El-rufai should expect God’s wrath if he demolishes churches – Bishop of Zaria
Bishop of Zaria Diocese (Anglican communion), Rt Rev Abiodun Ogunyemi, recently prophesied that though Governor nasir el-rufai was being groomed to be nigeria’s President, he would never be president. he tells GODWIN ISENYO about the controversy over state government’s plan to demolish a 110-year old church and his view of the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)
YOu recently said the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-rufai, was being prepared to contest for the Presidency in 2023, what made you so sure of this? I am a proud Anglican bishop. When a bishop is consecrated, he is told: ‘Today, we consecrate you as a priest and a prophet.’ The office of the bishop is not only priestly; it is also a prophetic office. I don’t know if some bishops know that but I know it. Over the years, since I became a bishop, God has spoken through me.
People may not take what I say seriously but they come to pass. Let me give you one example. When I was a pastor many years ago, back in the 1990s, in Zaria at St Andrews Church, one night, God woke me up and said: ‘Go and tell the church that M.K.O. Abiola will never be the President of Nigeria.’ At the time, the Social Democratic Party just had its convention in Jos, Plateau State. But God said, ‘Tell your church that M.K.O. Abiola will never be the President of Nigeria, even for only one minute; I will stop him.’
I told the church and some members were not happy because they were members of the SDP. But I said it was God who told me and that I didn’t have anything to do with it (prophecy). Eventually, you know what happened, how the election was annulled.
In 2010 when Nigeria, God told me there would be a political earthquake in Nigeria that would sweep across the whole country and that nothing would stop it, except God Himself. By the end of that year, there was Boko Haram. I was preaching at a church in Samaru and God told me that Muhammadu Buhari and el-rufai would return to power but some people didn’t want him (el-rufai) in the state. I told the church that Buhari and el-rufai would come back and that no votes could stop them and it came to pass.
I was not speaking for myself when I said there was a plan to make Governor Nasir el-rufai the next Nigerian President but it would never happen. That’s what God told me. He (el-rufai) should stop wasting his time. He will never be president.
You sound so sure; what if it doesn’t come to pass?
God told me; it has nothing to do with me. I just gave you some examples and there are others. People always fight me on matters like this. It never bothers me. When Goodluck Jonathan was the President, God told me he was never the answer to Nigeria’s problems. He was actually a problem. God said, ‘Jonathan is King Saul who will fail.’ So, this one (prophecy) has nothing to do with me. It’s what God told me. El-rufai should forget about the 2023 presidency.
You chided the Archbishop of the Kaduna Province of the Anglican Diocese, Buba Lamido, for apologising to el-rufai recently over the planned demolition of St George Anglican Church, the second oldest church in the North. Have you received any threats since then?
I have received some threats, through phone calls from people. Some people are very happy with my response while some are not. I have received (threats), particularly from the Interfaith Dialogue, who said they were from the governor’s office. They came here twice to threaten me. They also went to my chancellor in Kaduna to issues threats. But we have taken it lightly because it is expected that when people want to do something evil and you stand against it, they will react.
I heard about a newspaper report (not Punch), which I refused to react to because the writer of the article didn’t address the real issue. He was addressing the issue of politics but didn’t address the issue of land. Who owns the land? Why did the government want to take our land? Why did the governor not also go to Kaduna and demolish the Central Mosque and the property there? He won’t try it. Why is he focusing on the church?
There was a meeting in Kano called by Bishop Buba Lamido. They invited me but I did not attend because God had warned me not to go. It was like a ploy to trap me – to either ambush me or kill me. That was what God told me and it was confirmed by some people. The secretary at that meeting, Bishop of Dutse, Jigawa State, told me that Bishop Lamido said I was like Ibrahim El-zakzaky and that the way the governor dealt with El-zakzaky, he would deal with me. I see that as a threat to my life. I took it lightly because I was not fighting the government. That was why I wrote my letter to the public. I am not fighting government. I am fighting for our property. I am fighting for our rights.
I have no reason to fight the government.
The other threat that I have received, which you must know about, is that some weeks ago, we had a programme at our national church in Abuja and the Primate (that is the head) of the church and other officers of the church told me about the outcome of a visit to the governor’s office. I was invited to be part of the visit but I refused to go. The Primate told me that the governor was going to write me a letter. I have not received any letter yet. It is to say that I am a security threat to Kaduna State. (It was said) that if the governor should write that letter, the church would be forced to transfer me from Zaria to another place. That’s a threat to my life and my ministry.
I mean, is it evil or a sin to defend what belongs to you, and stand against it when a governor wants to go wrong? He told me that the governor was going to write a letter to declare me a security risk. I have kept quiet on it because I am expecting the letter. Maybe it’s a lie. Maybe someone lied to the Primate that the governor was going to write a letter to me.
When the Primate told me that, I didn’t tell anybody. I just kept it to myself and only sent messages to my friends who prayed for me. But something is telling me now that I should not keep quiet even though I have not received the letter yet. I am not a threat to anybody and I am not El-zakzaky. I am a bishop and one of my mandates is to protect the territorial integrity of the diocese that God has placed me to oversee and fight for what belongs to us. So, would I keep quiet when a letter was written to us that they would demolish our
church? No. I could not keep quiet.
You seem very angry about the planned demolition of the 110-year-old St George Cathedral, Sabon-gari Zaria; and another alleged plan to demolish the Sabongari property of the church, what is the situation now?
It is the second oldest church in northern Nigeria. The second thing that came out of the Abuja meeting was that the governor said he was not going to do anything to the church again but that he was still going to demolish our property. That was why I made a public statement. The governor has no right to tamper with our property. Can he go to Kaduna and demolish the Central Mosque and its property? The whole property (church and market land) belongs to us (church). The Certificate of Occupancy is in the governor’s office. He knows that. It’s with the Kaduna State Urban and Property Development Agency. Ex-governor Namadi Sambo knew about it. They know that the whole land is ours. It is for the Anglican Communion.
So, that’s the update. We are waiting for the governor. We don’t know what he has in mind. But I have told him (governor) that nobody can tamper with our property or land because it belongs to God. That land was bought by our forefathers in the late 1800. The first church was put there in 1808. How can he come to demolish it? Is he the first governor (here)? The first C of O was issued by Sir Kashim Ibrahim, former governor of the Northern State. That’s why I am angry.
What is the true story behind the planned demolitions? Why did the government want to demolish them?
Honestly, I don’t know what exactly he (elRufai) has in mind.
He said he wanted to build a new market at Sabon Gari. If he wants to rebuild a market, he should not forget that the market land belongs to the church. I am not against him building a new market. What is done in other places is that when a government wants to build a market, they go to a virgin land and build a new market there. The people matter because that’s their only source of livelihood. You don’t just come and demolish things.
Christians in Kaduna believe the governor is using the issue to test the waters and that once he succeeds in tampering with the church and its property, no other church in Kaduna State is safe. That’s why the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria took it up. CAN knows that once the governor succeeds in doing this (demolition), other churches will be at risk. That is why the matter is creating problems. And that is why the governor should leave the church alone. The matter will cause problems if the governor goes ahead with it. Why is he focusing on the church? Why can’t he go and demolish the Central Mosque in Kaduna and see what will happen?
I wrote a personal letter to him which he refused to reply. I reminded him about what
Unfortunately, the men of God who are supposed to speak up won’t speak up.that’s the problem. Imagine all general overseers, archbishops, bishops, sheikhs, and Imams marching to the National Assembly with camp beds and saying until you reduce your salaries and allowances, we are not leaving here’