In an interview published today, President of Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, who has been under criticism for buying a private bombardier jet, explains why his church did so and the pains he has had to endure without a private plane. Below is an excerpt from the interview as published by Vanguardngr.com
Oritsejafor: Coming to the issue of jet, I had no single idea of how it came about. It is true that people like us have gotten to a point where we need to have means of movement that will help us.
You may have heard me speak about my trip to Indonesia, to Jakarta.In fact, it wasn’t even Jakarta I was going to, but I had to stay inside an airport in Jakarta for five hours to wait for my flight, to get to the very city I was going. I was only going to preach for two hours there. I flew from Lagos to Dubai and I spent over three hours, changed flight to fly to Jakarta and then stayed five hours at the airport just to catch a flight to where I was going to, where I was to preach for just two hours.And after everything, I got a flight from that place again to Jakarta, stayed at the airport again for another five hours, then flew into Dubai, stayed again at the airport for another three hours before I flew into Lagos. It took me four days to make a journey to preach for two hours. I’m a human being and I am not getting younger every day.And locally, it is worse, for instance, the acting General Secretary of CAN lost his father in a place outside Uyo, Akwa Ibom State and I had to be there. I preached in a place in Lagos on a Friday and needed to be back to Warri on a Saturday, but at the end of the day, the plane that would have taken me was no where.I had to charter a plane for N3.5 million to take me to Uyo, waited for me to finish and then take me back to Warri.
Two weeks ago, a young pastor in Port Harcourt built a new church and had been on me all this while to come and dedicate the church and suddenly from no where, there was this flood that cut off the road to Port Harcourt.There is no road now to Port Harcourt. If you want to go by road now, it takes you up to 12 hours to get to Port Harcourt and I had to preach in Port Harcourt, I had to preach in Lagos, I had to preach in Abuja and other places.
Finally, I was able to find my way to Port Harcourt, it was on a Saturday.I had to get to Warri that Saturday so as to be able to preach the next day, Sunday. Do you know what I had to finally do? I chartered a helicopter that cost me N2 million to drop me in Warri. When they dropped me here, ah, I can’t tell you how I felt that I had to part with that sum. But I had promised the young man and the church and if I had said no, will it be right? I can go on and on and on.
So, sometimes, my schedule is so complicated. Now, with this plane, it changes everything about my movements. Now, I can move, I can even go and come back home. It is a bit more convenient for me and I suspect that this is one of the reasons a lot of these other preachers have planes.
Does your congregation understand all these engagements?
Oritsejafor: They do. They feel the pain I go through and they feel painful for not seeing me most of the time. They don’t like it, they are troubled. I know some people buy planes, I can’t buy plane. I can’t afford it. I don’t have that kind of money, I still don’t know the people that bought this plane, but I know that there is a committee.I hope you will get to meet with some of the people in that committee, I don’t know them. My wife is more involved with them. She (my wife) never talked to me, (about it) and she was acting strange. Well, I don’t want to get involved in this.
This is my story about the plane. And I’m not ashamed to own a plane, I think it is a necessity and not a luxury for some of us deeply involved in the work of God to own planes.
Nigerian pastors are accused of prospering while their congregants continue to suffer in poverty. What is your take on this?Well, let me begin like this, this is a major issue, especially now that I have just been presented with a gift of a jet. That makes it a major issue.
Oritsejafor: Let me say here that every pastor must be conscious of the people he pastors. It is very important. I can tell you that as a pastor for 40 years now, if you talk to people that are genuinely my members, they will tell you the kind of pastor that am I. If you watched me today, I was talking about a young man who has been trying to go to a university for three years now. I didn’t know him from Adam. One day, after a service here, one of my pastors brought him to me. As soon as he saw me, he held my legs and began to cry! He showed me all the papers, pleading that he had tried to gain admission to any university here, it never worked.So he finally got admission to study in Cyprus. I paid his school fees, helped him with ticket and everything he needed, he’s gone. He has since resumed school and is there in Cyprus now. How many people will know that?
In the last seven to eight years now, I have paid school fees of over 100 people in different universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.Some of them have graduated and have come here to share their testimonies, excitements and even their parents have come here to thank us. I don’t know them from anywhere. Every December 26, I do a very big thing here. We call it poverty alleviation.
This year, December 26, we will equally do it. Last December 26, I gave out about six brand new cars to people; your denomination means nothing. Whether you are a Muslim or a native doctor means nothing here. What qualifies you is if you are a human being. I gave out 25 tricycles, about 100 sewing machines, and grinding machines.
Some of these people come here to give testimonies; some are now married and have children. There was this young boy, a Moslem from Auchi. This young man, nothing good was coming out of his life, he was rejected, nobody wanted him and one of our pastors took him into a teaching centre and he was sleeping in the teaching centre. They were helping him. This boy had driver’s licence, I don’t know how he got it. He had no job and couldn’t do anything.
Last two years, when we were doing the poverty alleviation, he applied. And they brought out a name which happened to be this boy’s and he won a brand new car. Today, that boy has rented his own house; in fact, his parents who are Muslims came to church on a Sunday and worshipped with me and danced all over the place and, after the service, they came to me and thanked me, saying ‘oh, this boy that you don’t even know from anywhere, you dashed him a car.’They were very happy.
Besides that, many lives have been transformed here. We have changed many lives. We have an orphanage here. As we are talking, an American couple has gotten in touch with me. They want to adopt a child from our orphanage. We have a clinic here that hopefully will develop into a full blown hospital. People go there and pay little something for treatment, but generally on Sundays people are treated free.