Professor John Brown Okwii has been installed as the new Provost of the West Africa Theological Seminary (WATS). The investiture on 17th January at the Seminary drew guests from far and near including members of the Governing Council of the institution. Okwii, from Uganda at the event expressed deep passion for WATS and reeled out his plans to lead the Seminary to greater heights. He addressed the media after the event, DAYO EMMANUEL was there and here reports. Excerpts:
Most of the things you mentioned in your agenda are going to be capital intensive. How do you intend to drive these projects in a country just coming out of recession?
If you want to have a program like staff school for instance, you need to have what we call BOT-Build Operate and Transfer. Most of the Nigerians that have gone to places like Legon University in Ghana would see there are halls built by Nigerians. This is simply because they believe the political environment is stable. You know that you can invest and nobody would wake up tomorrow and destroy your investment. You can see what is happening in Nigeria today, what politicians are doing. However we have people in Nigeria and outside who are willing to support. Before I came as a Provost, I found people who literally told me we want you to go to WATS, we can support you. I am sure of the capital intensive projects and I am also sure we are going to get fund. For example we are going to write proposal, there are funding that people are permitted to write proposal about and there are grants we can access from USA and UK.
What method are you intending to use since the seminary is a diverse community?
If you look at what is happening in our community as a nation what should be our goal? Our goal should be community building and our objective is to unite the people and the method is that of respect. Respect for every ethnic group, every community and our attitude should be an attitude of honour. There are people out there that you need to celebrate, so we need to honour people. The other thing is that you must behave as people of Christ and our communication must show discipline. It is going to be a relationship that is very friendly not a taskmaster kind of relationship. It is said that where politics fails use the gun. This means when you have a child that has refused to see the way, you bring sanction. To train pastors is different and more difficult than training students in the university. It is not easy because Satan wants to make sure one pastor falls. So we must give them the discipline they need. When training pastors, you must bring in ethics. I have seen pastors in convention fighting for food. In fact one man put seven eggs in his pocket, if you put seven eggs in your food what will others eat? So discipline is very key. We need to have discipline in different areas because you may not know people know you. We live in a glass house and that is the discipline we are talking about.
In your inaugural speech your mentioned something about regulated speech, can you throw more light?
I gave example of our freedom in Christ. Regulated speech means that you must know what you are talking about. From a Christian perspective, don’t accuse an elder except you have a witness or two. Like what is going on via the social media? We heard that President Donald Trump called us shit hole. It is not true. There were four people in that hall, only one Democratic man blew that thing up and everybody took it up. What he said was that why is the USA getting all these people coming into their country. He said some of them are going to be sponsored by terrorists. He said what they need to do is to take their government to be responsible. The man just blew it up and you know CNN. Part of the world does not support Trump because of declaring Jerusalem as capital of Israel. So regulated freedom is what I mean. If you have offended someone and you say you are sorry, he may forgive you but he will not forget. So why do you say something that you are not sure of? When you have regulated speech it means you are growing. The Yoruba says the soup inside an elder’s stomach does not shake. This means what is inside an elder stays there until the time comes to bring it out. Regulated speech shows you are no longer a child.
How are you going to work on the people who have been trained for years to do things in a certain way? You are coming to train them otherwise, to tell them what they have been used to is wrong. Like some songs and prayers that are not biblically balanced?
You don’t just tell people don’t do this, you have to show them. For example, the story of Moses and Aaron throwing their staff down. Many people would want to go and check and see that they have been taught something different. So who do you want to obey? Do you want to stay with what you have been taught for long which is false or stay with what you are just seeing which is true? It is easier to lead people who are educated and it is difficult to enslave them. I can just tell you a thing and you would understand it. I am not saying that we are going to train them against their denominations. Pastors are difficult to train because they will refer to the higher authority which is God. They would say ‘God told me.’ Before you can effect a change you have to do a mind shift. When students come you have to know where they are coming from. I have done extensive research in Nigeria; Pentecostal, Orthodox, name them. The fact that something has been permitted to happen doesn’t mean it has been approved. When God told David that if he had waned a wife, he could have taken one instead of Uriah’s wife, does that permit polygamy? You’ll make the people see where they are coming from. Can you say with the way we are going that Nigeria will be developed in the next ten years? Our professors in the universities are already old and no longer thinking, what they are now doing is recycling. Nigeria is blessed. What they do here, if they do in other countries that country would have closed down. How can someone steal $10bn dollars and the country is still moving? I see the recession as an artificial one created by people. How can a country be declared the biggest economy in Africa and suddenly it is in recession? When they did the declaration even IMF and the World Bank didn’t challenge that it is not true that the country was not the largest economy. Even in prayer, you must pray intelligently. I believe in prayer but I want you to pray intelligently. God sees and watches. He is not foolish, He said come let us reason together. We are going to work well on theology. It is going to be in a dialogue.
Some of these students have come from different denominations where things are done in different ways. How are you going to cause transformation in these denominations through the students who we can say are representing them in WATS?
The best way to bring transformation is to let it come from within. WATS is not going to tell them to leave their denominations. They have to stay in their denominations and rise up. By the time you become an executive at the top people will listen to you. We are training them for the future and that is the expectation of the developed nations. They take our young men and train them as engineers so that they can take decisions later. If you go to developed countries and see our young people who are professionals you would be shocked. Some of these ministers never went to any seminary, they did what they call public theology. In public theology you can say anything. You would see a General Overseer and all his pastors would be kneeling down to receive him at the airport. You would see another one who must be carried when he is preaching. Where is it in the Bible? There was the other one that made people to eat grass in South Africa. The members believe the pastors and the pastors take advantage because they have created a system of fear. Members don’t ask questions, everything is now business. We want to do that with every sense of modesty and humility like the Berean Christians. I want to challenge us at the end of this year how many of us would have read the Bible? The year will end and you have not read the Bible and we say we are Christians. When you are confused read the Bible because it is a way God talks to us. It is not what I say that matters but what God says. What I say can last for two years in the air but what God says lasts forever.