Livingspring Pastor Femi Emmanuel Urges Pastors & Christian Leaders To Go Into Politics
August 18, 2014 – Livingspring Pastor Femi Emmanuel Urges Pastors & Christian Leaders To Go Into Politics
Excerpt from a recent interview with Livingspring International Church founder, Pastor Femi Emmanuel:
I expected to encounter tight security at your gate, but only one man just pointed your office to me. And that was it. No protocol, nothing. Why such simplicity?
I am from a very humble background and it won’t leave me. My mother said to me before she died, ‘Femi, the higher you go, the smaller you should become. Be small in your own eyes.’ And I promised her I would keep to her advice. I am burying her in the next few days. I have vowed to heed her advice until I go to meet her. That’s one of the advices I got. She said to me, no matter how far you go, remember where you’re coming from. I came from a humble background, so I know how the people down there feel. I tell my personal assistant and ushers, don’t push anybody because pastor is coming. Who’s pastor? Is he a masquerade? Pastor is one of you. I want them closer to me. You would never see anybody push anybody for me to pass. I enjoy being in their midst. I stay in their midst. I burn out my life for them, and it gives me joy.
Is that why you chose to be called Presiding Pastor instead of General Overseer?
Yes, because I am not a conventional person. I like to do my things in an unconventional manner, if only to be different. Until you’re different, your difference would never be noticed. When I started pastoring, I never wanted to be called pastor. I told my congregation, ‘Call me Brother Emmanuel because I am just like anyone of you.’ I don’t really celebrate titles, because there’s no entitlement in titles. It’s your product, the value your life is adding that matters. I just chose to be that simple.
Can you briefly talk about your childhood, your upbringing, those little things that shaped your life?
My parents were peasants. I knew poverty. I knew what it means to be poor. I also learnt honesty, that happiness does not come from material things. It comes from within. I learnt to be self-reliant. I learnt to labour with my hands. I sent myself to school. I came from a polygamous family. We were eight children in all. My father had two wives. My mum was the second and of course, from that setting; from going with them to the farms, I learnt to do my own little things, learnt to work with my hands and to rely on God. My parents were good Christians. As poor as we were, we depended on God. We prayed everyday. We went to church. We laboured with our hands. I learnt all that, and it helped me a lot. And then, struggling on my own when I became of age, I have experienced God too, using people for people. That’s why I am an insatiable mentor of people. I could give my last penny, because God used people for me; sometimes, people I didn’t even know.
I have experienced disappointments. I have experienced betrayal from time to time, from people I have mentored. They toughen me. They strengthen me. They don’t make me want to give up. But they make me know that this is life, cope with it and move forward. So, those are the things that have helped me in life. I have learnt to do things for myself, on my own, depending on God who has never failed to send people to my life at critical moments. Up till now, nothing makes me afraid. Something just tells me, ‘push on, there’ll be a change later. Push on, God is on the way.’ And at the nick of time, a door I never thought was there would just open. Help I never thought was there would just come. Life taught me faith in God. That has been my life.
You were deputy speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly in the Second Republic. Why did you dump politics for the pulpit?
I veered into politics out of protest. I felt the church should not stay aloof. For evil to reign is for good people to do nothing. It’s not for Bishops and Pastors to go into politics, but good people. People that fear God. People that love humanity. People that have things to contribute. I wasn’t a pastor then; I was just a worker in the church. But then, I was concerned about this country. I have been there for long. I have seen the way the church prayed and fasted for those in governance. And I have seen that the more we prayed, the more they deteriorated. I have seen from my Bible that every place, the sole of our feet shall tread upon, we’ve got to be involved one way or the other. It was out of that protest- why should we stand aloof, why shouldn’t we be involved?- that I joined the fray. Yes, there were so many counsels I received then warning me against it, telling me that “they would soil you, they would kill you…politics is dirty, you must not touch it with a long stick because you would be corrupted” and so on. Of course, there was corruption then, but it was not this bad. I felt a burden in my heart that I should give it a try. I am a very adventurous person. So, I ventured into it and was elected into the Oyo State House of Assembly. I became deputy speaker, but I knew from the onset that God would have me work for Him in the vineyard. I have always known that. That has always been at the back of my mind. The bible says every vision is for an appointed time. I had always known that God would have a use for me, but what I didn’t know was what exactly He would want me to do.
I never wanted to be a pastor. But then, I had a burden that God wanted me to be a leader in the body (Church) in one way or the other. I thought I would just be an evangelist doing my job, doing my business, organizing seminars, conferences, teaching people and writing books. But then, it became too clear to me that He would want me to actually lead his people as a Shepherd. So, when that call came, when it was so clear I couldn’t say no, I was still on the chair as deputy speaker when this church was launched. I knew I couldn’t wear the two caps. It was difficult. You could be the father of politicians, the father of the governor, the father of the president, but you can’t jump into the arena with them. If you come into the arena of politics, then you should expect anything because politics is something else. You could be blackmailed, you’d be lied against. Pastoring doesn’t accommodate that. Your congregation cannot afford to see their pastor being splashed with mud, washed in the dirty water of politics. That would not augur well for the church. So, the two caps cannot be worn at the same time. But you can actually mentor leaders, which is what I think the church should do. That should be the job of the pastor.
I believe Christian leaders should go into politics. Politics is a calling just like pastoring. I know it’s not possible to be a pastor over a congregation as well . You can’t do that. But you could be a Christian leader who is not holding any pastoral assignment. Oh, we need many more of such people in politics and in the governance of this nation because there you would be able to speak the truth. And the Christian values you have should be on display. What would be difficult is to be a shepherd over a congregation and then, you’re in politics. In your congregation, you’re going to have members of different political parties to start with. So, which one would you promote?. If you’re a PDP stalwart, there’s no way you’re going to promote what you believe in. There can be no election without campaign, no matter how subtle. So, what happens to the other man who is also a leader of the other party? It’s just going to bring crisis to your church. The church is for all people and a pastor must be seen as a father of all, counseling, teaching and guiding all of them but not taking sides with anyone of them. That’s the only way you can be a successful pastor. But as for Christian leaders who are not shepherds or pastors over any assembly, the field is open. I think they should be encouraged.
I went into politics out of the annoyance that Christians should not just sit on the fence. Even now, I still believe Christians should step into the ring. We’ve prayed enough about this country. God has answered our prayers. We’ll still continue to pray, but we need to go into politics. Good people need to go there. And that is the much I do now. I organize seminars, I also get invited to functions because of my experience as a politician. I get invited to churches and conferences to talk about the role of the Christian/church in politics. I do it with joy and with experience. I went into politics to prove a point and I am glad I did. We can’t just continue to sit on the fence. I went there to prove a point. And I am happy with what I did.
As one of the products of the Lamidi Adedibu school of politics, to what extent did you worship at his altar?
I wouldn’t say I was his product, but you couldn’t do politics in Ibadan then without his input. He was the father of the party, so we all went to him. We all listened to him. I didn’t worship at his altar. I held my constituency. But it would take Adedibu then agreeing that you’re the man for you to be there. It would take him to agree that you’re ‘our people’ to be there. If he felt you were not ‘our people’, he would do everything, and I mean everything, to make sure you were not there. A lot of politicians would want to make sure they put people they trust there. And so, it was either people had sold me to him as their trusted person or else I wouldn’t be there. He was not the one that nominated me, but the ward leaders loved me, accepted me and put me there. And because they were his own people, he deferred to them. He said, ‘If you say he’s a good person, then he’s a good person.’ He was much respected as the father of the land. Now, we have seen from recent happenings in Ekiti that the politics of godfatherism or stomach infrastructure , is still very much with us.
What lessons did you learn from Adedibu, and what impact would you say your political involvement has had on your ministry?
I learnt a lot. Many people ask me, how come Chief Adedibu loved you so much, a known Christian even though I was not ordained as a pastor then? I would say you can’t be close to Adedibu and not love him, because he was a man of the people. He’s not somebody you have to queue, knock (on the door) or fill a form to see. His people loved him for that. You don’t need to fill a form or go through any protocol to see me. I learnt that from him; that you got to be a man of the people. Look at the recent case about Ekiti State election. It’s not just about ‘stomach infrastructure, it’s the fact that the man himself (Ayodele Fayose) is a man of the people.
He rode okada with them, ate in the buka with them, ate boli and epa with them. People love such things. They want their leaders to be there with them. At this level, I still go to see my people in the hospital, name their babies, sit with them at funerals. I visit them. Sometimes, I pay them surprise visits. So, they cannot but love me. They are glued to me and I saw that in Jesus too. Jesus was a man of the people. He ate with them. In fact, He was accused several times of going to the harlots, moving with the downtrodden. So, I learnt that from Adedibu. I learnt that when your people have problems, please, stand with them. They would connect to you forever. If there was anything I saw in Adedibu then, that was number one. He was never too busy to answer to the cries of his people. And of course, he helped them when they were in need. He helped them when they were in trouble. He went with them to police stations, to courtrooms. People don’t forget such people.
What gives you the greatest happiness?
The greatest miracle on earth is salvation; that somebody has come to reconcile with his saviour. The sick gets healed here. The barren bear children here. The poor gets lifted here. But the greatest miracle is reconciliation with one’s maker. That’s my greatest joy. I’m basically an evangelist. When you come to terms with God, you also come to terms with yourself. You’re able to repackage your life. You’re able to see life in the correct framework and then rebuild your life, your career, home and become a useful person to yourself and to the society. That’s what gives me the greatest joy.
What has life taught you?
Life has taught me to be patient. Life has taught me to be hopeful. Life has taught me to respect people, to love them. Life has taught me never to give up because what it is today is not what it would be tomorrow. Life has taught me to trust God more, to love people, but never depend on them.
[Interview by Beifoh Osewele, Daily Sun]