As A Pastor And Christian Leader, We Are Praying For Buhari – Pastor James
PASTOR Bassey James, a renowned criminologist, security expert and clergy, is the National President, Southern Youths Development Forum. A man passionate about Nigeria and the development of the Niger Delta region, James is happy with recent efforts by the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, to change the Niger Delta narrative, especially with the recent peace shuttle that Osinbajo has made to several states of the region. He believes that if the government continues in that direction the people of the region will soon start singing a new song. He also speaks on other issues in this interview with .
President Muhamadu Buhari recently extended his vacation in the United Kingdom to allow him attend to some medical issue, but will you say his absence has been felt much or that the Acting President has filled the vacuum well?
There is no vacuum, but first I want to thank God for the life of the President and the grace of God upon him. As a pastor and a Christian leader, we are praying for him and I know that God’s mercy and protection is upon him. We spend time to pray for him and we wish him more grace and more strength to live, he has to live because he is a gift to Nigeria. The second coming of Buhari has opened the eyes of Nigerians, and people are beginning to even appreciate him the more. So, Nigerians that believe in unity, that believe in togetherness, that believe in a purpose driven administration are praying that God should give him more grace.
We have seen some elements of genuineness in the President; we have seen element of cohesion and building of national unity which is very paramount at this point in time in the history of our great country. So, for us in the Southern Youths Development Forum, we are praying and all our members are praying for the President and for the success of the government. This is because the strength a president carry is the people and the support, the encouragement, the prayers of the people, no matter the political party, it is very important.
We spend too much time talking politics, but now politics is over, now we have a president and Nigerians have seen that this President is serious, African leaders have seen that this President is serious, world leaders have seen that this President is serious, so, for us from this part of the world, we are ready to work with him and to encourage him to do more.
I want to thank God for the Vice President, the President did a wonderful thing by transmitting a letter to the National Assembly for the Vice President to take charge of the government, this is the right thing to do and that has even endeared him to the heart of many Nigerians. The Vice President so far has not disappointed Nigerians, especially some of us from the South South part of the country. The he has transverse all nock and crannies of the South South, meeting with stakeholders and leaders of the South South on the issues of stability in that region. We must commend him, but I also want to appeal that they shouldn’t play politics with the meetings and the fora, so that people should be able to come in and air their views, because we want development in the South South, we want peace, we want stability, we want massive infrastructural development in that region and this is a very good thing that has happened in Nigeria and we would continue to support the government and pray for the success of this administration.
Nigeria is in recession, but this government has said it is working to reverse that as soon as possible, but with their approach to governance and the promises made, do you see Nigeria coming out of recession as quickly as they said Nigeria will come out of it?
From the way things are going I think by the grace of God Nigeria in the next few months will have a very wonderful outing in the economy, you can see that everybody is talking. The presidency is talking, the National Assembly is talking and governors are meeting, everybody that matters in this country is praying for the success of Nigeria, so I believe and pray that we will come out of this recession. Recession is caused by so many factors, it’s not just about the Nigerian economy alone, there are a lot of indices, both local and foreign . the realignment of political forces, natural happenings around the world are also contributory factors to the issue of recession and I believe that the government is tackling that very well, but they need the support of every Nigerian. This is a time for Nigerians to come together regardless of political parties, regardless of religion and ethnicity, to team up with the President, to team up with the government to see the success of the administration and to see that Nigeria comes out of this recession.
However, I want to say again, emphasis should be put on agriculture, we should not talk about agriculture line with the political order, we should play our politics and leave agriculture for those who understand the business of agriculture. I have said this every time, if you put enough energy in the agricultural sector and remove politics from it, we would get out of recession in a matter of months, because all over the world agriculture is a major employer of labour.
Look at the Benin Ore road, the forest has been there for the past years nothing is going on there, so much forest in the South South, in the North, in the East lying there without any measure of utilization. So, we advise the government to come out with a very strong economic policy. I have been recommending this, let us have a process where we have a centralized agricultural mechanism. Government can take over a village, build agricultural farm settlement. Farm settlement is a simple way to come out of recession. Take local government by local government. Even what the government is doing now on the issue of N5000 stipend to the very poor is a very good idea, but there should be no politics, let us look for how we can do it village by village. Let us take for instance 500 villages and then we see how we can impart on those villages, and then move to another 500 villages, even if it is hundred for each geo political zones, you will see how those changes will come. Then government should relax most of their policies, whatever policies that kill the initiative of young business people and encourage people to come out and do business, and I think if this is put in place, it will go a very long way to cement a very strong relationship, not just for Nigerians, but it will give us a headway to see development and work for the development of our great country.
The Acting President was in the Niger Delta recently to hold meetings and discussions with critical stakeholders in the region, as President of Southern Youths Development Forum, are you satisfied with what is going on?
I am satisfied with the arrangement, I am satisfied with the procedure, but I say it again, they should not play politics. The issue of people playing drums, shouting in the meeting shouldn’t be. I have said it over and again, every stakeholder must be invited, it is not something about the governors, it is about the stakeholders, bring in the stakeholders, past ministers, serving ministers, local government chairmen, youth groups. Now, as I am talking to you, the youth groups are not represented. We have been shouting and we have talked about this over and over, the governors are not just the major stakeholders, the ministers are not the only stakeholders, there are other people that should contribute their quota, for instance the Southern Youths Development Forum, I have been at the forefront of fighting for the peace, trying to see how we can entrench peace and bring development to our people. We have gone round to talk to our people, our group should be invited, other Niger Delta groups should be invited and after that there should be a regional meeting, it is good that they are going about it state by state, but it is also good for the President to talk to the youths. Put aside those in government and fall back to other groups, like youth groups, women groups and elders, not political elders and see how you can talk with them, because these are the people, because it is the youth groups that will take the message to their counter parts, then the women will play a major role and the religious leaders also should be engaged in talking to the youths. But, so far so good, I must commend the Vice President for the bold step, if he continue with this I think that he would have been able to resolve some of the issues, I pray God gives him the grace to achieve that, these are man made issues. He said it in Gbaramatu Kingdom that the Niger Delta deserves special funding, I think that was a very commendable statement from the Vice President. I think I have been one of the very strong voices from the Niger Delta that supported the Buhari government in terms of his developmental programmes and projects for the Niger Delta. We encourage other people to do same and pray for the Vice President, but again we must remove politics from all meetings.
What happened in Rivers State for me was not needful, I watched what went on in the last two days and I was so disappointed, we must be able to put our house in order and not bring politics to the lives of our people. Niger Delta does not belong to anybody, we are major stakeholders in Niger Delta, you don’t need to be in government to be a Niger Delta person, it shouldn’t be a government affair, it can even come from the private sector. There is need for them to bring in business men from Niger Delta, youths from Niger Delta, not just about the government people. The government doesn’t own the people, we own the government.
The Southern Youths Development Forum is planning a programme that will bring all stakeholders in the Niger Delta and Nigeria together to speak about peace, how far have you gone with the programme?
We are progressing, we are talking to people across board, to our people in the churches, everywhere, we are reaching out to everybody, we are talking because we have discovered that the only way Niger Delta can grow is peace and in the absence of peace you have anarchy and now that everybody is talking about peace, the whole world is talking about peace, we want to take advantage of what is going on in the world, what the President and the Vice President are doing to also reach out to our people. So, the Southern Youths Development Forum is organising what we call the first national impact youth forum, its first of its kind. The idea for the conference is to reach out to our brothers in the North, in the South, East and West, to tell them that we are still one Nigeria and that united we stand and divided we fall, to tell our brothers that the strength of Nigeria is in the hands of the people and that we can collectively change the destiny of this country and add value and colour to the development of Nigeria. So, we are talking and we believe by the grace of God that the programme will take off in March/April. We will hold the programme in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital for the South South, for the North in Kaduna, for the South West in Lagos and the South East in Enugu. It is going to be one of the best things that will happen to this country, because we have lived very happily with our brothers in the North, in the East and West. The founding fathers of Nigeria saw the beauty of unity, they saw the beauty of togetherness, no wonder they worked together to fight for the independence of this country and at that time there was no issue of North, South, East and West, everybody was speaking the language of unity, Nigeria was the major issue, they put Nigeria on the table and discussed Nigeria and they were able to fight and gain independence and the younger generation of Nigeria must follow the footsteps of Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Herbert Macaulay, Anthony Enahoro and other great leaders who fought for the independence of this great country. We are ready to partner with anybody, with the Federal Government, with state governments to see how we can bring development to our country. The issue is not about North, East, South or West, it is about a few individuals who are always trying to see how they can take advantage of the population or of some issues to cause disaffection, but by the grace of God we are preaching the message of love and we will succeed.
Does that have any relationship with the magazine that you are planning?
Yes, the magazine is part of it, but in a different way, because we have discovered also that from 1960 when Nigeria gained independence, Nigerian parliament has never had a magazine that report the activities to the people and giving the feed back to the parliamentarians. The vacuum has been there and we did a research for years and discovered that the people don’t have any means of reaching out to the members of the parliament. You know the executive arm, the judiciary and the parliamentarians are all important and we want to see how we can blend the three and take the governance to the streets, to the villages, to the communities and also take the deficiencies, the issues to the parliamentarians and pass it to the executives and the judiciary. So, it is going to stand between the people and the leaders, with the people telling the leaders what they want and the leaders telling the people what they have done. I think this is the first of its kind in Nigeria and by research we have also discovered that this is going to be the first of its kind in West Africa, because the vacuum is so much. Most of the parliamentarians don’t go home to brief their constituents, so the magazine will bridge that gap. We should also be able to report the projects each parliamentarian has done vis-viz the monies budgeted for development and what he has to show to the people, that way we will be able to assess the performance of the parliamentarians, the executives and also give them the feedback.
CREDIT: Daily Times