The Nigerian church and its contradictions – By Niran Adedokun

I am hoping that the church in Nigeria does not see Monday’s sack of Mr. Jim Obazee as the Executive Secretary of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria as some sort of victory.

I am still in the process of convincing myself that the hullaballoo, which followed Pastor Enoch Adeboye’s decision to step down from his position as the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Nigeria, did not inspire President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to send Obazee home at this time. I try to justify the action by the fact that there e loads of boards of government agencies and parastatals not yet reconstituted and that this was just one of those actions that the President remembers by the day.

If that is not the case, I hope the former ES got fired for insubordination, coming from his alleged refusal to follow a ministerial directive to suspend the implementation of the Not-For-Profit Organisations Governance Code, 2016. Either of these would save the church from the public angst on this matter even as one concedes that they are propositions Nigerians are reluctant to consider. And, it would be foolhardy not to understand. The Yoruba say when the neighbour’s baby dies the morning after the witch shrieked, you need no fortune teller to arrive at the conclusion that the witch killed that child!

Obazee’s sack comes across like an  aftermath of Adeboye’s relinquishing of his position two days earlier,  and it is a sack that did untold harm to the already beaten reputation of the church! It does not seem to me that the leadership of the church realises this though, and that is unfortunate.

In response to Obazee’s sack, way ahead of the expiration of his tenure, General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Musa Asake, was quoted by The Nation as saying: “The sack of Jim (Obazee) is good riddance to bad rubbish. Anybody that wants to fight the church will find himself where he does not want…”

Although this distasteful statement appears to be Asake’s personal opinion since the same news report cited CAN President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, as saying that lawyers of the organisation were still studying the situation, it nevertheless suggests that the NFPO was a personal war against the Christian faith. This position is untrue.It also suggests that the Nigerian Church is a sovereign entity by itself.

Otherwise, bodies like CAN that feel aggrieved by the code would adopt the normal course dictated by the laws of the country in the pursuit of justice. To submit that the premature dismissal of a man who only seemed to demand good corporate governance in the country was appropriate deepens the suspicion of opacity and mammon mongering that many Nigerians, including a lot of faith adherents, hold against church leaders!

In addition to this, the Church would have taken the pains to deliberately communicate its disputations as well as processes that it had put in place to obtain reprieve and retain the confidence of the people by being open and accountable. It is a duty that a body serving God and man owes and dereliction at it is bound to send wrong signals.

For instance, discussions in the public domain have restricted these issues to the refusal of church leaders to pay taxes, open their books to scrutiny and preserve the leadership of churches for their family members. Beyond the commendable step taken by Pastor Adeboye in compliance with provisions of the code, the church has made no effort to put a contrary perspective forward. A section of the church even blames Adeboye for being so forward! And I am unable to understand the grouse.

First off, this code is not just about the church as it also talks about leaders of the Muslim faith. Second, while the idea of government stepping into the arena to dictate the tenure of religious leaders sounds absurd, I found that the regulations provide a lot of latitude for founders and extant spiritual leaders of such organisations. If the Church however finds unjust provisions in this code, it owes the public the presentation of superior arguments to that effect. But there are many reasons why the Nigerian church would be unable to do that.

Prime amongst this is the appalling lack of cohesion within its fold. No matter how much it pretends at it, Christendom in Nigeria is unable to approach issues with a single mind and this seems to have diminished its impact.

Some could argue that the level of discord in the Church derives from the number of denominations creeping on us daily, but that is beside the point. Since unity hinged on selfless love for one another is the very essence of the faith, those who start new churches would be forced to fall in line if they met functional structures on the ground.

If the preaching of Christ remains the focus of the Church, His ministers should aggregate opinions and speak with one voice on issues that affect the effective propagation of their Commission. But here is where the problem is- the Church in Nigeria is a big but disorganised enclave where every man feathers his own nest or so it appears.

A corollary to this is the low or no entry barrier into ministry. Capitalising on the ethereal and personal nature of the invitation into ministry, innumerable people wake up daily to claim that they have been called by God whereas, many are inspired by nothing other than existential reasons and accumulate the wealth that they assume churching brings to them.

They then go on to perpetrate lies by concocting all sorts of out-of-this-world doctrines that find no foundation in the Bible. This is the origin of abominable conduct of spiritual manipulations, fortune telling, dissentions, embezzlement and such immoral acts that should, ordinarily not be spoken of amongst believers.

What is worse is that neither CAN nor the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, which pretends to give a sense of oneness to the Church in Nigeria, has any structure with which to deal with members who fall short of the very clear precepts of God. I do not even think that any self-induced code governs the administration of churches in Nigeria.

As far as it runs, Christians and their leaders are a body of free souls with everyone doing what they like without repercussions.  It is an irony that church leaders who teach the eternal truth that nature allows no vacuum, forget that a church that does not regulate itself invites secular scrutiny.

To fail to self-regulate and then go on to reject external intervention is to cast yourself in the shadowy image of a dodgy group of people, engrossed in every other thing but the limpid gospel you represent and preach.  This becomes more intolerable when you get triumphant at the termination of the duties of a man who, even if overzealous or misguided, only sought a decent country. That can be no victory at all.

Victory for the Nigerian church lies in for starters, leading the nation in the very important task of good corporate governance; finding a voice, united in the promotion of the selfless love of Christ; creating an effective internal self-check mechanism; maintaining an irreducible standard of decency and accountability to the faithful and nation as well as committing to persistent prayers on behalf of the faith, the faithful and the country that fathers us.

What we currently see of the Church is a power drunk, money mongering group, striving for the preservation of personal fiefdoms, none of which benefits God who made the call or the man, which the Church is called to bring good news to. We only see the embracement of vanity, all in contradiction of the profession that leaders of the Church say they committed. It is a contradiction that begs for urgent and godly attention.

Follow me on Twitter @niranadedokun

About the author

Adeeko Ademola

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