The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria and outgoing President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, Rev Dr Supo Ayokunle, during the 108th convention of NBC spoke on some of the challenges affecting Nigeria.
The CAN president when asked what he wants President Muhammadu Buhari to do on the issue of security following his return from UK said,
“My own problem is that I don’t want him to go abroad again for medical treatment. It’s to provide the facilities here in Nigeria. The one he is going to access was not provided by angels. It was provided by human beings who turned around their countries. If we have one well-equipped, research-based diagnostic hospital in Nigeria, that is a starting point. Why can’t we do it? Do we need to be more educated than this to know what a good thing is? My problem is, why the waste of money? If the President of the country has to depend on the health care facilities of another country, then nobody is safe.”
“We should do something about that very urgently because it is very shameful. How many heads of nations come to our country for medical attention? But for the Nigerian President to be going (abroad) every year; if anybody should have the same type of health condition as the President and does not have the state’s backing as the President, it means that person will die in the country, which is very much an unfortunate situation.”
Ayokunle was also asked on what Can Is doing about the security issue in Nigeria apart from praying.
“My tenure is ending as the President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, not as the CAN President. These are two different organisations with two different starting points and two different constitutions. If you ask me what CAN is doing about insecurity in the country, I would be very disappointed. There is hardly any week that you don’t hear of what CAN is doing in the newspaper, all over, in order to address the serious insecurity challenges we have in this place. We have been to the powers that be at Aso Rock and we’ve raised concerns. We have been to the National Assembly and, not too long ago, you saw us with the Governor of Kaduna State (Nasir el-Rufai) because of the deplorable situation of security in that state. So, CAN is not only praying. CAN is doing advocacy for a more drastic approach.”
“You knew how we were on the President of the nation to rejig the security architecture of the nation to correct the lopsidedness and we didn’t give up until we had a little bit of change. But we still have a lot to do about correcting the lopsidedness. Very recently also, you saw our paid advertisements in different newspapers about the need for the government to take security more seriously because for anybody to be telling the government it is doing its best is not to say the truth. Such a person is too clever by half. The best presently is not the best for the nation because it has not been able to give us a secure environment.”
“I pray that our case will not be like that of Chad. Recently, you heard in the news that the bandits there, or whatever you call them, killed the president. That means the bandits or anti-government people are having a field day. So, we don’t need to be deceiving ourselves with the breakdown of law and order that we have presently in the nation.”
“We have talked about the rampaging herdsmen. I’ve gone and written papers to the President; I’ve pleaded with him that he should do something with the herdsmen that are Fulani, who have become very cantankerous and dangerous with AK-47 in different communities where they have been living before. We have challenged the government on why they are not taking serious steps to investigate the sources of ammunition of these people. We have also challenged the government to mop up the illegal weapons in the hands of various people. You have read all that. I think you, journalists, should commend CAN because I don’t see any other organisation in this country presently that is constantly speaking to the situation on the ground more than CAN. We deserve kudos rather than asking for what CAN is doing.”
The CAN president who spoke on the developing issues in relation to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, said,
“I think that question should be better put to the Department of State Services. What is the DSS doing about such allegations? What are the police doing? What is the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency doing? Such allegations should not be taken with levity. They should be taken it seriously, especially if we have data, written evidence or implicating statements or articles (about Pantami).”
“The question is not for me because I am not in any security agency. I may not have the best information about what is going on beyond what I read in the newspapers, which may be wrong because a newspaper (not PUNCH) has already apologised for this. I don’t want to make any statement that may not be informed, so direct your question to the DSS. Don’t allow them to rest.”
“Why have they kept quiet? Why have they not done anything about it? Or is there no basis for it? Let them come out. Once they come out on the basis of empirical data, then the situation will be settled. CAN has been pointed and has spoken without mincing words, without fear or favour, in the love of the nation that we should do things better than the way we are doing things. The present situation is very worrisome and it is also a shame to many of us who have travelled far and wide and are aware of how other nations are secured, of which we should be counterparts.”
“The unemployment rate is more worrying to me because idle hands are the devil’s workshop. The bandits are increasing more easily because we have many youths unemployed. The proportion of our security (agents) to the people they are securing is so abnormal. So, the government should do something about it. We have people that can be trained to better secure our nation. If the mismanagement continues, then we will not have money to do the most important things.”
With your tenure about to end as the NBC President, what will you like to be remembered for?
“The tenure will be coming to an end on June 1, by the grace of God. But by the grace of God, we have put in place the succession plan and during this convention, the person who will succeed me and take over in June will be announced to the entire public. I want to be remembered for doing my best to reposition the NBC. I wouldn’t want to be enumerating much of the landmark things that the Lord has done, so that it will not be like self-exaltation. Whatever a man has been able to accomplish has been by the grace of God. Paul may plant and Apollos may water, but if God does not grant the increase, it would be vanity on vanity.”
“This is the first time we have been able to put together a camp on a 23.5-hectare piece of land with a worship auditorium of 37,000 seats for us to be able to do our annual convention. It’s like a mini city where we have a section that is called Aaron’s Court for people to build their houses and stay there. We’ll have a hospital, police barracks, etc. there. That by the grace of God is a legacy that I want to be remembered for.”
“Not only that, I’ve worked on our media as a denomination and in 2013, I started the New Frontiers Television of the NBC, which is a cable television station and it’s still operating; it’s on StarTimes by the grace of God. I also want to be remembered for empowering our theological education. We have 10 theological (institutions) in Nigeria – three seminaries and seven theological colleges.”
“I’ve embarked on a regular promotion for them, year after year, so they can be motivated to train properly those who will be leading others behind the pulpit, so there will be balanced delivery of the word of God, which in theology we call the Kerygma – so people can hear the word raw and balanced to allow them to fulfill their dreams in life. Within those seven years, we have been able to produce seven world-acclaimed professors of theology. Before my tenure, there was none. It was hard work and the grace of God.”
“Apart from that, the headquarters of the NBC was on a leased land since the establishment of the denomination and we were paying heavily year after year. But before my exit, we were able to buy up that place permanently. Now, it’s a freehold. Also, we have the Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomoso (Oyo State), which was established in 1898, and the Baptist Hospital, which is now the Bowen University Teaching Hospital. We have the Lepers Colony, where we are giving lepers skills acquisition, free medical attention and built houses for them; the land was also leased. The land of the Lepers Colony, the Ila Pastorium, the theological seminary, BUTH and KC Children’s Home, where we take care of orphans and abandoned babies, were all leased properties”
“By the grace of God, we have been able to buy them up and we have the freehold. We’ve got the Deeds of Assignment from various governments. We were able to get from the government the Deed of Assignment for the land where we built our present Baptist National Convention Centre, by the grace of God. We were also able to recover our property at Ijaye-Orile (Oyo State), where the Baptist work started in 1850. Part of the school which the government has taken away, I was able to get in touch with the government to say it’s a place of historical importance and we cannot compromise for anything, otherwise we lose our history. The remaining 22 acres of land, we have been able to recover.”
“There now, we are building an empowerment centre for skills acquisition so that people who leave school can put food on the table, even if they are not given white collar jobs. Before I came, we had no national secondary school at the federal capital, but at Masaka (Nasarawa State), we were able to build a Baptist high school and it’s growing to the glory of God.”
“We have focused the attention of the convention on investment. Depending on the tithes and offerings of the people, year after year, it may not be enough to face the increasing challenges we have in society today in order for us to do advocacy for the poor and people facing different challenges. So, we embarked on investment, buying properties and turning them to guest houses. We have two already in Abuja and one in Jos (Plateau State). We have (some) in Lagos and Ibadan (Oyo), to the glory of God. I started the one in Abuja and also improved on secondary school education because we have seen that people finish secondary school these days and you may not be able to ask them questions in English and they will answer in the Queen’s English.
You would hear them committing unpardonable errors in pronunciation and construction. So, we felt that, as we had done before the government interregnum taking over schools, which it messed up and reduced the standard of education, we should pick it up again. We started expanding our secondary school education and bought a property at the Government Reserved Area in Jos and converted it into Baptist Model High School, to complement the Baptist High School in Jos, which is equally doing excellently well by the grace of God. Time will not permit me to talk about our investment in (a) water bottling company, which we started to be able to bring more money for the missions into our hands.
What unfinished jobs are you leaving behind?
“One of the unfinished jobs is the worship centre I started at the Obafemi Awolowo University (Ile-Ife, Osun State) for the Baptist Students’ Fellowship to be able to worship God. The foundation was laid and the building is going on, but it’s part of what I am handing over to my successor.”