Christian clergy are currently embroiled in partisan politics to their chagrin. A note of caution to them should be in order. As a clergyman myself, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to contribute my quota to my turf by sounding the alarm bell.
The two major political parties in Nigeria have targeted the church for ‘plunder’ as can be expected. We were recently reminded of the danger inherent in this by Pastor Tunde Bakare, the General Overseer of Later Rain Assembly, in his ‘State of the Nation’ address on 04th January, 2015, titled, “The Gathering Storm & Avoidable Shipwreck: How To Avoid Catastrophic Euroclydon.” He recommended that Nigeria should not go into the 2015 elections until after correcting certain ‘fundamentals’ which he enumerated. He gave a political ‘weather forecast’ that suggested that doom lay ahead for the country if it proceeded with the elections. He also gave seven ominous signs of this impending doom.
Bakare called his seventh ominous sign of doom “Potential Religious Confusion, Betrayals, Scandals and Persecution”. He predicted that Christians would be confused and divided in their choice of presidential candidate because many of them had hitherto been enjoying the benefits of a romance with the incumbent President and now a senior pastor with the largest church denomination in the country is the running mate of the presidential candidate of the main opposition party. He said we should expect betrayals of old friends, scandals as greedy clergy sell out and even the persecution of the voices of reason.
It is obvious that many Christian clergy did not heed Bakare’s words of caution. They are now neck-deep in the performance of ‘endorsement ceremonies’ and, out of greediness, are collecting an earthly reward, which the Bible describes as “filthy lucre” five times and condemns in strong terms. The number 5 in Scriptures connotes the grace of God made available to mankind. If those greedy clergymen who have collected monies from politicians would truly repent, God will extend His pardon to them.
1. Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous. (1Timothy 3:3)
2. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre. (1Timothy 3:8)
3. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre. (Titus 1:7)
4. Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake. (Titus 1:11
5. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. (1 Peter 5:2) (Underlining mine)
Pastor Tunder Bakare’s warning went unheeded and so God sent another prophet to sound the warning a second time in the person of Pastor Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The occasion was the monthly Holy Ghost Night, which Papa Adeboye holds on every last Friday of the month at the Church’s camp site along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
It is reported that on Friday, 30 January, 2015, Adeboye made reference to the claims of a certain State Governor reported in that day’s papers (whom we know from the papers to be Gov. Rotimi Ameachi of Rivers State) who was quoted as saying that the Peoples’ Democratic Party had released the sum of N6 Billion for bribing pastors so that they work against the APC.
THE NATION newspaper quoted the revered Pastor Adeboye as having told his pastors to return such monies or be ready to face the fiery wrath of the Almighty God. The paper had the following harsh words for clergy and the church establishment in general:
The problem of pastoral corruption affects all denominations and the ecclesiastical order must restrain itself because it opens up the churches for this. Yet, most pastors are ill-prepared to deal with such problems, compelling the public to robe the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) with the derisive epithet of ‘CAN of worms’. Some pastors are too cosy with the President and other top politicians, losing in the process the instinctive capacity to protect the institution. No wonder, most churches now wish such cases away or stifle their spread to the public domain. What is happening among many pastors and in religious houses is a reflection of the abysmal nature of all institutions and values in the society at large. Unfortunately, it would not be far from the truth to say that the country is under the hegemony of spiritually bad people. Such leadership, political and spiritual, have forgotten that God’s standards are clear and unambiguous. That He hates bribe and expects us to shun it. That God wants pastors to stand out. Unfortunately, most pastors have been overwhelmed by the prevalent evil culture of bribery and corruption induced by politicians. Sadly, these corrupt men of God want their congregations to overcome the vice. How? It is sad to note that the pulpit has been turned into platform for making illicit money from politicians that probably stole from the public till, seeking undeserved positions. Pastoral duty is a call to serve God. The wearing of that pristine robe makes God to overlook the times of ignorance but some pastors, through their corrupt inclinations, have made it difficult for the public to differentiate between their period of ignorance and that of divine call. Surprisingly, pastors of nowadays hold strongly to the wrong belief that money is the wheel on which the gospel rides, which we doubt has any foundation in the Bible. We note in recent times that the biggest givers in churches are close politician friends of pastors. They shower pastors with gifts that perpetually silence them from discharging their pastoral obligations in a candid way to their congregation. We consider this as sacrificing scriptural values on the altar of personal greed. Pastors are by calling expected to live ascetic lifestyles and not one in pursuit of pleasure and the good things of life which money offers from invidiously corrupt politicians. The soiling of Christianity under the guise of evangelism must be curbed now; not later.
One episode is in the eye of the storm at the moment. It is the purported endorsement of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari for president in the 2015 elections by an amorphous group of ‘Christians’ self-styles as “Northern Christian Leaders, Eagle-Eye Forum”. The event took place in the International Christian Centre, Abuja, on Thursday, 12 February, 20015. The leader of this group is one Pastor Aminchi Habu, whom journalists said refused to give the name of his church. Newspapers claim that some of the pastors invited walked out of the event when they realised that they were being ‘used’. Some other reports said that some of the invited pastors complained about the paltry amount given to them in the end in contrast to what was earlier promised. Pastor Aminchi Habu has since splashed pictures of the event on the internet for all who care to see.
Shortly after the event, two reputed Christian clergymen stormed the studios of CHANNELS TV to set the records straight. Evangelist Matthew Owojaiye, former Chairman of the Northern Christian Elders Forum (NORCEF), and Elder Sunday Oibe, current PRO of Northern CAN, dissociated themselves and their organisations from purported endorsement. They said CAN and its affiliate bodies are all apolitical. Their leadership has also never met and resolved to support a particular political party. They therefore labelled the Abuja event organisers as fakes and imposters who are not authorised to speak for the organised church.
The Secretary of the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF), Pastor Bosun Emmanuel, a delegate to the 2014 National Conference, has since issued an official statement to the effect that CAN and NCEF only recognize the Northern Christian Elders Forum (NORCEF) and not Pastor Aminchi Habu’s forum. Gen. Buhari is being advised to cross-check his contacts. He might run into dishonest people.
One of the speakers at the Abuja event shown on Nigerian Televisions Authority has since joined issues with Owojaiye and Oibe in the public domain on Facebook. He is Barr. Solomon Dalung, who writes as Igbarman Otarok. He wrote attaching a picture of the event:
If all these people are fake Christians then can Sunday Ayeje(Oibe) tell us the real Christians in the North. Is he referring to those who secretly anointed Jonathan and collected #6 billion as the Christians or those who made a public endorsement? From his analysis he is a dubious personality who is not quite informed about Christians in the North. He does not know the difference between a church and a forum or an association. I doubt the credibility of his claim. Which CAN is he talking about? The one that their leader is involved in arms trafficking in South Africa? All I know is that over 500 clergy including 10 bishops, Reverends, Pastors, Prophets, Evangelists and Elders across the North endorsed GMB. If they are Christian leaders, let them gather their own crowd publicly to counter and not just two people.
Clearly, the Nigerian Church establishment is already fragmented and polarised along political Party divides as predicted by Pastor Tunde Bakare. Unfortunately, I must write like this and wash our dirty linen in the public. It’s sad that we have to label some people as ‘fake Christians’. But some Christians have sinned before God in this matter. They need to repent and obtain God’s forgiveness before His anger is visited on them.
Clergymen can participate in politics within the limits of their calling, but they should not drag the Christians organisations that they head into partisanship, neither should they ever enrich themselves from it. I strongly advice true Christians not to ever participate again in the type of shameful and treacherous trickery discussed above. Don’t forget the words of Apostle Paul to Timothy that righteousness with contentment is great gain; (1 Timothy 6:6).