By Bola Bolawole
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Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) is not a flippant person; neither is he a busybody and meddlesome interloper. He is a reticent person, self-effacing and not like many other pastors who hug the limelight, puff and show off what they have as well as what God has not deposited in them. Adeboye speaks sparingly on national issues and refrains from taking sides on the raging issues of our time. If he talks, then, it means he is compelled to talk. And when he talks, he measures his speech. If he comes hard on any issue, it means he has got it up to his throat and has no other choice than to say it as it is. On a few occasions since 1999 when democracy turned demon-crazy or dem-all-crazy, Pastor Adeboye has been forced to speak truth to power only on a few occasions. On each of such occasions, the complaints of the faithful as well as others who recognise Adeboye as a moral giant that should not keep quiet in the face of unabashed and unmitigated tyranny of the powers-that-be must have dragged the world-acclaimed man of God out of his corner. On one such occasion, some pro-democracy activists even staged a demonstration at the RCCG Campground home of Pastor Adeboye, demanding that he break his silence and speak out. Their argument was well situated within the scriptures: Prophets of old spoke truth to power and sided with the oppressed, why are the prophets of today not acting similarly? Is it fear or is it compromise?
Situations and circumstances have a way of radicalizing even the arch conservatives; the worsening situation of the country no less! On all fronts the country is bleeding. The Adeboyes of this world may not know what the “market” is talking about but they know what tithes and offerings of the church are saying in quite unmistakable terms! The demands of church members on them must be gruelling in the face of sharply dwindling resources. Every pastor in their own little corners knows what offering and tithes are saying. They also know what attendance at church programmes and services is saying. They know that donor fatigue has set in as a result of the dwindling resources of church members. Many have lost jobs. Many have had their salaries and emoluments drastically slashed. Running the church and meeting up with statutory obligations have become grave challenges. Some pastors have dropped the mantle. Some others are at sea on how to cope. Yet, some others have resorted to cutting corners in the present dispensation. For many pastors, going to church has become a nightmare: How to face the long queue of congregants with one problem or the other, most of them existentialist in nature. At church programmes, many worshippers grumble when the pastor asks that we pray for Nigeria. Revolt of the congregants is not far away!
Political apathy on the part of church members is another sore point that the Church fathers can only ignore at their own peril. Before the 2019 election, we were told to sensitize our members to their civic responsibility of participating in the political process. The very least we asked them to do was to register and get their permanent voters card (PVC) so as to qualify to vote in the election. But after months of sensitization, in many churches that I knew, the response was more than poor; it was dismal. In my own church of over a hundred adults, not up to 10 got their PVC! Now, political apathy is a danger signal in any democracy. Where citizens have lost interest or confidence in the political process; where they think that their votes do not count, then, the political system loses legitimacy. The leaders cannot claim to have been elected by the people. And a people that did not elect the leaders cannot identify with or support the programmes or policies of such leaders. There is a disconnection between the leaders and the led. Such a political system is liable to be toppled to the acclaim of the cheering masses. Whereas military coups are said to have become unpopular in Africa and other parts of the developing world, we have witnessed a few of them in recent times.
It is in this light that the Office of the Directorate of Politics and Governance created last month by the RCCG under the leadership of Pastor Adeboye should have been viewed. Unfortunately, many viewed it as a machinery to promote the political ambition of a particular high brow member of the RCCG. The intention of the said RCCG circular was right but the wording of one of the statements was what did not sit pretty with the antagonists, some of them Christians – even RCCG members. Says the circular: “We write to formally notify you that the mission authority has created the Office of Directorate of Politics and Governance in the RCCG. Further to this, Pastor Timothy Olaniyan (PICP Lagos Province 12) has been appointed to lead the Office. You are kindly requested to appoint with immediate effect a Provincial Officer for your province and also ensure that the same is done at all levels of the church – zone, area and parish. The essence of this directorate is to help coordinate the engagement of our people who are willing to be involved in politics as well as mobilize support for them when required.” The red herring was in the last statement.
Mobilizing the masses to take their destiny in their own hands is a worthwhile venture. Not only RCCG members or Christians must be so mobilized but the citizenry as a whole. Next is the political education for our people to know the value and power inherent in their PVC. Voters must be educated to desist from selling their votes for a mess of pottage, as it were. Our youths must be educated to resist the temptation of acting as political thugs and enforcers. Those who rig elections; who falsify and announce fake results are usually Christians and Muslims. They must be sensitized to desist from such acts. The beneficiaries of rigged elections are not only Muslims and Christians; they also add insult to the injury by ending up in churches and mosques for thanksgiving after their nefarious activities. Pastors who fast, pray, and conduct vigil for election riggers; those who prophesy and predict winners and losers on a cash-and-carry basis all have to be sensitized to desist from their illicit activities. In other words, we need conscientious men of God like Pastor Adeboye to get actively involved in helping to sanitize our political system in the interest of everyone. It is in that sense that I view the RCCG’s Office of the Directorate of Politics and Governance circular.
Fortunately, Adeboye threw more light on the matter last Sunday as he made it clear he was not involved in PARTISAN politics and would NEVER be. Yes, PARTISAN politics because we are all political animals. Importantly, there is nothing wrong in a pastor speaking out for the people. The pastors of old did; putting even their comfort and life on the line. The sermon given last Sunday by Adeboye perfectly fits this billing. A news medium reported that Adeboye said he has no preferred candidate for next year’s general election. “If I vote for anyone, I would be unjust to the rest of my children; I am the father of all and I like it that way” he was quoted as saying, adding that he will support whoever God says. I hope Dele Momodu heard or read that! Adeboye, however, said Nigerians who refuse to vote in an election have no right to complain about the government.
“‘You were Nigerian before you became a Christian. As a Nigerian, you have a duty to register, to vote and make sure your vote counts. You have a duty to belong to any party of your choice; you can’t refuse to vote and then complain about the government…As of now, I still do not know whether or not there will be an election next year. Do not say that Pastor Adeboye said there will be no election next year; that is not what I said… Adeboye does not know yet’ Well! Many prophecies are already in the public domain concerning 2023: To be or not to be?
Pastor Adeboye then noted that he was very concerned about the Kaduna killings, oil theft, Nigeria’s depressing debt profile and other current national challenges. “You cannot go to Kaduna by road, air or train. That brings so many questions to my mind as a man of prayers. Why Kaduna? Who is trying to isolate Kaduna? Why? After Kaduna; which next? …It is in the news and nobody has denied it that as of now more than 80 per cent of the oil we are producing is being stolen… that leads me to several questions: Who is stealing the oil? Where is the money going? What do they want to do with the money? Who are the foreign nations buying this stolen oil? How many of these nations of the world are your friends?”
According to Adeboye, “it is an open secret that more than 90 per cent of the money Nigeria gets from crude oil sales is being used to service interest accruing on debt. We are borrowing more and according to a friend of mine, we are moving steadily towards a state of bankruptcy…”
Uuumhh! Adeboye has spoken like the prophets of old! But do the rulers of today listen to the prophets like the rulers of old?
Bolawole is a respected columnist and former deputy editor in Chief of The Punch