In the wake of the 2015 general elections, the presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Dr Mike Okonkwo, was one of the few Christian leaders who backed President Muhammadu Buhari during private meetings and consultations. He shared his views on the matter to reporters in an interview granted to The Independent and why didn’t Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s continued stay in the presidential villa.
You were one of the few men of God that supported this administration during the electioneering campaign. Many of your colleagues are still angry you supported a Muslim against a Christian. Why did you do that?
Two or three years before the elections, I got completely disgruntled and dissatisfied with what was going on. I mean, we had a sitting Christian President yet more Christians had been killed. More churches had been destroyed, yet no compensation for anybody. Things were going wrong under the watch of a Christian President. So, I asked myself, ‘Are we really praying well? Are we praying right? Is it that there were things God was telling us that we were not willing to listen to’? So, that changed my perspectives and I started balancing things.
I came to the conclusion that we needed someone that will be able to deliver the dividends of democracy. Leading a nation is not running a church. Church has the Bible as its constitution but in a nation, you have heathens, Christians, Muslims and you have to carry everyone along. You have to protect the interests of everybody. You have homosexuals. So, I must not want a President to impose his religious views on everybody. No, no, no. He has to be able to protect the interests of everyone.
And to be able to do that, the only way is to deliver the dividends of democracy. Nigeria belongs to everyone and everyone is entitled to practise whatever he or she wants without fear of molestation.
So, you mentioned these to fellow church leaders?
I didn’t just mention; I started advocating them but my views were not popular. I stuck to my guns anyway. I kept insisting that in our very eyes, we have seen the failure of a Christian presidency and we should have a rethink. To me, Christianity should be sincere enough to admit when something is not working and not to play to the gallery, becoming sentimental that we must support a Christian. Doing that will mean the nation will continue to be in limbo.
So you have no regrets at all?
I have none at all. I was glad when Buhari came on board. I mean I could have said we should support a fellow Christian but the interest of the nation should supersede all other considerations.