As an academic, what are your educational background and research interest?
I had my early education at Roman Catholic and Middle School in Ghana. The teachers were very good. All the stories in the Holy Bible, from Genesis to Revelations, were converted into local songs for the students. So, I became interested in the Christian religious studies ever since. I am from Offa, in Offa Local Government Area of Kwara State. My great-great-grandfather moved to Offa in 1861, when there was a chieftaincy problem in Ajase-Ipo. I attended the University of Lagos for my first degree in Law. Actually, I was called to the Nigerian bar on July 30, 1984. After that, I served in Lagos State and did my master’s degree in UNILAG. I was able to attend other institutions for post-graduate degrees in Law and religious studies such as Christian Religious Studies. I attended the University of Jos, University of Ilorin, Igbinedion University, where I also obtained three doctorate degrees. I was doing another one at the University of Ibadan but it did not materialise. Once you have an interest in any area of knowledge, you have to endeavour to know so much in order to broaden your scope. Some people know an aspect of knowledge and become dogmatic about it. But once you try to broaden your knowledge, you will have a broad mind and you will discover that, in this world, all we do is just mere vanity. We do not know how God created us but we are here. So, we should not antagonise ourselves but live as good neighbours. Education will give you the civilisation of mind and attitude to continue to associate with your fellow man in a very secure environment.
How did you manage to study for such degrees with so many things that cause distractions?
It is the interest. Once you have an interest in something, it will propel you.
How did your family react when they learnt that you opted for a PhD in a different religion?
They know my nature. I am always anxious to search for knowledge in order to acquire wisdom. That has been my tradition.
Why did you study for a PhD in Christian Studies as a Muslim?
The Holy Prophet of Islam said we should ‘seek knowledge even onto China.’ So, this means you should acquire knowledge and broaden your mind to make you amenable to wisdom. If there are so many knowledge channels in the society and you only know one and are dogmatic about it, it is very dangerous for the civilisation of the mind. In Christianity, in the Bible, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth; I am the life and I am the resurrection. No one cometh onto the Father except by me.” Are we not interested in entering heaven? So, the search for the path to heaven informed the need to investigate which religion one should follow so that one could enter heaven.
Does that mean you believe in Jesus as the son of God?
Jesus, in Islam, is Prophet Issa. And in the Islamic religion, you don’t differentiate among the prophets of God but believe in them. Actually, Jesus was born as Jehoshua, his Jewish name. So, I believe in Jesus Christ quite alright. But whichever religion you believe in, God knows those who are worshipping Him. Jesus and the other prophets are mediums to reach Allah or God. So, there’s nothing wrong in learning the two religions in order to make a comparative analysis.
Are you done studying at the doctoral level?
No. There was a time I applied to read History at the University of Ibadan because I was alarmed at the available history of Ilorin wars of the 19th century and the wars in Yorubaland.
Your doctoral thesis focused on the end time. What inspired you to venture into that part of Christianity?
In the Bible, the Jewish prophets said there would be a time in the history of men when the earth God created would be torn into pieces. The oceans would be no more, that the earth would not sustain human life, that few (persons) would remain and that there would be a man-eat-man scenario and the problem would be over the ownership of Jerusalem. I read the passage several times. For about three or four centuries, Jerusalem has been in the picture of war. The biblical prophets said that the Jewish would go into exile and would suffer but would return. And their return would herald crisis that may eventually lead to Armageddon in Israel.
The man, Nostradamus, who was described as the one who saw tomorrow with smoking accuracy, also gave his own end-time to be between 2,000 and 7,000 AD and we are already within the year 2,000 AD. He wrote about series of wars. We have seen the First World War and the Second World War. But he said that there would be one that would be serious and fought with unconventional war arsenal. Now, we are in the period of atomic and chemical warfare. One just has to be very careful because of the picture of end time given by these people (prophets).
Do you think that it is also being witnessed in Nigeria today?
Is Nigeria not part of the earth? If there is a chemical warfare, would it not affect Nigeria?
Would you say that the emergence of Boko Haram and rampaging herdsmen who destroy lives and property are signs of the end time?
On the issue of Boko Haram, in Nigeria, we use religion to tear ourselves into pieces. The Boko Haram is just a purely political organisation; it is not Islamic. The emergence of the Islamic State is a political problem. The Pope warned (former President) George Bush against going to attack Iraq. Was the attack of Saddam Hussein not because of political expediency? They said he (Hussein) had a weapon of mass destruction and the only weapon of mass destruction they found in Iraq was Hussein himself. They only found one small gun with him, which Bush kept. So we should be very careful about war, famine and diseases. Diseases like Monkey Pox, Ebola and HIV are signs of the end time. Have we got cures for them? These are the predictions of what would be happening before the end comes suddenly. Therefore, we have to be careful because the end is now.
How do you think the federal and state governments should handle religious conflicts across the country?
Anybody who relies on religion for governmental gains has nothing to offer. See some of them in the Supreme Islamic Council, with due respect to the Sultan of Sokoto, he is the only respected person among them. The people from the southern area of the country, we know them very well. They are not better Islamic than I am. We all know that they hide under Islam in order to get political offices. We know some of them are traditionalists to the core hiding under Islam. We must be honest in our religion and worship God with the fear of God.
But people hide under religion to get political ends. That should not be so. Our nation is a beautiful country; let us be united by that name, Nigeria. Let Nigeria unite us and not our religion. So, Islam must be accommodating. Christianity must be accommodating. We need to civilise our minds in getting our nation forward. Religion should not be used to tear our nation into pieces. The late Muammar Ghadafi once said that it was dangerous to bring religion into politics. So, religion is a private matter between you and your creator. But in Nigeria, we use Christianity and Islam to tear ourselves into pieces. (For instance) if you do not belong to Islam, you may not be given any government appointment.
See the arrangement in Nigeria today. (President Muhammadu) Buhari is there. So, they must get a Christian to support him to create the balance. That is why we have Prof. (Yemi) Osinbajo. He was my teacher but I do not like that kind of arrangement in Nigeria. Two Christians can be president and vice-president. Two Muslims can be president and vice-president. Look at the time of (Moshood) Abiola. Abiola was a Muslim and his running mate, Babagana Kingibe, was a Muslim and Nigerians voted for them. So, Nigeria is capable of being a good and civilised nation without religion tearing us apart. Those who use religion to get political ends have nothing to offer.
What do you think can be done to address the major challenges facing the country?
We have introduced foreign ideals in managing our economy. This should not be so. It is because we have introduced foreign ideals into our electoral process that we are having problems. Every nation has its economic and political peculiarity. In the past, in the 60’s and 70’s, our economy was based on agriculture (for) food security. But where is the food security today? We have abandoned that and we are running after money security. That is why we are having problems. Even with the money security, we are very selfish about it – people are stealing billions of naira when our roads are not motorable. Governors sit on states’ money and local government’s money for their own selfish interest. Therefore, money is not in circulation at the state and local government levels. So, it is the state governments that are actually the major economic problem of Nigeria. (Former President Olusegun) Obasanjo tried but we are just criticising him. Obasanjo took steps to make sure that the money meant for the local governments got to them. If the money meant for the local governments gets to them, within six months, Nigeria’s economy will be buoyant.
To this effect, states should not be allowed to conduct local government elections. They should be done by the Independent National Electoral Commission. For any election in the state, it is the dominant/ ruling party in the state that controls the local governments and it imposes the local government chairmen on the citizens. They (chairmen) would not be able to talk when the governors corner their money. To get Nigeria back on a better economic terrain, the local government system must be rejuvenated in such a way that their monthly funds get to them.
What is your opinion about persons who do not believe that the world could come to an end?
Every human being has a beginning and an end. The end time we are talking about is a beginning of a new dawn because the book of Revelations says that only a few people would remain on earth and there would be a new earth and that they would continue to live for another 1,000 years without any problem. So, the end time does not mean total destruction. It is the beginning of a new dawn. So, if you do not believe in it, then it is unfortunate.
If you are, then there must be those greater than you. Look at our eyes, why are they not put on our knees? Everything seems to be properly organised. Look at the earth revolving within its own axis. It shows a creation of something superior to the things created.
What do you think about the insistence of many scientists that the world was not created by God?
We have the Darwin Theory of Evolution. But (Charles) Darwin said that everything started from something. How did that thing happen? So, there is an ultimate. There is a beginning. So in science, you cannot say simply because human beings look like apes, they must have evolved from apes. There is a strong argument here. But nonetheless, the fact of creation cannot be whittled down because of the structure of human beings, animals and the universe as a whole. They show a form of organisation or arrangement by something that has superior intelligence than the things created.
Would you encourage Christian academics to also venture into studies in other religions?
Yes. We need to broaden our knowledge. The holy prophet of Islam said that we should ‘search for knowledge even onto China.’ So, we cannot be in the world and become illiterate of our environment. If I say I am a lawyer and I am not interested in other subjects again, then I am an illiterate to my world because, in my world, there are other subjects. We (lawyers) call ourselves learned men. Learned only in Law? You must be learned in the sciences, the social sciences, religion and in everything if we are capable of doing so.