Former military Head of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon yesterday chaired the first Foursquare Golden Jubilee Lecture at the church’s national headquarters, Yaba, Lagos. Its theme was: ‘The Church and the Nigerian Nation: Impact, challenges and the way forward.’
The former head of State reflected on the 30-month civil war, saying that the Biafran leader, the late Col. Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, underrated him because of his well known Christian life.
According to Gowon, Ojukwu believed that Jack (Gowon) would not make war because he was a gentle Christian who hated troubles.
However, the former military leader, who said Nigeria survived the three year-old war because of the persistent prayers of Nigerians for peace and the Armed Forces, said prayers also worked for Nigeria during the recent general elections.
The lecture was delivered by the Vice Chancellor of Macpherson University, Seriki Sotayo, Ogun State, Prof. Adeniyi Agunbiade. The lecture hosted by the General Overseer, Rev. Felix Meduoye, was witnessed by the Olu of Warri, Emiko Atuwatse 11, and former Central Bank Deputy Governor Tunde Lemo.
Gowon, who emphasised the importance of prayers and godly living, said that prayers saved the country during the civil war and the recent elections, adding that it also averted the fulfillment of the prediction about disintegration.
He said: “All my life, from childhood to this present day, the Bible has consistently been my companion. Before the civil war, my beloved brother, Ojukwu, said that Jack will not fight because he is a Christian and he keeps the Bible in his suitcase. But, he was wrong. During the civil war (1967-1970), it was the prayers of the people of God and the bravery of our fighting forces that kept the country together.”
Gowon said that he was also motivated to “keep Nigeria together” by a newspaper article, which interpreted his name, Gowon, to be “Go on with one Nigeria.” He added: “I have led this country at a critical time, which made me to appreciate the value of prayer. I was motivated by an article in a newspaper, which described my name as “Go on with one Nigeria.” That made me to be more determined to do what we had to do to keep Nigeria together.”
Dr. Gowon also said that prayers averted the fulfillment of predictions of break-up by those he described as uncertified futurologistists, who had warned that the general elections may lead to disintegration.
Noting that Nigeria had peaceful elections. Gowon said the loser accepted the outcome and conceded defeat, making Nigeria to leave a sign of relief.
He stressed: “I was in Addis Ababa for a conference. G People were congratulating me and Nigeria. It shows Nigeria has a future. God did the best for our country and not for our individual and selfish interest. We must not cease to pray to God to take charge of our leaders and strengthen our leaders to truly serve the people. God will guide our leaders to distinguish from right from wrong, good from evil and unhesitatingly decide to do what is right and good.”
Gowon weent on: “The state should refrain from meddling in matters of faith; no good will be done playing one religion against another, just as it will be unconscionable to use religious leaders for self-serving purposes that will diminish them among the congregation.
“Leaders should also not take undue advantage of the biblical injunction for followers to respect their leaders because they are chosen of God. As in the days of old, religious leaders, today, stand in the gap between temporal power and the people. To this end, they must never cease to speak truth to power; they must positively advise leaders on the way forward; they must be fair and honest in their dealings with both sides; they must be conciliatory, not condemnatory and they must help the leadership to correctly interpret policies to the people so that the polity is not heated up for no reason than the protection of the self-interest of a few powerful elite members of the society.”
Rev. Meduoye, while stressing the importance of the lecture, said that it is important to review that past and project into the future at this critical point in national history. He said Nigerians are hopeful about the future, adding that the incoming administration of General Muhammadu Buhari should not disappoint the people.
Meduoye added: “Nigeria deserves an atmosphere where no citizen will be oppressed and discriminated against.”
Agunbiade lamented that the church and the nation at crossroads, adding that both are in perilous times. He said the church has not lived up to expectation as the salt and light of the word, pointing out that the church has not guide the nation ethically and morally.
He urged the church to assist the government in the fulfillment of its priorities in education, job creation, governance and spiritual and moral development. He also said that the church should repudiate vices in government and decry the lack of honesty and justice in the society.
“Buhari and Osinbajo alone cannot bring about change. The church must be part of the change. It is not too late for the right foundation to be laid for a sound leadership in the countr,” Agunbiade added.