Bishop Kayode Williams, Founder, Christ Vessels of Grace Church Inc and National Coordinator, Integrity Ministers International Ministry Inc. (IMIM) in a recent interview with FUNKE COLE sheds light on the role of faith-based organisations vis-à-vis the raging controversy over the Muslim-Muslim ticket declared by the All Progressives Congress (APC) party amongst other issues. Excerpts:
There has been a raging controversy over the Muslim-Muslim ticket announced by the All Progressives Congress. Expectedly, many commentators, especially Christian religious bodies have argued that the APC did not take into account Nigeria’s religious plurality. What’s your take on this?
Well actually, I think I want to first of all thank Nigerians for being patient with the goings. The tension is good but it’s not necessary altogether. If you look at Bola Ahmed Tinubu, if you look at his antecedents you will know that he’s a man who always studies very hard. Before he makes decisions and even when he starts because we are following him. But God has decided to ask us that His candidate from heaven to earth is Tinubu and that we as Integrity Ministers International Ministry should support him and collaborate with him, so we are all round moving with him to know the steps he’s taking. So when he got to the issue of a Muslim-Muslim ticket, Bola Ahmed Tinubu did not just jump into it. As a strategist, he asked somebody to hold on for him until he was able to consult widely, looking at the implications and consequences that will follow if he chooses the wrong vice president. At the end of the day, he came up to tell the nation that he was ready, that he is settling for a Muslim like himself: Kassim Shettima. Immediately there was uproar as citizens started reacting even gentlemen of the press were probing the funniest and of it, all is the religious body led by the Christian Association of Nigeria a highly respected body of Christendom in Nigeria. And they were also trying to make sure that they do it; that look you have to think well, which is not bad advice. But the greatest insult to Nigerians is that CAN categorically said Christians must not vote for anybody that picked a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Is that from God? Is that not too emotional? Does that not make them look like they have sympathy for other parties? I do not think that is the duty of CAN. Of course, CAN is seen as an umbrella body of Christians, but it is not all Christians that are members of CAN. It is an association and with all due respect to the leaders whom I know and respect. But I do not believe that it must have been from God because the belief is we Christian leaders decided in our meeting that no Christian should vote, they did not tell us that God has spoken to them. Where did they hold the meeting? Did they carry all the 36 states Chairmen of CAN along? Did they make sure that all churches in Nigeria were involved in the decision or they’re just forcing everybody and coercing all? I think the propaganda they are now raising has even gone to the level that when the presidential candidate brought out his nominee as vice president and they said that they saw some people that looked like marabouts, they look like mechanics they are unknown. Does CAN have a register where they register all pastors in Nigeria? It’s an insult and a shame to the Christian body to come out in such an embarrassing manner to tell the nation and castigate people because they rode on okada and therefore labelled them as people that have no churches. Do they know their churches? I have worked around the federation. I have been to almost all the 36 states of the federation. I worked with the Apostolic Church for seven years as a General Evangelist. And every year we had a convention. The Apostolic Church would transport me from one state to the other as the General Evangelist of the Lagos Western Northern Areas (LAWNA). So each state of the federation in the northern and southern parts is part of my constituency so that allowed me to meet some pastors all over the federation. On evangelism I’ve been to the southeast on my own where I met a lot of pastors in southeast even in the south-south I have travelled to organise programmes. I know some of the pastors that derided.
Did you say you identified some of the clergymen that attended the unveiling of the APC vice presidential candidate?
I know about three of them. One of them was among the people in the picture that was circulated all over the Internet. I met about two of them in Abuja, I know one in Maiduguri; he’s a pastor, he has his church, though not a big church there’s nothing bad in it. It’s the practice; I want to ask them whether they have not gone to one state government or chairman of a local government or even the presidency where they have been given brown envelopes. Any pastor unless he decided or was directed by God not to take anything but it is common but known to the public that pastors do go annually when Tinubu became the governor of Lagos State. He instituted and brought to bear in Lagos State that they must entertain all pastors on the first Sunday of every year and he did that for eight years during the meeting of all pastors let anybody quote me. I have been part of it. I was there. They will send letters of invitation to the churches that there is going to be a thanksgiving service and prayer for the New Year so that they can work on a clean slate with God. And when we get there, there will be a lot of merriment and I can quote it with all authority that from day one it’s always Baba Adeboye that’s always delivered the message of the year with prayers. There, you have so many big pastors, including the CAN Chairman of Lagos State as well as all the five blocs of CAN in Lagos. It is an annual festival that takes place every year. Let anybody contradict what I’m saying. By the time we would be going, the organisers would have loaded some takeaways for every pastor. Depending on your category, some are given N20,000, N40,000 while Bishops will take N100,000 and so on. I’m saying this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to clear all these shenanigans.
Based on what you have said so far, is it safe to say that the Integrity Ministers International Ministry also endorsed the Muslim-Muslim ticket?
Fantastic! You see, winning an election is like a football match where you choose a winning team. So if Tinubu feels comfortable with whatever decision he takes, it is his own decision. He’s going to take the blame for the game if it turns out bad. So if he chose a Muslim-Muslim ticket. The question is how does it affect our Christianity, and how did it affect the Muslims? This man was taken because of his capacity; Tinubu didn’t pick him because he is merely a Muslim. He picked him because he’s qualified to deliver with him. We have to consider it. Is he going to get the normal votes with his candidate? Because that is what he must have sat down to consider. It’s not all this beer parlour discussion when everybody including pastors is joining issues with him. The CAN is supposed to be a body that will take care of pastors because some pastors have nothing to live with, they built a church, and they don’t have more than five members. In some churches, the government may decide to say we are going to pull down this church because it is erected along the median and so on. That is the duty of CAN, that’s where their fight should be prominent. When the issue of the Owo bomb blast took place, where people were maimed, and killed in the church, even the type of noise we are hearing now, we didn’t hear it from CAN and this thing took place in the church. Many people were killed. Why didn’t CAN come so heavily and say we will not allow the election to take place because some innocent souls were wasted? But they have the nerve to be shouting because of Muslims. Are Muslims our enemies? We went to school together, we lived together in the same house particularly in the Southwest here, we don’t see Muslim-Muslim, Christians as enemies because it is either your brother, nephew or nephew will get engaged, or get married or do business. So, they should not do anything that will bring acrimony. I am Bishop Kayode Williams, Director-General and National Coordinator of Integrity Ministers International Ministries, we are supporting in the name of the ministry, we are supporting Tinubu, and we are going to work and pray hard because it is a directive from God. I’m also appealing to all citizens to get a spiritual understanding of this issue because we mustn’t dance to the tune of the enemy and the opponent. There’s no reason why a pastor cannot take a side; if you want to be a member of the PDP tell them that you want to fight for the PDP, there’s nothing wrong with that. Every human being is a political animal. We only hide under the canopy of our calling. It is because we should not put things in jeopardy that’s why we say let us play it low. But now it appears that our leaders quote and unquote are taking sides. The handwriting is clear, the noise making is also clear. If people died in hundreds, we did not fight, we didn’t go there, it was the politicians that were fighting, that even went there to donate, no pastor went to donate money. The church suffered, and the people suffered. It is the governor, Akeredolu that knows where the shoe pinches, and he went there with fear, he made a very strong point that if this happens again there will be a problem. But Christians did not talk like that, the CAN. Though some pastors spoke I’m telling you that the time has come, nobody shall deceive his neighbour again. We are ready to tell the nation that Tinubu has been recognised by God and we have come out to defend God’s cause for the nation. That Tinubu tenure will be with prosperity, and success will be a blessing and not a curse saith The Lord. And I am standing on that point. It is God’s instruction in the name of the Father, the Son and that’s why I’m talking today. I’m not abusing any of them. They must have thought from the emotional side of the issue. But, I’m telling them that we can still show love to all the politicians. When we pray for the unity of Nigeria, we are not praying for Tinubu alone. We are praying for everyone. And God has told us. He emphasised that they will see that Tinubu will win by landslide, he will defeat all his opponents and there will be no bloodshed. Upon this, we stand.
What will happen if CAN says Bishop Kayode Williams you cease to be our member from today on? If CAN takes that decision, where will that leave your pastoral calling, where will that leave you?
It had no effect because they didn’t call me. CAN didn’t ordain me. CAN is just an association and any of them that is CAN president today, or tomorrow he will become an ex-president. Anybody that is PFN president today will become an ex tomorrow. So, it’s not a family title. It is an association and it is not binding that Bishop Kayode Williams must be a member of CAN. I’ve worked with CAN. I’ve been in CAN before but have since registered as an independent church owner, not within the autonomy of CAN.
In other words, you’re no longer a member of CAN?
No, I’m not. Even most of the pastors you see around go and ask them, how many of them attend the CAN meeting. Is it Pastor David Oyedepo? Tell me, even though all the other pastors are talking; none of them is attending the meetings. They have their caucus. It’s like the mafia. Let me tell you, the problem we are running into, they know what I’m saying. I felt ashamed that CAN came out to Christians must not vote. If it has been God’s directive like saying, ‘we prayed and God said that he’s going to bring calamity to the country so we should not vote, saith the Lord.’ I will accept that wholeheartedly. But coercing as if they are paying the pastors in Nigeria? Do they know how some pastors struggle before they get their church built? Do they know how many pains, sorrows and agonies some pastors are passing through? So if anybody comes provided they do not dip their hands into anything bad. So, if they gang up today and say Kayode we are removing you, I will just laugh it off. This is because they don’t need to remove me as I’m not a member of CAN. I’m an independent pastor living under the grace of God.
In your opinion, do you think faith-based organisations like CAN, PFN, and others have any role to play in politics?
The role they are supposed to play is the role of a father guiding his children, counselling them, and talking to them without making noise. They forced me to do this, I didn’t want to talk. But I’m not a baby in Christendom. There’s nobody among the Christian leaders that will say that they have never heard of me. They know me, they know my roots: I have been to the CAC, the Apostolic Church and the Pentecostal and the Anglican churches respectively. There are hardly any of these churches that I have not organised crusades for one time or the other. So they seem to be talking to themselves alone because when you talk of people that will vote, it’s not these people that are talking, they may not have the opportunity of voting, and some of them may not even have their PVCs. But the people we call voters are the people they are castigating. Those pastors they are castigating are great mobilisers. Instead, they mocked and made them look like ordinary people. No pastor in Nigeria’s ordinary because they carry the anointing of the Almighty. So, how can you call them unknown, are they, criminals? Did they go there to steal? Just because they wore cassocks, so they should be called vagabonds? So many people said a lot of unprintable things and it is not edifying for me to use the same language with them. But all I’m doing is to appeal to everybody to let us come back to a roundtable and give peace a chance. Let us hear from these people, let them deliver their messages without rancour and quarrel. Let them showcase what they have and let the citizens judge. But as for me and my household and members of Integrity Ministers, we are for Tinubu because thus saith the Lord, Tinubu is my secret.