Bishop Prof. Athan Azubuike is the Presiding Bishop of House of God Int’l Churches Owerri. He is also the Founder and President of Mezie Imo Clergy Forum, as well as Global Igbo Clergy Congress.
In this interview with Nigerian Newsguide, the fire brand man of God pledged to commit his all to ensure the success of Governor Hope Uzodimma led administration.
He also spoke on the fragile nature of Nigeria, appealing to Ndigbo to be patient with God for Biafran sovereignty.
Could you please introduce yourself, lets know who you are?
My name is Bishop Prof. Athan Azubuike, am the Presiding Bishop of House of God Int’l Churches Owerri, the Founder and President of Mezie Imo Clergy Forum, the Founder and President of Global Igbo Clergy Congress.
There is so much hunger in the country, there is poverty, people die of diseases, hunger, and the church is still less concerned and we don’t hear about churches talking of these things. Everybody seems to be talking about politics and religious people seem to have taking a cue, are you comfortable with that?
Well, in every facet of life, there are levels, there are grace, when you are talking about the religious side of this, you know that there are those who are ruling, they are on top, they take decisions, they have the radio, they have the TV, they have the Chief Judge, they have the SANS, they have the commissioners, everything. So, most times, it is not that men of God are silent over problems of the society but the truth is this, from which medium are you going to speak?
In Journalism now, people will only go to those who have money to interview them, you want to go to radio, you have to pay for you to be interviewed, but some big men in churches, even if they don’t want to talk, they are given opportunities to talk by most media houses. Most often, they are called to make statements over certain policies. The truth from what you have said is that there is hunger and great suffering but all these are as a result of politics. And you know the definition of politics, anything that brings you into being a leader, or ruling people is politics and the politics cannot stand on its own alone. Remember, it is said that religion is the opium of the society. When you are talking about politics, the church is not separated from politics, because every governor belongs to a church, every commissioner belongs to a denomination but most of the time, when we talk politics, it’s like we are talking something from the moon. The church is part of politics, so, the truth is this, most of the people who have something to say, who have an idea of what can be done to alleviate the sufferings and problems of the people don’t have the opportunity because they don’t have the money. For somebody to say that I want to talk to a reporter of a newspaper, you know what one page would cost him. A man that prints the paper will print it and not do it without money, he has to go into typesetting, from typesetting to Corel Draw to separation to plating to printing, everything is money. So most people who have what it takes to help, bring about good governance to the people are not giving the opportunity because they don’t have the money to pay for publicity. There are men of God in the city today who will sit in their bedroom and call the governor, but if you are not in that category, you will not call the governor. Even when you see the governor in a function to greet him, you will see those aides will push you around as if you are a beggar. So truly my brother we have so much to say but the system does not give us the opportunity.
There is proliferation of churches as a result of poverty and what have you, people have a lot of problems and they run to churches to save them, a lot of them are being ripped off, a lot of them are being defrauded by these pastors, everything is monetized, bring 50m naira we will help you, does God still answer prayers again?
God answers prayers. When we talk of proliferation of churches, we should not be short sighted that the world is evolving. Today in the streets of Owerri, you find it difficult to park your car again because everywhere is vehicle but I remember by 1976,77,78 in Owerri, when a vehicle passes, we as little children will shout and wave. Today every street has two or three or four saloon cars. Today there are markets here and there, remember as at 1975 to 80s we only had Eke Ukwu Owerri, but today there is Alaba, today there is Relief Market etc. So when we talk about proliferation, it is an in-thing for the whole world. Today in Owerri, we have over 20 local newspapers but I remember a time when it was only one or two, especially the Imo newspaper, Statesman until some others started coming out. This is proliferation.
Again, you can discover that everything in this world is into increase – private schools into increase, everything, so it’s not only in the church. Now, when you talk about whether God answer prayers, yes, God answer prayers. The only problem we have is that we respect materialism, we respect window dressing, and because of that, devil cannot tempt you with what you don’t know. Devil will always tempt you with what you know and what you have thought about. So, most times, people who are very eager to get something at any cost will also meet people that claim they have the power to do it at any cost.
And again, I want us to do more of investigative journalism, let me give you an instance with what you just said because you just hit me below the belt. I have helped a lot of people to travel abroad. I have Little Wood Global Travels and Tours Limited. In Imo state, I have helped over 352 persons to travel abroad, the cars am riding now are from those people. I am not giving you visa for you to go and while away your time, I give you a working visa. May be you didn’t know, I suffered a great problem in 2014. When my travel agency business started booming, the people I trusted, our Igbo guys, one from Ngwa, the other one from Uratta, one from Yoruba, one from Mbaise who I used as agents, I had to send them money so that they prepare papers for these people that were to travel, along the line, they made away with the money, am talking about N38.9 million. My brother, EFCC arrested me. My brother, I was treated like a common criminal. I suffered, I was humiliated. As of that time, if you come here, my house was filled up with people who are coming, begging and majority of them traveled for free. Many of them signed an undertaking and said ‘when we go, after one year or two, we will give you back your money’ and none of them could return it. I and my wife and children suffered. Here, 27 shrines and their letters were dropped in this my compound, the last was from Okija., but God knows I didn’t eat their money and I promised every one of them that I will never eat your kobo, it is only a question of time for me to offset it.
So, the truth is this, good things do not last in this part of the world, but if its abroad, there are many ways to investigate the matter. But here you go and give policemen 20,000 naira, they will come to your house with Hilux vans, carrying over 20 officers all with gun, molesting you and not even asking questions. But today many of them are suffering because I helped to reduce certain problems among the youths. I was bringing people, companies from Qatar to come and interview them at All Seasons Hotel, I was bringing people from Dubai to come and interview our people. So the truth and nothing but the truth is that because the world has so much attachment to materialism, flamboyancy, then it is affecting the church and listen to me, one thing that is very obvious is that everybody wants to survive and for you to survive its either you beat them or you join them. There are men of God who answered this call really but as you know it, Satan will always find a way to go into them in order for them to make it in life, so God answers prayers even as am talking to you now. All you have to do is to tarry awhile and be patient. You can’t request something from the Lord and give Him time, He has the last say, He is the beginning and the end but some people want what is called get-rich-quick-syndrome and that is where the problem lies.
The governor just marked his one year in office recently, what is your assessment of his administration and are there areas you would want him to improve on?
Truly, there are many ways to scale, to analyze and to give somebody pass mark over an examination or investigation. For me he is trying, the reason is this, most times when your friend pays a house rent for two or three years and he now called you that he is traveling and told you to take over the house, it is going to be very difficult for you. You know he came in with another person’s budget, so I will not judge him but now that he has made his own budget, am watching, but one thing that is good is his spirit of continuity and another thing I have discovered is that he is not publicity craze.
Before now you will see even where some group of people are using shovel to dig gutter, you will see a signboard – Rochas is working, but hardly you can see that now under Uzodimma. So, for him to have continued with the projects he inherited, I doff my cap for him now, I want to tell you honestly, something happened about one hour ago, the moment I was driving out and you were coming in, I had a ministration, and Emeagi, I have known you for a long time, and I want to tell you my brother, that I am making it categorically clear that I am out because some questions were posed to me. Who is the government? I have never thought it this way before, who is the government and we forget that you and I are the government. The government is not the governor, so if we do not contribute to the success of any government, the repercussion comes back to us. Most of us think that those who are the government are the political appointees, No!, I can work better than the political appointees not minding that nobody is paying me, but for the good of the society which my children will inherit tomorrow.
So, what I am now saying is that I will put my best only if, those in government will listen, I will put my best to make sure that Governor Hope Uzodimma succeeds. There are ideas, there are proposals. That I did not go out in the field during election does not mean that I don’t have what it takes to advise. You know that political appointment is about settlement all over the world. If somebody helps you to carry ballot box and they shot him and they didn’t get you. By the time you win, he will come back and remind you, if I had died what would you have done, then you find one appointment and give to him, you’ve settled him. But there are many of us who are not the foot soldiers of these politicians, who have what it takes to make the government successful. We should not withdraw just because we have the notion that we are not part of the government. I have said it, you see this government, my brother, you will remember today what I have just said. After all, when you are talking about the government you are talking about Imo state and we became Imo state before anybody joined either APC, PDP or APGA.
All those parities are in phases, they will come and go, but the truth is that Imo remains our own, so whatever contribution anybody can give to make Imo state successful, I am pleading, people should do it and I have vowed that I will help this government to succeed. It’s very possible, we have what it takes, idea rules the world. God bless you.
What about the national scene, the president from all indices has lost control of the leadership of this country, and there are problems, what is the way out of this precarious and dangerous situation we have found ourselves, taking into consideration the Orlu massacre going on now?
For the Igbos my advice is that we have to choose our enemies wisely and at the same time choose our friends consciously. Why am I saying this? I know that before now, there is going to be chaotic situation in Nigeria, why? That is the stylistic power, ideas of those who don’t want the Igbos to come in, so they will always try to heat up the polity, so that we will forget about the real thing we are pursuing and everybody will start talking about peace, way to resolve issues.
For Nigeria, we are in a perilous time, for Nigeria, it is a pity, for Nigeria it is no more a state but a failed state. For Buhari, he has disappointed everyone. Buhari has made Nigeria look like a toy before the eyes of other African countries. If you are talking about Africans being shithole, it’s a reference to Nigeria. When you have a president who will not find it reasonable to address matters of urgency. I have seen other countries where there were violence and three people were killed and a president will cut short his journey and return to address his people but in this place, no way. Agatu massacre, he never came out to say anything. Infact I want to tell you, Buhari has failed this country, but I wouldn’t blame him because a lot of people pushed him to it. People like Tinubu, the Yorubas pushed Buhari to what is going on today. You can now see that those who had a protest march against Jonathan and called him all sorts of names are those who are kicking against protest now.
I remember the languages of Lai Mohammed while they were still campaigning, I remember the languages of Osibanjo etc, I remember how much they said kerosene, fuel will be sold and this and that, where are they now? They came in and said subsidy must be removed up till now, we have had three different languages concerning subsidy but the truth is that subsidy has not been removed, where do we start?
Look at the lopsidedness of appointments, does that show we are one? When there is national security meeting, the Igbos are not there. You can imagine the marriage of three brides, today, the tripod stand, one of the legs has been broken, how can now Nigeria stand? It cannot stand on two legs. So, whether anybody believes it or not, Nigeria is no more Nigeria. But I won’t blame what is going on. You remember that the name Nigeria was given by a concubine, not even a wife. How come that our name was called Nigeria? But whether anybody believes it or not, I stand as a man of God, and I want anybody to quote me, whether we like it or not, if it doesn’t happen now, it will happen in future.
Nigeria cannot stand as a country, why, the ideologies of the three that made up the marriage are not the same, lifestyle and culture are not the same, what we believe and what others believe are not the same, so this is just a marriage of convenience and that of hide and seek, the game of Ostrich, we know, they know but they pretend. But one thing I know is this, God is justified in his sentence and blameless in his judgement. Soon, God will put an end to what man sees as his own because He reigns supreme. God will use his own hand to settle this case but I want to warn, please, I beg Nnamdi Kanu, please I beg the IPOBians to tread with caution because it has become obvious that our enemies who pretend to be our brothers are after destroying us, they see us as people who have succeeded so much and I want to tell you at the back of their mind, they are ready to destroy, whatever we have labored to acquire over the years.
Now let me tell you this, IPOB was proscribed and tagged “terrorist group”, so any bush that IPOB members run into, that environment must be devastated by bullets, because it is the same way they are doing in Sambisa because Boko Haram was also tagged errorists group. Because IPOB members are tagged terrorists, they should please allow us, how many years have we spent after the war and all that we have gathered, we are people that did not make our money from the government, it is by our struggling. Please, people should beg Nnamdi Kanu, my knees are on the ground because I see blood flowing and Nnamdi Kanu is not here, his family is not here, his brothers and sisters are no more here. When they will bombard, who will the army bombard? We, who are here suffering. Where will you run to, even if you can run, where will your wife and children run to. You’ve been struggling for years and all of a sudden, you hear the sound of gun, you looked out, it’s your wife, children, brother, sister or mother that is down, and somebody somewhere is trying to incite more.
Please we should not follow these people the way they want because they are setting a big trap and that big trap, remember what happened in Odi, it is about to happen in Igboland. And there is nothing you can do. He who is in authority is authority. A hand of command can devastate the entire Imo state under two days. I think it’s those that are alive will go to ECOWAS court, even all the ECOWAS court judgements on Nigeria have not addressed any injustice.
Please, Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun powder, everybody should be very careful, let us manage our life, one day, the troubles and problems will be over. Remember what happened in the days of the Jews and the massacre in Germany and some other places, but today Israel has returned. So don’t you think that one day we will be free. Azerbaijan, Croatia and other ones who pulled out from Russia, it will happen one day.
There is one music, when we were growing, I think it should be by the whispers …Don’t push it, don’t force it, let it happen naturally, it will happen, that’s how it is meant to be. And Peter Tor said ..If you are living in a glass house, don’t throw stones. The Igbos are living in a glass house, we should not throw stones because when you go to Lagos, the highest sky scrapper is owned by Ndigbo, you go to Kano, the biggest shops and biggest companies are owned by Ndigbo. So we are truly living in a glass house, we should not join these foolish ones to throw stones because we will suffer it. Remember, you are dealing with people.
I am writing a short book on what I called the personality disease, it is called schizoid, and schizoid is a personality diseases for Nomads, they don’t have conscience for life, they don’t have love, they don’t have compassion, they don’t have these emotions we have, that is why wherever they go, they kill and they make sure they destroy the houses, because they have been in the bush. Let us not for one thing or the other lose what we have suffered after 1970 and everybody no matter how big, how rich you were, you were only given 20 pounds.
But look at where we are. Remember the 3Rs of Gowon, did he fulfill it? No. We have Imo Airport by our individual effort, everywhere, just like that and I want to drop one last thing which the Igbos should know. Politically, they have caged us. They know what they are doing. How? Out of those who were backing us as the Igbos, they politically separated them from us and gave them six states – the South south, now they have mouth, you will not call an Akwa Ibom man and he will say he is an Igbo man. If there is a problem, an Akwa Ibom man has water to move, a Cross Riverian has water to move, Edo is closer to Southwest, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers have the Atlantic ocean, they can escape Where will the Igbos escape from? You see how we were dropped at the middle of the ocean. If you move into Delta, they will block you, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa will all block you, you follow Enugu, Benue will block you, you want to go into Ebonyi, Benue will block you. We should be wise, remember what happened in Jeremiah as people were prophesying, because God told Jeremiah to tell Isrealites that all these people who are prophesying are prophesying lies to you, the time for you to get out of Babylon has not come. He said pray for peace of Babylon, let your children marry in Babylon. On the day the Lord’s design comes, no man born of a woman can stop it.
Nigerian president of Igbo extraction is it possible while we wait for independent state of Biafra?
It is not going to be possible. There is a log of wood on top of an ocean and to use that log of wood, you need to get on top of it. If you want to jump, you don’t jump with two legs, you jump with one leg. Let me tell you, Nigerians are afraid of Ndigbo and with the kind of threats Nnamdi Kanu has giving, you can’t eat your cake and have it. They will not and if you were there you won’t give it. How can you be saying let’s go and you said you need a president which means if you are giving the president, you will go, so it is a problem. That’s why I said the Igbos are not politicians they are traders and educationists. If not, you can quietly work like a submarine, be planning what you are planning and seeking what you are seeking. Now see what is happening with ESN and somebody will show the video where they are carrying dangerous weapon, this wasn’t the way Amotekun started, but you have shown these people you are preparing to have your own sovereignty, do you think they will allow you.
Then the politicians among us are crying. No matter what you do, they will not give it to you, Ndigbo are as dangerous as scorpion to the Fulanis. You people can still play the second fiddle to help yourselves. That’s all. Because the noise and threats are too much. I have to say it, am an Igbo man, some of those things Nnamdi Kanu posts piss me off, it makes me afraid. There is going to be trouble but my prayer is that God in his infinite mercies should quench it before it escalates.