In July, a group of musicians/artistes took their peaceful protest to the Redemption Camp where they challenged the General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, to speak up on raging issues. The artistes prodded Adeboye to use his globally acknowledged influence to speak on the security situation in the country, including advocating the release of the young woman, Leah Sharibu, who, unfortunately, remains in her Boko Haram abductors’ gulag.
When Adeboye’s media aides responded to the protesters, they said his silence does not mean he is apathetic. It was just that he had ceded such a responsibility to bodies formed to take on such tasks, namely the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. Truly, when CAN too responded to the protesters, they told them to take their issues to the government and leave the good Pastor alone. Why single out a church leader and invest him with the moral responsibility that should be distributed to a collective? Besides, CAN and the PFN were already speaking on the issue, why should the Pastor usurp their roles? The response of CAN to the protesters sounded reasonable enough, but I am afraid they missed a significant point.
When the times are dire like this, people look up to a prophet to apprehend the times, articulate them in divine speak, and provide a moral direction for the future. The prophet of God is the one the people believe is imbued with the perspicacity to divine the times and speak to the situation using the weight of his spiritual authority and charisma. In an intensely religious country like ours, the words of prophets weigh a lot. In secular climes, people look to their intellectuals and celebrities to take a moral stand on their country’s situation. In Nigeria, we have pastors. I do not think there is any personality whose words weigh half of Adeboye’s. That is why they pester him to say something.
Yes, I do understand the hesitancy of pastors who do not want to talk too loudly on political issues. There are times one cannot blame pastors for taking refuge in silence. Take the case of Pastor W.F. Kumuyi. The man has been, for most of his career as a shepherd of Christ, apolitical. But sometime in October last year, he paid a congenial visit to Aso Rock where President Muhammadu Buhari hosted him and his wife. In June, Kumuyi preached a sermon where he told Christians not to attack the President either through the newspapers or the Internet, and instead strive towards Christ-like behaviour. The kind of backlash he received must have made him wonder what was outrageous about the statement that the “children of anger” dragged him on the floor of the social media. His admonition was truly biblical but when a country is going through hell, people will not take kindly to a spiritual injunction that can be weaponised by the political establishment. If one keeps quiet in this Buhari government, one will die and still be blamed for one’s death. Anyway, Kumuyi’s experience must have taught others that in these tough times, the pastor who will last is the one who keeps his political views to himself.
But unlike others, Adeboye cannot afford to be apolitical or lukewarm. Number one reason is the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. One of the factors that changed public perception of the Buhari candidature in 2015 was Osinbajo who was offered to the public as not just a lawyer, but a pastor as well. He was not merely a self-labelled pastor, he was also affiliated with the RCCG, one of the largest gatherings of Christians in the world. By implication, Osinbajo was Adeboye’s son and that factor gave them mileage in the 2015 elections. We cannot quantify how many votes it translated into, but it did help to ameliorate the fear of “Islamisation” that had previously dogged Buhari’s ambition. When people invested their votes in Osinbajo, they were also voting for Adeboye. If things are not going well, Adeboye owes it to people to speak unequivocally on issues and not just relegate that responsibility to other Christian bodies. They have their roles to play, no doubt, but he owes people that obligation.
The second reason has to do with Adeboye’s deployment of his spiritual gifts. In what has become a Pentecostal lore, the prophesy that ended the despotic rule of Gen. Sani Abacha and triggered the civilian rule in Nigeria came from the altar in his church. At the church’s December convention, Adeboye repeated the story of how his prophesy ended Abacha’s evil reign as a testimony to God’s working power. If he takes the credit for giving the word of power that launched Nigeria on the path of democratic rule, he should also take responsibility for what democracy has brought for and on us. Things are falling apart, and democracy is beginning to feel like military rule. So, where do we go from here? Like Adeboye himself acknowledged lately when some of his church ministers were kidnapped, on the issue of security, things have never been so bad in Nigeria as they are presently. Violence has become so routine; incidents have to be spectacular before they make the news.
The Chairman of CAN in Kaduna, Joseph Hagan, recently disclosed that their association had paid about N300m as ransoms for their abducted members since 2015. That is a hefty amount of money for any organisation to shell out. Considering that the churches are not manufacturing goods, it means it is the poor church members who fronted the costs. That is the more reason influential people should raise their voices to put pressure on the government. On that score, I must give some credit to Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church. After one of his pastors, Jeremiah Omolara, was killed and his wife abducted, Oyedepo got on the altar and cursed the kidnappers. I am not a believer in the telepathic power of curses, so I see what he was doing with his charged admixture of curses and prophetic utterances before the church and general public as public incitement. He was propelling them to an urgency that will impact their civic agencies. His confrontational approach might be problematic for some, but there is also the potential of such prayers rattling the political establishment enough to compel them to treat security issues more urgently. In these times when religious and tribal leaders are cautious about dissenting and offending political power, Oyedepo’s audacity is refreshing. On that score, he earned my respect.
Finally, one other reason Adeboye owes us is because it seems his God – and this is judging from what His prophet says about him – is not politically neutral. On Friday, at the Holy Ghost night of the RCCG convention, Adeboye told us that God revealed to him that Osinbajo would be involved in a helicopter crash. Adeboye claimed he prayed for Osinbajo and the disaster was averted. To be clear, I have no problems with God saving the Vice President of a nation, but I want God to do the same too for poor and hapless Nigerians who have become perennial victims of routine violence in Nigeria. Many people all over Nigeria are disqualified in the consideration for citizen protection by the country because their lives do not even register in the consciousness of the state to warrant security for them. They too need God to intervene for them with the same force of power as He did for Osinbajo. These people need influential pastors to intercede for them both spiritually and politically; prophets like the days of old who will risk everything and boldly declare, “Thus saith the Lord…” They need people with moral influence to put agents of political power in a state of dis-ease. We thank God for the life of our brother Osinbajo, but God’s flock is being eaten by the wolves in the corridors of power across the country. They need God to do more for them, not regale them with the story of how He saved a politician in a cassock.