Thoughts on Nigeria’s National Conference: the masses, women & religious issues, etcetera – Tola Adenle


The column is taking another look at what’s going on in Nigeria’s Christian world today, especially church leaders’ utterances that seem to be at variance with Christian teachings. These religious leaders have contributed unwittingly to the blurring of the line between church and state in a supposedly secular state. I have touched my worries about church leaders in several essays over the years, including, after the “elections” that saw Alhaji Yar Adua score an incredible 24.6 million while General Buhari scored 6.6million and Alhaji Atiku 2.6million votes. I’ve wondered if it was not a cruel joke on Nigerians that the first was actually the last and the last, first, while the Katsina retired General got assigned his actual position! Of course most Nigerians know that Yar Adua’s 70% came out of mathematical wizardry by retired General Obasanjo’s electoral body, and we all remember that the shameless total awarded him reportedly had to be adjusted downward. Why? The [ebola researcher] Iwu-led NEC arrived at a total far in excess of the ballot cards released or whatever!

In most societies, religious leaders are always on the side of the masses which, naturally, has always made them thorns in the flesh of despotic governments. In far away Phillipines during the evil reign of Ferdinand Marcos saw the Catholic Archdiocese of Manila where the Archbishop was always in the news worldwide because of his words from the pulpit – and beyond – to Ferdinand Marcos who was deaf to masses’ cries. Like Manilla’s Archibishop, Ferdinand Marcos and his shoe-crazed wife were Catholics.

Nearer home was the fight that Archbishop Tutu waged against apartheid alongside the ANC and personalities like Winnie Mandela and other black South Africans and their allies. And still nearer home and right now is Zimbabwe where Christian clerics are leading the call for Mugabe’s ouster. Here at home was – and still is – Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi. Even in retirement from the Church of Nigeria Akure Diocese, he continues to speak out on the evil in this land as he once did week in, week out, against Abacha and for the return of democracy. General Abacha’s favorites slapped “NADECO Bishop” on him because in countless sermons and press releases, Bishop Gbonigi condemned in clearly unmistakable language the evil that the late General represented to Nigeria.

Not so inclined are countless Christian clerics these days. Muslims will have to pardon me since I’m not that familiar with the kind of exhortations Mallams impart. Very recently, there was a statement credited to Nigeria’s arguably the most popular preacher of the Word, the Rev. Adeboye. I say ‘arguably the most popular’ because in Nigeria today, most Christians seem to belong to “Redeemed” and other Pentecostal churches even though they may also be members of older churches – an extra church for quick prayer-answering for the Nigerian soul that cannot wait for slower prayer-answering by God in older churches just the way Nigerian noveau rich go on outings in car entourages just in case!

Rev. Adeboye was quoted as saying: When our former President wanted a third term, he avoided me throughout the period.” I found this very strange for many reasons a few of which I will touch.

As a “shepherd”, Rev. Adeboye’s stand is strange when one of his friends and “sheep” “strayed”. One, we are to assume – from this statement – that the Reverend found the “third term” misadventure wrong. Millions of Nigerians also believe that the former president is/was close to the Reverend. Now, what we do not know are the efforts – if any – that the Reverend made like the Biblical shepherd who went in search of a missing sheep while he left the rest unattended. Or, the Biblical woman who searched until she found her missing coin even though the rest was intact. The Person in Charge of Nigeria (PICN), Alhaji Yar Adua, is a self-proclaimed “son” of the last president. Since the PICN is also an Allah-fearing and devout Muslim, I was flabbergasted to read in the papers that he and Dr. Goodluck had a private 2-hour session with Rev. Adeboye before the worst heist in the history of election rigging.

Since the Redeemed head spends most time in Nigeria and in view of the millions who are members of his church, I am sure he must be aware of the unprecedented suffering in the land during the eight years rule of the former president. He should be aware, therefore, that no former Nigerian leader – late General Abacha included – ever garnered as much hatred as retired General Obasanjo, and this was in spite of the fact that no Nigerian head of state had ever come into office with as much goodwill at home and abroad as did the retired General in 1999.

While I do not watch much television and could have missed his condemnation of President Obasanjo’s acquiescence to corruption, or his “reforms” that had no human face – to throw at him a description he once lobbed at the so-called “evil genius” – I have not come across words that show he understood or understands the problems of the masses in a country so richly-endowed. With the exception of the Catholic Church and a couple of Pentecostal churches, church leaders, like politicians, seem arrayed against the masses. And since the masses, alas, know not all their adversaries, Nigerian politicians have muscled their way to top hierarchies in different Nigerian church laities, resulting in church and state becoming nearly one – almost like before Martin Luther’s Reformation.

There are still issues of equity, justice and social rebirths out there on which the opinions of Rev. Adeboye would be welcome if his comments on “dissociating himself from President Obasanjo’s third term bid” are not expedient afterthought.
What does he think about the unconditional surrender that top most church top hierarchies are preaching: “ the victory of the … PDP presidential flag-bearer … is the will of God”; Or, The “don’t be desperate” advice to Atiku by the same top cleric who announced Nigerians’ long-awaited messiah is here? “By his (Yar’Adua) manifesto, he is a man who is prepared to save this nation; … “!

God “willing” fraud, stealing, a one-party state in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country? The spilling of citizens’ blood as a red carpet for an anointed? This must be the same “god of Ekiti” aptly described by a NATION columnist as “His Imperial Majesty Emperor Olusegun Obasanjo”, NOT the Almighty.
With Northern leaders warning North’s legislators as regards a bill on women’s empowerment and another calling for different female Youth Corpers’ outfits, one hopes Christian clerics can see the direction that Nigeria is headed.

Cooked census figures followed by non-elections even by a Christian president they “thank God for” can lead to nowhere but the strong center and very weak states started by the military. A weak center would allow each federating unit to chart its own courses and aspirations.
While millions see missed opportunities to allow this country to finally rise to its full potential through reworking of the constitution, Christian clerics completely misread the Obasanjo presidency. Deliberate?

While the impending danger is real, they believe that “the future of the country … is well assured. We would not be able to appreciate [Obasanjo] … now but … he has brought stability to our politics …” Millions are praying this “stability” does not include General Buhari’s Nigeria of 1984 where police chased young women in Ibadan for wearing “improper” clothing.


This essay was first published as ‘Nigerian Religious Leaders and Politics’ in The Nation on Sunday in July 2007. TOLA.



WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 2014.  7:49 a.m. [GMT]

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