Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma shares his thoughts on the state of the nation and expressed worries that except the right steps are taken by the present administration, to put the country on the right pedestal, the country’s woes would continue unabated. According to him, “all is not well at all, with Nigeria. We must sound it: All is not well. Nigeria has become a very difficult place for people to exist. It is as if we are in captivity and we are looking forward to God’s deliverance…. In fact, Nigeria is in captivity under Buhari”.
In this interview, Chukwuma, who is the Anglican Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, while speaking on a number of other national issues, describes the idea of sale of national assets as shameful because, “when our forefathers acquired those assets, it was for us to build on them and not for us to sell off our birth right”. And on ‘Wife in the Kitchen issue’, he said the President’s wife should be hailed because she, “…did not speak as a president’s wife but as an ordinary Nigerian who feels the bite of the prevailing harsh economic and socio-political situation on Nigerians.
What do you make of the current state of the Nigerian nation?
The current state of the nation is very bad, very hard, very, very much uncertain, and people are very much discouraged and living with uncertainty, given the state of the economy and the current biting economic recession. People are really tired and confused about the present government. And one is, therefore, wandering where we are heading in this country. It has become very difficult for the common man to make three square meals a day; and salaries are not enough to help workers to cope with the harsh economic realities. The income is getting minimal even as expenditure keeps rising by the day. Also, the exchange rate has taken a disgraceful turn under a government that had proudly promised to make the naira equal or even stronger than the dollar. What about the rising state of unemployment? Many more of our graduates are still unemployed. Nothing is happening about that; it has all been wishful promises hence many of them indulge in crime, even as many workers are being relieved of their jobs. So, the situation has brought upon citizens, untold sadness and despondency. A look at our security is also nothing to write home about.
In some areas there have been increased cases of kidnapping while cases of armed robbery and terrorism have continued unabated in other areas. However, we are grateful to God that some of the terrorists are surrendering their arms and embracing amnesty. But that notwithstanding, all is not well at all, with Nigeria. We must sound it: All is not well! Nigeria has become a very difficult place for people to exist. It is as if we are in captivity; and we are looking forward to God’s deliverance. In fact, one can say that Nigeria is in captivity under Buhari’s administration. So, we are still praying to God to take us back to the promise land, and I know that He will deliver us.
Do you think that the change which the ruling party and Buhari had repeatedly promised Nigerians during their campaigns is still achievable by the present administration?
Well, it depends on what type of change they are trying to bring in. I heard them promise that their version of change will manifest next year. However, the change that we see now is not a good version. The change is of hardship and people are not comfortable at all. Right now, all I can say that is good about their sermon of change is that the situation is making Nigerians to change from their life of profligacy to prudence. To me, Buhari’s government is a punishment, and caution to Nigerians. I think that God is trying to punish us, and at the same time caution us with the present administration, for our past recklessness and mistakes as a nation. That is why I said that it is a time of captivity – where God chose to put Nigeria into the kind of biblical captivity of Assyria and Babylon. And until we repent from our sins, God may not rescue us. So, it is a time for everybody to repent, in their small corners, from life of wastage, wickedness and impunity; and begin to live a life of prudence, love and patriotism.
My understanding of the Change Begins with Me campaign is that Nigeria has come to a point where everybody should accept to begin to discipline themselves and adopt ways of righteousness and patriotism. But sadly, as far as the Nigerian economy is concerned, we have only experienced evil change. We have not seen any good thing in our economy. There may be a change in attitude whereby people are now being more disciplined and cautious about indulging in impunity. That is all.
Talking about the economy, many people have been urging Mr President to drop some of his ministers; and incidentally, several fingers are pointing at that of finance, like you had also done before. Who else do you think that should be on the exit list?
Well, I have to restate that as far as I am concerned, the finance minister is immature to handle the economy of the country. Her policies have not helped out in any way. She is not capable enough to meet up with the challenges of managing the economy a country like Nigeria that is blessed with several economic gurus that can handle the job. So, I strongly support the campaign for her removal because there has been no improvement since she came on board. The President could give her another function as compensation.
What is your rating of the rest of the ministers?
I would say that some of them are trying to make impact. But the major problem with several of them is that they were assigned wrong portfolios. Many of them are not professionals in their assigned areas and I am very sad about it. It makes me view the whole thing as a matter of jamboree, and Mr President should urgently look into the situation. He should appoint professionals to man various ministries and not a matter of appointing a lawyer to oversee sectors that should be handled by an engineer. Housing and road sectors, for instance, should be handled by an engineer.
Again, you talk about the one that is handling labour issues, when he is a medical doctor. To handle labour well, you need somebody like retiring Governor Oshiomhole, who has been an insider in labour issues. He can go to the labour and employment ministry after he exits Edo Government House. He knows all the labour tricks and games inside-out. So, to get the best of political appointees, I think that people should be appointed to handle sectors that are their areas of specialisation.
There is ongoing controversy over Buhari’s list of ambassadorial nominees. The list has been described as largely wrong pegs in wrong holes, as it was in the case of ministers; coupled with the allegation of non-involvement of state governors in the selection process. What is your take on that?
The truth of the matter is that the President must realise that state governors should have contributions to make during such exercise. It is absurd, and absolutely disrespectful for somebody to be nominated from a state without the knowledge of the governor. It does not show respect. Moreover, the governor knows who and who that has contributed to the development of the state. You do not just bring in somebody from the blues, who has probably been living outside the state for long.
For instance, the Minister of Foreign Affairs had not shown fair presence in Enugu for a long time before his appointment. He was just taken straight from abroad; he does not know how Enugu has been developed. But he is representing the state. I am saying that even though he is good in that post, but he was not a nominee of Enugu State. So, the governors have the right; and even the politicians have the right too, to liaise with the governor to nominate somebody that is capable of representing the state and who would be loyal to the state. I think that is what the governors are saying and I support them.
Just as the Federal Government and military were being hailed over the release of 21 Chibok girls, the Boko Haram struck again and allegedly killed and abducted some military personnel with several others missing. How would you describe such scenario?
That is why I have been saying that we should not be overzealous over the war against insurgency, and that we should not also be over-joyous over successes recorded. You may be blowing your trumpet that, ‘Oh we have won them, we have decimated them, or that we are now on mop-up operation’. But what is the sincere situation on ground. You hear the minister of information re-echoing that the war had been technically won, that mop up exercise would soon be completed and so on. He is just an empty man who says all sorts of things to ensure his office is regularly maintained. We should be careful because, some of the terrorists could be hiding by the corner and laughing at you while you are making mouth. The encomium that is being showered on the President and the military is getting rather too much, and I think that we should play it down and begin to say that this is good but we are appealing that they should respect human life. But when you begin to feel that somebody has achieved the success by his power or might, you get it wrong. We are praying – the faithful in this country are praying. We Christians are praying seriously. Remember that majority of the girls are Christians too. So, it is not because of the power or might of anybody that the present successes have been achieved. It is God’s own intervention that has taken place. And we must be careful not to allow the glory to go to anybody. All glory belongs to God.
Are you for or against sale of national assets?
I am vehemently against sale of national assets because the ones we did in the past never worked. I think this is the time that the National Assembly must go and revisit all issues surrounding sale of national assets in the past. With much respect to former President Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar, they were the ones that started this sale of national asset thing and destroyed this country with it. They ended up selling the assets to themselves and cronies. Most of those assets were sold away ridiculously cheaply and they have not brought any improvement to the nation’s economy. They were not sold with the interest to make Nigeria better and doing it again would be another disaster. When our forefathers acquired those assets, it was for us to build on them and not for us to sell off our birth right. The idea is a huge disgrace. Most of our colonial houses have been sold out and we no longer have any heritage. It is shameful.
What can you say about the, “Wife in the kitchen and the other room,” saga that recently raised some measure of controversy across the country and beyond?
Well, to me, she did not, in any way. Mr President said his response to his wife’s outburst was a joke. But I say that even if it was a joke, then it was a very costly one. You do not say such, especially when you know that your wife is in such a high office with you. So, I believe that the President must have realised that it was a terribly misfired joke. But indeed, I do not believe that at this stage of our country, that any woman should be said to be having her place in the kitchen or in the bedroom. Yes, they have the responsibility to take care of the family, but also, those who are enlightened enough, or those who have what it takes to work or do business and other meaningful things, should be allowed to do so. Nigerian women felt insulted by Mr President’s statements, as according to them, even where he made the statement, he was seen cheerfully shaking the hands of a woman who was not in the kitchen but at an international event.
And that was why Mugabe said that if you could spend a lot of the resources of your country to go to another country to shake hands with a woman and discuss with a woman, why do you now come and talk about a woman’s place being in the kitchen? It is an insult to women. I think they should sort themselves out in Aso Rock and stop this national disgrace. Whatever the wife must have said in her interview, as a mature President, he would not have replied in that way. There is a way you show some maturity. Just keep quiet, then get back home and settle whatever thing it was.
Would you say that the President’s wife crossed her bounds by granting that interview to the BBC?
She did not. I believe that Mrs Buhari did not speak as a President’s wife but as an ordinary Nigerian who feels the bite of the prevailing harsh economic and socio political situation on Nigerians. So, rather than condemn her, she deserves commendation. Nigerians are passing through a very difficult period and the President’s wife travels around the country and she is a witness to the plight of the masses. So, if she had taken time to advice Mr President or draw his attention to the situation and nothing happened, she should be hailed for speaking out. It is good for those in the inner circle to sometimes, let people know that, ‘I have been talking but nobody cared to listen’. The truth is that Buhari is a stubborn man; he is stubborn! And I advise him to listen to the advice of genuine people around him. He must be careful about those around him that have been termed as cabals. Those concerned know themselves and they should stop destroying Nigeria before God’s wrath destroys them.
Do you know some members of the cabal? Is it possible that Mr President is unknowingly under the influence of the so-called cabal?
There is no doubt that there could be cabal around him. Most of those in government always find a way of protecting themselves and retaining their relevance. But it is not a question of whether I know them. The question is: Does it seem as if some elements are wielding enormous influence on Mr President? Mrs Buhari’s recent interview outburst was just a validation of series of earlier allegations that the present administration was being run by a cabal. Some names have been mentioned and the cabals know themselves, like I said. People talk about how the wife of the Director of DSS showcases flamboyant lifestyle all over the place.
They should examine themselves first before they start asking other people. Many of those around the President are not free from flamboyant lifestyles. They should re-examine themselves. None of them is free! In fact, they are all corrupt. I said sometimes ago that President Buhari is corrupt and some people started kicking. I did not mince words over it. And I restate it here that they are all corrupt; none of them is free of corruption, including Mr Buhari. I know what I am talking about. Everybody is corrupt in this country! Look, we should stop accusing people recklessly because we are in charge, and think that people do not know about us. When you point accusing finger at another person, the rest of your fingers would point back at you. So, we all must purge ourselves of corruption because we are all corrupt in our small corners. That is why I commend the Change Begins With Me campaign of the federal government. Let it be a sincere campaign.
If you agree that there are cabals around Aso Rock, I guess you would as well concur that there are evil spirits that usually lurk around the villa, as were recently alluded to by a former presidential aides; wouldn’t you?
You cannot rule out such scenario, but the situation is more serious than just stating it. The thing is that many politicians are fetish and devilish. They indulge in all sorts of acts to achieve political success and protection. Many of them also do unspeakable things to perpetuate themselves in power. Many of them do not trust solely in their God, who they profess in their religion. So, there is no doubt that because it is a place of high authority, people do evil acts for various reasons.
Again, some people from the society could visit whoever that occupies the Villa as President and tell him that so-so things need to be done for him not to die, retain the office and have utmost protection. So, there is need to find out from General Babangida, who lived there first, and his successors, whether they did anything ritualistic there. What have their ways of life been like in the Villa? Have they done anything fetish, diabolic or devilish at any time?
So, time has come for them to reach out to religious leaders to cleanse that seat of the Nigerian government. Aso Rock needs to be properly sanitized and delivered from the bondage of darkness to let in the light; because anytime they get there as leader, they become transformed into wrong breeds. And it is the same scenario in many state government houses across the country. There are enormous fetish and devilish demonic powers in many state government houses. That is why you find that many governors are good before they get into power. But once they go in there, they get demonised. This is why every leader must be prayerful at all times. Politicians must realise that power does not belong to darkness; power belongs to God. They should be sincere and always trust God at all times.