Leaders of the Assemblies of God Church Nigeria yesterday condemned weekend’s decision by the South-South zone to break away from the church over alleged marginalised and unhealthy rivalry.
While the faction led by the General Superintendent, Rev. (Prof.) Paul Emeka, deplored the development as sad and called on those behind it to rescind their decision, the faction of the church, led by Rev. (Dr.) Chidi Okoroafor, described it as “rebellion” by few members of the church in Akwa Ibom State.
Zonal Chairman of the Central Working Committee, South-South General Council of the church, Evang. Nsikak Akpan, had after their meeting on Saturday announced their decision to break away from the general council administration as a means of entrenching some degree of self-governance on all the zones under the general council administration of the church.
He said that the general council had grown too big, which bred inefficiency and became too expensive to run, adding that the trend led to unhealthy rivalry, resulting in a supremacy battle between the General Superintendent of Assemblies of God, Rev. Emeka, and the executive committee members under Rev. Okoroafor.
He noted that there was no end in sight to the unhealthy rivalry and the inefficiency as the two clerics had been enmeshed in a fierce legal tussle, a development, he said, had painted the church in a bad light.
Rev. Emeka, who reacted to the development, agreed that there was crisis in the church but faulted the decision of the zone to pull out and form a parallel general council.
He said in Enugu that breaking away of the general council was never the panacea for the crisis, stressing that he was convinced that God allowed the crisis these past two years to address issues in the church.
He said: “The decision of the South-South General Council of the Akwa Ibom predominately and others who may join them are not a plus to the Assemblies of God. The reason is that it is not good for a man to steal his own victory. You don’t kill a man when he is sleeping and you call it victory. You shall attack and get what you want when there is peace and we will sit down at round table to talk. So, I am calling upon them to calm down. If they take advantage of the crisis, it will mean behaving like cowards, they will be given the impression that their cause is not genuine. When two persons are fighting, the two cannot be wrong at the same time.
“We will fight and arrest this situation in the Assemblies of God and if they really want to break away, let it be at a peaceful time. Then they will write and tell us why they want to go and then we can grant it if there is genuine reason. But to just say there is confusion and that people are fighting and you want to exempt yourself may mean that you are saying you are more righteous than other persons. You cannot use a wrong thing and solve a problem.”
Besides, Rev. Okoroafor, who spoke through his aide, Rev. Nnamdi Onumaegbu, said contrary to reports, only Assemblies of God Church in Akwa Ibom State, comprising zone one, announced her intention to pull out of the general council.
He faulted the claim of marginalisation by the members, insisting that apart from the General Secretary of the faction being an Akwa Ibom indigene, there were other personal appointees of the Rev. Okoroafor who hails from the state.
“This is not a matter of the entire South-South Zone of the church. It is South-South zone one, comprising part of Akwa Ibom State. We were in Akwa Ibom on Friday where we held talks with the district superintendents as well as leaders of the group who wrote the statement. I don’t think it is a serious matter. What they are doing is to seek recognition.
“We are going to refute what they have published. We will meet with the leaders of the South-South zone one. Akwa Ibom has six districts. All in Akwa Ibom is zone one and in the same zone, not everybody agrees with what is going on.”
Also, Rev. Paul Nathan Udeze has described the development as part of the crisis trailing the church, stressing that nothing was normal in the church at the moment until the crisis was solved.
He said: “Whatever they have decided to do is part of the crisis. The system is saying that we should go back to March 6, 2014 where this crisis started. They have something they are saying and that is let’s come and talk. The church cannot collapse and we are saying nobody will be intimidated. What they are asking for is dialogue. Nobody is the owner of Assemblies of God Church. My father joined Assemblies of God in 1958 and there was no Osueke then and how can somebody wake up overnight to chase us away? It will not happen. We will fight to resist the fellow.”