Adibe Emenyonu, in Benin City, writes on the acting president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo’s message to the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria during its recent meeting in Edo State
One clear principle of Christianity is religious tolerance, as exemplified by Jesus Christ. Even at the point of crucifixion, Jesus lived up to this injunction. This same precept echoed in Benin City, the Edo State capital, recently when the acting president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who is also a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, addressed fellow Christians. The event was the opening ceremony of the 14th National Biennial Conference of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, an arm of Christian Association of Nigeria.
When he mounted the podium at the playground of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, along the Benin-Ore-Lagos highway, some might have expected to hear s doublespeak. But Osinbajo lived up to his calling, irrespective of political office and affiliation. He was joined by the national president of PFN, Reverend Felix Omobude, and the governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.
Osinbajo admonished Christians to continuously preach the love of Jesus Christ, despite religious killings in the country. He spoke on the topic “Our Greatest Enemy is Hate.”
Osinbajo reflected on the origin of religious and ethnic crises in the country in the 1970s and attributed them to hatred. He added that the answer to the crisis could only be found in the gospel of peace.
He said religious crisis was not peculiar to the government of President Muhammadu Buhari or the All Progressives Congress era. According to the acting president, “In the past few years, we have seen the most brutal killing of men and women. The history of blood and religious conflict extend to every Nigeria government.”
He traced religious crisis in the country to 1979, during the Meitasina clash, which left many dead, noting that for Christians to live eternally, they must die for the gospel.
Osinbajo urged Christians to embrace love, saying “hate is the device of the devil” and will not ensure the prosperity of Christendom. He said Christians should not be discouraged when they are being despised by others, explaining that such is the burden of the Gospel.
Southern Kaduna Killings
On the southern Kaduna killings, the acting president stated, “Since investigations are still going on, I can’t make any categorical statement. The federal government has taken steps by first aligning with the state government and working with the police to be the first responders.
“It is not true to say that the federal government was silent, it is not true. Troops were sent in after a security council briefing was received from the state and police, after they found themselves not been able to curtail the killings.
“However, from the foregoing it is obvious that every Nigeria leader, whether Christian or Muslim, has tried to solve the problem of the age long killing and none has succeeded. Indeed, the killing has increased in intensity.”
He blamed the judicial system for its failure to rise up to the occasion to prosecute perpetrators of religious violence. According to him, “In many respects, the failure of our criminal justice system to punish culprits has not helped matters. Meanwhile the suicide bombers and those ready to die along with their victims have added a more satanic dimension to the public.
“Why is it that no government has succeeded in stopping these age killings? Let me say that it is because the answer to it, the response to gross wickedness, lies with the church.
“Everything about the gospel contradicts our flesh. As far as the gospel is concerned, the way to live and be fruitful is to die.”
There was noticeable rowdiness at the moment when the acting president urged Christians to love and forgive their enemies irrespective of the harm done to them. This is the age-old admonition to Christians as propagated by Christ Himself. But in the face of the brazen wickedness and killings committed against Christians in Nigeria, the Christians are becoming increasingly exasperated.
Message of Peace
In his opening address, the PFN president, Omobude, who is also the General Overseer, Covenant Church, urged Christians to embrace peace and work for the unity of the country.
Earlier in his keynote address, Obaseki said he was happy to host the conference. He urged Nigerians to see religion as a life changing tool. According to him, “As the present economic situation takes full toll on the social system, causing ethnic and religious conflict, as Christian, we must not allow emotions to take a better part of us but rather we should deploy religion as a tool for peace, national unity and development.
“I look forward to the Nigeria of our dream, where Christians, Muslims and all adherents of different religions will live together in peace and unity.
“I thank you for the opportunity of affording our state the privilege to host this year’s conference. The relationship between Edo State and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria goes back to the pioneering era of Archbishop Benson Idahosa, of blessed memory, the first president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. So, for us in Edo State, this is home coming.”
Obaseki acknowledge PFN’s overwhelming support and prayers for Nigeria in general and the people and government of Edo State, in particular, especially in this season of economic challenges. He said, “By the abiding grace of Almighty God and the indomitable power of the Holy Spirit, may we achieve the economic prosperity that we all pray for.”
The governor said the title of this year’s conference, “From Glory to Glory,” emphasised the goodness, fullness and continuity of God’s thoughts and plans for His children. He added, “The conference once again affords us an opportunity for a sober reflection on some critical aspects of our national development. We are challenged daily by the hydra-headed evil of socio-economic and political avarice, lack of respect for private and public property as well as the sanctity of human life.
“We are confronted with the failure of institutions charged with the preservation of law and order because the hearts of men have become more desperately wicked. Laws alone are, therefore, not sufficient without a deeper appeal to the minds of people through authentic religion.
“Therefore, this is an appropriate time to remind us that religion holds the key to the hearts of people and that to change society, we must deploy true religion as a life changing tool. Hence, Albert Einstein, a great philosopher and scientist, exhorts us to combine insights from religion with scientific discoveries to advance humanity.
“My meeting last weekend with religious leaders across the state has revealed that many social scourges can be curbed and eliminated if we express our faiths responsibly and if government actively partners with religious bodies. I assure you that my government is committed to this ideal.”
The governor added, “It is just and Christianly for men of God to guide political leaders in the right direction without necessarily playing partisan politics. I urge all Nigerians not to allow religion tear us apart.
“On behalf of the people and government of Edo State, I welcome you all to this conference. I look forward to the true Nigeria of our dream in which Christians, Muslims and adherents of other faiths will live together peacefully and united. I wish us a successful conference and a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. May God’s blessings for Nigeria, Edo State and everyone in attendance be from ‘glory to glory.’”
There were many prominent men of God at the conference, including Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeem Christian Church of God, Bishop Mike Okonkwo of The Redeem Evangelical Mission.