Soft-spoken, yet firm and assertive in his Christian and patriotic conviction, the General Overseer of Gospel Faith Mission International (GOFAMINT), Pastor (Dr) Elijah Abina, still standing strong at over 80, speaks on the role of Christians in ensuring a united and developed Nigeria, calls for restructuring, how he has steered GOFAMINT for the past 30 years, among other issues. RITA OKONOBOH provides excerpts:
You recently called on citizens to be cautious of hate speeches capable of plunging the nation into chaos. What is your take on the agitations for a breakup, and in some instances, calls for restructuring?
I am interested in one Nigeria; there’s no reason why we should separate. We have been together for more than 100 years. I don’t support disintegration. We are not all Christians; if that was the case, it would have made a difference. We should be working towards the good of the country. There should be no segregation. It is the population that makes us what we are, not the size of the country. If we separate now, that glory is gone. Let us come together and discuss on how to move the country forward. For regions blessed with various natural resources, God has deposited such there for the good of all of us. All our leaders should work towards the unity of Nigeria, not minding who is in power.
There are concerns that even clerics are not exonerated from hate speeches. For instance, there are clerics who have asked their members to defend themselves in the face of attacks. What is your take on this?
It’s not easy to lead a nation. We that are leading churches know what we face, not to talk of leading a nation with more than 100 million people. There is no leader that is perfect and you cannot find a leader that will satisfy everyone but a leader must see himself as a father to all. President Muhammadu Buhari is the father of us all in Nigeria, regardless of religion. We must continue to pray for our leaders because, whether they make mistakes or perform well, it affects us as such. As Christians and church leaders, we have the responsibility of praying for our leaders. I want to commend the acting president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. He is a man of God; a man of integrity and a man of humility. With the way he has held the forte, he is a very good lieutenant. I pray that, by the grace of God, our president will be fully healed and come back. Let’s continue to pray for our president.
2017 makes it 30 years since you became the general overseer of GOFAMINT. What’s the secret to your successfully leading such a large following over the years, and what lessons can Nigeria’s leaders learn from your example?
The secret is that I follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. By the grace of God, I am not a new person in the church and I am 60 years old in the church. I learnt a lot from our first leader whom the Lord used in the church – humility and hard work. Nigeria’s leaders should learn to embrace godliness, selflessness, working for the growth of others, trustworthiness and contentment. Their salaries are more than enough and there’s no reason they should embezzle public funds. Not too long ago, it was discovered that money was hidden underground; that’s madness. We will continue to pray for the country. I also want to advise Christian leaders to always speak the truth. By the grace of God, the country will be better if the church does its part.
GOFAMINT has been in existence for a little more than six decades. However, when one looks at the structure of its leadership, one may ask: what is the role of women and youths in the church?
Women have their roles in the church and in fact, our women fold is stronger than that of the men in the church. What the women have done, men have not achieved a quarter of it. We reckon with women strongly for the progress of the church. Our youths are also very active in church. They had their programme this year and more than 5,000 youths were in attendance. They focus on winning souls because they have the advantage of age, as well as wider access to a variety of people – Christians and non-Christians – they can share the gospel of Christ with.
In recent times, the hash tag #NotTooYoungToRun has been trending on social media, with some saying older people in power are encouraging corruption. As a religious leader, do you think youths are ready to take up leadership positions in the polity?
Some youths are also corrupt. The problem is that some are too focused on money. I don’t think our youths can save the country without Christ. If the youths are people who are godly, they can save the country. Without that, even if they are voted into those positions, the corruption will continue. Whatever makes you a good Christian makes you a good citizen. As a matter of fact, when you say a person is a Christian, such a person’s actions should reflect the example of Christ. So, there shouldn’t be the issue of good or bad Christians. A Christian must be a good person.
What are the activities for the church’s forthcoming convention?
This year’s 61st anniversary and 52nd annual convention of the church will take place from Monday, August 7 to Sunday, August 13, 2017, at the new camp ground, the Gospel City, located at Kilometre 30, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Ogunmakin, Ogun State, with the theme, A New Beginning.
Why did you choose the theme?
When we started, there was this burning zeal to go to any length to preach the gospel. After many years, we want to know, if we still have this zeal, in the light of happenings around the world, as it relates to the preaching of the gospel.
Now that you’re moving to a new camp ground, what becomes of the former location at Alaka, on Igbo-Oloyin Road in Ibadan?
We will use it for other events. For instance, we have a monthly programme and that will be the location. Activities will continue there. We will not abandon the location.
You’re moving to a new camp ground for a convention scheduled to hold in less than two weeks from now. Aside the spiritual preparation, what plans are in place to reassure the church of the preparedness of the church to host a successful convention?
We are working on ensuring tight security around the clock. There is also accommodation on ground for worshippers. We’ve earmarked 40 acres for the new auditorium. So, there’s nothing to be afraid of.
The post We have lived together too long to disintegrate —Pastor (Dr) Abina, General Overseer, GOFAMINT appeared first on Tribune.