THE National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, believes ‘something is so wrong’ with Christianity in Nigeria, saying followers of the faith must get it right like Islam.
“The only thing that will save the Church is to build an institution; not just CAN but the President of CAN must also become an institution”, he says, Oritsejafor also speaks on his travails as CAN leader.
Oritsejafor spoke at the 28th annual convention of Word of Life Bible Church, known as Jubilee Word Festival, where the church leadership empowered 21 persons from different parts of northern Nigeria, especially the North-East, where Boko Harm is campaigning to establish on Islamic caliphate.
The beneficiaries were drawn from Adamawa, Benue, Borno, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kebbi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau and Taraba states.
Enumerating the effects of poverty, Oritsejafor urged well-meaning Nigerians to reach out to displaced fellow country men and women as a result of the activities of Boko Harm and herdsmen.
According to the CAN President, despite the insecurity in different parts of Nigeria, there is still an opportunity for this nation to be one of the greatest nations of the world if the citizens can come together to iron out their differences and forge ahead in unity.
“We need to reconcile ourselves to ourselves. We need to come back together. We need to know that we have only one country. We need to forgive and value each other. We need to integrate ourselves into this one country where everybody is important. I think it is important, right now that we do that to ourselves and I can tell you that such will bring out of us the nationalistic spirit needed for national development,” he stated.
“Not until we feel we are one in this country…some people live in Nigeria but do not believe in this country. So we need to do something; not by force but through love, sitting down and talking. We need to sit down by inclusiveness, by extending to everyone a chance to live properly in this great country. I believe in one Nigeria and, above all, I believe this country can be great again.”
‘The Church too divided’
Asked about his expectations from the Nigerian Church, he stated: “My first and major expectation from the Nigerian Church is unity, oneness. The Church is too divided, it’s a major problem, but, to me, it is a major expectation that God will do something. It’s not a new problem, it’s a problem that has been there, and, actually, I will tell you my impressions about it. It has troubled me so much. If you look at Church history, you will see exactly what I am saying. Take a look at what happened in Turkey which used to be Constantinople; you have the Ottoman Empire next to it that eventually took it over. When you say Paul of Tarsus; where is Tarsus? In Turkey. The seven churches recorded in the book of Revelation were in Turkey; but, today, the Christian population in Turkey is 0.000. It’s almost nothing, it’s hard for the mind to comprehend.
Many years ago, the greatest church building, probably the greatest and most beautiful building in the world, was the church building in Constantinople and that was the first place the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire went to. What caused it, how did it happen, why did Christianity lose out there? It is this disunity. There was a big problem between the Western Church and the Eastern Church. I don’t even want to tell you what the problems were; it’s so shameful! I don’t want to be quoted because the things don’t make sense.
Then go to a place like Egypt, a fully Christian nation for over 1,000 years. In fact, the city of Alexandria in Egypt was the centre of Biblical studies for many years. Over 1,000 years of Christianity before Islam conquered it, the same problem among Christians opened the door. They crossed from there into Sudan which was also totally Christians, and, from there, to Libya; the same story and now this is Nigeria. And I started asking myself some questions; a few weeks ago, the Lord began to open my eyes to something. If you read the Old Testament, you will discover that God said that someone will betray Jesus, but He never mentioned a name. Judas became that someone. In other words, what God was saying was that anyone who was available, the devil will use him and, when you study the book of Luke, the Bible says, ‘And Satan entered him.’
‘Judas spirit in the Church’
“What I am telling you is that the spirit that entered Judas made him to commit suicide eventually, but the spirit didn’t die. You know spirits don’t die. That spirit is still in the Church and that is the problem of the Church. We betray each other; we compete with each other, we will do anything to destroy each other; we are so individualistic in our thinking. Then there are those who take it a little bit higher, they are denominational in their thinking, sectionalism; it is this same spirit of Judas that has torn the Church apart to the point where a pastor and his secretary will have a misunderstanding and the secretary will call a press conference.
“We are excited washing our dirty linens in the public. You see, if you offend me, I feel the best way is to call a press conference; but in the meantime, every press conference you call is pulling down the Church; not one person, the whole Church. But we don’t see it, we don’t get it. And yet there are three important things in the scripture that the Church seems to neglect. Number 1, you can check the scripture out, Jesus said if your brother offends you, go to him. The Bible doesn’t say call a press conference. If he doesn’t listen, Jesus said take two more people with you and go to him. Again, he didn’t recommend a press conference. He said if he still didn’t listen, bring him to the church and let the church deal with him. That was Jesus’ recommendation.
“If you continue to read, you will find where Apostle Paul asked: “Is there no wise man among you?” Why should you take yourselves to the courts of the world? And, today, for example, I have a case in Kano and another in Kaduna. The one in Kaduna was thrown out by a Muslim judge. It’s not because I did anything. It’s just this CAN President thing and I was taken to court by the Chairman of the state CAN. Can you imagine? And when the Muslim judge saw it, he said he couldn’t handle the case, asking, ‘What is wrong with you people?’ He kept adjourning the case until, finally, we were able to work it out. There is one right now in Abuja by a Christian who took CAN, myself and one or two other persons to court.
‘How to save the Church’
“You just wonder, you see…do you know, today, as I speak, the case is still on. The Muslims got it right, they built an institution and the institution is called ‘Sultan of Sokoto’. Sultan of Sokoto is not a person, it is an institution. The only thing that will save the Church in Nigeria is to build an institution; not just CAN but the President of CAN must become an institution. Now, I don’t say this because of me, because I only have one year left and I am done. But someone will take over from me; he shouldn’t be treated the way I have been treated because, at the end of the day, it is the whole Church that loses. Do you know that, today, if you take a paid (critical) advert to a newspaper with the Sultan’s name on it, they will reject it? But if you take a (critical) advert to a newspaper and my name is on it, they will jump at it. In fact, some people can pay for it and put it on the front page and 90 per cent of Nigerian newspapers are owned by Christians. Something is wrong. Something is so wrong. This is what is going on.
“So my expectation is how we are going to solve this problem and what must happen; first of all is to have people because not everyone will get it at the same time. Some people will begin to see the big picture because, as at now, in my own opinion, 80 per cent of the Church only see a narrow picture of me or my denomination and that is not going to work for the Church. The second thing is to build this institution, the office of the President of CAN must be revered, respected, in fact, mystified if you want; lifted up there, made to be something that you don’t just touch, because when that happens, the Church will have a rallying point. When the Church has a rallying point, when there is an office, an institution that can say to the Church, ‘It is enough,’ and immediately it is actually enough; then we will start going forward.
“I was telling some people few days ago, ‘do you know that a local government Chairman can invite Church leaders across this country and say ‘I want to see you by 2.00 p.m. tomorrow’ and they will go: 1) for the recognition, and 2) for a little money’. I cannot do that. For example, I have the next CAN executive meeting next week or so, but I cannot guarantee that all the leaders will be there. Do you know there are those who will ask me; ‘Will you pay my hotel bill, will you pay my airfare?’ But like I said, if a local government Chairman says ‘come’, they will be there. Something is wrong. So, if we can first begin to see the big picture to raise this institution, respect it, honor it, and allow it to be the voice for the Church, believe me, the Church will be strong again and we will be able to withstand what is coming because something is coming but I don’t know what it is. I can’t explain it, but something is coming. So I have mixed my expectation with my frustration”.
Oritsejafor noted that the theme for the Word of Life Bible Church convention, this year, ‘EPHPHATHA’, ‘Be Opened’, came to him in January, emphasising that the season we are going into now, God will begin to open doors that some people have given up on.
Also speaking on the significance of the Jubilee, described by many of the speakers, as coinciding with the Jewish Jubilee currently taking place in Jerusalem, the matriarch of Word of Life Bible Church, Pastor (Mrs.) Helen Oritsejafor, said the first thing is for Nigerians to realize that God remains God, no matter what we think or believe.
She also harped on the need for Nigerians to unite, arguing that it is the cardinal ingredient for the nation’s development at a time like this; adding: “This is the time to emphasize the things that bring us together and de-emphasize those that seem to separate us. Nigeria will be great and Nigerians will be great if we understand that God has made us as one and we must celebrate each other in unity and honesty in Christ Jesus.”
The lions den
In an interview with Sunday Vanguard, the CAN President spoke on the happiest and saddest moments of his life over the past 28 years of piloting the affairs of Word of Life Bible Church. “I think my saddest moment would be the day we started Word of Life, because it wasn’t something I was excited about. I didn’t want it. My spirit was low; I just wondered why, but it was like throwing me in a lions den. I was really troubled and didn’t sleep all through the night of Saturday into the Sunday that Word of Life started. I was really very troubled and sad, almost feeling very lonely. I almost felt like God forsook me,”Oritsajefor stated.
“There were too many questions I just couldn’t find anwsers to, maybe probably because I needed instant answers. Those who were there that day will tell you I wept openly. To me, that was my lowest point. From that low point, it just kept getting better and higher.
Doubts and predictions
“On the other hand, my happiest point would be when we dedicated this International Gospel Centre because it brought fulfillment and excitement and showed that God is actually faithful. It was a proof that God actually told me to do this. There were those who said I wouldn’t last three years. Others said probably seven years and all kinds of predictions. I don’t think I would like to get into all that but the word ‘fulfillment’ captures the whole picture. The building was a dream. I don’t dream very often but there was this night I slept and dreamt of a round building, huge. I didn’t hear any voice, I just saw a building and a lot of people.
“I woke up the next morning excited but troubled because, in my mind, yes, beautiful big building, but how do you actualize this kind of thing?; it was too crazy to think. Interestingly, about a week or two later, a gentleman, who used to be a member of this church—who is not an architect but an engineer—walked into my office. I cannot recollect what led to it, but I started narrating to him the dream I had of the building, that I saw a big round building and all that; I kept talking. He listened and didn’t say anything. He left me afterwards and, about two or three weeks later, he showed up with a full drawing of this whole thing and it was exactly what I saw.
“I didn’t give him details of what I saw. I just told him of a huge round building because I couldn’t describe all the details myself. I didn’t even know the young man well but he went and returned after three weeks with a full blown plan and had everything ready. And I said: ‘Goodness me, how did you come up with all this and how did you know what I saw?’ And he said that, as I was talking, everything just came to him. It had to be God because, like I said, he is not an architect but he got everything right and we took off from there and the next thing was: ‘Where is the money?”
Inviting the whole world
“I did a launching which was in a sense a flop…. I invited the whole world but the whole world didn’t show up. It was just members of Word of Life that were present, not even all members were present. I think some were frightened and didn’t show up that day. Some people made one or two pledges and, when I got home that day, I said to myself it was either this dream was not it or I got something wrong. But I encouraged myself after praying for a while and said ‘let us start this thing with the little offering that we had in the church’ and we started buying materials. But at a point, I got frightened because I had never seen such a thing before. I came here and saw the holes they were digging for pillars, it was too much, so I ran away and I didn’t come here for a long time.
The point is this; if you ask me how much we spent to complete the building, I don’t even know. I don’t know because there was never a time we had that kind of money kept somewhere. The reason is we never raised that kind of money to build after the launching that was flopped. It was just offerings and donation of building materials by certain individual members. So, you can see that the hand of God is in the whole thing. That’s why I said the dedication was the highest point. Dr. Morris Cerullo did the dedication. Look, when you think of the day Word of Life started, how low I was, then to now think of the dedication of this church and how high I was, it was just too exciting, too exciting, really fulfilling to the glory of God”.