The new Bishop of Kaduna Diocese, Anglican Communion, Bishop Timothy Yahaya believes the church and society need sincerity in its approach to issues. Bishop Yahaya, who unfolded the Diocese’s plans for its members and society in an interview with AMOS TAUNA, also expressed his opinion on Kaduna State free feeding programme and Buhari’s anti-corruption war, among other national issues
As the current Bishop of Kaduna Diocese, Anglican Communion, how do you see your new assignment?
As the new Bishop of Kaduna Diocese, Anglican Communion, I thanked God Almighty for giving us the opportunity to work in Kaduna, having served in Taraba State. The Diocese of Kaduna is about 60 years old while that of Jalingo, Taraba State is just about 19 years old. So, going by the number of years, the two cannot be compared. By the grace of God, we are here to serve God Almighty and have started from where we are expected to start.
Are there specific things you have put in place to ensure sound spreading of the gospel in Kaduna Diocese?
For me, there is a strong belief in my mission and vision as God servant. I want to have very constructive engagement with all religious bodies in the land so that we can work together for the peace, unity and development of the land. I will also join hands with other Christian denominations to effectively propagate the gospel of Jesus Christ. I will try to be fair to all cultural and ethnic groups because for me, it is not about being an ethnic champion but the father of all. So, l must be seen to be fair to everybody and carry everybody on board. I will ensure the Diocese of Kaduna Anglican Communion is an all inclusive one so that everybody will have a sense of belonging. On my primary assignment as the Bishop of Kaduna, I want a Church that is self propagating, sustaining and self financing in all its programmes. On self financing, the Diocese of Kaduna should be financially viable. The Gospel today is not only about preaching the word but how are you touching the society you find yourself? If the Church cannot touch the lives of people, especially the ordinary people, then we are not making maximum impact of our presence as a Church. One of the things we intend to do here is to be sure we reach out to people in the rural areas where water is difficult to get. If we are able to give people potable water, because some of the diseases in our society today are water borne. So, providing the people with potable water will be doing a great service to God and humanity. This year, we working on the number of communities we can give water to. Apart from water, health care is another area that needs serious attention and we want to do that by giving medical services to the people which means, we will build a lot of primary healthcare centers where people could consult because as we transverse our areas of assignment, we have discovered that some communities cannot access medical care easily, unless the people travel over long distances. Also, we intend to go into farming because the bulk of our people in the rural areas are farmers and some of the farms would deploy as demonstration or experimental farms. Though farming for the Church, it would done massively and aggressively as part of the economic diversification because the problem Nigeria has today is overdependence on oil revenue. With the global oil price going down daily, we will continue to cry and cry if nothing is done in other very viable sector like agriculture. Nigeria is richer than its crude oil deposits because if the agric potential is properly harnessed, the issue of whether there is oil or not will not pose any problem to the country’s survival. Every state in Nigeria has the potentials to be self- financing, but because our eyes were focused on petro-dollars and the ingenuity in us died. Why should we wait for petrol dollar to finance every aspect of our life? For us as a Church, we will go into dry and raining season farming and above all, we will engage in scientific farming where people can learn from us to add value to their farming and standard of living. On education, it is sad to say the sector has suffered a major setback, especially in Kaduna State. As we visit schools, the infrastructure is discouraging and dilapidated, an eye soar and l think we will be part of revamping the sector and giving education its pride of place because education is the foundation of every nation. We will establish craft and artisan schools where our youth would learn many things to help them after graduation. Farming also will be introduced to the young ones so they can have self esteem growing up. The Diocese intends to finance itself by using judiciously whatever comes into its purse because without a vision, when money comes it easily disappears without knowing how it happens. With proper planning, the money will be deployed prudently in order of priority, with determination and faith, we will certainly get there.
As a member of the inter-faith committee recently inaugurated by the Sultan of Sokoto, what are your hopes?
For me, as members of the inter-faith committee, if we are sincere to one another; if we open up to one another and tell ourselves the truth and also sincerely educate our followers, we will get somewhere. l believe there is a great future because the only way you can have development is when you have peace and there is mutual trust in the society. So our intention as we work together, is to make sure we develop trust for one another. We should discuss plainly; be open to one another; tell each other the truth; and ensure our followers also know the truth so that the much needed peace, leading to development will be achieved in our society. The issue of inter-faith is necessary and we must discuss with open minds and that will ensure great results and by extension, ensure mutual understanding, peace, unity and development in the North and the country in general.
What is your impression about the education sector in Kaduna State, particularly the introduction of free feeding in primary and junior secondary schools by Governor El-Rufai’s administration?
Well, l must be sincere and tell the state government the truth. When you are feeding pupils in a school and the school has no chairs, desks and blackboards, then something is fundamentally wrong. l think we should prioritize by doing first thing first. Let us be sure the schools enjoying free feeding are indeed schools in every sense and standard comparable to other schools by the United Nations’ standard. We have to retrain our teachers and also cater well for them through prompt payment of their monthly salaries and allowances to ensure they put in their best in teaching the students. It appears that some people now send their children to school just to go and eat. So, what happens if after eating for six years, they still cannot write even their names properly? Is that what we want for our children? In those days when we were going to school, there was no feeding, yet we have become what we are today because the right infrastructure were there, the right teachers and environment were also there for us. I want to plead with the state government that the infrastructure and the teachers should be seriously looked into to get optimum result at the end of the day. So, I’m strongly of the opinion that the right thing should be done by ensuring good infrastructure, good learning environment and qualified teachers employed and taken good care of so that the good intention of government will be achieved. I therefore appealed to the State government to look inward towards ensuring a sound education system that will be a pace setter for other states to emulate. The state government should engage all stakeholders in ensuring sound decisions are taken in the overall interest of the state and its people.
What is your perception of the current anti-corruption war by the Buhari administration?
Corruption is a product of greed in our nation. If in a country, you have about 70 per cent being corrupt then something is fundamentally wrong and they need to visit psychiatric hospitals. The problem in Nigeria is always having leaders that have ran out of ideas, leaving the young ones behind forgetting that this a computer age. In the circumstance, how can the country develop? l am hundred per cent behind the fight against corruption. But before believing in it totally, there are certain things that seriously need to be checked. Today, if l am travelling on the road, the police man stops in the name of checking the car worthiness and wants me to give him money, is that not corruption? For the country to successfully fight corruption it must be in a holistic manner because most Nigerians know those who have stolen public funds and when the government seems to be selective in fight against corruption, it is not fair. What happened to NITEL that it ran aground and nobody has been arrested for such impunity? The same thing goes for the Railway and many other parastatals. Nobody has told Nigerians why these parastatals are death; those responsible for this ugly situation and what has been done to this group of people. Go to the refineries and hear what is happening when government talks about Turn Around Maintenance (TAM), yet these refineries cannot work at full capacity to supply adequate fuel for the consumption of Nigerians.
What is happening to our Universities? Compare their standard with the amount of funds given to out and tell me whether there is no corruption in their spending and the quality of job rendered?
What are the ministries of works at the federal and state levels with engineers of international repute doing? They are paid salaries every month, yet all construction works are awarded to contractors who become conduits to siphon the country’s wealth into the hands of few individuals and friends of government. Most roads constructed in the country have potholes even before their commissioning and nobody has been held responsible for such unpatriotic and criminal acts.
How do you rate the power sector in the country?
Billions of dollars have spent by the government in the power sector, yet no reasonable result to show. It is truly amazing because the more we spend on the power sector, the more we are in darkness all over the country. In all of these, nobody is saying anything and we are fighting a selective corruption. So for me, the fight against corruption should come in a holistic manner. We must ensure the fight against corruption is not selective, but one in which any Nigerian found guilty, irrespective of where you come from or political affiliation, is dealt with according to the rule of law. The fight against corruption should not be the only agenda because people are hungry and when you are fighting corruption and you are not paying your workers their salaries, what do you want them to be, armed robbers or what? The issue of ghost workers in this country we know where they are and it is only when the right thing is done that corruption could be reduced to the barest minimum. Why is it that we do not have ghost workers in the banks, why is it that the private sector does not have ghost workers but only the public sector? This is because instead of getting the right people in the right place, tribalism, sectionalism and other mundane criteria are considered before employing or appointing people into certain positions in government. This I see as ranking number one on corruption ladder in the country.
Insecurity has become a way of life in the country. How do we end this unhealthy situation in Nigeria?
My brother, every community has a leader and if a new person enters that community everybody within knows that there is a new person in their midst. The security personnel are inadequate and the need to beef up security in every part of the country while ensuring that only the right people are given certain positions to ensure optimum result. Community leaders should be carried along in ensuring adequate security measures are put in place. Also, there is the need for total overhaul of our security architecture to save the country from the hands of few bad individuals.
In your view, what should be done with the 2014 National Conference report? Government is continuous and you do not throw away the baby with the bath water. The positive things from that National Conference should be implemented for the general good of the country. However, the truth is that the Conference did not answer all the yearnings and agitations of Nigerians. For the problems not addressed by that conference, the present government should reconvene another one and ensure the right people are put together for there to be right results for the country to move ahead. But if we are not sincere to one another, honestly, we are still a mere geographical expression. The only way we can go ahead is to put the chips on the table; the report of the National Conference should not be seen as a PDP thing but a Nigeria affair. We should know that every generation has its challenges; we should be honest with ourselves to solve those problems that are before us as a nation.