Politics in church is even more than politics in aso rock - Bishop Oscar Ossai - Paul Ukpabio's Blog

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Saturday, 6 February 2021

Politics in church is even more than politics in aso rock - Bishop Oscar Ossai


ENUGU born charismatic preacher, Bishop Oscar Ossai, of City of Refuge Missions International was one of those early Ministers of God who chose to venture into politics when in 1999 Chief Olusegun Obasanjo emerged on the political scene.


But he claimed that the ‘abracadabra’ that was played in terms of the ‘election and selection’ then made him to run away from politics as he considered it, a dirty game!


Ossai, who had his tutelage with the Late Archbishop Benson Idahosa of Church of God Missions, returned to gospel ministry only to see that politics is even more overwhelming inside the church than in the secular world. He reeled out his life experience in this interview with Paul Ukpabio

 

One recalls that in 1999, you chose to go into politics, and you said you wanted to make a difference but sooner you opted out and never said anything about that experience

(Laughs) That was a real lousy experience that which I sometimes look back and wished I knew better. Well, I was part of the Founding members of PDP in Enugu back then. In my political naivety, I contested for a seat in the National Assembly that is the House of Representatives. Little did I know that election in Nigeria goes beyond being a known figure or being qualified for the political seat! You have to be selected by the people who are already there before you can face the people to contest. I felt there wasn’t internal democracy process in the parties.


I believe that I won in 1999 but somehow perhaps the results were changed from Abuja I left them briefly because I got angry and got disenchanted. I left because I had told pastors all over the world, as a member of a Pastors Network which originated in America, with over 30,000 pastors on its list worldwide that I would emerge winner. And i would invite them to come to Nigeria to democratize the country with us.


I had made lots of noise. I had told them that I won the primaries in the party, only to be told that I lost! It was difficult to face them so I left politics!


So you made a retreat?


I had to. I didn’t understand the abracadabra that was played against me then. I couldn’t flow with the process because I saw that there was a lot of things that was wrong.


So you went back to embrace the church?


Oh yes, I did just that. Church was home to me. I got born again early so I was part of the student Christian movement; I was in leadership position there at University of Nigeria then. And today having put in almost 45 years in the church, there is no church I have not been part of except The Redeemed Christian Church of Christ. I started with Bishop Benson Idahosa in Church of God mission, I was in UCC at a stage, I was in Scripture Union, I was in Household of God with Kris Okotie who repented right there in my hostel room in the university.


At a stage we were supporting Kris when he started Household of God. I was part of Revival Assembly with Anselm Madubuku, I was part of GloryLand, Word Mission Outreach with my friend Rev Johnson who was with me from the University, Christ Chapel where I had been a prophet in the church, I have been a prayer warrior the head of prayer ministry, I have been a choir member, I have been part of the pastoral team.


So you ended up putting your head in the church, but what took you back to politics lately?


It was while in the church, i realized that when people talk about politics, i saw the ignorance in it all. Church people talk down on politics and I see a lot of ignorance in that because the church itself is totally immersed in politics. There is no gathering of two people that there is no politics even in families. And even in the church, the politics there is more than politics in aso rock. I think what they are talking about and they are against in the church unknowingly, is party politics, that is what the church seems to be against. They don't know much about that, because they have not been there, some pastors don’t know anything about politics now my argument has continued to be that politics is about how do we share scarce resources because resources are forever scarce, how do we make sure the greater majority of the people get as much as possible from the resources that are scarce, that is what politics is about.


The church doesn’t understand politics, so what will you as a bishop do now in politics?


I am seeing politics in a different light. The church should be a bridge between the people and society. The church should have a message for the world and that message is what I am asking God for.


The Nigerian church is yet to attain the fullness of the measure of christ in the area of government and the Nigerian government doesn't see the church as a partner in progress which is what it should be because, the church is a platform for reaching the society by government and that is what government doesn't understand. The reality of the situation is that the communication theory that talks about two step flow is what the government of Nigeria don't know how to apply for their messages to reach the grassroots and the church is a veritable tool that can be used to connect society to government. So governance has to be relevant in the church and the church relevant in the issues of state. It baffles me when Christians wonder why I talk about politics when I am inside the church.


You are definitely an Ibo man in Lagos


Yes, I have lived here for 35 years schooled here, went to University of Nigeria, Nsukka for my first degree then University of Lagos for Post Graduate diploma and Masters degree.


Lagos of those days and Lagos now what difference do you see?


A lot of difference, when I arrived Lagos, Lagos was a bit friendlier am not talking about individuals now, Lagos then was a place you could come in and immediately fit in. Lagos was a place where any little idea you come up with sells! Lagos was a place where you could just run into a destiny helper unlike now that even the destiny helpers are struggling themselves. Things are tight everywhere now, looks like it is jammed! The city was more accommodating we didn't see much difference then and as an igbo man wherever God takes us to, we put all our eggs in that basket. We develop the place. That is how God made us.


You talked about Jerry curl Pastor Kris Okotie?


Yes, that’s one of my seniors in Christianity.


He was a musician, you said he got born again in your room, did you believe him?


Initially no, i didn’t because like we all knew him then, he was deep into music. He sand, ‘I need someone...’ He used to come to my room. It was however, when he got born again, that my friendship with him got better.


Then did you believe that his born again will last?


As a matter of fact some of us that we were in the fellowship joined Kris Okotie then because, we were afraid that he would backslide. So we felt we should hang around him for this thing that God has done to him to survive. And that was why some of us came to his church.


Did he have to struggle with Christianity back then?


Kris was a special person in fact we were shocked he nearly didn't even graduate he just started reading bible in the bush everywhere, the quantum of time that guy used in improving himself was awesome spiritually. He made a lot of sacrifice. I have never seen a thing like that. His, was phenomenal. One can recall that he got born again with Jide Obi, but where is he now. But Kris Okotie continued and before we knew it, went ahead and started a church. Some of us in the fellowship then suddenly considered him too serious, his boldness shocked everybody, and that is the truth of what happened. I was there, I saw him first giving his life to Christ and i have seen him as a pastor, how he has held on and he loves God with all his heart!

How was growing up for you and what was it like?

I was born in Enugu city and the war drove us out of Enugu and we ran round and ended back in my village. I  am the fourth child in the family of 11, 4 boys and the second son and 7 girls from one mother and same father. My father was not a rich man, he was poor and retired from public works department as a painter, an artisan, but he was first person in our village who left to experience township. So he was a respected man in the sense that a lot of people that came out of the village had him as a base to start life in the city.

My father believed in education and today,  my family is a family that is recognized with education in my village. We had the first graduate in the family who was my mother's younger brother who became the cynosure so to say for everyone in the village.


I remembered when we were small my father used to hang his bicycle on the wall there is a way he did the wall that he hangs it so that there will be a way for us to sleep on the floor, I didn't grow up in wealth but I had a family where there was love where no matter how hard it was outside, you could run because mama will have hot food for you.


Is Nigeria ready for a Christian president at this time?


I guess that I should know the answer to that question. Yes, Nigeria is ready for a Christian president at this time. Ask CAN, ask PFM. Let me even tell you about the thinking inside church today. The Nigerian church represented by the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, are really saying that the only hope for Nigeria is for a proper born again Christian to emerge as President of Nigeria.


That is the thinking of the church today in Nigeria. But whether they will get up as a church to pursue it, that is pursue the ambition, is a different issue entirely. I am an elder in the church. I am a Senior Bishop. I am no longer a small child in the church, so i should know. The thinking is that we need a David ordained by God to turn around things in this country because no matter how successful you are from Nigeria you are at best a personal success.


But collectively, we are all failures. I preach the gospel all over nations in the world they ask Bishop Oscar you speak very well, you love God, but how come your country is the way it's is with men like you? So once they ask me that question, I feel weak physically. Indirectly, they tell me that i should go and practice what I preach in my country. And that is what Donald Trump too told us. ‘Go and practice your faith in your country first.’


Your last word for Christians in Nigeria


I believe that as Christians, we can change this country I believe that Nigeria can be better than what we see it. I was sitting with a former Chief of Air Staff in his house and they took light. I said to him, ‘Oga, do you see what am saying, he said what are you saying Bishop, I told him, you retired as a former Chief of Air Staff, look at how you are sweating in your own sitting room your colleague in Washington DC the guy that you did some courses with will he be experiencing such a light outage? So that is it, we have to correct these things.


The first day I landed in America about 25-30 years ago, I thought the weather would be coloured pictures like in the book. I flew from Lagos-Brazil-Florida. So as i was alighting from the plane, i was shocked when I realized that it was like our weather in Nigeria. The sky was the same. But only that, the roads were well planned, health care system functioned, bright lights, water working in fact when i saw the light, I jumped up to quickly iron clothes before they take the light! I had to un-learn something. I know it's possible here I believe we can do all that too here as Christians. I am encouraging Christians to come out lets join hands and build this nation, it's a national cry, let's stop pretending that politics is dirty go and clean it up if it's dirty.

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