Renowned cleric Bishop Emmanuel Bolanle Gbonigi has expressed fears over next year’s general elections, regretting that the nation’s leaders are only interested in grabbing power and not service to the people. He raised the concerns and more in this interview with TUNDE THOMAS.

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What is your reaction to the present state of the nation?

At the age of 88, I’m deeply sad and full of sorrow for Nigeria. I’m sad because instead of progressing as a nation over the years, reverse has been the case. The nation has not been blessed with dynamic leadership that would have made Nigeria to realize her potentialities. Our leaders have little or no regard for accountability and fear of God. Leaders are not the only one to be blamed, the led also have their own share of the blame. It is either we repent, especially our leaders or they face the wrath of God.
It is sad that our leaders are only obsessed with struggle for positions, possessions, power and worldly wealth. It is the same thing for ordinary Nigerians; we are very greedy and unless we changed, we are in the danger of facing God’s judgement.

Unless our leaders changed, judgement of God is imminent upon them. The judgement of God is hanging heavily on our leaders, and that judgement can drop anytime, and when that judgement drops, it will hit all of us very hard and destroy us. The only way out of God’s imminent judgement on us is for us to repent. God has been very merciful to treat us as a Father and like His children but we are not behaving like obedient children to God.

God has been waiting for us especially our leaders to repent but we have not repented. We rejoice in committing sins but this is my warning for Nigerians, we should repent now otherwise God’s judgement is imminent and when it comes, it will be terrible. Some of us think that God is too slow but that is not true. It is not that God is too slow to inflict His judgement upon those who are dragging this nation backward, and the corrupt leaders, but God is merciful and patient and He is waiting for us to repent. I pray that the Holy Spirit of God will touch the heart of our leaders to guide them to do the right things.

Most of our leaders, their hearts are hardened, and that’s why they don’t have the fear of God, but it is better for them to repent now before God’s judgement comes upon them.

On the present state of insecurity in the country especially the killings in some parts of the North, and continued Boko Haram attacks, what is the way out?

The security situation in Nigeria today is very pathetic and sad. My advice to President Muhammadu Buhari and others working with him is that they should pray to God so that God will show them what to do over the killings and terrible things Boko Haram insurgents are doing. The insurgency is getting out of control. Something fast has to be done to stop these killings and the Boko Haram insurgency. The insurgency and these killings posed a terrible danger to the nation. We are in a very explosive situation, and this is why I called on Buhari to seek the face of God for solution to these crises.

Imagine the Boko Haram insurgents killing another Red Cross worker. For how long will these killings continue? Something has to be done to restore sanity. I believe with prayers and sincerity of heart, God will show Buhari the way out.

God is not happy with some of these things happening, killing of innocent souls in cold blood. Buhari has to stop the killings, he is Nigeria’s leader today, and as the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, the buck stop at his table. No excuse, otherwise if he fails to do the right thing, I pray that God’s judgement will not come upon him. Like I said earlier, I’m 88 years old, my eyes have seen a lot, but some of the things presently happening in Nigeria today call for prayers and God’s divine intervention.

Unfortunately, instead of us looking for solutions to address these serious crises facing us today, politicians and our leaders are only interested and talking about 2019, but what they don’t know is that there may be no 2019. It is very clear and obvious to discerning minds that these killings and Boko Haram insurgency are a big threat to 2019.

I heard it on radio that President Buhari had sent condolence message to the father of the Red Cross worker killed recently by the Boko Haram; he has also been consoling the mother of Leah Sharibu, the 16 year old school girl still in the captivity of Boko Haram insurgents, that’s okay, but it is very sad and sorrowful that the Red Cross worker was killed. Human lives are not only sacred but also very precious in the eyes of God. This is why I’m appealing to President Buhari again to go before God in prayers so that God will give him divine wisdom on how to tackle these problems.

On Leah Sharibu that is still in Boko Haram captivity…

I appeal to President Buhari and the Federal Government to do everything possible to secure her release. I believe that the Federal Government is doing all that it can do to secure her release, but efforts should be intensified to bring her out of captivity. I also believe that our God, the Almighty God is a God of Miracles, and that He will miraculously secure Leah Sharibu’s release. I believe that God will perform His wonders, and Leah Sharibu will be set free.

I believe that God who miraculously released the three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the burning furnace where they were thrown into when they refused to bow before the god of King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon will rescue Leah Sharibu from her captors. For refusing to bow to the god of King Nebuchadnezzar, the three Hebrews were thrown into burning fire but the fire didn’t burn them as God came to their rescue. It is that same Almighty God that will rescue Leah Sharibu. She is God’s own daughter and God will save her. Let’s all continue to pray for her, and I believe that God will intervene, and she will be saved.

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Political parties have picked their presidential candidates for the forthcoming 2019 general elections; the ruling party, All Progressives Congress, APC has picked President Muhammadu Buhari, while the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has picked former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, how do you see the unfolding political developments?

What I will say is that let’s leave everything in the hands of God. It is only God that knows tomorrow. Man proposes and plan, but it is God that determines what will happen. It is God that has the final say. It is God that has the final answer. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? It is God. Who knows what will happen between now and 2019? It is God. What will happen between now and 2019? It is God. Who knows what will happen in 2019? It is God. Whether there is going to be 2019 general elections or not, it is only God that knows. But my advice to our leaders is that they should address those urgent issues that needed to be attended to. They should not allow 2019 to become a distraction.

Nigeria belongs to God. God will not forget us, only that we should continue to do the will of God.

On the issue of Restructuring, some Nigerians have accused President Buhari and the APC led Federal Government of foot-dragging or not showing interest in restructuring of Nigeria, what’s your take on that?

It will be very unfortunate if we fail to restructure. There is no alternative to restructuring if Nigeria is to move forward and become a great nation. Nigeria is made up of different ethnic nationalities and nations. It was the amalgamation of 1914 by Lord Lugard that brought the Northern Protectorate and the Southern Colony together to form the nation called Nigeria.

These different nations that make up Nigeria have their different culture, languages and way of doing things, but the amalgamation forced us to come together. But these differences among the ethnic nationalities have always been manifesting but all along we have been managing to get along.

Even in the First Republic between 1960 – 1966 when we had three regions namely the Northern Region, Eastern Region, and the Western Region, and later Midwest, each region was progressing at its own pace. There was healthy competition among the regions, and then true federalism was being practiced but all came to an end in 1966 with the military intervention. When the military came, they introduced unitary system, and this created serious problems which has been manifesting up till today.

If we had stuck to true practice of federalism as it was being done between 1960 – 1966, all these crises and problems facing us as a nation would have been averted, and the fact we must accept is that unless we restructure, all these agitations and crises here and there will not abate.

Restructuring will do Nigeria a lot of good. Maybe we should still give President Buhari a benefit of doubt over restructuring because what we are hearing is that they (the present APC-led government) are going to do restructuring at the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly. Let’s see what they are going to do. It is however unfortunate that some leaders in the North and the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) are opposed to restructuring. Restructuring is not going to harm Nigeria, rather it will bring the best out of Nigeria.

What’s your take on 2019 general elections?

I would rather want to first appeal to our leaders to do something about poverty and hunger. A lot of people are suffering. Government at federal, state and local government levels should address problems of poverty.

Any advice for INEC on 2019?

It is unfortunate that INEC has been politicized. They’ve politicized INEC and INEC is no longer the independent body it ought to be. INEC is not being allowed to operate as independent body.

It is sad that politicians have politicized INEC with money and votes buying. But as long as we have politicized INEC, we will continue to be in trouble. It is sad the way some people that call themselves Christians but who are now in politics have joined corruption in politics. It is very sad the way politicians are now buying votes openly. But for Christians among these politicians, I implore them to strive to be good ambassadors of Christ. They should be good Christians worthy of emulation by others. They should live and act in ways that when people see them, they will see beauty of Christ in them.

Politics should not be seen as a do-or-die affair. Politicians should eschew bitterness, hatred and even refrain from hate speeches. God loves Nigeria as a nation, but we should not provoke God to anger through our greed and lust for power and illicit material acquisition.

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