Prof. Vincent Anigbogu is the Director-General, Institute for National Transformation. He was at the Olivet Bible Church Festac town, Lagos recently to join in the celebration of the maiden edition of the Pastoral Appreciation Day of the church. He spoke in an interview with newsmen at the event. Our correspondent was at the event and filed in this piece. Excerpts;
Sir, your message during the service dwelt much on the church being the answer to the societal problems. How can the church go about this onerous task?
First of all, there are several things that God has to help us. A nation cannot move forward if the vision of their future is not clear. Because, when the vision of the future is clear, and everybody key in to that vision, then we don’t stop challenging ourselves we don’t stop pushing ourselves until we get there.
So, it makes the President better, it makes the National Assembly better, it makes the teacher even in the classroom better. Once a vision is clear, you also chat a course, what is the critical thing we need to do? Whether infrastructure, whether academics, institutions of building government institutions. But we have to do those things, so we have to be our best in pursuing them.
Spiritually, the church should be strong and big and able to steer the affairs of this nation. How big is this church in Nigeria?
Let me tie that…, it is God’s desire that nations develop. He says, I know the thoughts I have for you, thoughts of good and not of evil. God’s desire for the nations is for them to develop.
However, the crop of people that develop nations are selfless people, humble kind of people. Man by nature is selfish, man by nature is self-centred. So a selfish, self-centred man would not build anything because even if you put them in a position of leadership, all they will be thinking about is how to take care of themselves.
This is where the church comes in. The church is supposed to raise those selfless, Christlike people that love people more than they love their lives. People who are ready to lay their lives down and then if you look at our National Anthem, it says that. Arise O Compatriots, Nigeria call obey. What is the call? To serve, it is a selfless service based on love, based on strength, based on faith. Aside the churches we are having here, who can raise such people but the church.
The aging generation has seen a number of things. How can the older generation help the youths to build the hope for this nation and even in the things that are spiritual?
I think where we are failing including myself is that we are not helping our youths for them to see the future and to know that they have a share in it. Secondly, we are not equipping them with the skills they need in order to bring their future to pass.
Because we are failing in these two critical areas, our children can’t connect to the future. They are caught up with trying to survive as you saw what happened recently.
What can they do now?
We as we are doing, by the way, I am the Director-General of Institute for National Transformation. This is why the institute is formed, to go and create this kind of awareness whether in the church or other organizations especially for the adults to rise up and stop being selfish and self-centred. You have already lived your lives, what else are you looking for? Invest in the future of their lives and give them a future they need and when they continue to succeed, our joy will be full.
So many Nigerian Youths are languishing on the streets either in drugs, prostitution and gangsterism, some to nothingness, they just wander about. How can they be helped?
That was exactly what I was talking about when I quoted Isaiah 58, that God says that the fast I want is not the one that you lock yourselves in the four walls of the church and pray, pray, pray.
The fast I desire is that you develop a programme, go in the street and redeem those youths, the prostitutes, clean them up, help them to discover who they are, help them to discover the talents they have in them and guide them to engage so that they may have a fruitful future. It is part of the job description of the church according to Isaiah 58 from verse 6.
Looking at the awful experience we had with the Immigrations recruitment, are you of the view that the current University education curriculum aimed at producing graduates that virtually depend on the government for everything including employment need to be reviewed?
It is not even just my view, the recently concluded Nigerian Economic Summit which focused on transforming the education sector for relevance even came to that conclusion that the system of education is not good enough to produce children who can even build Nigeria and they are now recommending that there be major structural and policy changes.
They are also calling for partnership with the private sector, that people actually in the private sector should become concerned because the children we are producing are not performing even at jobs. So, it is not my conclusion, it has become a National conclusion.
The National Conference is on and some school of thought has it that having celebrated our centenary, that we should look at how Nigeria should move forward and if we can’t move forward, we should then disintegrate. What is your take on the National conference?
Actually, the attention should be at identifying those factors that has hindered us from forming a nation. We are still not yet a nation, we are a country. A country is made up of tribes and different groups.
A nation is a people who have now harmonized, they share a common vision, common value and common direction. There are nations that have already succeeded in going from just a country to a nation. Singapore is an example where you have the Chinese, Indians, Malaise, you can have a people more than Singapore has but they have succeeded in crafting a national vision and today, they are moving together in unison and they have created the fifth wealthiest nation in the world.
It can be done, I don’t believe in division because once you start dividing, then once you divide into different tribes, even when you get to the same tribe, you will still discover some differences and we continue to divide even in your household, that division will come there too.
So the answer is not division, the answer is to actually mature and learn to tolerate one another. But my prayer is that you cannot build a nation where there is no rule of law, you cannot build a nation where justice system is unfair and inequitable. If you don’t solve those two ares, where when people still you punish them, when people commit evil they know they will go to jail. I think that is the starting point.
And then, we need to study what other nations ave done because we are stronger together that we are separate. The Europe is coming together to form the European Union, so can Nigeria now scatter and be stronger? I don’t think so. There is strength in Unity but we have to become selfless, yield ourselves and let go some certain things that we can form a stronger nation. It is the maturity that we need to attain.
You mentioned Singapore that have applied the principle that we have in nation building. Now, there is the need for Nigeria to wake up. Does the church apply the bible principle to build our nation?
You know, the church has always think that church is all about coming to service on Sunday, you sing,you pray and you go but actually, the true meaning of church is people who are Christlike so that when they go into their environment, they will influence it.
So, for an example, if I am a light, when I get to the market place, I give light. Light means leadership, direction and vision. If I say I am salt, it means anywhere I go, I flavour it with integrity, flavour it with transparency.
So, the church need to teach people the true essence of church which does not mean the building. The essence of it is who you have become so that you can go and affect your environment positively.
Therefore, we shouldn’t say we have come to church because we attended a service. True meaning of church is going out and impacting the society. The church hasn’t enough of that.