2015 Polls: Time For Our Religious Leaders To Remain Nonpartisan

I was very annoyed after watching an online version of a new year message credited to a renowned priest in Enugu state. My question is ,why should men of God be turning our sacred pulpits to campaign grounds for one political party or the other? To show maturity and civility,I have decided not to be personal in this discourse.

When Jesus was tempted to comment on the leadership styles of Emperor Tiberius Caesar,the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus,Jesus in His ingenuity dodged that by asking the pharisees to,' give to God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesar's '. Saint Peter went on to enjoin all Christians to pray for our leaders in authority because,' no one will be a leader unless God has destined it.' However,in Nigeria the reverse is the case as religious leaders openly endorse one candidate or another . It should be noted that emperor Tiberius Caesar was really an emperor in the true sense of an emperor. His own dictatorship was as bad as that of his predecessors,Julius and Augustus Caesar. See Luke 2:1, And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. All emperors ruled by decree the way our military leaders ruled us with decree.

Jesus survived two emperors ,Augustus Caesar who died at the age of 75 at AD 14 and Tiberius Caesar who ruled between 14-37 AD and Jesus never openly preached against them even when corruption was the order of the day then. See Luke 3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene. It has to be noted that all these leaders were really tyrannical with the exception of Herod Philip and Lysanias but Jesus never openly incited His people against their leaders even when the leaders were corrupt .My gratitude goes to Reverend Jolly Nyame ,the former governor of Taraba state,that showed us that a man of God could fully participate in politics to the extent of vying for and winning the office of the governor of a state. Jolly was ( and he is still) a truthful man as he never hid under an anointing to turn his sacred pulpit into a campaign ground for a particular political party.

What do we see today? Men of God have left their divine calling to openly campaign for a particular political party. Since Obama has openly supported gay marriage in USA and elsewhere in the world,how many men of God there have openly incited their congregation against Obama or did they campaign against him during his reelection in 2012 ? But here in Nigeria we exploit the high rate of illiteracy among the Nigeria public to campaign for a particular political party in our sacred pulpits . Argumentum ad verecundiam is what we have here. A proposition is claimed to be true because an esteemed person says it is true. This Argumentum ad verecundiam will lead us to Argumentum ad populum, a proposition is true because many held it to be true,what a fallacy? I want to state categorically clear that informed Nigerian public should be very careful as the propagators of that specious and unsubstantiated rumour that ousted Chief Ikedi Ohakim from Imo state government house have started again on the pulpits of God.

Last time I was discussing with one of my colleagues about the expected outcomes of our 2015 general elections ,he reminded me of an incident that happened in 2011 general election when he went to his village to convince his own aged mother to vote for a particular candidate for the gubernatorial election,his mother asked him to go for a confession to the priest for supporting a candidate that their priest did not ask them to vote for. My friend later learnt that the priest in their local church had consistently worked on the psychology of his members on the preferred candidate to be voted for. The said preferred candidate bought a new car for the priest with other financial packages hence the priest turned the pulpit of God to a campaign ground for the preferred candidate.

During the campaign for the last Anambra state gubernatorial election ,it was reported that scores of salvation seekers died in a stampede at a crusade ground after a particular political party members visited the priest at the crusade ground. Expectedly,that incident has been swept under the carpet hence others can continue in the impunity of turning their religious gatherings into a campaign ground for a particular political party. How many times did Saint Paul fight or preach against the government in his time? No one preaches about the salvation for the soul nowadays,if it is not about preaching for prosperity and the principles of tithing,it will be about a preaching in favour of one political party or the other. Is this why the bible said that judgement will start from the church? Believe you me,the salvation seekers that went there that day must have gone there to seek the face of God and to spiritually prepare themselves for the new year but this priest turned it to a campaign ground for the opposition party.

I lost my immediate elder sister on November 17,1989 due to this type of lopsided preaching of these men of God. They had told my mother that my elder sister was an Ogbanje hence anytime she was sick ,she should be brought to the church because her problem was spiritual hence there was nothing medical profession could do for her. Armed with this wrong information,on the said date my sister came down with fever,photophobia,headache,neck stiffness,diarrhoea,vomiting etc which were obvious clinical features of meningitis but my mother preferred taking my beloved sister to the church having been instructed by God's representative here on earth. The summary is that I lost that my beloved sister who was as cerebral as I am. Trust them,the priest told my mother that it was the will of God and nobody told my mother to leave that church,what an arrant nonsense?

I think time has come for the activities of these religious leaders to be checked. Imagine if my 'gullible' mother had run to the nearest health center,my beloved sister would have been alive today. What has a religious house got to do with the management of dehydration in a paediatric child having diarrhoea ? But my mother fell prey to their antics. This priest whose new year message is spreading like wildfire recently blew a false alarm that the current governor of Imo state,Owelle Rochas Okorocha issued a dud cheque to Owerri diocese which the diocese came out and denied ,wondering why the said priest should be bothering himself with activities in other dioceses? We should not forget in a hurry how this same priest helped propagate the rumour that the then governor of Imo state ,Chief Ikedi Ohakim,slapped a fellow priest. The rumour spread like a wild fire and I even believed that nonsense until when I heard the truth from the horse's mouth some years after Chief Ikedi Ohakim was unceremoniously voted out of power .

Armed with this wrong information,I had to plead with my cousin who hails from Imo state but then serving his NYSC year in Gombe state to come down to the east in order to obtain his voter's card to vote out Ikedi Ohakim, the alleged priest slapper . My cousin told me that he would only do that on the condition that I would foot the bill, I accepted to pick up all his transport expenses for him to procure the voter's card and to come back during the election to vote out Ohakim .It was after many months that I learnt that the rumour was just a hoax and that the opposition party 'judiciously' made use of the so-called men of God to hoodwink the Nigerian public and today Ikedim Ohakim is no longer the governor of Imo state due to a concocted rumour even when the bishop of the affected diocese came out on air to refute the rumour and to prove Ohakim's innocence.

Why can't our religious leaders remain nonpartisan ?Why can't they remain neutral so that warring parties can come to them for pieces of advice? America is what they are today because they never allowed any religion to be preached in their public places .Today,Nigeria is divided into two main religions,the Christian and Islam. We don't see ourselves as Nigerians anymore rather these religious leaders have exploited the high rate of illiteracy among the populace to incite the people. Saint Paul in his letters always made it clear to the reader whenever he wanted to state his own mind,he would not hide under anointing and be perpetrating evil and believe that his own immunity is the biblical injunction,touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm . When Justice Chukwudifu Oputa,during the Oputa panel was confronted with a matter concerning his own Igbo nation,he refused to comment,the reason being that he was in a national assignment hence should be unbiased.

Imagine if Justice Oputa in a secular government was able to draw the line between a national assignment and his own personal sentiments,why can't these so-called men of God control their own personal sentiments and remain neutral in political matters . God was not stupid when he instructed Joshua not to allow the levites have landed property. Today there are many cases pending in different courts of law among members of a church even when Saint Paul warned us not to take matters concerning the brethren to 'secular' law courts. Will I blame the members of the church that prefer taking their matters to our 'gentile' law courts nowadays to the elders of the church for resolution of their disputes when the priests have interests in those matters,can one be a judge in his own case? Certainly,judgement will start from the church because one day while a priest is using his sacred pulpit to campaign for one candidate, the supporters of one political party will clash with their opponents in the church with attendant shootings and violence associated with such imbroglio ,salvation seekers will run for their lives .

We are still complaining that our traditional institutes( the obis,igwes,Ezes,emirs,obas etc) have failed us as they are brazenly supporting one political party or the other, then our religious leaders are guilty of the same offence. How many religious leaders in USA and UK opposed their leaders ? This priest that is now criticising Jonathan and indirectly campaigning for the opposition party how many times has he written to Jonathan or gone to visit him in Abuja as is expected of a man of God? Is he telling me that our current insurgency does not have any spiritual connotation ? Why should a man of God whose roles should be advisory to our leaders suddenly become confrontational with campaign of calumny on our sacred pulpits? If men of God turn their pulpits to campaign grounds for a particular candidate or political party what will now happen to the campaign offices of our political parties.

Meanwhile ,remember that it was the same priest that anointed the Enugu state ACN gubernatorial candidate for 2011 election. Salvation seekers were asked to come to the venue with brooms and after the anointing of the said candidate what happened ? PDP still won the election in the state and still went ahead to defeat all other opposition parties in the law courts. Quote me anywhere Barrister Sullivan Chime,the current governor of Enugu state is if not the best governor ,at least among the five best governors . The book of Jeremiah 23:1 says that,'Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.' While watching the said online video, I saw that some people were leaving the venue in their numbers,probably they were staunch PDP supporters who were not ready to hear that from a supposed man of God. Salvation seekers will leave their houses and switch off their radios and televisions because they do not want to be disturbed by all the political gimmicks associated with political campaigns on these non-printed mass medîa,now right there in the house of God what they have been running away from is being played out to them by their own respected priest .

A man of God will listen to news and read newspapers and after arming himself with the pieces of information from these media, he will say that the lord has instructed him to say this or that . Saint Paul always tried to separate his own personal sentiments from the word of God. Salvation for the soul was his priority but today we can forget salvation for the soul to preach salvation for our pockets and our selfish interests .No wonder the Boko Haram guys insist that western education is forbidden,they know that it is only western education that will save one from the shenanigans of these our religious leaders. Education is the only tool that will save all from poverty and ignorance .Both poverty and ignorance are mutually related and one can give rise to another. No wonder Indira Ghandi said, 'Education is a liberating force,and in our age it is also a democratising force,cutting across the barriers of caste and class,smoothing out inequalities imposed by birth and other circumstances .'

With my level of education will I allow a man of God no matter the amount of anointing he claims to have to tell me who to vote for as it occurred to my colleague's aged mother in the village ? Will I go to a crusade ground for what and to seek salvation from whom when I have equal channel to God as the priest? Will i prefer taking my child to a religious house or a man of God for prayers to the common management of diarrhoeal diseases in children with ORS and possibly taking my child to the hospital for medical attention as it happened in the case of my beloved immediate elder sister? When I am diagnosed of cancer ,will I prefer passing through the healing schools of these men of God whose miracles are felt only on our televisions to going for my chemotherapy or surgery according to the stage of the cancer like it happened to my aunty? She complained of a swelling and the doctors suspected a tumour which might be malignant or benign and few days to the said surgery her pastor preached to them that, ' whatever that does not have a name, does not exist.'

In view of the above,my aunty cancelled the surgery because to her the pastor represented God here on earth. It should be noted that the cancelled surgery was to collect a sample from the tumour for histological studies in order to ascertain if the tumour was malignant or not hence the name of the ailment could be gotten. Unbeknown to her,the said tumour later turned out to be malignant (as later diagnosed when it became metastatic ) and she expectedly died of the complications .We just finished the burial few weeks before Christmas .Believe you me,when Ebola came out ,the erroneous saltwater 'remedy' that killed people emanated from a man of God. I have written under different subject matters about HIV spread in Africa. These religious leaders go on to claim having the cure for that dreaded disease even when there are free anti retroviral drugs in our hospitals and when the salvation seeker is at the point of death,they will hurriedly bring the person to our hospitals possibly to die there,same with other ailments.

To them ,every sickness is a spiritual attack even when a man who has AS genotype marries a lady with the same genotype and they give birth to a sickler,that baby must be an Ogbanje and a spiritual cleansing needs to be done and at the end of the day,the child will die in one of the crises associated with the said ailment due to lack of medical attention. Why should I go to a house of prayer on December 31st night to go and pray when I know I can effectively connect to God from the comfort of my bedroom? Jesus gave us the parable of ten virgins which summarily taught us that one can be righteous but stupid or wise. Many Nigerian Christians are righteous but stupid . I still insist that the highest gift God gave to man is his brain. That UK,USA and other developed nations of the world are what they are today is because of their brains. The difference between the bank manager and the gateman is what are in their brains. Time has come for Nigerians to seek the face of God and not the faces of our religious leaders as many of them are more partisan than the real politicians .

I still throw it as a challenge to all these so-called men of God to come and raise a patient that has been medically certified dead or for them to show their so-called healing powers in some areas where medical profession does not have a definitive cure like advanced stages of cancers that have metastasized or some leukaemias and lymphomas where life expectancy after diagnosis may be less than 10 years with or without treatment. As scientists are still looking for a definitive cure for Ebola and HIV ,what are they still doing with their healing prowess? If these spiritual powers were anything to write home about,why did our colonial masters destroy our traditional institutions and deities with only their brains and still colonized us as many years as they wanted until the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe came up with their own 'developed' brains to dislodge the usurpers from our land. Why didn't the so-called traditional powers wielded by our traditional leaders save them from the superior brains of our colonial masters?

I still maintain that the highest gift God has given to man is the brain,and for those who will keep theirs dormant and allow our partisan religious fathers to use them for them,I say Congratulations. I will end this piece by quoting the sagacious words of Chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe,the former governor of Imo state, 'A fool once is not a fool but a fool twice is a fool.'

Dr Paul John
Port Harcourt,
Rivers state
[email protected]

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Articles by Paul John