In this exclusive interview conducted by Prosperity Media and excerpted by Christian Benefits magazine, Dr. James Akanbi, General Overseer, God’s Mercy Revival Ministries (GOMERM), speaks on the Companies and Allied Matters Bill, 2020, which was passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 7, and continues to generate different reactions in the country. Dr. Akanbi says the government’s actions confirm that it has a hidden agenda against the church while insisting that the church in Nigeria and fathers of faith in the country must awake. Excerpts:
GOMERM between August 12 and 16, held its 21st Anniversary/Annual Power Conference in Lagos. It was evidently a great success. Congratulations to you and your ministry. But how do you feel with the fact that the regulations put in place by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19 hindered those who could have attended the conference, especially from distant states across the country?
Certainly, the number that was present that day was not our full representation. We could not allow any of our delegates to come around. It was majorly a Lagos affair and that did not make it to be fully what we would have wanted it to be. The conference is a GOMERM Family affair, and it’s supposed to also be an international affair. People have to come from other countries, from up-country, from everywhere. That’s how we did it last year. That’s how we’ve been doing it. But for this one, we couldn’t do enough publicity. In fact, we did almost no publicity at all. There were no billboards and no fliers. As a matter of fact, we officially and formally restricted those that were coming. We told those from Ogun state ‘we will only have few delegates from among you.’ We did not even ask for delegates from other states outside the federation. And even in Lagos where we allowed people to attend, we didn’t station our buses at strategic bus stops and locations to bring people who would want to be physically part of the conference. We had no road show. That was the only area we didn’t have it the way we would have wanted it. But at any rate, God showed himself so wonderful; that, despite no serious publicity and other restrictions, we were still able to have thousands of people gather. It was a wonderful thing. It shows God’s faithfulness all the time in the ministry. By the time we finished the conference, I just looked up to God and told him ‘you have established your house and the gate of hell can actually not prevail.’ Despite the restrictions, we still almost had a crisis of space. It was wonderful. We give thanks to God for what he did. It was glorious. It was fantastic.
The Companies and Allied Matters Bill, 2020, which was passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 7, has been generating tension and controversy in the country. Already, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has rejected CAMA 2020, insisting that it would snuff life out of the church and rank the church as a secular institution under secular control. CAN, in fact, described as satanic, section 839 (1) and (2) of the law which empowers the supervising minister “to suspend trustees of an association (in this case, the church) and appoint interim managers to manage the affairs of the association for some given reasons.” What’s your view on this?
It’s really unfortunate. I will blame the church on one side. It was as if we were sleeping when the law was being prepared and we only started to talk after the president had given his assent to the act .That was where we had our error. Under normal situations, with our set up and our connections, even if they were drafting the bill under the ground, we suppose to know. We knew, but we didn’t do the right thing. Under normal circumstances, we supposed to have raised the alarm as at the time of the drafting. It’s unfortunate that we went to sleep when we supposed to actually be awake. That, for me, is the first thing. On the part of the government, I will say the government has been extremely insincere. That’s the honest truth. And it has gone a long way to establish the fact of the suspicion which the church has against the government. It is that there is truly a hidden agenda. Somebody is hunting the church. There is no doubt about it. It’s clear that some people are sitting somewhere, crafting out how they can really get the church. They’ve tried it in different ways in the past. They’ve been hiding there, hiding here, hiding there. They tried the curriculum thing. It didn’t work. It was withdrawn. The Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020 itself shouldn’t have been bad. Nobody is against transparency, or financial integrity, and the establishment of a kind of governance procedure that will see to full transparency on financial matters. Nobody is fighting that in any way or accessibility to the figures. And nobody is fighting the fact of looking at the figures and making advices where necessary. That’s certainly not the problem. The problem why the church is shouting out and which the church finds very offensive is the removal clause in Section 839 (1) and (2) of the law. Yes, there were some legal procedures put in the law before removal. But it is vague. The fact stands government cannot be trusted by the church in this regards. A kangaroo arrangement can still be made and removal is done with little or no recourse to the proper procedure. Why, for instance, would a sweeping authority be given to the supervising minister to remove? That shows something is very wrong. It’s appears that they are looking for a way to remove the heads, and for me, I will say they are really hunting at some individuals. There are lots of churches in Nigeria. They are looking for key leaders just to be able to cow the church of God. By the time the key leaders are either removed or dealt with in one way or the other, they will expect that the ‘small boys’ and ‘small girls’ will go and hide or shut up.
There is this position that because the operations of churches are regulated in advanced countries like the UK for instance, and religious organisations also have to come clean with the government on their accounts, there are Nigerians who insist the federal government was right on the new law as its implementation would help fight corruption in churches. What’s reaction to these viewpoints?
Like I said earlier, nobody is saying that there should not be transparency in financial matters in the church. However, what I feel offensive in the whole matter is the removal clause. The government, for some years now, has been privatizing public institutions because everyone understands that it is only a fool who would want to govern or administer something he doesn’t understand. We privatized some public institutions because government can’t be a good business manager. And so, if government is not a good business manager, will government now be a good church leader? Will government become a prophet? Will government become a preacher? Or will government become the administrator of a structure that is highly spiritual? The organogram of churches is not just something that was picked out of secularism but from the scriptures. How will they be able to understand a ministry set up like that of Moses or like that of Joshua or like that of Paul Apostle when they actually don’t know anything about it? So, I believe the government is insincere with the whole matter. They know they can’t handle these things. Unsurprisingly and erroneously, some Nigerians are making reference to the United Kingdom; that the churches there are regulated and all that. UK is a purely secular state. That point must be emphasized. We claim in Nigeria that we are a secular state but we all know that we are a deeply-religious country. UK didn’t take such action as this in the days of Smith Wigglesworth. They neither did it in the days of William Booth nor did they do it during the Welsh Revival when the whole of England was deeply religious. Nobody tried that at the time. But by the time the religious aspect of the life of England came off, secularism came in. Then, the government began looking for ways to restructure things. Churches there were then structured as part of charity organizations. But there is something the Nigerian government doesn’t understand. In the UK, they understand the principle that ‘he who pays the piper dictates the tune’. UK government gives gift aids to the churches. A lot of money is in gift aids that churches can use for quite a number of things. If you pay the piper, then, you can dictate the tune. But the Nigerian government is not doing anything like that. They are not helping the churches in any way. The welfare programme in the churches, they know nothing about it. How the church is doing welfare and helping people, the government knows absolutely nothing about it. What they are just interested in is to look at the finance and remove the leader. And when they remove the leader, what do they think will happen to the organization? In the UK, they are careful. If they want to remove any leader, they must have prepared another leader who has an insight about the church. Because of the mutual suspicion between the church and the government, if the government is to remove any leader today, we are very sure they are going to put an enemy of the church there. That is what they are going to do. In the past, it has been hide-and-seek. Now, we can say it that the government is after the church.
For them to propose the removal of a church leader shows they are up to something. There are lots of other things they can do before getting to removal level so as to ensure that the Rule of Law prevails. I’m sure if the removal clause is not there, the church will not be shouting the way we are shouting.
In the event that the government sticks to its decision, what options do you think CAN and other Christian bodies in Nigeria would consider?
The church can go to court. That’s number one. Two, the church fathers, persons like Papa Adeboye, Pastor Kumuyi, Bishop Oyedepo, Dr. Olukoya, the leader of Foursquare, the Methodist Church, the Anglican Church, the Catholic Church, all of them need to come together. This is not a matter for CAN alone or the Pentecostals alone. It’s a matter for both Pentecostals and the Orthodox churches. All of them must come together, book an appointment with the President and go and drop their objections on his table. It has reached that level. This is not the time for anyone to go and sit passively somewhere. We actively have to move. There is a gang up of hell against the church of Christ in Nigeria. But like I explained earlier, nobody is against transparency in churches or accessibility to the figures because that is not the problem. The main problem is the removal of the church leader. There’s no doubt about the fact that there is a hidden agenda.
2020 has been a particular tough year for people around the world. Unemployment, deaths, economic distress and poverty have been on the rise and furthered worsened by Covid-19. Is there any message you have for the church, and perhaps also, for the nation and the world as we conclude?
This is what I’d like to say on that: Whenever a problem comes up, it reveals things. And we need to understand that the same hammer that shatters glass is the same thing that strengthens steel. We definitely need to understand that this is a time for us to be stronger than ever before. It is only those that will not give up that will go up. As a people, this is not a time for us to give up at all. Instead, it’s a time for us to get strengthened. The Bible says if you faint in the day of trouble, your strength is small. This is the time for us to show the stuff we are made of. Tough times don’t last, tough people do. We need to understand and acknowledge that fact. Number two, we must understand that the second coming of Christ won’t meet us in a peaceful situation. We are not going to be at peace when he will come. Some things will be a precursor to the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to the scriptures, it would be problems that would be precursor to his arrival. It’s tribulations that will be a precursor to his arrival, complete topsy-turvy of the whole world that will herald his coming. Though the devil is messing, God has his own finger in the whole matter. The devil may be thinking ‘I’m going to pressure the world till they give up and say they will no longer serve God’. But I believe God has a hand in the whole matter. It is after the darkness of those days that the Son of God will appear in the sky. So, troubles, problems, and tribulations are what will bring him. It is in these things that Jesus said he will come. Therefore, I don’t see the problem going on as really of extraordinary status. It is just part of the whole agenda at the end of the day. The foot soldiers of the Anti-Christ may think ‘we are about to capture them’. But the agenda of Christ is also within what the anti-Christ thinks is his agenda. It’s an agenda within an agenda. The moment COVID-19 started and the Prime Minister of Italy said they had done everything they could do on the ground and the next thing ‘is to look up to the sky’, I said ‘fine, God is humbling the whole world’. The leaders are on their knees. It has shown the whole world now that God ruleth in the affairs of men. They have been able to see the futility of human knowledge. Science has failed them. The medical world has failed. Almost everything has failed. So, we’ve seen that God ruleth in the affairs of men. It’s a knowledge that God has passed across to the whole world. In the past, we thought it was like America was in charge, or Russia was in charge, or China was in charge, or EU was in charge, and whatever they say is the final. But when God showed up, all of them went into hiding. They had to do virtual meeting, not visual meeting. Somebody has shown that he is in charge. We can’t really see Angela Markel or Trump being in charge. God has shown that he is the ruler in the affairs of men. The world should take that lesson once and for all and not let it go off from the earth. The arrogance of humanity must not come back again. The world must always recognize that there is somebody beyond the sky, God Almighty, who ruleth in the affairs of men.