In October 2022, Prelate (Prof.) Isaiah Issong was appointed Board Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board after serving as member for over 13 years. After his appointment, he led 120 Akwa Ibomites for pilgrimage in Israel in January this year.
In this interview with The Crest, Prelate Issong who is also President-General , Fathers in Faith for Good Governance, explained why Akwa Ibom State Government suspended pilgrimage for two years, the significant of the yearly exercise. He also speaks on salient political issues, including why Pastor Umo Eno will be different from his predecessor. He also warned against electing another Muslim as president of Nigeria otherwise Christianity will be obsolete.
Recently you led some contingents to Israel for pilgrimage. Of what significant was that journey?
Pilgrimage by my definition is different from tourism. It’s a spiritual exercise, retreat specially as it concerns the holy land or the Biblical sites, where Jesus was born and started His ministry with wonders, miracles and signs as recorded in the Holy Bible. The last time Akwa Ibom people went for pilgrimage was in 2019 still under Governor Udom Emmanuel ‘s sponsorship. By then I was a member of Akwa Ibom State Pilgrims Welfare Board. For your information, I seem to be the longest serving member of Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board in Nigeria. I served for eight years during the tenure of former Governor Godswill Akpabio. When Governor Udom took over, I was reappointed member of the board. Fortunately, by the divine making of God, October last year I was appointed Chairman, Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board. We should have traveled on or before December last year, but because of end of the year programmes; that of our mission, the ones organized by the state government together with all of us in the board who are church officials. So we had to finish our mission programmes before setting out. Pilgrimage for 2022 is the one we came back last week. It was through the generosity of our Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel that we went. He sponsored 120 pilgrims to the holy land. We left on the 16th January with pilgrims from Delta state joining us at Victor Attah International Airport. We flee from Uyo to Jordan and spent three days in Jordan moving to different Biblical sites. We moved there to Nazareth where Jesus was born and after spending three days in the city, we moved to the capital of Israel which is Jerusalem for another three days visiting quite a number of Biblical sites. We went there for spiritual uplift and revival. We were there to understand that Biblical stories are not myth but are true. For example, we saw the wailing wall, the Mount of Transfiguration, Garden of Gethsemane, River Jordan where Jesus was baptized, sea of Galilee where Jesus rebuked the boisterous wind on behalf of the disciples. I can tell you right from the day Jesus rebuked that wind till now, the river is still calm. We went to the sea of Zechamon and we also went to Simon Peter’s house were Jesus healed his mother-in-law. These are things that motivate and reawaken every man’s knowledge on the reality of God’s word. We went there to have the practical experience, and we took time to pray as if the end of the world was about to come. But you cannot just go there and see the miraculous sites with Biblical knowledge without praying. And you see people from different countries at every site from morning till evening. It is a place to behold. Nobody can go there and come back the same.
You said you and your team spent time to pray. What exactly were you praying about?
Even the blind, and even the dead can feel intuitively the pain everybody in Nigeria is undergoing. In our prayers, we asked God to forgive us because this nation seems to be a country without conscience, filled with brutality, injustice , discrimination, kidnapping, nepotism and corruption. We prayed that God will change the entire system. I say this openly, our system is counterfeit. You cannot travel freely on our roads in Nigeria. Even now, Nigeria is internationally known as a nation filled with indigenous scammers. You are afraid of your next neighbour because of insincerity. In this country, we are indirectly tortured, punished and even worse than captives. Nigeria today, is worse than the time Israelites were captives in Egypt. Nigeria as oil producing country is still suffering to buy fuel at high cost. You go today the north, petrol is cheap but down here in the south, it is very costly. You know the number of innocent blood that has been spilled across this country. So we went to Israel not just to pray but intercede and supplicate for God’s mercy for our land and to restore good government. We went there to pray for ourselves. There is no peace in the land and we prayed for God’s mercy for this political injury time because we do not want blood shed, war. We want peace to prevail because in the face of crisis there can never be development.
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For Akwa Ibom, God has graciously answered our prayer. I am talking about a special group set up by Governor Udom Emmanuel to be praying for God’s guidance in choosing a successor, and we having been praying for over three years now. At the end of it, Udom presented to us a man he prefers to take over from him of which he was and still very right. As a manager in a company, at the end of your tenure, you wouldn’t just leave the place like that, you need to appoint somebody to takeover from you. You would want somebody that after taking over from you, instead of retrogression, it will be progression. So Udom never did anything wrong. He couldn’t have left the place vacuum for anybody to take over. He wants to see greater and brighter Akwa Ibom State. He wants continuity not as a status squo but continuity with a difference. Our assignment was to pray for calmness, tranquility and Umo Eno’s actual succession, and I was the one who led the team. Even in the capital of hell, I will tell Lucifer that Umo Eno will win. I don’t shake and I don’t fear anything because Umo Eno was revealed to me since 2020 by God himself. So the day Udom brought out Umo Eno, I simply raised my hands in thanksgiving.
I usually described Umo Eno as divinely revealed, presented and generally accepted. I believe Umo Eno will turn Akwa Ibom into Dubai of Africa. Umo Eno has integrity, character unlike any other politician who will come and excavate treasury of the state for personal use. Umo Eno, presently by my findings, has been in his business for over 20 years and every months he has been able to pay a salary bill of twenty five million to his private staff. Which politician in Akwa Ibom State is running such personal or private business for that number of years and the business is still booming. Umo Eno is a pastor and the Bible says when the righteous is on the throne the people rejoice but when the wicked takes over, by my definition, there will be gnashing of teeth like we are presently suffering. Who would believe a litre of petrol will be up to N450 per in the south but cheaper in the north. We have been so cheated, punished. We are worse than slaves in the land of Egypt. That was why we went to Israel to pray for a revolutionary and drastic change. The attempt and goal of Fulani Muslims is to Islamise the country. As everyone knows, the government of this country has paid the expected eight years fee out of ten, remaining two years. If by stupidity and sheer ignorance of our people, I another Muslim is voted in as President, his first target will be to complete the payment of dues for the remaining two years to OIC, then the country will be known as Islamic country while Christianity will become obsolete.
Pastor Umo Eno’s main thrust is rural development. How is this achievable considering antecedents of people who made similar promise and when they emerged as Governors, they never fulfill such promise?
Umo Eno is a pastor and the Bible says as many that are led by the spirit of God are the sons of God. The previous Governors did amazingly well but Umo Eno is coming with brand new godly agenda. How many of the previous Governors were pastors. Umo Eno is a different person from a different kingdom. A deacon has already laid agenda with dakkada creed, a pastor in the person of Umo Eno is coming with ARISE AGENDA. Tell me among the previous Governors who came up with such mantra apart from late Akpan Isemin. A pastor is coming to improve upon the work of a deacon. A spiritual man understands the things of the spirit. Udom got a vision written down and Umo Eno is coming to run with it. Obong Attah brought the idea of airport , Senator Akpabio started developing the place but a deacon came with a vision and today Akwa Ibom is the only state with flying birds. When a pastor comes in, it is going to be amazing because without God you cannot be well led. With pastor Umo Eno, we are going to have a brand new and a better Akwa Ibom State.
When is the next set of pilgrims traveling to Israel?
You know Christian Pilgrims Commission was established by the decree of Federal Government, so it is a yearly act. The reason we could not go in 2020 and 2021 was because of COVID-19. Israel closed borders against visitors. By the time Umo Eno takes over, we shall send contingents to Israel. It is a yearly exercise. Around August we shall make announcement for intending pilgrims to come and buy forms. One of the conditions is that you must be physically sound because going there entails ascending and descending heels and mountains. We don’t want somebody to come and die there.