulation?
The president came back to the country finally August 19 2017. That day the Chief of Defence Staff, General Olonishakin was giving out his daughter in marriage. I attended that wedding dressed in full agbada with a cap. If you go back to the footage of when the President came back, as he alighted from the aircraft and was shaking his aides, you’ll see him laughing. You know what he was telling me? He said Adesina this is the best I have seen you dressed and we laughed. If he was Jubril from Sudan, how will he know I was Adesina, how will he know that was not how I normally dressed? He saw me in full agbada and said Adesina this is the best I have seen you dress. When people came with the Jubril story, he didn’t even want to answer them. To think you have a cloned President and people who work with him every day will not know is unbelievable. What people don’t know was when he came back from medical vacation he was fully recovered than when he left. Among those who were talking about Jubril was a preacher who used it as his message. They were operating from a mindset. Those who perpetuate this clone story need to repent.
What do you have to say about the story of Nigerian being islamised?
I have been asked this question on television before and I need to say that Nigeria can never be islamised or christianised. Nigeria will continue to remain a secular state. I don’t bother myself with such saying. If all of us Christians can strive to be better Christians today, we will not bother whether someone wants to islamise Nigeria, it is not possible to islamise Nigeria. One thing you cannot rule out is that once some people are in position of power, in some subtle ways they would favour themselves. Do you know if a born again Christian becomes president will he not use it to favour Christians? He will. Obasanjo with all his fault when he was President also worked for the interest of Christians. I am a member of Gideon international. We got Bibles we were distributing for free, I had the opportunity to meet him, and he removed the duty on the Bibles completely. Using your position to favour Christians is a good thing. That is why as believers we must aspire to the president.
You said nobody can islamise or Christianize Nigeria. What will be your response to the scripture that says go ye into all the world and preach the gospel. Does it mean since you got into government you seem not to be thinking of evangelism any longer, are you sitting on the fence?
I used to distribute Bibles. We went to distribute Bibles in the police college to new recruits. I was there and someone said he is distributing Bibles, what is wrong with him? It is how much love you have for the Lord Jesus Christ that will determine your evangelism drive. If I have to preach in the bus today I will do it. One thing I always believe is that you preach better with your words. You must share your faith, preach the gospel as you have opportunity but it is even better to preach it with your life. If I go about expanding Christianity and my life does not reflect Christ, I am bringing shame to the name of God. So I believe in the life that I live more than the words I preach.
I want to clarify on a word credited to you some time ago on that people should choose between their land and their lives. It was during the Fulani problem. I want you to clarify that statement. Is that a good word from a Christian in government?
May be you didn’t make an effort to go and listen to what I said when they told lie against me. Do you know it was Christians that did that more than even Muslims? They didn’t want to go and listen to the original and hear what I said. The Christians at Bearea, the Bible says would go back home and check if the things they were told in church were true. The tape is still available on YouTube etc. the problem was the headline cast. The editor of the paper that published the story called me and apologised. He said we know the headline is bad. If you know the headline is bad what do you do? You retract it. Let them look at the original and see if that is was what I said.
People believe when Christians get to power corridor, they become another thing. Were your expectation of people in government same when you got there or were there some radical differences in your opinion today?
When I was there in the journalism profession, I saw one side and serving in government I have seen the other side and I can make my final judgment. Now I know what goes on in government. I have a broader perspective not a radical change. If I need to criticize I criticize when I need to point out things I point out. I have known what goes on in decision making. The same person I was before is the same person I am, no matter what people are calling me. I have not changed and will never change.
Would you go into politics in the future? What advice would you give Christians going into politics.
I am a Christian and I have been in the political system close to four years. Will I go into politics? No I won’t go into politics. But will I support Christians in politics, yes I will. I remember years back one of my brothers in Sunday school class that I taught went to contest for a political post. He asked me what to do when they asked him to buy ogogoro for them? To give them money? Or to buy hemp and ogogoro? He asked for my advice. I said to him if you give them the money what I have you done? I said a Christian should never do that. Can you do politics without breaking leg and without people dying? I said can you afford that? He said no. Should Christians now stay away from politics? Christians must go into politics and must play politics the right way. If a believer knows he does not have the temperament not to compromise his Christian faith, he must not go into it.