Dr. Bolaji Akinyemi, a preacher and political activist has described the Church as the biggest third force to influence Nigerian politics, but notes that, to achieve this, the Church must awake from her lackadaisical attitude towards politics and governance in Nigeria. In this concluding part of his comprehensive interview with Christian Benefits on Church & Politics, Akinyemi encourages the Church to be active participants with candidates in the 2023 general elections, and also explains why he does not support Pastor Tunde Bakare’s perceived interest in the 2023 presidential election.
Tell us how you combine and balance your calling as a preacher of the gospel with your political activism without one affecting the other
I am foremost a steward of the Church. I cannot deny God’s place in the whole thing that I am doing. I have also been interfacing with some religious groups in the country, and it has been encouraging. I believe the Church is the biggest third force to influence Nigerian politics. Preaching the gospel together with engaging in political activism has cost me a lot. I have had to cut off some of my friends and associates in ministry who do not agree with my involvement in politics.
But how can the Church break the issue of disunity in her fold to be able to establish her presence as the biggest third force in Nigerian politics as you said?
I believe the Nigerian Church leadership can set up a strong and vibrant political arm to regulate, coordinate, unify and strongly promote the political interests of the Church in Nigeria. The Nigerian Church needs deliverance from political apathy which makes her sees politics as dirty. I believe the Church can have a middle ground for all contending political interests within the body of Christ, for instance, in picking one between the Redeemed’s Yemi Osibanjo and the Winners’ Anyim Pius Anyim as the sole candidate of the Church in any Nigeria’s presidential election.
How can the Church awake, or be delivered from her political apathy?
It is lack of understanding that makes some Christians lackadaisical towards politics and governance. God told us to have dominion and dominion is governance. Christians who abstain from participating in politics, or in the governance of Nigeria are failing in their dominion purpose. The quality that is good for pulpit ministry is good for public ministry. If Christians can build their perspective on this position, it will stop the apathy or the lackadaisical attitude of the Church towards politics and governance.
In the past, some pastors like late Rev. Odunaike, Rev. Chris Okotie and Apostle Elishama Ideh contested Nigeria’s presidency but with abysmal support from the Church to their presidential aspirations. It appears Pastor Tunde Bakare is showing interest in the 2023 Presidential election. What are his chances?
I’m not in support of Pastor Tunde Bakare’s interest in the 2023 presidential election because he does not respect Christian fathers. They might not be perfect, but we have to accord them their due respect. The Church is a family of God and we have to acknowledge that. Pastor Bakare does not see the need to relate with the fathers. My opposition to his presidential interest is not personal. If he starts respecting the principles of the kingdom in the area of fatherhood, and also do other needful, there will be no problem supporting his interest in the presidency in 2023.
But it appears the fathers too are not reaching out to him to bridge the gap
I can understand the position of the fathers. If you bruise the ego of someone, it will be difficult for that person to accommodate you, or to reach out to you except you do. So, it is Pastor Bakare that should reach out to the fathers, not the other way.
In what ways do you think church leaders can mobilize their followers to be active participants and contestants in the 2023 general elections?
Foremost, church leaders should accept that engaging in partisan politics is not leprosy to Christianity. Second, they should believe in those of us who are already partisans in the Nigerian politics and governance. The sentiment of faith does not allow some of them to apply wisdom in the political arena. So, they must handle and dissolve that sentiment. We must understand that the Church needs to face the realities in both politics and governance.
If you were to see Vice President Yemi Osibanjo today, what advice will you give to him on the issue of his declaration of interest in the 2023 presidential election?
For the sake of his children I will advise him to be man. He should be able to understand that he is man enough with high pedigree to declare his interest in the 2023 presidential election. It’s not about winning or losing the election. It’s about putting your foot on the ground that you are man.