The founder of Liberation City, Pastor Chris Okafor, has been warned against making reckless statement that could tear Nigeria into pieces.
The New Initiative for Credible Leadership (NICreL), which gave the warning, said Okafor’s recent outburst on the crisis in Kaduna State and Governor Nasir El-Rufai is unexpected of a preacher of the gospel.
Pastor Okafor had during a Sunday programme warned the Kaduna State Governor to avoid persecuting Christians and preachers in the state or risks the wrath of God.
The preacher gave El-Rufai, whom he likened to Biblical Herob seven days to reverse bill at the state House of Assembly to license religious bodies or would be visited by God.
Reacting to his comment, NICreL in a ststement through its Executive Director, Samson Onwu, said Okafor’s comment could undermine peace and security across the country.
Full text of the statement below:
The founder of Liberation City, Pastor Chris Okafor, recently sought to incite sectarian strife by interpreting “A Bill for a Law to Substitute the Kaduna State Religious Preaching Law, 1984,” in ways that suggest it was targeted at Christians in the state.
Pastor Okafor went further to warn the state governor, Nasir el-Rufai to abandon the bill within seven days or face the wrath of God and possibly die within the first two years of his next term in office. He went further to link Governor el-Rufai’s choice of a running mate in the just concluded election with the bill while citing this as basis to assert that Christians are being persecuted in Kaduna state.
The New Initiative for Credible Leadership, after reviewing a video clip in which Pastor Okafor made these and other inciting comments over the bill found it necessary to condemn the preacher’s action and utterances in the strongest terms possible. The kind of behaviour he exhibited has no place in a country governed by law and he must therefore be censured to prevent him from exploiting the cover of being a clergyman to promote ethno-sectarian hate at a time Nigeria needs healing from all the divisiveness that had held it back.
Interestingly, while Pastor Okafor presented the bill as something that was initiated just a few days ago, the bill has been with the Kaduna State House of Assembly for over three years. Furthermore, contrary to his claim that the bill’s main objective is to persecute Christians, the proposed legislation was informed by an urgent need to address the waves of sectarian strife that had repeatedly rocked the state leading to loss of lives. It was a response to unscrupulous and unschooled clergy men across religious divides, like Pastor Okafor, who abuse their position of influence to incite their followers against persons of other creeds.
It is therefore irresponsible of Pastor Okafor to use a proposed legislation meant to discourage hate preaching as a basis to incite further hatred along sectarian lines. Such behaviour calls to question what Okafor believes in as there is no record of Jesus Christ endorsing attacks against those in authority or violent response to even those that attacked him.
The pastor’s admixture of politics into his sermon equally signposts an emerging dangerous trend that could undermine peace and security across the country as clergymen encourage the faithful to migrate their sectarian biases, hatred and disaffection into everyday life. The 2019 elections saw the Christian faith being exploited and abused to promote politics of hate, a development that demystified many clergymen that were once held in high esteem but have now become false prophets before their followers. There is no doubt that this is the fate that would befall Pastor Okafor when the seven days ultimatum he handed to Governor el-Rufai to rescind the bill or die within two years fails to materialize.
While it is well known that many of the hire-for-pay clergy men are under pressure from those they sold fake prophecies to and therefore smarting from their failed predictions in the 2019 elections, there is no way to justify Pastor Okafor’s resort to incitement as a coping mechanism. The pastor has by his acts and utterances certified himself as a candidate for the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the event that any sectarian violence breaks out because of his preaching.
Pending when Pastor Okafor will keep a date with the ICC, we urge the Department of State Services (DSS) to do the needful by immediately investigating his motives and getting him to undertake not to give effect to his threats as this would lead to avoidable loss of life.
We urge the Kaduna State House of Assembly and the Kaduna State Government to note that the incitement by Pastor Okafor is a wake-up call that they cannot continue to delay passing the bill and signing it into law if fanatical and extremist clergymen must be checked. In the interim, the state government should explore exiting legislation, including the anti-terrorism laws, to discourage merchants of hate whose main intention is to cause crises that are of the magnitude as terrorism.