GREGORY AZEMOBOR is Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Bethelmendels International, Limited. A passionate crusader who has contributed his little quota in creating a better world through philanthropic activities to the needy and the widows. In this interview with some journalists, he examines the world’s economic order, saying the best way to emancipation of humanity is godly principles in the distributions of wealth, Excerpts;
When did the realisation come to you that you are a messenger of God?
The realization came to me when I was in secondary school. Many of my classmates can attest to that fact. I never even realised that I was in it. All I knew was that I was very active. I was always standing up for what is right. I remember that when I was in boarding school my mother who single handedly raised me used to give me grocery items which I used to share with my schoolmates. Right from time, I have always had that kind of attitude and disposition for helping and giving things to people. I think it was Mike Murdock who stated that what you have passion for is a pointer or indicator of what you were created to do by God. It is a pointer. So, all of us have this instinct, this tendency towards doing a particular thing. What you are passionate about or what infuriates you is a pointer to what you are created to do. I discover that I always like to help people. When I came to Lagos I set up a company where I was making money but I discovered that I was saddened by the level of poverty across the board. I was angry and I became very vocal about what the government ought to do that they are not doing. That was what led me to set up this foundation in 2006 that I called Advocacy for New Nigeria.
Was it politically motivated?
No! All that I do is not politically motivated. I don’t have interest in partisan politics.
You see, as an apostle of God I have noticed that a lot of things have gone wrong with the world today simply because humanity is not in alignment with Godly principles. The laws of God. We have created human laws and these human laws are antithetical to the laws of God. That is why we have the problems that we have in the world today. Most of the problems that we have in the world today are as a result of man’s disobedience to the natural laws that God has put in place to create order and peace in the world.. One of the human ideologies that is creating problems in the world today is that of the politics of the world. I cannot fit into the political system of the world to correct the imperfections. When Jesus Christ came, he didn’t come to found a religion. He came to introduce the kingdom of God or what I see as the government of God in the world.
Can you explain what you mean further?
If you look at the ideology that drives the governmental structure that was created by man, you discover that how come we have not been able to create a system that is perfect in the world? When you look around, you will discover that there is no political system that is so perfect in the world. Take for instance our democracy, does it make any sense that governments would spend billions of Naira organising and conducting elections while millions of Nigerians are wallowing in poverty. When the average Nigerian would go to bed hungry. No democracy in the world is perfect because it is created by human beings using their own laws. Even the much advertised American democratic credentials were called into question in the last election. You see how (Former President Donald) Trump almost messed up the credentials that the Americans parade before the world. We human beings are forming political systems that are not in alignment with Godly principles.
How worried are you considering the poverty level in the country?
In Nigeria today, we have a situation where those who are hungry are not sleeping and they have resolved that those who are well fed would no longer sleep. How do you expect to sleep in a country where over a hundred million people go to bed hungry? We are not addressing the root cause of insecurity in this country. I am concerned because of what I saw during the #endsars agitation. We all saw the army of angry unemployed youths who blocked everywhere. During the lockdown, you saw what happened. If the restrictions had not been relaxed the youth would have stormed residences of those who are well to do because they want to eat. The level of insecurity has increased in the country. My biggest worry is that the government does not even understand the root cause of this problem. The problem is not even helped by the advice being given to the government by the so-called security experts who are of the view that the government should devise more capacity to contain insecurity rather than looking at the root cause.
How do you think we can do that?
It’s going to be an uphill task. Maybe we have to go back and look at the family system as a unit. This unit has failed completely. Leadership at home has crumbled. It is at the family unit that you can inculcate the right moral values on the people. Unfortunately, in this time and age. The family unit has completely collapsed. How do we produce Godly men. Godly men do not need to profess any religion. I think we should be more concerned with spirituality not even religiosity. Look at the school system. The question we should ask ourselves is that how come is it that morality is not taught in schools? It is a deliberate design to make people amoral. To make the people lack the consciousness of morality. Do you know that in advanced countries, charity is taught in schools. They teach pupils to do things selflessly for the sake of the society. We have an uphill task of how to mould the next generation of godly Nigerians.
What kind of system are you advocating for then?
What I am advocating for is the kingdom of God or the government of God. In that system, God is the Supreme ruler. God did not intend that we rule over ourselves as humans. The worldly system creates demi-gods They are inventions of men. Jesus came to introduce the culture of the government of God to us here. That was his mandate to the early apostles. You notice that the earlier apostles were busy trying to disrupt the economic system of the world. They were trying to redesign the economic system of the world. For instance, they began to redefine wealth not on the basis of what you are able to accumulate but by the quantum of what you give.
Your suggestion seems close to Marxist or communist ideological bent?
What are the points of divergence then?
The concept that I am proposing, which God himself put in place is that is the concept of being your brother’s keeper. Now, the state is not being able to effectively redistribute wealth to everyone that is in need but if individuals have the heart of love they can easily distribute wealth to people that are hungry. So, in other words, the concept of fruitfulness is that when a tree bears fruits, the animals around, the human beings around will go to the tree and eat the fruits. Somebody from a place like Zamfara cannot come here and eat the fruit that is here. So, there is continuity. That was why Jesus Christ said be your neighbour’s keeper. In this arrangement, there is the culture of neighbourliness. If I have so much, there are people that have needs and I have to reach out to them. What I am saying is that you make contributions to a central government who would now use that pool of resources to redistribute to those in need.
Is this an indictment of the capitalist system?
I travelled to the United States of America some time ago and I was surprised to see beggars around the hotel that I stayed at. This is a country that has an effective mechanism for paying stipends to unemployed people. What does that tell you? It means that the capitalist system of redistribution of wealth has failed. When you look at the current federalism that we practice in this country, you will agree with me that the government at the centre in Abuja does not know the needs of the people here in Lagos because it is far off. It is only those who are around who would appreciate the needs of the people around.
What about Communism?
It is the same thing. They have both failed because a central government cannot effectively be expected to meet the needs of all the people at the same time. When you look at the federalism that we are practicing now, people in Abuja don’t know what we are suffering here.
What is the role of religion in all these?
Religion has failed woefully. When I started out in philanthropic activities, I thought we were going to get a lot of support in terms of individuals and organisations partnering with us to be able to do more but I was wrong. I discovered that we have to even struggle to get volunteers. It was difficult getting many of them but some have come on board to partner with us. Some of my few friends who have seen my consistency have also come on board to assist.
Was there anytime that you consider quitting these philanthropic activities?
No! I discovered that I needed to have a source of income by the side. So, what I did was to spend much of my time building my business. My Business has been my major backbone.
Can you put a figure on the amount of money you have spent in all your philanthropic activities in the last 15 years?
We have spent over 30million Naira organizing many events since the last 15 years. The one we are doing now, which is the widows empowerment project will see us empowering over 500 widows. We started about 5 years ago. Each of them is given N20, 000 as free capital grant to boost their businesses. It is designed for those who want to go into petty businesses. It is a free non-refundable grant. Before we give we usually do background checks on those who apply to ascertain if indeed they are entitled to the grant. We interview to know what they want to use the money to do before we disburse.
What is your view on the position of some people that Christian leaders should go into politics?
I think we should be looking for how men that are Godly go into politics and not men of God. This I mean Godly men that are not religious. We have in Nigeria, religious ungodly men. Even the so-called religious leaders are the most ungodly. We should be looking at how to get people that are Godly interested in politics and government.