El-ru­fai should ex­pect God’s wrath if he de­mol­ishes churches – Bishop of Zaria

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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’

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