Recently, the Daily Mail, UK, had a feature on Bishop David Oyedepo. He was accused (alongside his son who ‘manages’ the UK branch) of fleecing worshippers by making “spurious claims” and “cynical exploitation of the gullible”.
journalist who visited the British church and the British MP who
condemned him acted ignorant of the antithesis of faith and logicality
when they expressed surprise about how people were urged to give more
money in return for blessings that were neither guaranteed nor cognisant
of the realities on ground.
also talked about how much of the money creamed off these worshippers
are being repatriated to Nigeria (which, in a perverse sense, is a
The same Daily
Mail, weeks before, ran a feature on another Nigerian pastor in the same
UK, Alex Omokodu, (who claims on his website to have raised the dead
twice) and another Pastor Mbenga of the Victorious Pentecostal Assembly
who scam worshippers by selling olive oil and black currant drink at
double the market rate as “miracle cures”, capable of curing terminal
Like Oyedepo, Omokodu lives large, far removed from the mess he makes of peoples’ lives.
reaction at those articles was to defend my countrymen against a
searchlight that might have been beamed with a racist undertone. I mean,
Daily Mail suddenly woke up and realised religion is exploitative? Wow!
Isn’t that what
religion has been all about for many centuries? How can we say that
what Oyedepo and Mbenga are accused of peddling different from the
Pope’s selling of Indulgences in the 16th Century? Religion plays on
fear to rip-off poor and miserable people in the name of God. And the
irony is, the more people are deceived, the more devoted they become.
So, what’s new? From appropriating people’s money to shoplifting condoms
to forcing youths to have sex, what have church leaders not done?
If people have
refused to read History books that teach us that religion came to us
riding on the back of exploitation and politics, why, with the
celebrated cases of Jim Bakker, Eddie Long and Benny Hinn among others,
do people still throng churches and sponsor their pastors’ excesses out
of their poverty? Why has the case of financial scandals involving the
creators of TBN Channel -some of which are so disgusting- not caused a
mass boycott of these hawkers of falsehood? Why does it spur people to
somebody like Jesu Oyingbo have followership in the first place and why
didn’t people walk out on Pastor Chris Oyakhilome when he charged gate
fees before one could attend service? Seriously, who should take the
blame? The person who sells snake oil or the one who finds a psychic
relief (however temporary) from buying?
Take the case
of Pastor Enoch Adeboye: On his church website, Adeboye claims God told
him He had no choice but to keep Covenant Partners alive for 10 years
because they were giving to Him within that period. This takes ideas of
bizarre and outlandish to another height entirely.
One, a god is
meant to earn his keep but Adeboye’s is one whose services people have
to pay for, never mind that billions who are not his covenant partners
are not only alive, but live considerably better lives elsewhere. Two,
can Adeboye, personally, account for every single one of his covenant
partners and that in those last 10 years, not a single one died? Can he?
We are used to Nigerian judges and politicians saying that their hands
are tied, but God? That sounds like something from the mind of a
freakish Nollywood screen-writer.
Since the news
broke that Pastor Ayo Oritsejeafor has joined the league of Private
Jet-Owning Pastors, there has been, thankfully, a sense of outrage at
the excesses of Nigerian pastors.
For the record,
let me state that Pastor Oritsejeafor is not a good poster boy for
Christianity (never mind the various caps he wears, anyone can be
anything in Nigeria’s Pentecostalism). I make this point – debatable, of
course- not just because of his Bling Bling jewellery like 50 Cents or
even his bond with the present occupant of Aso Rock Villa; there is
something about him –and I came to this conclusion after watching him
raise an offering on Cable TV- that doesn’t seem to me would wait for
God to supply all his ‘greeds’ according to his riches and glory.
His private jet
was presented while he was sandwiched, like Jesus between two thieves,
in the presence of a President who bizarrely declared he couldn’t see
how corruption and road accidents are interlinked and, a governor whose
public morals fall below average. Rev. Fr. Matthew Kukah could not have
put it better: Oritsejeafor’s moral authority is undermined by these
The issue is,
religion, exploitation and subsequent scandals will not go away. Not in
this generation. Not even in this world. As long as there is that
primitive instinct in man to seek the supernatural, to seek God and the
fear of death is constantly shaken before our eyes, people will continue
to subject themselves to exploitative pastors to use as they like.
But the good
thing Oritsejeafor has done for us is that he created a conversation;
Oyedepo, Omokodu and other sellers of 21st Century Indulgences keep
exposing the underbelly of these merchant-pastors; but whether this will
translate into a rationality that will cause Nigerians to slow down on
the ill-logic of tolerating these pastors’ shenanigans remains to be
It takes more
than throwing pastors in jail for their followers to be set free from
the mind-prison they are ensconced in. Religion and political power are
intertwined in many ways that make this impossible to begin with at all.
History shows that, for instance, with an Industrial Revolution, the
process creates a ripple effect that bleaches people of primitiveness to
transcend religious superstitions while forging a better society that
is not predicated on dogmatic concepts of theodicy which religion
propagates. When that day comes in Nigeria, and even Africa, these
pastors will wilfully choose jail as rescue from irrelevance the times
would banish them.
But here’s the
problem: These pastors know that with Nigeria’s developmental progress
comes their end. And they are actively complicit in the dysfunctionality
of Nigeria to extend their own longevity.