Pastor Femi Emmanuel, former deputy speaker of Oyo State house of Assembly and presiding pastor LivingSpring Chapel International gave this honest and very informative interview to Punch Newspapers. I definitely learned a lot as I did not know he was ever in politics. Very impressive resume and thought process. Christians should be involved in governance, but unfortunately in Nigeria, instead of them changing the system, the system changes them. There are too many compromises to be made in attaining and retaining power. Really enjoyable interview, please read it all, particularly his views on the current national assembly debacle. He is not afraid to speak his mind! A few excerpts:
On why he joined politics:
I joined politics out of protest. I felt that Christians can’t just be praying and not stepping out into public administration. The Bible says that every place that the sole of our feet tread shall be given to us. Christians pray for this country for good governance and progress. But the more we pray, the more deterioration the country slips into. At a point in my life, I felt that for evil to thrive, good people must stay away.
We have politicians who pretend to serve but they plunder this country. The best way to correct the situation is to show example. There is the fear that we would be corrupted if we go into politics and there is the myth about diabolical power in politics. But I am adventurous and daring, I like challenges. I saw going to politics as a challenge. At the time, you did not need a godfather, so I joined the Social Democratic Party. My rural background helped me at the grassroots level.
I discovered that people at the grassroots are ready to fight over N100 because they are poor. That is why the moneybags and godfathers penetrate them and use them. The people took me to the late Lamidi Adedibu and told him that I was going to be their candidate. He accepted me and I later got to know that he was a great grassroots politician.
I won the highest votes among my colleagues in the state House of Assembly.
A pastor is a mentor, helper of the people, a leader, one who pays children’s school fees when their parents cannot afford it and one who must show good examples. A good politician must also do all these. He must take the welfare of his people seriously. The church is about people and so is politics. If not that the calling was strong, I would have remained in politics.
On why he left:
After the June 12, 1993 annulment, I considered the spiritual work to be superior. Adedibu, the late Lam Adesina, Rasidi Ladoja and many politicians in the state could not believe that a former number four person in the state was dumping politics. They thought it was a joke but I cannot be a pastor and be a politician at the same time. In politics, blackmail is easy but the church cannot afford blackmail.
On Christians in politics:
I went into politics because of the lackadaisical attitude of the Christians towards politics. I will describe the church as a sleeping giant and I will blame the pastors and general overseers who are the leaders of the great people. They need to get the people to see the need to get involved in governance.
On the role of clergy in governance:
Their primary responsibility is to pray for the country, advise on governance and give political education to their members. The last aspect is missing. How many church members have voter cards? How many of them are party members? I said to some of our fathers that politicians go to pastors for prayers and after leaving them, they head for shrines.
They want powers and they know that the church has followership they can convince to vote for them. I told our fathers that until we are able to produce candidates and delegates, we will continue to be mere voters. The church leaders have locked up their members by not telling them to do what is right. The church has large followership but they are completely asleep and illiterate politically. I blame the church for the political problems we have in this country. The church has people who are God-fearing and not greedy but the leaders have not encouraged them to get involved in politics.
On the current role of clergy in politics
The lawmakers are wicked, selfish and greedy. When I joined politics, I saw that it was a strange terrain all together. In politics, everyone is talking only about himself. They are out to pull themselves down all the time. They split into caucuses and each caucus fights for power so that the lawmakers can plunder the common wealth. This is what is again playing itself out.
We have not learnt from the mistakes of the past, it is still about greed, money grabbing and how to milk the nation dry. They merely used the people to get there but they are not thinking of the people now that they are there. The fight in the House is not about the country, the people or their welfare. Where is the change we voted for?
On president Buhari’s response
I cannot absolve President Muhammadu Buhari of blame in what is going on. How can a president that came on the platform of a party say that he is for everybody and for nobody? How can a president say that he is ready to work with whoever emerges as the leader of the National Assembly? This statement from Buhari ignited the present fire. He lost control of the party with that statement.
These (lawmakers) are the people that have the power to impeach him. These are the people that can kill his bills, so where is the change? Who will now fight corruption in Nigeria? Buhari is seen as someone who is not corrupt and who leads spartan way of life. But he cannot rule alone in a democratic setting. To succeed, he needs people of like-minds who will believe in his value to work with him. Corruption will always fight back, so you have to give it a serious fight.
I told some people that the All Progressives Congress died the day President Buhari said he would work with anybody. If care is not taken, he could be impeached. His bill will find it difficult to pass through a House where the old corrupt people have taken total control. The party structure is no longer relevant; its supremacy has been challenged and defeated by its members.
It is unbelievable that on the day the National Assembly was inaugurated, the president was not there. If I were him, I would not travel to anywhere on such day. What stopped him from calling the clerk of the house and telling him to stay proceedings until he arrived? What is happening is more than meets the eye. If APC is not careful with the way it is going, it will disintegrate totally.
The party is made up of five different blocks and these are the blocks fighting. A divided house will always fall. APC is divided and unfortunately, it is the party of the president. The new and old Peoples Democratic Party members have teamed up again to take over. APC won the election but PDP is now in power.
The change is already compromised. If care is not taken, it will be impossible. We wanted change from the system of impunity and corruption but you can see the kind of impunity playing itself out now. The President must wake up and revive APC, but that could be too late. I am waiting to see how his list of ministers and anti-corruption bills will pass through that National Assembly. If Nigeria must be rescued, we must have serious and urgent anti-corruption laws. Who will debate and pass these laws?
I laughed when the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said that he would set up a committee to look into the jumbo pay for lawmakers. He wants to be the judge in his own case. The National Assembly has held the nation hostage. When someone is taking wardrobe allowance, did he go to the House naked? There are 19 different allowances for the lawmakers who should earn less than N1m monthly. The over-bloated allowances are different from what they earn in oversight functions. To me, it should be called oversight corruption. Source contraculturemag.com