IT was the Secretary to Bayelsa State Government (SSG), His Royal Highness David Serena Dokubo-Spiff, at a South-South Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, function in Warri, Delta State, who raised the 1858 composition of George Duffield Jr, an American Presbyterian minister and hymnodist, who died in 1888, to remind Nigerians of the need to stand up because Christendom is under attack globally from beligerent religions.
The SSG, who represented Governor Seriake Dickson at an interdenominational service in honour of the immediate past National President of CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, commended the sterling contributions of the man, fondly called the Lion of Africa, and acknowledged that Christianity is suffering all manners of deprivation. Dokubo-Spiff explained that unless fearless Christian soldiers stand up now to defend the Church, the situation may get worse.
George Duffield Jr was said to have written Stand up! Stand up for Jesus out of a tragic accident that claimed the life of one of the most stirring preachers in America history, Dudley Tyng (1825-1858). He was one of several ministers participating in a great citywide revival that swept Philadelphia in 1858. His strong doctrinal preaching and his anti-slavery rhetoric’s were popular for some and angered others, resulting in his resignation from an Episcopal congregation that he pastored follwing his father’s retirement.
The 2016 World Watch List reports a staggering 62 per cent increase in violent killings of Christians in northern Nigeria in just one year.
That report took a close look at persecution from three main sources: Boko Haram, herdsmen and the religious and political elite that dominates government in northern Nigeria. Despite the constitutional provision for freedom of worship, the teaching of Christian Religios Knowledge is prohibited by most northern states which adopted the Sharia law at different times in the 2000s prompting a growing intolerance, which has resulted in widespread discrimination against Christians.
Christians are still treated as second class citizens as they are denied basic rights such as access to broadcast of Christian religious activities; education or certain jobs, no matter their qualifications; certificate of occupancy to build churches. The list is endless.
In the last one year of unrest in Southern Kaduna, over 1,000 lives have been lost and at least 1,422 houses, including 16 churches, 19 shops and one primary school, destroyed by herdsmen, sometimes under the watch of security operatives stationed there.
These may have been the premise that informed the Bayelsa SSG to say Nigerian Christians, more than ever before, need persons in the mould of lion-hearted Oritsejafor to lead the Christian community for liberation war. “You know that Christendom is under attack globally by belligerent religions. People like Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor are the ones who can lead us in the battle,” he told reporters at the Word of Life Bible Church-venue of the thanksgiving service.
After paying glowing tribute to the former CAN leader, the SSG said: “Papa Ayo, as we know him, is worthy of appreciation, worthy of recognition, worthy to be commended for the wonderful works he has done over the decade for the protection of Christendom. You know that Christendom is under attack globally by other belligerent religions. People like Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor are the ones who can lead us in the battle. (And spontaneously he burst out singing the hymn, Stand up! Stand up for Jesus). It is the likes of Pastor Ayo who will take us to the promised land.”
Speaking in the vein, Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, described Oritsejafor as one who has done so well as a soldier of Christ, especially in winning souls, not only within Delta State but also across Nigeria and across the globe and as a voice for the Church while he was piloting the affairs of CAN for which Delta State and indeed the nation is proud of today, stating: “and I believe there is no room for retirement.
“Having risen through the ranks as National President of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, to become the President of CAN, he did credibly very well. He organsied CAN and brought power to it. He was quite outspoken during his period and I believe that he made a lot of impact in putting CAN together and in giving it a voice.”
Responding to the huge accolades, Oritsejafor, who risked his life, ministry and resources for the Church, which, on many occasions, backstabbed him, left no one in doubt that he’s had had enough and would prefer others to have a taste of the fire as he tearfully acknowledged the organisers of the programme, the South South political and ecclessiastical leaders, as well as the traditional rulers from different parts of Delta State, who had become a source of encouragement to him.
“Many times I have wondered about the Church, what’s going to become of the Church…but I can now see that there is hope for the Church. I appreciate you and pray that this God who brought you safely takes you back safely and gives all of you good health, strength and do for you what you cannot do for yourselves,” he said.
In an interview later in his office, the former CAN leader said he was initially not interested in the thankgiving/honour “but now I am happy.”He went on: “The reason I am happy is because it (the thanks giving) cuts across the entire South-South, seeing people from Cross River, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo and Bayelsa, to me, is very fulfilling. For the years that I served the Church, one of the things that saddened me was the fact that the more I was defending the Church, the more I was getting negative reactions from the Church. It’s not a very good thing.
“Looking at what I saw here today, it tells me what I have always known; that there is a silent majority. The only thing is that that majority should not be silent. They should be outspoken because it will encourage more people to come out and speak. It’s a good thing to know that there’s a huge majority out there who are not silent anymore; who are coming out to express themselves. It’s an incredible thing to know that you are appreciated. If outsiders acknowledge you, it’s alright, but when your own people say you are okay, it means a lot to you. The fact that my own people are saying ‘we appreciate you’ means a lot to me.”