The immediate past General Evangelist of the Christ Apostolic Church, Prophet Samuel Abiara, talks about Nigeria among other issues with GBENGA ADENIJI of The Punch Newspaper
When were you born?
I was born on August 8, 1942 and last month, we marked the day in celebration of my 75th birthday.
How did you know you were born on that day?
There was a record indicating when I was born. My parents showed it to me. I am 75 years old this year and I have never marked my birthday. But God said I shouldn’t say I wouldn’t hold a thanksgiving to appreciate Him as I turned 75. That is the reason we are holding a week-long event from November 27 to December 3, 2017 to appreciate the goodness of God in my life. I am also expecting our leaders in government to join us in praising God that day. We are committed to praying for the country and its leaders. They should pay back now by thanking God with me. It is my turn now.
Tell us the story of your childhood.
I am from a humble background with no help from anybody to acquire education. It is God that supported me and saw me through till I came of age and travelled to countries and earned a doctorate in St. John’s University, US. I went to Ibadan, Oyo State, in 1960 and worked with J. Agoro.
I was with him when God called me in 1963. I didn’t want to accept initially as I always saw missionaries ringing bells and preaching the gospel at the time. But God said He would help me because He is the Alpha and the Omega. I was earning N1.50k monthly then. I agreed to work for the God. Next year, I will hold a thanksgiving to mark the 55th anniversary of my calling by God. God has been my shield. He manifests himself always in my life and the ministry till today.
Did you meet your wife before or after you started God’s work?
I met her when I was into the ministry. I was at a farm settlement in Akufo, Oyo State, when her father who was also a clergyman saw me. He was impressed with the way I served God and he asked if I was married. I said no and he told me it was not good enough. He had two girls; one was educated while the other was not. It was the educated one that I preferred because I reasoned that she would be assisting me since she’s literate. I didn’t like the other one who was a seamstress. But God said His choice was not the one I preferred. It is good to listen to God. I listened to God and married her reluctantly. The woman, Christianah Aduke Abiara, who later became my wife, never troubled me for once. She bore me three set of twins. I loved her and she loved me dearly in return before her death last year September 3. I was saddened and shocked by her demise. But we cannot query or blame God. Instead, I give Him all the glory. We held a remembrance for her on September 10.
My wife prayed for me till she died. She called me Baba mi (my father) because I made her happy always. I implore husbands to always make their wives happy. If a man makes his wife happy, she will pray for him always and all will be well with the man. She was my only wife since 1965 that we got married. I have no children outside marriage.
What challenges have you encountered in your ministry?
It is the same challenges our lord Jesus Christ encountered. Challenges like opposition of all forms from demonic powers. The Lord says they will fight against us, but they shall not prevail against us. He says He is the light of the world and that whoever follows Him shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. God makes us to overcome the challenges because He called us. He promised to be with us till the end and He keeps to His promise. There is no life without challenges but with God, they are surmountable.
Unlike some religious leaders, how have you been able to stay scandal-free?
It is God. Despite all the battles, God knows I am in His word and presence. It is not righteousness that earns me that. It is God’s mercy.
How do you relax?
I relax by reading the Bible. I also have interest in news because a man of God must know about happenings around the world.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I listen to gospel songs by Bola Are, Ebenezer Obey, Senwele Jesu and Tope Alabi.
Many believe that the country is now worse than how the current administration met it. Is this your view too?
No, I don’t share in that view. One cannot satisfy the world. Even if God gives rain, some people will say it is too much likewise if He makes the weather sunny. God appointed the people in power. We should know that Rome was not built in a day. Before they got into power, things weren’t too good and they were expected to correct them in a hurry; in a day. I am not a politician. I am neither a member of the Peoples Democratic Party nor of the All Progressives Congress. We support any government in power. I appeal to Nigerians to be patient with them.
As a religious leader, what role would you say you are playing in nation building?
We play a huge role as religious leaders in the development of the country. Prayer sustains Nigeria. It was God’s divine power that helped the President to go for medical trip and return. He is God-fearing and wants the best for this country. But you know that some people can surround someone and not allow him to succeed. That is why we have to continue to pray for him. I call on all religious leaders that we should be in unison in contributing our quota to move the country forward.
Which areas do you advice the current administration to focus on?
They should create employment for youths. There should be massive jobs to engage the youth massively because idle hands are the devil’s workshop. I also want to appeal to the Niger Delta militants to stop destroying oil installations. Government should also enter into dialogue with them.
How are you coping without your wife?
God is the one that holds me. Loneliness is not a good thing. I loved my wife dearly. Marriage is until death do us part and that one would be taken and the other left behind. She was taken away and here I am. I miss her advice as a wife and she always wanted to know where I was at every time. Now, there is nobody to ask me that. I cannot forget her. We are holding a seminar on how couples should live in harmony and care for one another in her remembrance. Food and clothing will be distributed to those in need as she used to do during her days.
What is your best food?
The best food is the one that is available when one is hungry.
Are you planning to remarry?
My children and those close to me have told me that several times. They based their advice on the fact I need someone who will be with me and help with some things. But if God wills, He would give me someone who will be like a mother to me. Whoever comes now, if it is God’s will, and she is obedient, only comes to enjoy.
The Federal Government is worried about hate speech which is increasing among some Nigerians. How do you want to advise Nigerians on this?
The Bible tells us to be careful of our tongue and what we say. Word is an egg, once it slips, it is hard to gather. People should be careful of things they say because those things can be interpreted beyond the level they intended them. Government also needs to be cautious in what they say to the people.
What is your view on the graft war of the current administration which some believe is selective and lacks the expected bite?
There is no way corruption will end in Nigeria before Jesus Christ comes. There is corruption everywhere. It is just that the way each country does theirs is different. But it seems the issue of graft in Nigeria is indescribable. It is disheartening the amount of money people steal in Nigeria. They stole so much and keep them in bizarre places. Why do they do this knowing that one cannot live forever? I have come to realise that looters are only rich compared to wealthy people.
The difference between the two is that those who steal public funds are only rich. They steal for their greed and self alone. But wealthy people work hard for their money. They work so hard to empower people by establishing firms where many work. They are conscious that they have to leave legacies long after their death. For example, Alhaji Aliko Dangote belongs to the group of the wealthy. He empowers many and establishes companies so many can earn a living. My advice to the greedy ones among us is that they should strive to do work that will speak well for them after death.
What is the secret of your good health at 75?
It is the glory of God. People say this often that I look fresh always. Even if one eats good food and the glory of God is not in one’s life, one cannot be healthy.