Politics

2023: Don’t sell your votes, Bishop Okonkwo urges Nigerians

Emmanuel Kehinde, Ilorin

Access Bank
The Presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission, Dr. Mike Okonkwo, has urged the Nigerian electorate to avoid selling their votes during the 2023 general elections and other elections in the country.

He admonished them to vote in 2023 and other elections, credible candidates who will ensure good governance and deliver dividends of democracy to them.

He spoke to journalists at TREM’s International headquarters, Obanikoro, Anthony Oke, Lagos on the sidelines of the closing ceremony of the 40th anniversary of the ministry and its 32nd Kingdom Life World Conference titled, ‘Exceeding Glory.”

He prophesied that 2022 will be a year of acceleration, adding that Nigerians should focus on God to enjoy the ‘Year of acceleration.’

He said: “The election year is coming. I want to advise people that their lives are more than a bag of rice and a bag of salt. Let us not continue to complain that the government did this, the government did that. We have the power to vote in people. I know people will say, ‘well your votes do not count.’

“It is not altogether true, because there is a way you can not rig an election. There is a limit to rigging an election. For instance, if people go out massively to vote for one person who they believe can deliver the dividends of democracy to them, not somebody who gave them money, you will find out that there is no way (that election will be rigged.)

“It is said that the voice of the people is the voice of God. So we must refuse to allow anyone to buy our votes. Your vote is your life. So if you want good governance, then shoot for good people that will lead well. Whether you like it or not, once we enter 2022, the race will be very fierce and it will start and people will come from different corners and will want to buy your vote. Please do not sell your vote. Selling your vote is selling your life. Let us at this time (to vote well), we have cried for too long in this country. Let us bind together and save this nation from going to the precipice.”

He decried the current insecurity, corruption, hardship, and other developmental challenges in Nigeria, adding that Nigeria’s current situation is complex.

The Bishop called on the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari, the 36 Governors, the ministers, members of the National Assembly, state legislators, elected and appointed government functionaries, members of the judiciary and the entire Nigerians to all collaborate and exhibit genuine, and positive efforts to save Nigeria from sliding to the precipice.

The cleric, also urged Nigerians to continue to pray for God’s intervention to stop terrorism, kidnapping, banditry, other forms of insecurity, corruption, and other challenges in Nigeria.

He stated that he is confident that God can bring to end insecurity in Nigeria, adding that God can save the country from its other challenges.

Okonkwo said, “The takeaway for the church is that the church should stay okay, praying as it relates to Nigeria’s situation. Nigeria’s situation is complex. Like as I have said repeatedly to people, Nigeria has become an enigma and there are a lot of contradictions that you can not really explain ordinarily.

“Insecurity has become very alarming and I do not know why it can not be dealt with decisively probably they are overwhelmed. I do not know. So that is why for me, I have resorted and that is what I will tell every believer, we just have to keep praying and trusting God to help us, intervene, and navigate the whole challenge.

“There are people who have made it a business sort of, either to kidnap and cause mayhem in different communities and cause problems. That is not acceptable.

“But I know that there is nothing that God can not help us do. For me, believers must keep praying.

Those in authority, should not think that because they have immunity, they are exempted because if they fail to deal decisively with this thing, violence has a way of turning around and consuming the people who should have dealt with it. My advice to those in authority is that they should take a quality decision, intentionally and strategically, begin to deal with those issues because a nation without security is really (you will not call that a nation).”

The bishop urged the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari, to have a rethink on the government’s plan to disburse N5000 monthly to 40 million Nigerians who are considered poor as a mechanism to cushion lacerating effects of the impending removal of fuel subsidy and the attendant rise in the pump price of premium motor spirit, popularly called petrol.

He stated that while the intention of the government may be genuine, unscrupulous individuals could cash in on that to siphon the money meant for the poor.

He reiterated that such a measure could lead to corruption with the attendant increase in the suffering of those for who the money was intended to alleviate their plights.

Analysts have said it is illogical tand surprising that FG will remove annual fuel subsidy of N1.8 trillion and replace it with N2.4 trillion which is the sum of N5,000 monthly payment to 40 million Nigerians for a year.

Okonkwo said, “I do not know how they came about such a decision because, for me, the issue of subsidy in Nigeria is totally a scam because there are people who have enriched themselves and reaped off the treasury through subsidy. Like I have said before subsidy is supposed to alleviate the suffering and pains of people in the country and make it easy for people to travel and buy fuel at a cheap rate. You will agree with me that nobody has bought fuel at a cheap rate. So if that is the truth, then what is the use of subsidy? And then again, I will not subscribe to the idea of N5000. On what premise is that going to be done? Where is the data? How do you even know those who are going to get the money? For me, until the issue of subsidy is thoroughly investigated and probably find a better way to deal with it, I will not subscribe to the payment of N500.

“My line of thought is that it will be another avenue for some people to siphon money. The government may mean well but at the end of the day, it will not work. It will be another avenue for people to siphon money and if what I read in the newspapers is through, you find out that the amount of money involved, to be able to give to the 40m is much more than the subsidy. So then, what is the use? if the amount involved in the subsidy is while we are removing subsidy, why are we going to spend more because in order to give to 40m people? It does not make sense.”

He warned members of the church who are either in government or would be in government to steer clear of corruption, adding that he will not hesitate to call that any member of the church in government who is found guilty of corruption be jailed.

Okonkwo said, “For me, I am excited. In the sense that what has happened in the past 40 years. At the close of this year’s October fast, the Lord made us know that whatever we have done so far is just the foundation. Now there is another dimension, we are going into. A new breed of leadership is emerging, a new breed of leadership with new ideas, fresh ideas, ideas that are contemporary to the present-day realities. For me, I am excited. I believe that probably, why God has kept me alive is to ensure that a new set of leadership emerges that will now run and take it faster and farther than we have done. For me, that is one of the most exciting things. There are people who have been raised within the commission who are now ready to take it. In fact, some of them were born in this ministry and they have gone through colleges, and other schools and they have different talents and callings. So they can take this work to another level.

“I want to see us more relevant to the nation and to the society. I want to have a lot of people from the TREM world that are involved in governance so that they will be able to apply some of the things they are hearing from the pulpit. We have zero tolerance for injustice and corruption in this ministry. I tell them that if you want to go to public office and you are not ready to serve, you do not have my vote. I will not support you. In fact, I will be the first person to tell them to jail them when you do the wrong thing. So for me, I think that God is enabling us to raise people of integrity who can be making an impact in society. Governance needs a lot of people now that are sincere, servant leaders who want to serve their people. And not what we see today. What we see today is very painful and it is unacceptable.”

The cleric said social vices in Nigeria and the world generally would have been worse if the church had not been preaching against them.

Okonkwo said, “Each time we talk about these spreading vices, let us flip it to the other side; assuming we do not have that number of churches. If, in spite of the number of churches we have today, we still have these social issues and all these problems that have beset our nation, can you imagine if we do not have churches that have been preaching against all these issues and problems?

“We may not have gotten there, the church will still just have to continue to push and also address those things at the grassroots level. Because at times, one of the things we should be doing as churches is that we preach that ought to be applicable to the present-day realities. At times, we tell them about heaven but we are still living here. I think there is the need for some little adjustments on some of the messages that are coming from the pulpits, to get people to know that people make up a nation.

“A nation does not make up itself. It is people. If we are part of the nation, then we must ensure that we play our part in the different corners we find ourselves in so that the nation will be better off.

The Bible did not say we are the light of the church. It said we are the light of the world, in other words, when you find yourself in any part of the society, you are to show the right example.”

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