Pastor Femi Emmanuel
Presiding Pastor of Livingspring Chapel International, Femi Emmanuel, was a former Deputy Speaker in the Oyo State House of Assembly during the aborted Third Republic (1992 to1993). He started his career as an engineer before joining politics and later became a cleric. He spoke with SEYE OLUMIDE (Southwest Bureau Chief) on the need for the Church, Christians to participate in politics, especially at the grassroots, among other issues.
How did you go into politics, even as a born again Christian?
I became the Deputy Speaker of Oyo State House of Assembly from 1992 to 1993 before the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (Rtd) led-military administration terminated our tenure with the annulment of June 12, 1993 Presidential Election acclaimed to have been won by the late Chief M.K.O Abiola. I was a Christian before joining politics and this is my 58-year of conversion. I gave my life to Christ in 1972 at the age 17, at the Foursquare Gospel Church, Agege, Lagos State. I never knew I would be a pastor. I just love serving God. While growing up I carried out any duty assigned to me in the church with due diligence and joy. I love helping people, but the passion for politics came much later after my conversion. It was while I was the Deputy Speaker that the clarity of God’s calling on my life became clearer. Every vision has its appointed time to manifest; I love the Lord and serve Him, but the idea of becoming a pastor of a Church became stronger and clearer in my second year as Deputy Speaker of Oyo State House of Assembly. So, the annulment of June 12, 1993 Presidential Election was a blessing in disguise for me. It made me to move into what God called me to do.
Did your parents or mentor play any role in your conversion?
No! I came from a very humble background; my parents were peasant in the village. I always call myself a village boy because I grew up there. My parents were of the African Church; they were lovely, but illiterate. Somebody took me from the village after my elementary school to Agege, Lagos, where I began to find focus for better education. It was in the process of my going to Agege that somebody ministered Christ to me. Before then, we were mere Churchgoers because we lacked the knowledge of Pentecostal fire, getting born again, the filling of the Holy Ghost and speaking in tongues. And going on evangelism was not in our minds.
The Foursquare Gospel Church was the church to look up to in the early 70s when I gave my life to Christ. The Redeemed Christians Church of God (RCCG) has not become what it is now. The Winners Chapel also has not become what it is today. When you are talking about Pentecostal churches in Nigeria then, the late Dr. S.O. Odunaike was in forefront. He was among the noted Pentecostal preachers. Right from the beginning of my Christian life, I have always been involved in praying for Nigeria. ‘Pray for Nigeria’ started a long time ago. We would go to conferences and retreats purposely to pray for this nation. As I was growing up, I came to Ibadan where I got involved in Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship International; I was the first general secretary of the organisation.
How did you navigate through the murky waters of politics, especially in Ibadan where real grassroots politics is played?
The Bible says every place that the soul of your feet shall tread upon is what God will give to you. I came to do business in Ibadan. I had a very popular bookshop at Mokola. However, when the military administrator established the two political parties, National Republican Convention (NRC) and Social Democratic Party (SDP), I chose to join the SDP, whose ward’s meeting venue was behind my shop.
This further became possible when the decree setting up the parties stated that we are co-founders and co-joiners, which removed godfatherism in both parties and made way for any Nigerian adult to join either of the parties irrespective of where he/she came from. So, I went to one of the SDP meetings to tell them that I want to join the party. The members laughed and said I am too clean for what they were doing. They said the meeting was for people of low background, but hardly do they know that I came from such background. They thought I would not be able to survive staying among them, but when they saw that I meant business and will attend every meeting beginning from the ward level, they were convinced of my stand. In the really sense of it, this made me to understand that to excel in politics, one should not ignore the grassroots. The ward is the starting point, which is the grassroots and for the fact that I am always with them and took part in the different discussions and never bothered about my education further impressed them. They saw me as being unique, especially with my contributions at meetings.
They were always fighting over little money sent to them by the godfathers. It was then that I understood that godfathers play significant roles in Nigerian politics. The ward members would fight over merger amount like N500. And each time I ask of the reason for their quarrel, they will give account of how someone had cheated them of the money sent to the ward. On many occasions, I had to give some money to the aggrieved for peace to reign among us. This attitude of mine looked strange to them.