So how did Nigeria get here? I am sure that question is fit to be the subject of many doctoral theses in universities across the world and I will even wager further that there will be as many answers as the number of dissertations written on the subject. So, without any pretensions to scholarly loftiness, I will be writing on how we got here – and examining different facets of our march towards the precipice.
I will be direct here, I am not enamoured of the clergy class. In my opinion, and from a study of history, the clergy class has been riddled with more hits than misses, more charlatans than the genuine article. I am not encouraging atheists and agnostics to come here for a pissing contest, but some home truths have to be told. The clergy class in Nigeria is a monumental failure; one whose misdeeds have contributed in no small measure to perpetuate the rot and the rut in which we have found ourselves. I opted to start my series of essays with the clergy class because, with the decay in the educational sector, they are the single group with the largest captive audience in Nigeria – an audience they should educate on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship amongst other things. Sadly our clergy class is “cock-in-condom” with the State (pardon the explicit language, but that is the best figure of speech to describe the relationship).
I write with the bias of my Christian faith, and I would reckon parallels exist in just about every other religious system. Here is a quote from the Bible “Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on his throne as king to rule for the LORD your God. Because of the love of your God for Israel and his desire to uphold them forever, he has made you king over them, to maintain justice and righteousness”. Put simply, God made Solomon king because of His love for the citizens and Solomon’s responsibility was to maintain justice and righteousness. That is the gold standard to which rulers must be held. Rulers are meant to rule for the benefit of the ruled.
When last did any of the limelight-hugging, jet-flying Daddies and Mummies remind their congregation that the government’s primary obligation is to rule with equity and provide a conducive framework for every citizen to aspire to be better? Which of the tongue-speaking, Bible-thumping bishops and metropolitans has held training sessions to enlighten the congregation about civic rights and responsibilities? If a general overseer is willing to publicly pray for a kneeling president, why is he unwilling to publicly reprimand the president over abject misrule?
Sadly, the message from the pulpit – if it can be called a message – is one of witches and wizards, tithes and offerings as the toll pass to paradise, an amorphous message of grace that the preacher measures by the fleet of his private jets, the balance of his bank accounts and his conquests in bed. Lest I forget, there is the perennial populist rabble-rouser who is always claiming visions of doom from God. I will call a spade a spade, these are no servants of God. These are self-serving men, whose interests are defined by their megalomania – bigger congregations, more “branches” and minimal disruptions to their cash flow empires. From such, we should learn to flee.
In the weeks after the kidnap in Chibok, there was a loud silence from the clergy quarter. Oh, I’m sorry, there was the token “pray for the families affected”. Which of the “notable” psychedelic clerics called the government to task regarding its obligations towards recovering the girls? The first 50 that were kidnapped a few months ago just vanished like mere statistics. When the international community latched onto the #bringbackourgirls hashtag, like zombies jolted out of their revelry, the usual noises were made from the usual camps. The P-Diddy wannabe chaplain of Aso Rock was quick to politicise it, whilst another clergyman in Ogba, in a round of demagoguery over the weekend informed us that it was all a plan by the Americans to weaken Nigeria. Three weeks after the girls were kidnapped. That is the depth of truth and sincerity that obtains in the Nigerian church.
Talking about the problem is not enough though; let’s pause for a moment and think about this. Every weekend, Nigerians flock to their prayer houses and places of worship. Shortly after praise and worship in the average church, there will be a prayer session that would consist of something like this… every “witches and wizards” of my father’s house that is blocking my way, die by fire! I know Nigerians love this mode of prayer; the frantic fervency would appear to be prerequisite for answered prayers. There is something flawed about this though, because the problem might not be “a witches and wizards”, supposing they are gnomes and fairies? A more pertinent prayer would be “let every leader that will not rule this nation in justice and righteousness fall down and die by fire”. However, is there any “man of God” who is bold enough to do this? What with import duty waivers at stake? What about the honorarium for accompanying the president to Israel, or the private jet that was promised for being supportive?
Many churches organise seminars on financial breakthrough. This would be a good thing, if the message were not premised on one line of action – tithe yourself into prosperity. How many entrepreneurial classes are taught compared to the tithes, offerings, first fruit and liberty offering sowing classes? Would life be different if the citizens of Lagos were informed about voting themselves into prosperity? If votes in Lagos were properly utilised, maybe the economic blight known as Ojuyobo might not be as dominant. Or he might be less brazen. Or perhaps, a more effective governance structure might have been in place. Just saying.
In a country where citizens put a lot of stock in what “my pastor said” or “the G.O said”, the failure of the church in telling the truth is far more debilitating than depriving the poor of their money to fund the bishop’s bling-bling. The kissing cousins relationship that epitomises the relationship between the State and organised religion perpetuates an atmosphere of ignorance and bigotry where elections are viewed from the prism of “believer” or “unbeliever” or from the binary viewpoint of Islam or Christianity, leaving in the dust the more important principle – “to maintain justice and righteousness”. Nation-building in the 21st century involves a lot more than a man’s mode of worship. No serious nation does that and succeeds. It will be madness to think we can.
Next time someone comes to campaign in your church, if your pastor does not pray “Let every leader that will not rule this nation in justice and righteousness fall down and die by fire”, it is time for you to leg it. Send your tithes to me, I will pray for you.