Mixing politics with religion dangerous for Nigeria – Apostle Achudume

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Apostle Lawrence Achudume, is the general overseer of the Victory Life Bible Church. In this interview with SEGUN OLATUNJI, he bares his mind on the state of the nation, the anti-corruption war, the proliferation of churches and sundry issues. Excerpts:


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You have been a religious leader of repute for decades now, preaching the gospel. How has the experience been like?
There have been the normal ups and down. But in summary, because it’s a calling, and the one that calls you gives you the grace, the strength and the wisdom, it has been fun, both when it seems it’s down, it’s fun, because you know who is leading the way and you know where He’s going to come out. There has never been a moment of hundred per cent excitement because you are careful not to make mistakes, not to miss it. But all the same, even when I make mistakes, I pick up the remaining things and continue my journey.

Would you have preferred to have been engaged in a totally different field or area?
Humanly speaking, I would have preferred to. My initial dream, as a human being, was, either, be a big time business man, make money and sponsor ministry, help the less privileged or get involved with the military, become a head of state, kill all the wicked people and move on. That was my dream. If I was a president, there would not be corruption. I can assure you that I would finish them. My plan was well laid out -business, military then politics-just to make sure that I find a place where I can effect change, provoke a change. But in the course of praying, God began to speak contrary to me, saying go and raise men that would become something. It was not easy for me to accept. I struggled but God’s will must be done. If there was anything I wanted to be, it’s not to be a pastor, it’s a difficult job, I must confess. And sometimes, it’s a thankless job because you are suspect to everybody, not with the way bad people, fake people who are not called, have come into it. Jobless people see it as a means to get a job. But as I’ve said, if there is no fake, you won’t know the real.

How would you react to the killing of Christians in the North?
One, it’s the height of stupidity and ignorance. Nigeria, being a secular country, doesn’t call for that. I think people should be well-educated and more informed about what it means to be a secular nation. And no governor who is educated and well informed would encourage one religion above the other. And that’s why I have a challenge with our governors. Many of them went to school but are not intelligent. They lack commonsense leadership. A leader should accommodate Christians, Muslims, non-Christians and non-Muslims, the atheist and the worst of all people must be accommodated by a leader. A case where a leader begins to use his own personal religion as a tool to rule any state or a nation, that leader needs a psychiatric test. They are using their religion as a tool to blindfold the people so that they would take away their eyes from what they are really doing. Leadership has no religion. Leadership is neither a Christian nor a Muslim. Genuine leadership should be apolitical. To assume leadership position, you play politics; once you are there, you play leadership. But what we see in Nigeria is that they play politics all through and even bring in religious politics, which is very dangerous. Genuine leaders should not bring religion into politics.

Nigerians seem to have lost hope, particularly in the government, given the hardship and the bad economic situation. As a religious leader, what will you tell Nigerians at this point in time?
I will say that they should not lose hope. When the campaign and the slogan of change was coming in, to those who cared to listen, I warned them. I said that Buhari would win not because he’s the best. He would win because people were tired, supposedly, of the past regime, the PDP, because many people never understood what the PDP was doing. Some of them were corrupt and even today, among the APC, many of them are corrupt. So, the change slogan was so loud that people were no longer thinking right. Otherwise, Buhari and his APC team were not fit to lead this nation at this point in time. We needed a little bit more of continuum in the governance of the nation, because if you look at the team of the past PDP regime, from Obasanjo, they had good team. There is no nation where there is no corruption, whether you call it America or Britain. But we have made our own so loud that we think everybody is corrupt, the whole system is corrupt and by the way, that does not mean I endorse corruption. You don’t have to be corrupt to be a governor. Your perks of office is enough for you, but because of the stupidity of many of them, they steal what they can’t eat or spend all their life. So, instead of despondency, it’s clear, but Nigerians should not give up. There will still be a change but not by Buhari nor by APC. The change will be by Nigerians-entrepreneurs, young men and women coming up, who know what it takes to be hard working and to make money. People who have turned politics into business are not fit to be in government. It’s only in Nigeria people go into politics and come out rich. If you go into politics in the normal sense, you come out poor, because politics should be a channel or a tool for service; not for amassing wealth.Untitled

Now, sir, what is your view about the anti-corruption war?
The noise about anti-corruption is too loud. You don’t fight corruption on the pages of newspapers. It should be done secretly, neatly, people should be taken to the courts, tried and sentenced or otherwise. But a situation where even the press has given judgment, then even the courts won’t know what to do and even the agencies in charge, because the press is so loud about it. Before EFCC invites somebody for interrogation, the press has blown it that he has been detained for 24 hours now, they should release him. Then, the village where he comes from would say he’s our son. They have forgotten that he has stolen. There is nobody you invite to the EFCC that somebody would not protest or shout.

How do you see complaints that there are too many churches in the country?
Many people have said that. Now, where you met me, there is only one church there but in the past two years, uncountable beer parlours have sprung up along that stretch of road. In a month, within a radius of one kilometer, no fewer than twelve beer parlours sprang up on that road. How many people have complained that there are too many beer parlours and joints on that road? Somebody sent me a joke that a beer company sold over 600million or billions of bottles last year and this is a country of Christians and Muslims, where typical adherents of both religions don’t drink alcohol. Who now consumed those bottles (laughs)? What people should talk about is why is there increase in the number of fake pastors and imams? There are genuine churches that are doing genuine work, making heavy sacrifices, daily and monthly. Why are fake pastors and imams increasing? That boils down to the system.

There is this issue of flamboyance amongst men of God who even display ostentation at the expense of their congregation. How do you see this?
I’ve heard that, too. I think dressing has to do with good sense and the way they think. Somebody may look at me and say I’m flamboyant and another may say I’m too simple. It depends on how you view me. And there are people whose style of living had been like that before they became pastors and they don’t want to change that style of living. Those of us who have been very simple and dress simple, we don’t want to change, no matter what. We are what we are because we feel good, we feel better. Many people feel good because of the way they dress. Somebody said if I’m going to a meeting of businessmen, instead of going in a taxi, I should go in a type of car that befits the people I’m going to honour by attending the meeting. It doesn’t mean I have to go and borrow it, if I don’t have or go and rent it. If I have it, I should use it; if I can afford it, I should use it. But I won’t steal church money or anybody’s money or deceive people to do that. I’m always against people who don’t manage church finances well. Then, if I have the dress, I would wear it and if I don’t have it, I won’t wear it. I wear what I know I’m happy with. That is my own taste on dressing and nobody can change my style. If you call that flamboyance, well, may be, I would have to change what is inside of me. Somebody else may prefer to wear agbada. Some may call agbada flamboyance but agbada is a normal thing.

How has religion helped Nigeria as a nation?
Let me confess, without religion Nigeria would have been on fire by now, because even when it’s hot, you find clergymen and the imams saying no don’t go that way. If not for religion, it would have been fire for fire. When they killed the Redeemed deaconess in Abuja, people would have taken up arms and say it should be fire for fire. But we understand the scriptures. When they killed people in the North, if not for religion, there would have been a lot of problem.