Imo State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr. Eches Divine Eches, in this interview speaks about the security challenge in Imo State and what the church is doing to sustain peace in the state, even as he proffers solutions to the insecurity besetting the country.
What’s your opinion about the insecurity confronting the country today?
Never in the history of this country have we been faced with massive security challenge from right, left and centre. This to me is as a result of the neglect towards youth empowerment and the inability of our people to do what is right in the area of restructuring. If you get to the north, you will get the long years of neglect. They consciously build up a system of Almajiri that allows a child to leave his parents from about five years, fending for himself. There is no love shown to that child. These are the kind of people you see engaging in banditry and Boko Haram sect. There is also insecurity caused by political leaders who armed these boys during electioneering period and at the end of the day, to disarm them became a problem. We have so many things causing insecurity. The misplacement of right priorities, majoring in the major and minoring in the minor. We need to start thinking as a people, to know how to start getting it right in budgetary; education sector and our system will begin to work right. How much do we budget for education? We are not ready yet to bring massive education to our people. A developed country has interest in its budget. We must get back to the basics on how we govern this country well in the early 60s. Each of the geopolitical zone should develop what they have and give to the centre. There should be decentralisation of power and those things in the exclusive list must be looked into. Putting this together, we will have a good country. When a governor who is the chief security officer can give instructions to the Army Commander, Commissioner of Police. You remember what happened in Imo. For three hours, you cannot reach the Brigade Commander, you cannot reach the Commissioner of Police, you cannot reach the DSS, because they will only listen to instruction from above.
So, this must be taken care of so that the governors as chief security officers would be in charge of security and tackle insecurity at their level. but when this is not done, these boys are very clever, they realise that the governors cannot do anything and the power is centralised at the centre, Above all these, youth empowerment is very important. We must begin to think of a way to engage our youths massively in technology, education and agriculture. Israel is doing the same thing and their youths are very much engaged. If we don’t do these things, then we’re sitting on a keg of gunpowder. If we can get these right, restructuring, massive empowerment of our youths, creating conducive environment for them, provision of power, light everywhere, then our youths would be meaningfully engaged and insecurity will come down.
Do you think the Federal Government is winning the war against insecurity in the country?
It’s yes or no; we’re not where we should be and we’re not where we used to be. This issue of insecurity has been there for the last 20 years of our democracy. Obasanjo, Yar’adua met the insecurity, it’s either insecurity from the Niger Delta. Buhari also met the insecurity. It’s not about any president. With the current structure we have, no President can win the war against insecurity in Nigeria. That was why I said it is neither here nor there. They are doing what they should be doing but what they are doing is not enough. If our constitution is not dealt with, we might not win the war on insecurity.
Some people believe that what is happening is because God may be angry with Nigeria. Do you think so?
God is not just angry with Nigeria, God will not be happy with any nation where bloodletting is the order of the day. God will not be happy with that nation, no matter the name of that nation. It’s about us not doing what we should do to prevent bloodbath, ethnic cleansing, especially in North Central, Kaduna, Benue, you see what is going on there. You cannot be a nation known for killings and God will be
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Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka has been controversial in so many ways. What’s your opinion about the priest?
I don’t want to be dragged into Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka’s issue. When one is picking offence that he’s calling a governor and the governor is not picking his call and that is why a priest would be offended. It leaves me with so many questions, because as a priest you cannot be preaching on an altar and the governor would be calling you and you didn’t pick and the governor becomes angry. I’m thinking he is taking his activity as priest and church leader too far to the political arena; that should be discouraged.
I believe the Catholic leadership are handling that; he should realise that we have separation of duties. As a church leader, our duty is to advise, pray for our leaders and not in a way and manner as to wanting to confront them to acquire political power. So, these are areas where he needs to be cautious, so that he will not drag the name of the church in the mud.
I think he should listen to the warnings of the Catholic leadership. He’s cold today, hot tomorrow and he always goes to where he would be favoured and listened to. And when the people are rising up, he wants to stand with the people. When the government is rising up, he wants to stand with the government. This is not how it should go as church leaders. We must strike a balance and distinction between politics and religion. It’s not everything we should get involved in.
How did you feel during the period of insecurity in Imo?
Imo became the epic centre, not by choice but circumstances beyond our control and of course no one wants to be happy that his or her state is not safe at that moment and particular time. But the government of the day, I’m happy, came out strong to handle the situation and tackle it. Today, Imo is safe again. Reminding me of this is what I don’t want to talk about again and God willing, the church also came out together to work with the government. Like I have said, if you’re a politician and you want to create problem in your state to make it ungovernable and after killing the people you want to come and govern tomorrow, who would you now govern? That was why we expected everyone, no matter the political party you belong to, no matter the grievances to come together and make sure insecurity will no longer be the order of the day in Imo. It’s just like a man who goes to a king’s palace to steal a king’s crown, where is he going to wear it?
We know the church is reconciling aggrieved politicians in the state. What’s the situation now?
It’s beyond that. We’re not trying to reconcile aggrieved politicians; we’re trying to get to the root of that insecurity. We want to know why those things happened the way they happened. We want to know why it was handled the way it was handled. It’s beyond the reconciliation you’re talking about. We want to see how we’re going to live in peace and harmony devoid of rancour.
What would you be leaving behind as CAN Chairman?
By the special grace of God I’m here to serve the people of God and the state, I’ve been in CAN for over two decades, I’ve served in several positions. My position is coming to bear as the state Chairman of CAN, firstly to enthrone the will of God in Imo State. If there is anything I want to do, let His will be done in Imo State, I want the churches to be united under my leadership, in the last two years, because of few things that happened in CAN, the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria pulled out that they can no longer associate with such leadership; that things weren’t done well. But under my leadership, the Catholic Secretariat is back in CAN in full force to work with us. Also, to make sure the church serves its purpose in the land, to also ensure that the right things are done in government and as a people, to rekindle the spirit of evangelism and above all to serve the needy, touching the lives of the depressed. My leadership will provide hope for the hopeless.
I’m interested in massive youth empowerment; we would provide that opportunity for our youths to thrive.
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