It is with a heavy heart I pen this piece, not with the intention to embark on a blithe smear campaign or spread unfounded rumours, but to tackle an issue that has been overlooked and under addressed…
Nigerian news is agog this week with Sanusi’s bombshell sacking of five banking giants, Erastus Akingbola, the erstwhile CEO of Intercontinental Bank, inclusive. With a purported ‘lending’ of N250 billion to his associates flying in the face of professional ethos and ethics, allegations of siphoning significant amounts into personal coffers, gross mismanagement of loans, “poor corporate governance practices, lax administration processes and the absence or non-adherence to the banks' credit risk management practices”, it is certainly not the best of times for the smiling banker cum Redeemed Pastor. Just last week he was spotted with Cecilia Ibru at the Redeemed Camp, spouting tongues and binding enemies in specially provided front row seats - his petitions evidently not swaying the stony heart of Sanusi who sacked him days later. His mathematician mentor, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, has also not enjoyed the best of press lately, questions raised to whether politics as opposed to principle led to Pastor Ighodalo’s forced dismissal, this coming on the heels of the ‘private jet’ debacle.
With another prominent name added, the list of Redeemed Pastors embroiled in scandal or ungodly controversy of varying sorts continues to unfold in alarming fashion. In the banking sector alone, Akingbola joins the likes of Shola Adeoti of City Express and Chika Mbonu of Assurance Bank, such high profile incidents continuing to cast aspersions over the process through which one joins the Redeemed pastors’ fold. The question I pose - was it Akingbola’s pocket or his person that endeared him to Daddy G.O? What are the criteria for those desirous to come under the banner of ‘Redeemed Pastor’ – charisma or character, politics or principles?
I read aghast the figure of 8 379 new pastors/ elders ordained at the recent RCCG Camp, as though the pulpit be a position one can occupy like a farmer or trader. Can Adeboye personally attest to the integrity of all those appointees? How sure is he that another dubious or devious character is not among the new recruits? Is pastoral work something anyone can wake up and decide to pursue without divine assigning and commission?
Handsome physique, eloquence of tongue, the ability to inspire people with cumbersome rhetoric or coerce cash from large crowds are certainly not the criteria for God’s work. What of divine calling? What of internal resources? What of godly character? Have we forgotten what the Almighty said to Prophet Samuel: “Man looks at outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart…”?
In the same anointing ceremony, Adeboye instructed the female aspirants to desist from unruly and revealing dressing, threatening God’s wrath on those who refused to comply. But is that not the tuition they should receive and imbibe before being inducted into the kingdom business? Can Adeboye entrust a flock into the hands of one still struggling with such worldly enticements? Can someone still dealing with external issues said to be competent from the internal level?
The term ‘pastor’ has been commercialised to the sad extent that almost anyone can don the holy title with no qualms or queries. This is the reason our local media runs amok with stories of scandalous, adulterous, murderous and counterfeit pastors unreservedly disgracing the name of God – because the process to become one has been so abused and confused. I recall when Adeboye was heavily questioned at an airport some months back, forced to produce his Bible to confirm if drugs were hidden therein. It is ironic to think his own pastors were likely the cause of such brazen assessment, the correlation between Nigerian Pastors, fraudsters and drug dealers far too close for comfort.
I am reminded of an amusing comment to one of my recent articles: “An old friend of mine once told me that had he not made money from 419 he would have opened a church. At the time I was aghast but some years later with the boom in churches I reflected & to my amazement it occurred to me he would have been a success. He is tall, light complexioned, handsome, loved to groom himself & dressed well. Moreover he was a good orator, intelligent & could tell tall tales. He was an absolute hit with the chicks.”
The ease with which one achieves clerical status aside, the emphasis on money (source regardless) is another major point of concern. In the light of the recent revelations of Akingbola’s activities (one of Adeboye’s jets financiers), it could well be inferred that Adeboye’s private jet was the product of dishonestly gained money, not uncharacteristic considering RCCG was one of the major beneficiaries of OBJ’s dubiously motivated tax waivers. Besides, Adeboye recently floated a millionaires club to rake in another N1.7b for his cathedral project and then taxed his members before they could use the public toilets at his Redeemed Camp. Men such as Gbenga Daniel, Bola Tinubu, James Ibori and OBJ sit in the front at his meetings and drop fat offerings, their questionable characters and record of thieving public money notwithstanding.
What is all this? Why do the headlines concerning RCCG, and indeed much of Nigerian Pentecostalism, tend to reflect the pursuit of money and material wealth, not the quest for justice, propagation of Christ’s Gospel and providing of charity for the less privileged? Time and circumstance continue to paint a picture of an orchestrated business acting as a religious organisation – with money and material gain more of a focus than the eternal and external wellbeing of the teeming worshippers.
Is this what Jesus lived and died for? Is this the supreme price the early disciples paid to bring to us? Is this the heart of the Gospel? The very priorities and intentions of our churches and their pastors’ reasons for coming into spiritual work need to be seriously examined. If not, we forlornly await who next will drag the name of ‘pastor’ to the mud.
As for Adeboye, after all the jet brouhaha I learned he prefers to fly on chartered flights now, the controversial public opinion concerning his luxurious air travel swaying his resolution, suggestive that he did not actually believe in what he was doing in the first instance. I advise he engage his profound resources and influence in more charitable activities and mind the source of his money.
And for God’s sake, stop commissioning ‘anyhow’ pastors…
Ihechukwu Njoku - Lagos, Nigeria