A team of CHRIST APOSTOLIC MAGAZINE journalists, made up of the Editor, Pastor
Ademisoye Alawode, Gbenga Bankolde and Ayodeji Oni, met the President of CAC Worldwide, Pastor Abraham Olukunle Akinosun, in his office recently for an Exclusive Interview. In this no-holds barred interview, The President, who is the Visitor to Joseph Ayo Babalola University, (JABU) fielded questions on a number of issues ranging from CAC Peace initiative to JABU and private university education in the Nigeria. The interview also tried to get the views of the President on the socio-political situation in the country.The president was forth-coming on all the issues presented before him. We serve you fresh and hot, excerpts from the interview.
People were glad about two years ago when feuding brothers in the CAC crisis made move for reconciliation, what is the state of that reconciliation process now?
Reconciliation is still on-going. I am glad you mentioned that it is a process, it means we are still proceeding on it. It can only reach perfection later. Though everybody would have loved a situation where the process is fastened, we have to realize that this crisis started a long time ago, the process of ending this long-term crisis has to be deep and thorough in order for the resolution to completely heal the wound that had festered for a long time.If we consider this fact, we can say the process may be slow, it surely will lead to a permanent resolution of the crisis.
Sir from your answer, the process of reconciliation is slow. Why is this so and who is responsible for this?
I don’t want you to put words into my mouth. I said the process may be slow because it is ensuring that the resolution would be able to heal wounds that had been there a long time ago. Everybody loves the reconciliation process, but in the course of reconciling our differences, we must not forget to completely remove the root cause of the crisis by uprooting it from the ground. Removing the cause may take some time and that is why the process is relatively slow. To the second aspect of your question, I would say we can’t blame any individual for the slow process of reconciliation.
What can you say about the new development from your supreme Council brethren who have appointed new set of officers?
I have no comment on that. But I am aware that some of their leaders retired as the reconciliation was going on. May be it was because of that retirement exercise. Don’t forget that that retirement exercise was the first one among them.
Were you properly briefed before the retirement exercise and the subsequent appointment of new officers?
No. But we heard that they were going to retire some officers. Our thinking was that after the exercise, those among their leaders who were directly involved in the reconciliation negotiation would formally introduce their new officers to us and brief us on the effect of the new appointments. That was not done. In spite of this we have held a reconciliation meeting with their new officers. But to allow them to settle down and acclimatise themselves in their new roles, we had a long adjournment for the reconciliation meeting to resume.
But we heard that there is another division among your brethren in the Supreme Council, how would this not affect the reconciliation?
As long as it is the will of God for the reconciliation to proceed, the God of Christ Apostolic Church would not allow anything to truncate the process. We are not doing this by our own power or might, we have our back covered by our God. So, God would not allow the process to shipwreck.
When will WOSEM be brought into the negotiation table?
After the death of Baba Obadare, we called on Pastor Paul Obadare and he was very anxious to see that the unification of the church was achieved. I told him that the crisis began when some people sympathised with Baba Obadare to form a parallel Church governing Council. That Supreme and others are hiding under the umbrella of WOSEM. It was Baba Obadare that was disciplined, but the sympathisers went along with him. I told him he should go and bring back WOSEM and the Supreme Council, but he should start with WOSEM. I told him he should let them know that the crisis started with WOSEM and Baba Obadare. I told him he has to take the step for the reconciliation of the church because of the revelation shown to Baba Obadare when he was still alive which he knew about.
He went and when he came back he said he always feel at home with us…
He said the people didn’t listen to him when he discussed the unification of the church with them. Then we told him that he should leave Supreme Council alone and go and work on how he can bring back WOSEM, but it is quite unfortunate that they didn’t listen to him. They were not ready to come back. Everybody is holding on to what they have.
You will notice that his faction was the first to visit us during our Pastors’ Conference in 2017… According to what we heard, those who were opposed to his move wanted to arrest him so that he would not come.
He is now the General Overseer of WOSEM Worldwide.
Let us talk about the Joseph Ayo Babalola University. Are you pleased with the level of development in the school?
In terms of academics, I would say I am very pleased. The University is fulfilling its mandate as the standard of teaching and research going on there is among the very best in the country. There are some courses in which the university has comparative advantage over all other universities in the country, be it private or public. Our Entrepreneurship is second to none. We pioneered it in the country and we are specialists in this area.
Be that as it may, I would say I want to see the university growing in infrastructure. That is the area we are working on now. We also want to introduce some courses which would make the university thoroughly what we envisioned it to be. But we are praying and we are sure that this will materialise very soon.
What special package do you have for indigent students among the children of CAC members?
The school offers some scholarship package generally for all students from CAC homes. Certain percentage of the tuition fee is reduced for them. That is a general offer. But there are also specific incentives for truly indigent students. The Church also attends to needs that are specific in terms of offering scholarship package for CAC children. But each case is examined and appropriate package is offered to such people in need.
Sir, it is generally believed that the tuition fees charged by our private universities are too much. What is your view?
Let me start by saying that the fee charged by Joseph Ayo Babalola University is among the cheapest among the private universities in the country. Now, let me talk in general terms. Private Universities have a lot of overhead costs to meet. Before a course is accredited by the Nigerian Universities Commission, there are certain conditions that a university must meet. There must be in place, certain number of lecturers and even some courses would not be approved except there are Professors in specialised fields among the lecturers. Now, think of how much a Professor earns and the number of students that enrol for that particular course. In most cases, the number of students may be far, far lower than the cost of running that course. There are 43 Federal Universities and 48 State Government owned universities, making it 91 public universities in the country. There are 79 private universities in the country today, the NUC recently said it was processing another 200 applications of new universities. That means students have choices and competition among private universities is very keen. So,private universities have to take into consideration a number of factors before fixing their fees.
We have only considered thecost of retaining teaching staff for some courses. There are a number of non-teaching staff to also consider. All of them will draw their salary from the school fees paid by students. Added to that are the cost of running the institution in terms of diesel, vehicle maintenance and many other ancillary costs. I would say most private universities are very considerate in the amount they charge as school fees.
The only way by which the private universities would be able to reduce their fees is for the government to subsidise university education. That is why I have been advocating that the tertiary education tax fund (TETFUND), which the Federal Government is collecting from private businesses should be paid to private universities as well. You see, the Federal Government is taxing the private sector for tertiary education. Most of these businesses being taxed are private businesses. But when the time comes for the distribution of these taxes, only the public universities and polytechnics are beneficiaries. This is not right. All the universities and polytechnics in the country are training students for the use of government and private businesses. That means the end products of these tertiary institutions (both private and public) are for the use of public (government) and private sectors. Now, what it means is that the Tertiary Education Tax Fund (TETFUND), collected from private firms are being used to fund public universities. If you understand the logic, the private sector is the one funding the so-called public universities. Whereas the end products of both private and public universities are available for both the private and public sectors. It is like robbing Peter to pay Paul. So, the public institutions are able to charge lower fees while the private universities are forced to charge fees to meet some of their costs. If government is able to also share part of this education tax with private universities, they will be in a good position to compete fairly with the public universities and fees charged by private universities would be drastically reduced.
What is your assessment of the President Buhari Administration?
The government believes that it is doing its best in all areas of governance. But whether its best is good enough for the people is another thing entirely. The government is in place to protect lives and property. The government has the onerous duty of seeing to the welfare of its citizens and manage the economy in such a way that it affords the citizen a decent living standard. It is from the above parameters that I will assess the government of President Buhari. Let us give it to him that within a few months of his assumption of office during his first term, the menace of Boko Haram was reduced. The insurgency was greatly degraded. But may be, due to complacency on the part of the government or the armed forces, the momentum was lost and Boko Haram began to fight back, seizing military barracks and killing the troops. On this score, the government can not be rated to have achieved much.
From Boko Haram we now have the issues of banditry and kidnapping menacing parts of the country and there seems to be no end in sight.This is a big challenge, which the government has not been able to tackle frontally. But a top government functionary said recently that most of these banditry and killings we are hearing about were orchestrated by some people to discredit the government. Whether this is true or not, I want to give it to the government officials that they have better information than we do. On that basis, I would want to call on all traditional rulers,especially the Emirs from the Northern part of the country to ensure their subjects stop these killings. I am of the view that if these Emirs want the killings to stop, they will stop.
Those behind these killings should realize they are destroying their own future. If they are opposed to President Buhari, they should know that he has a limited term of eight years to rule. This means, he would not be there for ever. But they should not destroy their future because of one man. The people being killed are the vulnerable people like youths, women and children. They are their hopes for the future. They should stop these killings.
When the Vice President visited us, he was very thorough in all areas to the point that we were sympathetic with them.
I am appealing to the Emirs and Governors in the North that they should cooperate with the Federal Government to solve the problem of insecurity in the country. They can put a stop to the killings in the north if they are truly ready to do it. They should know that their future is being destroyed. We are unhappy that the situation is now spreading to the South West. Many times we have heard that Soldiers were being ambushed. We learnt that notable people are sponsoring Alimajiris to go and study where the soldiers are. They are not destroying the government of Buhari, they are destroying the future of their children and this country. Buhari will go because he has a certain term, but what of all the things being destroyed? Everybody in the country should be ready to put a stop to this menace and that is what would bring an end to it.
What is your take on the state of the nation particularly on the composition of the security apparatus?
Nigeria is now in a stage whereby you can’t predict what will happen particularly in the north where there are volatile happenings of insecurity. There are many people that are there to mess up the government in power by sponsoring bandits. The government may not be able to mention the names of the sponsors. We are very sad of the situation in Nigeria. The government is doing its best in all area of governance. Though some people said Buhari is slow, but this is not a military era. This is a democratic government whereby there are different kinds of departments. If the President is slow, what about all other ministries and parastatals? I think the President is doing his best.
Government officials are propounding this conspiracy theory that it is the opposition party that is responsible for the killings in order to discredit the administration of President Buhari. Do you agree with the government on that?
I agree with them to an extent. When Boko Haram started we heard that a particular Governor was giving them N10,000,000 on monthly basis. It is quite unfortunate.
Don’t you think President Buhari should have reorganised his security architecture?
I have advocated this many times that in order for people to know he’s trying his best, he needs to rearrange the security architecture. In a situation where only the northerners are put in the security apparatus of the country, it tells volumes. He should have rearranged his security apparatus in his second term to reflect the image of the country. I’m optimistic that things may change because Mr. Rauf Aregbesola is now the Minister of Interior. Many times he had said he was going to use constitution and not Quran for governance.
Sir, what is your assessment of the economy under the present government?
The government has not performed well enough on the economy. President Buhari should change the narrative of the inglorious name of Nigeria being the world’s capital of extreme poverty. That name is degrading. Employment should be created deliberately to absorb excess labours roaming about our streets aimlessly.
There are a lot of things the government can do to create employment in order to remove idle hands that constitute security threat to the nation. Without creating jobs for the youths and the graduates in the country, government may be brewing dissidents for itself in the nearest future.