Rt. Rev A.A. Popoola is the Lord Bishop of Offa Diocese of the Anglican Communion. He lets KEHINDE OYETIMI, in this interview, into some of the progress the church has recorded, just as he argued that accusing Chief Obafemi Awolowo of contributing to Igbo genocide was unnecessary. Excerpts:
YOU must have served in various capacities at different places before becoming the bishop of Offa. What has the experience being like of overseeing the spiritual wellbeing of a large number of people?
It is a great thing to serve the Creator of the universe. As long as you are willing and obedient, He works out His own purposes in amazing ways. God is very interested in His people and goes to great extents to make their lives beautiful.
The Anglican Communion is acclaimed to be one of the leading forces in global development. What is your story about the contribution of the Church of Nigeria in national development?
Two of the classical examples of Anglican Communion’s positive developments are the works of Church Missionary Society in the field of education and infusion of biblical social and moral values to unite this nation and make citizens governable.
Many of our past and present heroes who fought for independence and charted Nigeria’s early history owe their early education to the mission schools of yesteryears. Despite some bad news about some churches and Christians, we make boast in God that the spread and acceptance of Christianity left a trail of development which till date industralised the greatly underdeveloped parts of Nigeria. The Church has also produced some remarkable Nigerian citizens with sound moral values system; citizens with impeccable integrity and polished giftedness.
Any observed fall in Christian positive impact may depend upon the yardstick of the observer. The Bible predicted that the love of many will wax cold because of the abundance of iniquity. Also, there are now thousands of denominations with some engaging in unhealthy competitions instead of the unity that can foster positive impact. We all should daily lift the leadership of all the churches of our Lord Jesus Christ up to God for more grace, peace and wisdom to do more to the glory of God.
Recently, a book was published by Professor Chinua Achebe titled “There was a country”. The contents of this book have continued to generate controversies.
Achebe accused Chief Obafemi Awolowo of being largely responsible for the genocide of Igbos during the Nigeria civil war. What is your view on this?
I have not read the book and would not want to comment on hearsay. For a war that ended over forty years ago with ‘no victor, no vanquished’, we should not allow divisions again to bring back ugly memories. War is never pleasant except for the sadist who enjoys killing. However, I remember Chief Awolowo as a great psychologist who would have thought deeply before doing anything. Professor Achebe is in the same class of thinkers and may have reasons for such belated accusation coming when Awo is not around to respond or sue for libel.
is your take on the recent bombings of the church and the need for peaceful co-existence of religious organisations?
The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy while Jesus came to give life abundant. Those who go about destroying show the character of their leader or their god. What we need is prayer for divine intervention. Our prayer is that the peace that only God can give will reign in our nation. Except the Lord builds a house, they labour in vain that build it and except the Lord watches the city, the watchman watches but in vain.
The Anglican Communion is embarking on a project called “One Church Project”. What are the details?
One Church Project is truly a much anticipated project to strategically position all churches in Nigeria to play strategic roles in national transformation. The project is created by a son of the Anglican Communion (Nigeria), Oshundun Kehinde Chris. My involvement is that of spiritual fatherhood and encourager. He is passionate to lead every diocese of Anglican Communion to play the strategic leadership role of officially referring and presenting the project to Christian Association of Nigeria and Christians nationwide to adopt and transform their immediate communities. The project should be a CAN affair which we will all gladly support.
As to details, One Church Project is created to foster and deepen unity in the body of Christ and use the power of oneness to unbelievably achieve what the body of Christ in her various denominations cannot do on an individual basis. Apart from One Church Project being a tool for kingdom promotion in the light of effective soul winning and church growth, it promises to be a potent instrument for national transformation and development.
Don’t you feel that like other projects, this might go the same way?
The Bible says, “Surely there is an end but the expectation of the righteous shall not be cut off”. I do believe the One Church Project is of God and it will come to fruition. We do hope that well-meaning individuals, corporate organisations and governmental and non-governmental organisations will collaborate in one way or the other to make the project sail through.