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INTERVIEW: STEP IN, O GOD!

Archbishop Emeritus Felix Alaba Job

On Wednesday 13 June, Archbishop Emeritus Felix Alaba Job was featured on Impact 92.5 FM on the programme titled "Rise and Shine." The interview was conducted by Olutayo Ogunade and Opeyemi Lawal. In another interview he was  a guest on the programme "The Conversation" on Splash 105.5 FM, Ibadan hosted by Oluwaseun Akinola on Saturday 16 June.  Below are excerpts from the two interviews. Read on.

If you look at our education in Nigeria, it is a sorry case and some people say it is a deliberate effort to keep young Nigerians under perpetual ignorance. Do you share the same sentiments?

I don't accept that statement. Education is at its lowest ebb in Nigeria today, but education is not the only reason why Nigeria is so poor. The formal education system that we have unfortunately has been brought so low that, truly as said, it is to weaken our capacity to rule ourselves. It is also the foolishness of the leaders who thought that if they lowered the standard of education, some people will not rise so that the others can meet up. Even though the standard of education is low, there are many educated Nigerians, many intelligent and bright Nigerians, who are excelling all over the world.

 Is there a way we can work out the system so that the diverse regions will be able to meet at the centre?

The issue is that when people run, not all come first. Again, we say fingers are not equal. What we should have done is to invest more in education, in the areas where the standard is lower than the other. Invest more, but don't press that because even God who gave you the intelligence will not allow you to press down the intelligence of so many other people. That is why we have so many people leaving the universities without work. You know there are, as I said, formal and informal education. The informal education that is got from the home, society and in a specific culture is also good for development. It is good for all. Let us realise that all children cannot become PhD holders. Look at the educational system employed by Obafemi Awolowo's government. I know people who left at Standard Two and became managers. These are the ones we will call dropouts now. I know so many that left in Standard Four. In fact, I had a classmate, he is a Muslim, he left us in Standard Four and by the time we were in Standard Six he had two wives. He is still alive and we are still in communication. Just to demonstrate the reality of life. There is no government that does not follow the reality of life that will succeed.

Your Grace, let us come to the Church now. The Church plays a key role in the development of any Nation. The missionaries brought some of the amenities we enjoy today, the schools, hospitals and all that. Some churches also build some of these amenities which seem so exorbitant for the common man to patronize. Why?

There is a philosophical axiom that comes to mind: "quid quid agis prudenter agas et respice finem" - whatever you do, do it wisely and consider the end. The church started education for a purpose because the person who does not know cannot serve God well, first and foremost. Secondly, the first law of God is love God with all your strength, with all your energy, with all your mind and, like it, love your neighbour as yourself. In order to be able to actualise one's personality, the Catholic Church, let me speak of the Catholic Church because in Nigeria we have so many churches. The Catholic Church, true to her founder, always wants to educate her members for those two purposes I have enunciated. That is why the Catholic Church in this nation pioneered education of citizens. You've said it rightly; the missionaries came and did their best. I was once talking to the executives of the Nigerian Union of Teachers just after the takeover of schools. I asked, "How are you faring now?"

They said, "Oh, we are faring well."

I said, "You got your registers the third month of resumption, are you faring well?" They said, "…but our salaries are being paid as and when due."

Can we say that today?

Shakespeare said, "So may the outward shows be least themselves: The world is still deceived with ornaments." That was the ornamentation of the takeover. We started schools where we felt there was need for education. Education was not made a showpiece. Today, our government makes schools a showpiece. One governor decided to break all the secondary schools in his State and constructed mega schools. When asked how the children would trek seven kilometres to school, he said he would give them food. Is food what they need? That is not what they need. Their parents feed them. Again, the money being spent for feeding in schools is a means of siphoning our common resources.

Back in the days and we think it should still be the norm, the Church provides advisory services to those in leadership in the public service, do you still talk to them and if you do, do they listen?

They do. You did not allow me to finish answering the former question. The Church built schools and provided educational services wherever they were needed, that is why we had Grade III teachers' training, Grade II teachers' training, Grade I teachers' training today. Without teachers, how can you have good education? I was a member of the old Oyo State advisory board on education, when all of a sudden, we were told that we should start NCE (National Certificate in Education) and the school had resumed before they started. The dropouts were the ones who had the opportunity to become teachers. When the foundation is weak, what can the righteous do?

 

As part  of  a series of events which have been planned for the 80th birthday ceremony of the Archbishop Emeritus Felix Alaba Job,  His  Grace  was  a  guest on  Splash  105.5 FM  Ibadan  "The  Conversation"  hosted  by Oluwaseun Akinola on Saturday 16 June.

 Is Nigeria more tolerant now than when you were growing up in terms of religious tolerance?

No,no, no! Nigeria is not as tolerant as the years of my youth. I remember in 1972, speaking in Malta, when we went for Ecumenism, I gave an eye-opening example of Ecumenism. I told the Conference that we Yorubas are the first Ecumenists.

How?

Traditionally, when a child is born to a Yoruba family, what do they do? They bring him to the oracle to find out what religion this child will follow. If the child is to follow Obatala, but the family is following Ogun, the whole family would worship for this child until the child is of age to worship on his or her own. That is tolerance in the highest level. You do not find in Yorubaland people taking up arms against one another because of their religion. In my own family, there are Chief Imams; there are people in other Christian Churches. We do not fight because of that. We fight if one is not doing the right thing, is not a good example in the family. We make the person realise that you are not good, change; this is your fault, change.

We leave the religion to your conscience. Today, people are not being formed or their conscience is not being formed. That is why there is intolerance. If you're going to a school, what do they do? I, I, I! Society makes us intolerant at times. The advertisements, they flash so many goods that are unnecessary. They make our youths to want, rather than need and when they want so many things, some of those things are not good for them. And they go in for these things. I have gone to some conferences abroad, in Europe, and found out that the gifts we receive from some countries are not real gifts. They are Trojan horses! They are Greek gifts. For instance, I was at a conference in Europe and it came out clear that some of the milk sent to the poor, those who left the war fronts, the milk, the cheese, all these foods were poisoned. One gift was that when a breastfeeding woman ate the food, her mammary glands shrunk and the genitals of her children also shrunk.

For what purpose?

Today, what is happening with our food? Aren't we really poisoning our food? Genetically modified food that we are having, is it for our good? No! I say it clearly, no! We did a farm, 250 acres of cassava, we bought N280, 000 worth of cassava stems from IITA and we could not multiply them.

Why?

Because they were genetically modified. I am talking practically. Go and see some of the seeds being given to us, what is the rationale behind it? Oh, they multiply, you get good yield in the first year but, unfortunately, you cannot re-plant what you have gotten. You have to depend again on buying from the people. Our government has not looked into that; nobody is concerned and this is what is happening in so many fields. I was in India and I discovered that the old type of cassava that we had was being promoted by Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). We are not doing the same here; instead, we are buying genetically modified plants.

Would you agree that the Church is an agent of socialisation?

 

What do you mean by socialisation?

Development of society…

 Oh, the  Church is an agent. The Church is built to bring up a whole man, an integral person.

Is the Church still doing that?

The integral person is made up of body and soul. The member of the Church is a member of the society and the Church must cater both for the spirit and the body of the human being. We do that in several ways. We teach morals to our members formally and informally. We assist the human person to grow and develop his or her talents and we do it in several ways. Through the institutions of learning that we have and we care for the body through our health institutions. This is what the Catholic Church has been doing right from the beginning. Jesus said when somebody comes to you and you say, "Go in peace;" you have not done the right thing.

 

Your Grace, someone sent me this message and asked, "Isn't the message from our pulpits nowadays the cause of corruption in Nigeria?"

I will want to ask which pulpit? You are free to choose how to worship God. To worship God is compulsory, but how to worship God is your choice. But the Lord has told you, many people will say I'm here or I'm there, don't listen to them and the Lord Jesus said not all that call me Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven. If that is the case, every one of us should be conscious and choose appropriately how to worship God.

 

We remember that when you celebrated your 70th birthday, you chose to write off the bills of eye surgeries at Eleta, thank you for that.

You remember that?  The Institute is still going very strong.

 

CALLER: Your Grace, I drove an old woman to Eleta to have an eye surgery and I was surprised at the information that your good self wrote off all the bills of all the patients having surgeries at that time in commemoration of your 70th birthday anniversary. When I look at the clerics of your generation, I see selflessness and deep desire to serve the people, but nowadays materialism has eaten deeply into the hearts of clergymen. What advice do you have for our generation?

I must acknowledge that others helped to give the free cataract operation treatment for my 75th Birthday and I am grateful to them, those who came along too. They are going to do some for my 80th birthday also, so those who are really in need can quickly apply. Coming to materialism, it is in the whole world. We have spoken about it, what should we do? First, there is no problem that prayer cannot solve. We should pray with faith against the materialism of our days. It is not only in the Church, it is everywhere. Children in secondary schools, not to talk of the universities, if you see the dresses they wear, boys and girls, you wonder if all their parents are rich people. Individuals attend wedding ceremonies and you wonder if they know what they are going into: "Ile oko, ile iya!" You talk of young people, they want to work, you give them a job and they say it's too strenuous; they do not want work, but they want money. It is all over, not only in the Church. We are praying against it, against bribery and corruption in Nigeria, we composed a prayer. We are praying and we are talking to parents, look to your home. Many are called, but few are chosen. Let us be among the chosen, but if we must be among the chosen, we must work for it. Avoid these excessive desires for material things.

Why is it important to pay tithe and why is it that the Catholic Church does not compel people to pay tithe?

What is the payment of tithe? What is your tithe? When I was in the active service of the Church, I am still in the active service but not in the management of affairs of the Church. It is in the Bible. Whether it is in the Bible or not, the Bible is meant for us to read and accept rationally. If I make it compulsory, it means that any Catholic that does not follow it is committing sin, but I should not multiply sin because many of my people don't know how much they earn in the month. How many of our people are civil servants? We are not up to 10 percent that are civil servants. The way the Bible requests for tithes is not the way we are talking of it here in Nigeria. In Nigeria, there is Church collection every service, is it done in America, and is it done in Europe? So we are doing our own the way we can, that is enough. The Church collection is enough.

 


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