AKPABIO SPEAKS, AS THE SALVATION ARMY CELEBRATES CENTENARY IN NIGERIA
KEYNOTE ADDRESS PRESENTED BY THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF NIGER DELTA AFFAIRS, HIS EXCELLENCY, SEN. GODSWILL OBOT AKPABIO, CON ON THE OCCASION OF THE CENTENARY CELEBRATION OF THE SALVATION ARMY, NIGERIA TERRITORY TITLED: “THE SALVATION ARMY IN NIGERIA; SOCIO-POLITICAL PERSPECTIVES” ON FRIDAY 27TH AUGUST 2021 AT THE INDOOR SPORTS HALL, TESLIM BALOGUN STADIUM, SURULERE, LAGOS.
I join you today conscious of the immortal words of our Lord Jesus Christ that where ever two or more of us are gathered in His name, there He is in the midst of us. I join you today, conscious that every true believer in Jesus Christ is a soldier for God; so though I am yet to be assigned a rank by this great Army of Christ, I am marching along with you, fighting alongside you, and in the trenches with you. I join you today proud of, and inspired by, the work that the Salvation Army has done in the world since it was started in London’s East End in 1865 by William and Catherine Booth as the “East London Christian Mission.”
2. Today, we recall with nostalgia, the efforts of William Booth and wife Catherine who founded the Salvation Army; Lieutenant-Colonel and Mrs. George H. Souter who landed in Lagos, followed by Staff Captain and Mrs Charles Smith with 10 West Indian officers in 1920 to establish the Salvation Army in Nigeria. It is of course manifestly clear that the gospel of Jesus Christ is bearing fruits beyond leaps and bounds. In union with you all, I have the courage to say: May God’s name be praised from age to age! I acknowledge the contributions of General Brian Peddle as well as your Territorial Commander – Victor and Rosemary Leslie. May God reward you all in His abundance.
3. The moral of how the name of the church was altered from “East London Christian Mission” to the “Salvation Army” should not be lost on us. According to the story, as William Booth dictated a letter to his Secretary George Scott Railton and said, “We are a volunteer army”. His son, Bramwell Booth, heard his father and said, “Volunteer! I’m no volunteer, I’m a regular!” Booth, therefore, instructed his secretary to erase the word ‘Volunteer’ and replace it with ‘Salvation.’ The moral of the story is that the success of every Christian man or woman should begin at home – with his children. Today so many children are not there with us at our places of worship. Our children are lost in the streets, while we are holed up in church. We must, like in this example, ensure that our children are regulars in the things of God (not mere volunteers). We must have our children standing by us in our walk with God.
4. If all the Christians we see on crusade grounds and in churches were to provide direction for their children, like William Booth did, this great country would not be spending billions to curb youth restiveness and other security concerns. Money that could otherwise be put in other areas which would lessen the burden of charity on charitable organizations like the Salvation Army.
5. Brothers and Sisters, the topic “The Salvation Army In Nigeria; Socio/Political Perspectives” is apt. You want me to speak on the socio/political perspectives of Nigerians on the Salvation Army. Permit me to focus on the sociological perspective before the political perspective. If this were a courtroom, and bearing in mind that I am a lawyer, this would have been said to be “res ipsa loquitur” meaning “the thing speaks for itself.” Your many works and good deeds speak for you. The Salvation Army may as well be called the ‘Samaritans Army’. The parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates three fundamental ways of dealing with people: you could beat them up like the robbers did, you could pass them up as the Pharisees did, or you could lift them up as the Good Samaritan did. Ever since the Salvation Army was formed it has been lifting people up. Your work in Nigeria proves that the Salvation Army is a good neighbour in every neighbourhood and great light of hope in Christendom. You have lived true to William Booth’s inspirational admonition that “You cannot warm the hearts of people with God’s love if they have an empty stomach and cold feet.”
6. On the political perspective, we certainly need more presence of Salvationists in the political space. The society that leaves politics to politicians, would soon have politics and no society. That is why Jesus Christ said that we are the light of the world and no man lights a candle and puts it under a bushel. We must let our light shine. We must let the nations run to the brightness of our rising. We must, as an army, remember that the soul of the beggar is as important to God as the soul of the politician. Therefore, the major problem facing our country is that we need as many good men and women in politics as we could have so that the voice of righteousness will continue to drown the clamorous trumpeting of evil men and women. We must remember that all that is needed for evil to thrive is the silence or complacency of the good people. We have many good men and women in politics but we definitely need more so that righteousness will fill our nation as the waters cover the seas. This country needs all Salvationists and righteous men and women in politics.
7. This administration needs strategic partnerships with all Nigerians who mean well for this country. Our country is under siege and the government has done its best but requires the cooperation of men and women who are demonstrably patriotic and seek the good of the Nation beyond self. The Nation is in dire need of citizens who are proud of their Nigerian heritage and not just carriers of Nigerian passports as tools of identification. William and Catherine Booth nursed the quest to establish an army for God. We must as Nigerians replicate this quest as a patriotic duty to our Nation.
8. Between 2007 and 2015, God entrusted me with the responsibility of serving as Governor of Akwa Ibom State. I surrendered to His divine leadership and through Him, governance in its best practice was unleashed on Akwa Ibom State. We tackled every facet of governance with messianic zeal while making the people the central measure of value. We declared Free and Compulsory Education to children of school going age resident in Akwa Ibom State, Free healthcare to critical segments of our population, initiated myriad of empowerment programmes to lift our people out of poverty, built the best sports stadium in West Africa to encourage our youths to participate in sporting activities, built the E- Library to encourage learning through access to e- books and constructed the pipe jacking technology to control the flood that had overtaken almost all parts of Uyo Metropolis and its environs. The list is endless which is why the era earned rightly the sobriquet, Uncommon Transformation. All these happened because we allowed righteousness to reign in our hearts so that we could deliver dividends of democracy to the people. We acted as soldiers of the people and protected them using the tool of good governance. What we did to achieve this enviable record was to follow the footsteps of the Salvation Army as enunciated by the Booths.
9. His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari is one leader that has consistently demonstrated the ethos that the Salvation Army of William and Catherine Booth conceived and practicalised. His strong aversion for corruption and determination to foist infrastructural revolution across our Nation are the equivalents and subsets of righteous leadership which embodies virtues that give rise to good governance. It is in these virtues that one finds honesty, sincerity of purpose, character, vision and compassion for the people. All of these, our dear President has in abundance, making him a soldier of righteousness.
10. On the state of the church, I believe that the prophetic words of William Booth when he said, “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell,” is the embarrassing reality that we face today. Our religion is no more guided and directed by the Holy Spirit. Christ has no place in some churches. Some preach forgiveness and forget repentance. Many are saved but propound an idea called extreme grace which precludes regeneration. Christians who are in politics forget about God. We preach heaven and forget about hell. Why? Because like the man who wanted to buy Noami’s land but did not want to marry Ruth, we embrace the right, but despise the responsibility.
11. There’s an inspirational quote from William Booth: “There are different kinds of fire; there is false fire. No one knows this better than we do, but we are not such fools as to refuse good bank notes because there are false ones in circulation; and although we see here and there manifestations of what appears to us to be nothing more than mere earthly fire, we nonetheless prize and value, and seek for the genuine fire which comes from the altar of the Lord” If we can stay on that fire which comes from God, we will light up all the crevices of darkness in our national life. And the fire will be strong enough to warm every soul, draw our nation to righteousness, and awaken in everyone the desire to arise to Nigeria’s call. That is what we need as a country and the army that could cause this to happen is not the Nigerian Army but the Salvation Army.