President of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Rev Dr. Samson Ayokunle on Wednesday January 19 was special guest at the West Africa Theological Seminary where he delivered an incisive lecture titled, “Seminaries, Church and State: In Search of Christ-Centred Leadership”
During the lecture, which took about 45 minutes, the CAN president underscored the importance of purposeful leadership while also giving suggestions on how the seminary can help build credible leaders in the society.
Ayokunle, who is also Co-Chairman, Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) observed that the challenge Nigeria is facing is born out of bad leadership being experienced over the years.
He said the leadership failure is responsible for the insecurities and economic pains the nation is passing through.
The CAN president said, “Some people have referred to Nigeria as a failed state.’ Without sentiment, it may be right to call us a failed state. However, with optimism and determination from all Nigerians to rise above our present situation, I believe that Nigeria wouldn’t be a failed state eventually but rather ‘a state in the making, a state in progress.’
“It is not over until it is over. We shall not give up hoping and working towards positive change in Nigeria as long as the Lord grants us our beings. With determination from all of us to let the change we are expecting in Nigeria begin with us, we shall very soon see a new and better Nigeria which would be a land of prosperity for everyone.”
He said all those who pass through seminaries are expected to be good ambassadors for Christ. “Their sense of righteousness must rob on what they do and those they come across. These seminary graduates may be in the church or outside the church. In whatever assignment or profession they may find themselves, they are expected to manifest Christ’s lifestyle of integrity and godliness. They must be agents of positive change.” he said.
While noting that no nation can rise above the quality of its leaders, he said, “God has tremendously blessed this nation more than any other nation in Africa. We have the highest concentration of black people all over the world in Nigeria. This on one hand makes available to us abundant human resources which if rightly employed through effective leadership can make us one of the most developed nations in the world.”
He observed also that Nigeria is endowed with enormous natural resources and cheap labour which could be harnessed with purposeful leadership.
He lamented that corruption has become endemic in the country especially among politicians and civil servants, “The civil service cannot be exempted from this corruption. They are even almost worse than their brother politicians in terms of corruption. If you have anything to do in any government ministry today, you would understand better what I am saying. Unless you are ready to play ball, you will be frustrated and unable to get what you need from the government office.”
The CAN leader said the president can only vouch for himself he may not be able to vouch for others serving with him.
He stated that “the state of leadership failure in our nation is unimaginable and shocking. It is equally embarrassing and shameful to those of us who know that we have the potential to do far better than what we are doing. Nigerians go abroad and excel! Why can’t they do so in Nigeria?
“Our situation is a great concern to the church and of course the seminaries because some if not many of the people in politics or the civil service are our members. If we had taught them the right thing if we had lived an exemplary life, why should our members fail to be Christ’s ambassadors in the market place? Why can’t they shine as light in the world?”
The CAN president also bemoaned the state of corruption in the church. He said from experience, many church leaders have sold their souls to mammon “The world has entered the church and both members and leaders of the church are no longer living as saints in the world.
“The love of money, in particular, has removed worth from some, if not many of the servants of God. Some can be bought over with any amount. Today, eternity is not in the heart of some leaders of the church who incidentally were products of the seminaries or one Bible School or the other.” he lamented.
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For Nigeria to experience Christ centred leadership, Ayokunle said “the church and the seminaries must appraise what they had been doing and the method they were adopting and be ready to change some things that are not working well so that those who get to leadership from the church and seminaries might be Christ-Centred in all they do.”
He averred that the “product of any company at any time can never be better than the wisdom of the producer. That is, the value of the product is limited by the wisdom of the person that produced it.”
He also suggested that there must be a process of monitoring seminary graduates with a view of making them accountable to the church and seminaries one way or the other.
“The seminary, in particular, must be able to withdraw the certificate of any of their old students who is not doing well in leadership or bring such person back for a refresher course.
“The seminary assessment of the seminarians must not emphasize rote learning or academic brilliance alone but rather put equal emphasis or more emphasis on character.”
Dr. Ayokunle called on Christian leaders to be the change they want to see. “If we leaders live right, it makes it more convenient for us to monitor and discipline those who are not living right. Our leadership by example would additionally make it difficult for our followers to live anyhow. No matter how bad, some of our followers would like to live like us.”
The Provost of the Seminary, Pastor Oluwafemi Martins earlier in his welcome address expressed great thanks to the CAN president for honouring the invitation to the seminary.
Martins said the humility of the CAN president is unparallel recounting his fatherly care and concern for the seminary.
He urged the CAN leader to use his good office to garner support for the seminary while noting that many of the seminarians are pastors from the Baptist Church in Nigeria.
He said also that the seminary is the foremost non-denominational seminary in Nigeria which brings leaders from all denominations in Nigeria.
The chairman of the governing council of the seminary, Dr. Emmanuel Oluwayemi also expressed deep appreciation to the CAN president for finding time to honour the invitation. He said in the more that 20 years that the seminary had relocated to Lagos from the East, that would be the first time a president of CAN would visit the seminary.
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