By Georges Macnobson-Idowu

Many would have wondered what Pastor Tunde Bakare was doing when he joined and led recent Save Nigeria Group protests. The religious ones, amongst us, would have condemned him saying after all, the Bible says “it's not by power, nor by might, but my spirit says the Lord”. But then, the same Bible says “the Kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent takes it by force”, and it also follows that upon the dictates of God, Moses confronted Pharaoh. Egypt, according to the Bible, at that time, represented stagnancy, bondage and shackle for the Israelites and they needed to move forward. If not for anything, at least, God demonstrated His distaste for the enslavement of the Israelites, when He struck the land of Egypt with different plagues, and at another time, dethroned Soul for David. It is true that God chose the existing leaders, but He equally frowns at bad leadership that enslaves His people.

Nigeria, today, is a typical example of Egypt . The rulers are a true representation of Pharaoh and it is the business of our religious leaders to move it forward, else it would continue to dwell in stagnancy. After all under the slavery of Pharaoh and in spite of afflictions in Egypt, the Bible records that the Israelites continued to increase in number such that they out numbered the Egyptians, yet they were in bondage – a typical Nigerian scenario – suffering and smiling. No doubt, there is madness in the people, madness in the government, madness in the church, madness in the Mosque - madmen everywhere, yet if you asked our religious leaders, to describe the enduring days, they may defeatedly say it's the end time. True, it is. But should one not be tempted to think it's a deliberate thrusting of Nigerians at both ends like the tennis ball by both political and religious leaders? That's to say, as the bad socio-political and economic effects position themselves at one end, hitting an average Nigerian so hard, and forcing him to seek succor in the church, our religious leaders' failure to accept that there is a need for them to shift focus and approach of redressing these problems complicates the situation. No doubt, one would be a liar, if he tries to separate the core society from the Christendom; hence both institutions share same elements of basic challenges, and perhaps confront the same problems.

History, particularly Christian religion, which basic foundation is in the Bible and by extension, Theology, teaches that the basic purpose of anointing is to have spiritual and physical impacts on the society. At least, the scripture put it thus “these signs shall follow those who believe”. It follows therefore, that Pastors or better still, religious leaders, are anointed simply to perform two functions: One to preach the “specific gospel”, which is physical and distinctive in nature. And secondly, to preach the “general gospel”, which is spiritual and stereotypical in function. But considering activities in the Christendom today, the only means through which our religious leaders meet the challenges facing their subjects is the general gospel, which in itself cannot liberate the society from the obvious grips of the socio-political and economic deprivation.

Now, let's reason together. What are general and specific gospels? When Satan went to tempt Christ on the mountain, Satan had asked Jesus, to turn a stone to bread, if he was the son of God. But Jesus answered in a proverbial manner, saying “man shall not live by bread alone”. There are two critical points in that phrase. First, it means Christ was all sufficient in the word. Second, it means sufficiency was not a function of bread or food alone. That's to say, as much as important the bread or food was, so also was the word. It is imperative also to say here that Christ's statement did not imply that bread was insignificant. What it says was that at that point the word was sufficient, at another the bread would. This principle, however, defined the approach of Christ, and to a large extent, played a very critical role in His Ministry, which perhaps was operated through the gospel of the word and bread. There are a few accounts in the scripture and in several theological records, where Christ obviously declined to feed the people with the word, perhaps because he knew that what was important at that point in time was the bread. If for no other account, at all, at least, He was trying to impact something, when He fed a great multitude with two loaves and five fishes. The lesson here cannot be over emphasized, these changeable factors usually work together for a cause, and the ability to know the one to apply in every situation, goes a long way to justify the grounds. Christ knew that using the general gospel or the word – at a time when the people needed the specific gospel or the bread – would result to a failure in information dissemination; hence he introduced the concept of balancing. Balancing has been one quality most religious leaders lack in their approach. And this is largely due to greed and lack of understanding and focus. Their inability to understand the importance of balancing has continued to dig-up obvious problems in the Christendom. No wonder a man left the church, one day, after listening to a supposed powerful ministration and immediately went to steal a loaf of bread. When asked why he stole the bread, he said it was hunger. Take or leave it, one reason people, especially Nigerians go to church, is because of their diverse problems. Many religiously run to the church for succor, having been brutalized by the socio-political and economic hardship. True, in most cases, they tend to get strengthened by some superlative sermons, but as soon as they get back into the society, the reality again, stairs them in the face, hence they get worse for it. The enduring days, no doubt, have foreclosed the joy and enjoyment of a normal life for many Christians, such that what used to be a normal societal occurrence or achievement, is now been attributed to miracle. Testimonies in churches have become so watered-down that one wonders, if these testimonies really measure as signs that the Lord Jesus Christ said would follow those, who believe, yet our religious leaders felt it is still not their business. This, without any further probe, is a clear indication that something is missing in the approach of our religious leaders. Gone were days, when the church stood, as the only sane institution in the society. Most religious leaders today are worse than politicians, when it comes to reconciling the objectives for their callings. They have turned the Christian-race into a rat-race and a quest for an empire, yet they maintain that life is of time. Those, who manage to claim that they have a calling for given, tend to adopt core capitalists approach. And only very few, seemed to understand that all is not about the word, but how responsible and responsive they are to the society and/or better still, their followers.

The allegation, that our religious leaders, whether consciously or otherwise are also responsible for the current decadence in the nation, is based on their silence towards policies of our political leaders. Silence they say is consent. And if been mute over that which affects their subjects is indirectly responsible for the speedy growth of their churches, then, it would be quite difficult to get our religious leaders to open-up. The suspicion is that our religious leaders thrive on the hardship of their subjects. If not for any proof, at least, the prosperity patterned sermons portent a ploy being used today by most religious leaders to persuade their subjects. The mentality is that if the country is well organized and things tend to work just like in advanced countries, and citizens are able to annex basic infrastructure, the possibility that only the aged would be found in churches, is greatly compelling. No doubt, it would amaze some Nigerians, when not too long ago, Pastor Tunde Bakare came open to attack those in power and also alleged that some religious leaders, are conniving with political leaders, to enslave the people. Even if distrusted, at least, the recent scenes acted by some religious leaders in the country - Muslim and Christian - in the drama series of ailing President Umar Yar'Adua, which was scripted by Turai Yar'Adua, was a vindication for Pastor Bakare.

No wonder, Olusegun Fakoya, in his open letter to Bishop Oyedepo said Nigeria had gone to dogs, because our religious leaders – those, who we thought are with the authority and connection to influence both the masses and government – do not just kept quiet, they ate and feasted with them at the detriment of Nigerians. The common man cries on a daily basis of hunger and the children die of preventable diseases, yet it is still not their business. At a time, when Nigerians, irrespective of tribe, language and geographical location, are all beginning to sigh for peace, our so called spiritual pirates decided to trade their birth-rights for common porridge. One really wonders, who is actually worse – the politicians or the religious leaders. If not for anything, at least, our dear Bishop exhibited the good quality of a good Shepherd, when he told Nigerians that he owes nobody an explanation for visiting the ailing President.

The worse atrocity, any leader – political and religious – can commit was for him to deny his people his voice on topical socio-political and economic issues, which are the only corporal factors militating against his people, who unconsciously have continued to patronize him for succor, hoping to get some spiritual intervention and/or interpretation to problems, which could have been resolved by frank application of common sense and perhaps, some personal prayers. Whether true or false, some issues are better resolved by common sense rather than useless banning of witches and wizards. As Fakoya puts it in his letter, religion, to a large extent, has served, as the basis of pivotal changes in socio-political agitation. But what we have had so far, in Nigeria, has been exploitative and supreme conservative Pentecostalism – a situation, where our religious leaders lack integrity in all spheres of human endeavour. At least, we learnt from history, particularly the Bible, and perhaps little claims by America and South Africa, that religious leaders were tortured, imprisoned, and even killed for criticizing bad policies of corrupt political leaders. And also know that John the Baptist, Paul and some disciples of Jesus were imprisoned for criticizing governments of their time. All of these, religious leaders lend their voices to bring about change to the socio-political and economic destitution of their countries. Aside that our religious leaders consciously denied their followers the specific gospel, which exposes their greed to amass wealthy and built empire for their yet unborn generation, they equally declined to take critical and revolutionary positions, which could have set in motion process, if not processes, of revolutionary change.

Let's imagine what all of these gigantic Christians camps around the country could do for the nation, if these churches had used them, as plantations, where cash and food crops were cultivated through mechanization. The importance of this, cannot be over emphasized; first, it would provide surplus in terms of foods; secondly, it would provide jobs opportunities, at least, for their jobless members, if not the entire populace and thirdly, it would considerably, assist the general gospel – that is to say, when hunger is out of it, the assimilation, comprehension and practicality of the word is better enhanced.

Georges Macnobson-Idowu
COOLFM, 267a Etim Inyang Crescent ,
Victoria Island, Lagos .
08055610085, email: [email protected]