In Nigerian politics, pastors play an influential role. Political aspirants flock to them to seek divine blessing. They also, usually during election times, give predictions on who will win and other things.
As Nigeria heads to the poll again in 2023, some pastors have released their predictions regarding what will happen; some gloomy, some optimistic.
Does Nigeria stand the chance of surviving beyond 2023?
I asked Reverend Dr Udochi Odikanwa, the founder/general overseer of the Restoration Life Assembly Int'l for his own prediction in an exclusive interview with Legit.ng.
2023: There’s no doom for Nigeria - Pastor Odikanwa
He starts his response, via email, with a quote from G.K. Chesterton:
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“We do not need to get good laws to restrain bad people. We need to get good people to restrain us from bad laws".
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Pastor Odikanwa, with a tone of assurance, says there “there is no doom for Nigeria”. He, however, issued a disclaimer: no one can read God’s mind.
“There is no doom for Nigeria, Nigeria is going to get better but then who can read the mind of God.
“If 2023 comes, we give God praise but I believe that there's no human with a sound mind that is comfortable or enjoys violence or conflict, so if we need peace, we should start from ourselves and do things equitably. Nigeria will survive. We just need good leadership in Nigeria and the good interest of the people," he tells Legit.ng.
How pastors should participate in politics
With thousands of congregations under their “spiritual control”, Nigerian pastors can easily sway church members’ opinions on political matters. However, is it appropriate for pastors to turn their pulpits to campaign grounds?
Or should they stay away? Exactly what roles should pastors play in Nigerian politics? I asked Pastor Odikanwa.
He said pastors have roles to play in politics and asking them to stay away is encouraging a form of political apathy.
Here is his lengthy response:
“Pastor/ religious leaders should intervene in politics by praying for the government, voting their desired leaders, bringing their religion and politics together and not creating enmity between them.
“Politics is seen as a "dirty game" but the truth is most people who are involved in politics do dirty things to get there but it’s the responsibility of pastors to pray for them for a change and also be the change.
“Why would pastors stay away from politics? It’s like saying political apathy isn't good but it’s okay for pastors to engage in it. Pastors are Christian examples to their members, if we shouldn’t engage in politics then our members shouldn't be involved in politics.
“The question here is, is God against politics? It’s obviously a No.
“Engaging in “good works” should include participating in the political process because of the legitimate and significant role of government. The decisions made by the government have a substantial impact on people and the way we interact with them.
“A Christian worldview should include a political theology that recognizes every area of life must be included in the “good works” of believers, especially politics, an area with significant real-life implications for people.
“Government derives its authority from God to promote good and restrain evil. This mandate is expressly stated in Romans 13:1-7. Elsewhere, Paul urges that prayers be made “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Paul understood the need for Christian participation in government.
“Jeremiah 29:7 says: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
“It isn't wrong for a pastor or religious leader to engage in politics. For God isn't against it but he's seen and interested in the affairs of man.”
Nigerian pastors and El-Rufai’s preaching regulatory council
In 2021, Governor Nasir El-Rufai introduced a preaching regulatory council to regulate religious activities in Kaduna state. There were mixed reactions from across the country.
Meanwhile, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) had previously challenged the state government in court.
In 2019, Justice Hajaratu Gwadah of the Kaduna State High Court ruled that the Kaduna State Government had no right to screen and issue licenses to religious preachers. However, the court asserted that the government had a right to regulate religious activities in the state.
I asked Pastor Odikanwa for his perspective on the issue.
“(Governor) El-Rufai’s decision in ensuring that faith isn't practised in a way that causes conflict is a good idea because even our God isn't a God of confusion but in a situation where he determines the qualification of the person to preach to the people isn't his duty or responsibility but its God's work and choice. God calls people to work with him and nothing stands as a barrier to it.
“A person doesn't necessarily need to be educated to preach to the people. God calls man to do his work not man calling man.”
VP Yemi Osinbajo and the 2023 presidency
Now to one of the most talked-about issues in the political space; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the 2023 presidency.
Though Osinbajo has not indicated any interest in the presidency, there have been mounting pressures from his supporters asking him to throw his hats into the ring.
Coincidentally, in December 2021, the vice president visited Reverend Odikanwa at the Annual Convention of The Restoration Life Assembly Int’l.
At the event, he spoke on how he emerged as the nation's number two citizen in 2015.
So, as someone who appears to have a kind of close relationship with the VP, I asked Pastor Odikanwa if he supports those who are calling on him to contest for president?
“What are his chances of winning if he contests?,” I added.
His response was short: Osinbajo has the capacity to lead Nigeria but we should all pray for God's will to be done.
“The vice president is a gentle, good and intelligent man who I believe can lead the country if given the opportunity to do so and I also know that God's will in Nigeria will be done.
“Nobody goes into power without God's permission. For God rules in the affairs of men. We should pray for God's will to be done,” he says.
Insecurity in Imo state
To wrap up the interview, I sought Pastor Odikanwa’s perspective on the spate of insecurity in Imo state where he hails from.
“Nigeria is battling with a lot of insecurities, which is affecting the rights of citizens in the country, so government should sit up and take up their responsibility of protecting the people.
“They should start with satisfactory payment of the security agents to guard the people. When the security agents are properly paid it encourages them to work harder.
“There should be proper training of the Nigerian security agents on self-defence, people defence, manner of approach, emotional balance and intelligence.
“Imo state is part of Nigeria and shouldn't be excluded from protection by the Nigerian security. Unity is part of our logo and so Imo state should be unified with other states in Nigeria.
“The people should work with the government in fighting insecurity by not being a part of crimes committed in the state, love your state and the government and obey constituted authorities when necessary. Don't fight yourselves, work together in love, pray for one another,” Pastor Odikanwa tells Legit.ng.
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Meanwhile, another exclusive interview by Legit.ng, the convener of the Credible Alliance for Better Nigeria (CABN), Ahmed Lamidi Badanga Badanga described VP Osinbajo as the best candidate to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
Badanga said the vice president has the knowledge, qualities and experience needed to govern the country successfully.
He added that Osinbajo and the governor of Borno state, Babagana Zulum have what it takes to take over the mantle of running the affairs of Nigeria from President Buhari in 2023.