Dr Success Ibeakanma, senior pastor, Royal Choice Ministries (RCM), Lagos, says that considering the depth of the country’s human and material resources, the people deserve a better deal. He also suggested a roundtable dialogue as solution to the agitations across the country.
In this chat, Ibeakanma offered insight into his philosophy of wealth redistribution.
By Henry Umahi
How would you assess Nigeria at 57? Any cause for celebration?
In every situation, we should give God praise. There are so many reasons for Nigeria to celebrate at 57. First, we are alive to witness the occasion. At different times, Nigeria appeared as if it was going to collapse but God is changing so many things in our favour. We have gone through so many challenges as a country but we are still one. Although there are agitations here and there but it shows how dynamic we are as a people. During the last election, it appeared as if there would be no tomorrow but at the end of the day, there was a smooth handover and we are still moving on. Nigeria was at the precipice following the cancellation of the result of the June 12, 1993 election. From the fringes of the Sahara to the Atlantic coastline, there was uncertainty. The situation was such that people ran to their homeland but here we are today. Nigeria fought a bitter civil war but the country is still intact. So, there are many reasons for Nigeria to be celebrated at 57.
Not long ago, President Muhammad Buhari was sick and some people thought that the end had come. We prayed and his health was restored. A few weeks ago, there was confusion everywhere in the country following the quit notice to the Igbo to leave the north and counter orders from elsewhere. There were threats and ominous signs but government told us to relax. Everybody knew that there was going to be trouble but we stood in the gap and requested that God should not allow it because the consequences will be catastrophic. October 1 has come and gone and there was no problem. So, there are so many reasons to appreciate God. At a time, everybody was afraid. Even the forthcoming election in Anambra State created so much tension everywhere. The operation python dance also created so much tension, particularly in the east. It was like civil war. But here we are today. Indeed, for me, October is a special month. I feel so good celebrating my birthday the same month Nigeria celebrates independence. People born in October are special people. I have come to understand that God has a reason for bringing people like us in October.
What do you think is the cause of the agitations across the country?
There are complaints everywhere. Some people feel offended. Others are pushing for restructuring. In fact, there is confusion everywhere in the country and God has sustained Nigeria till now. It is not every agitation that calls for the dismemberment of the country but for whatever it is worth, you need to sit down and ponder over what they are saying to know if there is truth in it. If there is no truth, neglect them but if there is truth or justification in what people are saying, then you look for solutions to those things. It is said that truth crushed to earth shall rise again and conscience is an open wound. You cannot deprive a child of his lollipop and expect him not to cry.
But when they are agitating and there is no force, I think dialogue is the best. It is always better to jaw-jaw than to war-war because even after a bitter confrontation, you sit around the roundtable to talk and negotiate. The Arewa youths, the Oduduwa group and the Biafra people are all saying their own thing. So, you need to find out if there is truth in what they are saying. People are talking about marginalization. The situation is such that some politicians in all the political parties are talking about restructuring. Government should look at it and find out what can be done. What I understand is that government should balance the nation so that the northerners should not feel cheated and the southerners should not feel cheated. Government should give everyone a sense of belonging. It appears no one is satisfied with the way things are, presently. People are saying that we should do things differently. People are saying that the machinery of government should be repositioned. People are saying that they deserve a better deal. This is where leadership comes in. And I think justice has a lot to do with it. If you keep on suppressing the wishes of the people, they will become disillusioned and you won’t get the best from them in terms of robust citizenry. The simple truth is that it’s an urgent political imperative for Nigerians to talk. You can call it national renewal, restructuring, repackaging or whatever.
Do you think that Nigeria is where it ought to have been?
The answer is no. Nigeria is not where it should be but Nigeria has tried. I didn’t even know that democracy would be sustained up till now. So, for God to sustain Nigeria till now without the military taking over government means that Nigeria has made a great progress. Everyone may not see at the same time but Nigeria has made a very great progress at 57 at least, to the extent of remaining one country. However, the fortunes of the country need to improve in terms of economic policy and management. Over the years, the country has been at the mercy of insensitive leadership and institutions. Roads are still bad just as the power generating stations are distributing darkness across the country. Education standard is low while price of foodstuff is soaring. Unemployment rate is high because the economy is shrinking. Indeed, in critical areas, Nigeria is way behind such countries as Malaysia, India and Singapore with whom it achieved independence at about the same time. So, it’s a long way yet.
Why is Nigeria not where it ought to be?
It is leadership and/or governance deficit. The Bible says when the righteous is in power, the people rejoice. The righteous in this case is not a Christian or Muslim or Buddhist; it is talking about somebody that has conscience. When somebody that has conscience is in authority starting from the local government level to the presidency, the thing will be how to rule Nigeria and not how to scatter Nigeria. I am not calling for Nigeria to be divided. I am happy when I travel to US and other countries and see how big they are and I ask, what is keeping these people even as large as they are. Texas as a state is almost as big as Nigeria if not bigger. I discovered that there is something they did and I think it is restructuring and Nigeria should learn from that. People keep saying we are not mature; when will we mature? How long will our democracy stay before we are mature? In the next 50 years, they will still say we are not matured. Let’s start maturing now. It is just like when we talk about leaders of tomorrow. Young people should be actively involved in running the affairs of government so that they can bring fresh ideas to the table. This idea of being leaders of tomorrow is archaic; they ought to be leaders of today. Come to think of it, the old ones are not even willing to leave the stage. Some of the people in power decades ago are still calling the shots today. So, when will tomorrow come for the youths to become leaders? We have to do what other countries did to succeed. We should find out what the United States and other countries did to get to where they are today. The potential of the country is not in doubt. Nigerians are doing wonders all over the world; we should replicate that can-do spirit at the national stage. Other countries in Africa are looking up to us, so we cannot afford to make mistakes.
What lessons have life taught you?
I have come to discover that whatever we are today is by the grace of God. I have come to realize that by strength shall no man prevail. I have also discovered that you should not look down on anybody because God can uplift anybody. Again, l have come to realize that you should be focused in whatever you are doing. Pressure may come but it will make you rather than break you. There are so many people today who are not where God want them to be. They are not giants because they could not endure. Many people don’t know the reason they were born; God brought you into this world to touch lives, to wipe away tears. When he called me, he said I have given you the grace to go and make my people rich, give hope to the hopeless at all levels.
When you cannot endure to pass through a process, you want a short cut, you may not achieve the desired end. After endurance comes enjoyment. When you endure, blessings come. So, life has taught me that without Jesus, I am nobody. And whatever you are, return the glory to him because you are not better than those who did not make it. It is the grace of God that sustains us, so nobody should boast. It is the same grace all over the world.
What’s your take about giving back to society?
I am an advocate of wealth redistribution. God gave me the mandate to give hope to the hopeless, and I still remember where He picked me up from. God picked from the dunghill; we were the poorest among the poorest people. My parents were borrowing money to pay my school fees from secondary school to the university. Sometimes, people will be running when they see my parents coming. To eat was a problem but we never told anybody. People knew us as the smiling family because we wear smiles always. So, when God called me to ministry, people shouted that I was moving from poverty to poverty. That time, people were seeing those going into ministry as people that missed the road. When I wanted to marry, one of the women in my compound told my wife to reject me because I was a poor man. It was war; everybody was against her. Soon the story changed. By God’s grace, I’ve given out nothing less than 68 cars in the last five years to people. I’ve given out so many tricycles and motorcycles. Over 320 people have passed through my scholarship scheme, from secondary to tertiary schools. So, God has been faithful; He made it possible. Nothing is too much for me to do for a fellow human being because I know where I’m coming from.
Is there anything you are missing because you are a pastor?
God has given me everything, so I feel that I miss nothing. I like football so much but I cannot go to the stadium to watch matches anymore.