Most Rev. Tunde Adeleye is the Archbishop of the Province of the Niger Delta (Anglican Communion) and Chairman of the Christian Council of Nigeria (South-South). He is also the Dean, Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, Calabar and Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Calabar, and spoke with Oracle Today’s ANIEKAN ANIEKAN on some topical issues in the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari recently heeded the persistent call by Nigerians by changing the service chiefs, what are your thoughts on this?
First of all we are grateful to God that the government of Muhammadu Buhari listened to our cries, it was in Abuja where I joined my voice with those who were saying that we should change those people so I must tell you the truth, we thank God he did it, even though it was long overdue. The people were becoming moribund, unproductive, they did not know what next to do, they had tried all their best and they did not know what next thing to do, even their propagandist method did not work well because imagine a security man said that today we laid ambush and captured some terrorist, security men don’t talk like that, you don’t discuss your methodology in the public. I think Wole Soyinka said a tiger does not shout its tigritude, you cannot see a tiger going about and shouting I am a tiger, it means that there is something wrong about your tiger. They were busy announcing that they have conquered this, they have captured this, destroyed this and that in my opinion was basically because they had nothing new to say again and nothing new to do, they exhausted their ideas and then one or two of them were already having some bad names or images across the world, one of two of the were also known for some challenges so it was just better for them to go. Some of them had been in the army for more than the number of years expected that they should be there before they retire so one will wonder what they were doing, not that they were so perfect, good or excellent and we cannot get another person to do their job but we thank God they are gone.
With the replacement of thee service chiefs what is the way forward and your expectations from them?
The way forward is that we should patiently wait for these people, I think I want to advise Nigerians not to always expect too much from anybody, you can encourage the people to do well but don’t expect too much so that when they do nothing you will not be disappointed. For example, Nigerians expected so much and our hopes were very high, all of us wanted change, we taught that the corruption, bad governance, were already maximized, we didn’t know that it could be worse than what we were seeing, we wanted change and when this was actualised we saw that we merely exchanged a monkey or a wild baboon. That is what we are suffering till today, for the past few years this country has never been in this kind of standstill where there are psychopaths, deceivers, liars all over the place, wickedness, callousness, killing and they are on the main road, betrayers, attacks, suddenly a cow became more valuable than human beings and suddenly we are not talking about anything other than insecurity, and this insecurity is everywhere, it’s in the house, main road, it’s just everywhere. Honestly somebody said that the country has failed and I want to disagree with the person that the country has failed. The truth is that there is no country at all, if there was a country then we could say whether the country has passed or failed but this one there is no country, is this a country, this is not a country, the number one job of government is to provide security. It’s not there, job is not there, food is not there, treatment for sicknesses is not there, are you following what I am saying, the payment for its retirees is not there, I have been talking about those retirees for more than 15 years now, even for the government to say that they want to take money from the retirees account, is that not a shame. They are so shameless about it, you want to create roads from Niger to Nigeria whereas the road from Calabar to Itu, the road is not bad but does not exist and nobody is bothered, nobody cares nobody is worried and everyone is just talking about his own pocket, thank God for a few governors who are trying to see what they can do to revive their states. As I talk to you now, one or two governors are already talking about how to become president in 2023 – shamelessness, wickedness, callousness, when the people are suffering, hungry, you are planning to become president what is wonderful about you, what is excellent about you, what have you done on record. I was in Okene 2-3 years ago the road in Okene leading to Ogoja is hell on earth and you want to transfer that punishment to Nigeria again, upon what we have suffered so far, then we will just be like – now your suffering continues – NYSC, and you will say we are looking for youths which part of you is youthful. Nobody bother and already there are paid propagandists that are announcing names of who is next. I don’t know, I have been in this country for this number of years and I have never seen any time as bad. The creators of Nigeria did not know that Nigeria will be like this, I am very sure if people like Ahmadu Bello, Awolowo, Zik if they wake up and see Nigeria like this they will die back saying this is not what they fought for, so there is no country.
Nigeria seems to be getting more insecure and there are fears of a plan to ‘Fulanise’ the country, is there any reason for concern about this?
You call it threat of Fulanising Nigeria but I must let you know that it is glaring, this thing you are seeing has been on with the planners for many years, those days we slept with both eyes closed and not one eye open to be watching what is happening. This is not today’s plan and they are going slowly into all parts of the country and some of our people in the south particularly one or two governors are so absent minded that they have sold themselves, states and communities to the Fulani’s, it is a big problem in this country, Obasanjo did say and I believe him that the Fulani insurgence and attack on Nigeria is a sufficient cause of any war at any time.
You know that this government is not caring, this government is not doing what they should be doing, this government is not just failing but is going into a kind of extinction and killing the state and yet that is a government you want to become part of it, haba, it is very bad. This government what is it, is its religious bigotry, is it just Fulanisation, Islamisation, is its religious bigotry, the constitution provides that you can practice your religion free of charge. In my own Edo State, there is a particular town in that area where they were not allowing the non-Muslims to be buried in the town that is as far back as over thirty to forty years ago and today the town has extended to where they were burying Christians and they are discussing to see whether they can exhume those bodies that have been there over the years to go further into the bush, is that a country.
Are you saying that Southern Nigerians and Christians in present day Nigeria are facing extinction?
Christianity cannot face extinction because nobody can destroy or wipe away Christianity, let us put it this way southern Nigeria is suffering in this country, suffering marginalization, ignored, terribly set apart, cheated, it’s a known thing. They are not remembered in appointments the chief Judge who came from this place where is he today and that was the only man who in the first election petition of this present president agreed that the man won election among the judges in the court, the Head of Service where is she, when a southerner is placed with a northerner he will go with the northerner, we are terribly marginalised, ignored, we are seen as not existing and then our properties, rights and inheritances are being taken away. I have always talked about our having true federalism and unless we come to that in this country, these problems will continue. Now look at it, the youths of Arewa or something in one of those programmes on AIT or something and the man was saying that the reason why the problem is continuing in Nigeria is because the cattle rearers said that they wanted land to rear and feed their cow and some governments in the south refused and that’s where there is problem. My dear, can you imagine that any human being can talk like that about a property that does not belong to you it’s like saying that I wanted to sleep with your wife and since you refused that I should sleep with your wife, I will take her by force and keep her for as long as I want, I can enter you house, bedroom, anytime I like since you cannot give a regulated time that me and your wife can meet, if you want us to be meeting a day in a week then she will stay with you for six days and come to me for one day, somebody else’s wife, another man’s land, you are saying that because they did not allow you to use it, my dear, God will fight I’m just telling you the truth, if this is true the God will be quiet but if this is wrong then God will fight. Look at some of the streets in Calabar even in satellite town, you see cows walking on the road and passing faeces on the road meanwhile there are people that are paid in this Calabar to sweep these roads and you know there is no rain now so the faeces are there, the car will drive on the faeces and it will rub your car very well and you will carry cow faeces to your house and in any case is it normal for somebody to follow cow from Kano to Warri, is it a normal thing for somebody to be trekking the man has plans, it’s not only cow and that is what is manifesting smoothly and firmly, and nobody is talking, very unfortunate.
Despite this the ruling party seems to be forging ahead and is presently revalidating its membership register
My view is that it is rubbish, what we should revalidate is food on people’s tables, health, children’s education, our health system, roof on our head how can I build a house. How can my pay my children’s fees, that is what should be revalidated, revalidating APC what does APC do, APC is a condemned drug what has it done for you we should be revalidating health, welfare, accommodation, education, and all that, that is what we should be doing.
You have always stood for restructuring of the country but some people think this is not a major problem for the country and recently the former president Goodluck Jonathan came out to say that restructuring is not the answer to Nigeria’s problems citing ethnicity, tribalism and all that as major problems of this country do you agree with that?
I think Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was misled by the confused lexicon of descriptions and the use of words in Nigeria, what you have just said now is actually restructuring, restructuring the ethnic arrangements, making sure that one particular tribe does not dominate others, he has actually talked about restructuring. I was preaching to a man some time ago and I said you must be born again, and he said I don’t like the word born again, by the time we investigated his remark we discovered that he was even born again, he hated the phrase born again so it is possible that somebody is not in agreement with the word restructuring, its not only on many people in the television and radio I have heard have said we don’t want to give them and they are actually talking about restructuring, what you have just said now is exactly restructuring, it is just an aspect of it, no particular ethnic group should be allowed to dominate the country that is restructuring. What is restructuring, we should allow the people that are producing the cake for the country we should give them the giant size to eat that is restructuring.
The second wave of the COVID-19 is here and there are calls for another lockdown of the country, is this auspicious at this time and how should we go about it?
I would devise that we should re-advertise, reinforce and re-educate our people about COVID, you know as I talk to you now, even some of our governors say that COVID does not exist, that shows that even the people in highly placed positions belittle this sickness and don’t know that it is a very serious case. I wish to join every serious-minded Nigerian to say that COVID is very real, it has affected some people very close to me and even if it did not affect me. This morning I was telling my wife because by November last year to December we were very ill, I have never seen that mind of sickness before in my life, see food, I want to eat dinner do you know that I will sleep near the food till 3.00am and by then I will not be able to eat, I did a series of test except COVID but my wife and I were saying could it have been COVID we had because we never saw that kind of sickness before. Whatever it is, that sickness is real, nobody should take it for granted, whether it came from China and iti s travelling to UK, or is travelling from Germany to Asia or from South Africa to Egypt whatever the route it is taking, it is real, so I would advise that we should re advertise and reinforce, re-educate and intensify the explanation to the people about how serious the sickness is and not take it for a joke.
What is your view on the state of corruption in Nigeria in view of the recent report by Amnesty International where the country was rated as the second most corrupt country in West Africa?
When this government came in, what they were telling us was that corruption will be killed, anybody that has been in Nigeria since then will know that the corruption that was to be killed is not now only older, it is stronger, more fundamental, huge, in fact the corruption now has acquired greater techniques of operation such that even the protagonists of wanting to kill corruption they are bereft of ideas of how to kill the corruption. Corruption is worse now and more horrible than ever before at any level. The only thing that has happened now is that in the past when one person is corrupt, the person is shouted, everybody hear but now when you are corrupt and you are in a particular party or in a particular coverage, once you can be in a particular party the sky is your limit, you can continue the corruption and nobody will say anything. It is obvious, we don’t need to deceive ourselves.
Do you subscribe to the call for an Igbo president in 2023?
I don’t see anything about it, anybody from any tribe is qualified to become president even you are qualified to become president only that nobody will vote for you because you don’t have the wherewithal, but anybody is prima facie qualified. However, the Igbos should keep their house in order. The way our Igbo brothers arrange themselves, they don’t speak the same mind, not together and among them just like any other tribe there are betrayers, so unless they put their house together they will not win anything I am telling you the truth, the Igbos should be united in order to fight to win, without this they cannot win anything.