The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, has urged Nigerians at home not to avenge the attacks on their compatriots in South Africa.
Nigeria and South Africa locked in bitter diplomatic row over the xenophobic violence in the former apartheid country, leading to the looting of property belonging to Nigerians.
And the Federal Government is making arrangements to evacuate Nigerians willing to leave South Africa for home.
Adeboye, who called for caution, said the Federal Government should be allowed to use diplomatic means to resolve the crisis.
According to him, Nigerians travel to South Africa in search of greener pastures since there are fewer opportunities for them in their country.
In his sermon that started at about 11pm during the September edition of the monthly Holy Ghost Service at the Redemption Camp along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on Friday, Adeboye said, “I beg you in the name of God, don’t retaliate against South Africa.”
He said this in the presence of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo who was with his wife, Dolapo.
The pastor recalled his experience as a student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He said as the civil war was about to start, students at the University of Ibadan were seized in the Western Region and he and other non-easterners were also seized in the Eastern Region.
He said, “At that time, I was at the University of Nigeria (Enugu State). Col Odumegwu Ojukwu said (on radio in 1966) he could no longer guarantee the safety of those who came from outside the Eastern Region. We were in regions then. So, he told all of us who were not easterners to go home. And all our brothers who were of eastern origin sympathised with us, because our studies at Nsukka were coming to an abrupt end.
“The university authorities called a meeting and they told us that they would make arrangements to transport those of us who were not of eastern origin to our regions. Suddenly, news came over the radio that the students at the University of Ibadan were concerned about their brethren from the East and that they were holding them (easterners) to ransom, saying they would not be released until everybody from Western Region had come back home.
“Immediately, everything changed. All our friends from the Eastern Region, people we had been friends, eating together, playing together, who were sympathising a moment ago, changed. Immediately, they began to hold meetings as to how to keep all of us who were from outside the East in the East until they had all their own brothers returned to them. I mean everything changed.”
Adeboye added, “In my life I can count three or four occasions that I have known fear – in the real sense of the word. I knew it that day. All of us gathered together, we were not very many. There was one man among us from Ekiti who was noted for expensive jokes. While we were all trembling, not knowing what we were going to do, he said, ‘Well, my own case is simple. My wife has just got a son. If I die now, nobody will ever say that I never came into the world’.
“Suddenly, the possibility of dying came to us. You don’t know what it means to be in another man’s land, not knowing what would happen overnight. Be careful. Don’t retaliate against South Africa because of the Nigerians who are still in South Africa.
“It took divine intervention to get us across the Niger again, because the moment we saw what was happening, those of us who had money began to run away, to take (public) transport from Nsukka to Asaba. I had just one – what they call in those days – Senate scholarship. It means the Senate of the university was going to pay my school fees and allowances, because I was the best student in the Mathematics Department. So, I had spent the money I had because I knew money was coming. Now, I was down to zero. I had no money, even if I wanted to run away. And the university had said…anyway, let me leave the story there.”