Nigerian Youths Must Shun Violence, Embrace Peace – Apostle Andy
In this interview with TUNDE OGUNTOLA the national president Youth Wing of Christian Association of Nigeria stressed the need for youths in the country to embrace peace and shun every form of violence and social vices ahead of the 2019 general elections. Excerpts
Tell us about YOWICAN?
The Youth Wing of Christian Association of Nigeria (YOWICAN) would be termed the Joshua wing of the children of Israel. If you recall, the Biblical Moses was the one that led but he consults Joshua who served like the pillar and other things to take the gospel to the next level. Joshua took over leadership from Moses and all of them are Jews.
YOWICAN is set to organise a national summit on unity, what is the relevance of this national summit?
National Unity Summit is here to tell us the reactions and the conduct of youths in Nigeria towards the 2019 elections. The world today is in a rapid intense process of change. This is a time of great uncertainty yet great potential. It is a time when leadership is urgently needed on the way we as citizens do things which greatly reflect the values that we want our future society to express. With young people making up over 180 million of Nigeria’s population, the youths and their interconnectedness to social issues can guide a process to truncate electoral violence, rigging and other social vice. Youths should be used as tools for voter education rather than tools for thuggery, violence and other electoral malpractices. Government alone cannot solve the problems confronting us. It demands the commitment, resources of the society and the youths. We are partnering with the African Youth Movement a non-governmental organisation in special consultative status with the United Nations to achieve this and a hitch free elections in 2019. Why we called it a unity summit it is a youth based and again is because it is going to involve all the youth groups; the Muslims, the Christians, other youth groups that have the same interest of peace for the 2019 elections. Just recently, if you check YOWICAN was also one of the lineup of speakers of the recent Interfaith Conference in Abuja, in that conference. I spoke on Friday and that is going to push for another interfaith youths, that was the parent summit, now the youths will have interfaith summit, where we the Muslim youths, Christian youths come together and know that without peace the house can never stay. Peace remains what we need ahead of 2019 general elections.
What would be the role of youths in the 2019 election?
First, we are the ones to vote. 70 per cent of the votes are coming from the youths. Secondly, those that will benefit the most are also the youths. If we do not take the right step and vote right, we will suffer the most, we also know that the future of this country lies in our hands, so we must look at peace as the center of 2019 general elections.
The young Christian girl, Leah Sharibu remains in Boko Haram captivity; do you feel government is doing enough to secure her release?
We are working alongside our mother body, every time that our mother speaks, that is also us speaking. Because we cannot contradict what our mother body is doing, our stand is that the federal government should do more for her release. We are still praying and we believe delay is not denial. The release is just delayed not denied. We are doing all we can prayerfully, technically to send words back to the federal government to do much more because it is all about the government working hard to ensure her release from Boko Haram captivity. Nigerians have been facing hardships that we would never imagine a couple of decades ago that it could happen in Nigeria. Today in the whole of Africa, it appears there is no other country where the shedding of blood of innocent citizens is occurring almost daily than in our country. The captives should not be in captivity, it is the responsibility of the government to rescue them either through proven intelligence gathering or other diplomatic measure to set the captive free. I am pleading on behalf of Nigerians in captivities of Boko Haram, that the Federal Government must expedite actions to rescue them. We cannot afford to waste the lives of others and end their dreams as it is currently happening in the country. The government owes the citizens more responsibility to ensure that Nigerians are freed from those who have held them captive overtime.
Most people are of the view that CAN is not working or doing enough to speak for Christians, what are you doing in your capacity to change this narratives?
CAN is doing all it can. CAN does not believe in violence and people are trying to move CAN from a peaceful body to a violent body, if you check carefully, there is no week we do not make a press statement to ensure that the federal government is doing the right thing. But sadly, most of these politicians spreading this falsehood are members of different churches. As CAN, we use our platforms to address national issues and we do not get involved in partisan politics. What people are actually expecting is that we should become an activist group or pressure group where we mount extra pressure outside the decent work we are doing. No, we cannot do that. CAN is doing all it can and in my capacity we are still addressing things the right way and based on the right principles.
Amidst crisis in some states in Nigeria, what is your advice to Christians?
When you push someone too much to the wall like a rubber, there is tendency for them to revolt or not to be able to handle such person again. We are working to ensure that peace reigns in Kaduna state for instance, if not that we’re working it would have escalated, because immediately the issue started, we at the national had to call our people as in most of our offices in Kaduna we had to call them to talk to the state officers, to talk to different bodies and the Christian youths involved. If we had not done this the crisis would have escalated. Sometimes there are things you do to people they bear it to a certain level and they can boil. What is happening is slight out pouring and that is why as youths we are doing much of mentoring. We are advising youths not to be violent or get involved in killing, we are achieving this via face to face advocacy and media.