Reverend Uma Ukpai is an Abia State-born evangelist, the founder and president of Uma Ukpai Evangelistic Association Inc. with headquarters in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. In this interview with Sam Eyoboka, the evangelist takes a look at the security situation in the country and concludes that nobody can islamise Nigeria. He, however, says we must be wise not to plunge the nation into a religious war.
Is it possible for the terrorists to Islamise Nigeria?
Number one, Christians in the South and North of the country are very dedicated and committed. A religious war is a terrible war because it involves the soul, the spirit and the physical. Many people would rather die than change religion and, to many, changing religion means disappointing He who created you; He who has given so much to you and has made you what you are, and He who has been with you over the years—people like us who have been involved in Christianity in the last 52 years. It’s not possible, because if you don’t die today and die tomorrow; it is the same thing. Every man must have something he is living for. If you don’t have anything you are living for, you don’t have anything you can die for. If there is something you can die, it’s very easy to die for such a thing when the need arises.
Their method of conversion makes it a little bit lousy. You don’t threaten a man and say to him, ‘You either join me or I kill you” He will rather die than join you. I think they should review their method. This country has been in existence for so many years and we have lived together and we can still live together. It is not possible for them to islamise the whole country. There is not place where they have islamised the whole nation. You still find some Christians.
There are nations like Egypt, Libya, Somalia which were once Christian nations but today are Muslim nations…..
At the time they converted those nations, they were not knowledgeable enough. Everybody knows his rights now and many people are ready to fight for the rights. A man who cannot fight for his right has no reason to live. There was this Rev. Orji they killed in Maiduguri.
They asked him to denounce Christ and go free and he said no and before they killed him, he told the brethren there to announce to the world that he died well. There are many like him who are willing to die. After all, what is life all about? Is life just trying to please somebody or struggling to survive? No! There is also life after this life. So, it is not possible for them to islamise Nigeria. Egypt still has pockets of Christians; same thing with Mali. If the iron curtain could not stop Christianity in Russia, I don’t think anybody can stop Christianity in Nigeria.
What does the Christian stand to gain by remaining in the North when he has been asked to leave?
There is nothing that says Christians can’t fight back. The Bible says; what you sow is what you reap. They are sowing violence and they are bound to reap violence. There was a time in Kaduna, when Christians fought back and, by every reckoning, they won. It can be done again. A day will come when people will say, ‘enough is enough, let us fight back’ They will not continue to run; they stand at some point and defend themselves and when they decide to fight back, it would be disastrous; then you know that the nation does not belong to them, because those who are prosecuting the war now can also be harmed, wounded and even killed.
Some argue that reprisal by Christians means helping God who says in the Bible that vengeance belongs to the Lord….
The same Bible says whatever a man sows, he must reap. When a man slaps here, he must reap the reward of that slap. They are chasing us, killing our people. What we are saying is that every Christian should devise a means of self-defence; just stay and make sure that nobody kills you.
Many people have argued that Boko Haram is not a religious war; rather a social revolution against a political subjugation. Do you agree?
We believe that it is a religious war because it affects Christians more. I understand that when they struck at the Bayero University, Kano, they were shooting at people. What other evidence do you need to conclude that Christians were the target? By running after Christians and mauling them down, they are simply telling us that the war is between Christians and Muslims.
It’s obvious that you are looking at the ability of God to fight on behalf of Christians; you are not looking at the responsibility of the government to protect every citizen….
I have always said that the essence of government is to protect the weak from the strong.
I say that the government is doing something, but they are not doing enough. The government can do more. Faced with this kind of problem, the government should ensure security by training the police on how to quell a guerilla war. What Boko Haram people are doing is what we call guerilla warfare. So, we need the government to train our police on how to fight guerilla war.
In guerilla warfare there are no fronts, the people are not known, they sneak in and strike or explode some bombs and relocate to another place. The government is organised enough to train our people on how to contain such challenge. The Boko Haram people are Nigerians; there is nothing they have that other Nigerians cannot have. It’s high time this government stood up and put our acts together to contain the Boko Haram menace in the country.
Just before the last year elections, a former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, elder statesman Adamu Ciroma and Alhaji Lawal Kaita boasted that if President Goodluck Jonathan won the presidential election, they would make the nation ungovernable. Will you relate what is happening now to that threat and if yes, what approach would you recommend for government to safeguard the lives of Nigerians?
Well, I will not speak for government. Government should know the best thing to do. In 1985, Buhari said we had no other country except Nigeria. If today, he has decided to destroy the country; that sounds very strange. It shows he is not a good sports man. Only a bad sports man says; either I win or there will be no winner.
In every game, there must be a winner and loser but the good sportsman loses today and waits for another opportunity to participate again. If Nigeria is consumed I don’t think Buhari will be around to claim any mandate. If he made that statement, it’s tragic. It’s unfortunate, but Boko Haram will not destroy this nation. Nigeria has men who can think, plan, fight and defend this country. There are so many Nigerians who love Buhari and, if he ever said that, I don’t think that those people would still trust him and vote for him in future.
Recently, the Christian community proclaimed a day of prayers…..
As long as Boko Haram continues to terrorise the nation, we will continue to pray for God to give us wisdom, knowledge, God’s presence and peace in every part of the country. We are praying across the country. It’s a battle we cannot afford to lose. If Libya was a Christian nation and it’s a Muslim nation, there is need for us to intensify our prayers.
Rev Uma Ukpai
As President Goodluck Jonathan marks his first year in office, what is your assessment of his administration?
He is my friend and I cannot assess him on the pages of newspaper. I can fly to Abuja and tell him how I feel about his administration. We meet and discuss the situation in the country. My job is to show him the limitless opportunities available in the country to transform the nation. We talk regularly, but I cannot divulge the content of our discussion.
Many citizens are not happy with him, believing that he is not doing much to address the nation’s most pressing challenges, security, electricity, corruption….
Nobody can go to sleep when his house is on fire without knowing where to apply water and where not to apply water. He is an educated man with abundant wisdom. He is a human being. He is a great thinker. It’s just that when problems are overwhelming, it will look like he is not doing anything. Nobody can have his eyes closed when Boko Haram is at the door. Even if you are a political leper, you will take a step.
At the same time, Boko Haram is not seeing one of the best things God has done for Nigeria. His emergence is to help us to appreciate our foundation and strength.
A shaking in a marriage is not a sign of weakness, rather it is sign that somebody is asking questions which should be answered. That is the question Boko Haram has been asking and people must be prepared to provide answers to the questions. It’s a terrible time to lose lives yet Boko Haram is helping the nation to review our foundation as a nation. We grow by the problems we solve. By the time we are through with Boko Haram, this nation will not be the same again. But let nobody think that Boko Haram will consume Nigeria, and let nobody think that we don’t have men in this country. We have men who can think; it’s just that Nigerians want to work under pressure.
Life is made in such a way that each problem you solve will make you grow and God defines Himself to us through the problems we solve. Boko Haram is a very necessary instrument of growth, expansion, more understanding. It is a school of its own and we are learning, but a day will come that we shall be on top of this problem and the world will be amazed.
Are we going to be more united or more divided?
We will be more united. They are crying because of the level of poverty they have in the North.
When one section of the country is poor, the rest will feel the pain.
Their method of expressing their anger may not be the best, but they are making a point that they have been left behind. But I insist that their method is not the best, because anybody killed will not come back.
That is if we agree that their motive is poverty; because there is poverty in other parts of the country….
Yes there is poverty in other parts but not on the same scale. I don’t know if you have been to the North and see poverty walk on the streets! We blame both their political leaders and the leadership of the country. You know I have said that the essence of leadership is to protect the weak from the strong. Only the strong can stop the weak from benefiting from the resources of the state. Government must check the few who had prevented the masses from benefiting from the resources that have been allocated to the region.
Much as there are great politicians in the region, they must also remember the need to help the masses to enjoy some of the largesse due to them. It’s their duty as leaders. As long as they have no care for their citizens, they have failed. It shouldn’t be a government for the rich, by the rich and of the rich. They should remember the poor because they are part of the society. Every one of us has a dream to realize. Every average northerner should have a house, a car to himself and must be able to actualize his dream.
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