Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the Daddy General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, has been in the headlines for all the right reasons lately. In August 2010, several newspapers quoted him as he declared war on election rigging and riggers.
"We shall resist election riggers in 2011", the famous preacher was reported to have fumed decisively. He ended 2010 on a grand note: Goodluck Jonathan went to beseech God at Daddy General Overseer’s feet, creating a famous photo-op in the process. Our internet commentariat went gaga for the wrong reasons, condemning Goodluck Jonathan for contacting God through the pastor’s intermission. Jonathan’s genuflection before God became the issue. Nobody paid attention to Pastor Adeboye’s iteration of his warning that election riggers would not be tolerated in 2011. He even fired a warning shot at Attahiru Jega and threatened to lead protests against fraudulent elections in 2011.
This is a heartening development. Pastor Enoch Adeboye is welcome to the Pastor Tunde Bakare corner of our collective struggle to take Nigeria back from the vultures in Abuja and the state capitals. What took him so long? Hopefully, his residency in this auspicious corner of the struggle shall not be temporary. For now, we shall pretend that we don’t mind the fact that Pastor Adeboye is spending too much time warning INEC and Jega instead of just kuku directly telling the scurrilous Presidents, state governors, ministers, senators, reps, chieftains, stakeholders, elder statesmen and such other ridiculous characters who regularly go to him for kneeling sessions and photo-ops that their irresponsibility and corruption will no longer be tolerated.
I have been a student of Nigerian Pentecostalism for a very long time. In my African Studies courses here in Canada, I teach Pentecostalism as a key aspect of Nigeria's popular culture. As a writer, I am also interested in the aesthetic aspects of their flowery language. I can speak Pentecostal language fluently. I can come against principalities, dominions, and powers. I can claim my portion and possess my possession. I can reject and send evil schemes back to sender in Jesus name. I can bind the enemy and blunt all weapons fashioned against me. I can lob psalms at enemies to make a thousand fall by my right hand and ten thousands by my left. In essence, I can blend very easily among Pentecostals to gather material for my writings.
What I have taken away from my scholarly investment in Nigeria's Pentecostal cultures is an acute awareness of the fact that our formidable Pentecostal establishment poses a serious threat to civic agency and socio-political consciousness. Pentecostalism is easily one of the most formidable instruments of national sedation in the hands of our irresponsible rulers. Pentecostalism has been a dangerous impediment to the emergence of a responsible followership in the Nigerian equation. By responsible followership I mean that critical mass of citizens who are not only aware of their civic rights but also understand the need to fight for such rights and demand accountability from the rulership.
We have not even begun to see signs of the gestation of such a responsible, critical followership since 1999 and the fatalistic opium of Pentecostalism has played a considerable role in stymieing such auspicious possibilities.
As I argued recently in an Internet listserv exchange with Mr. Diipo Famakinwa, a socio-political activist, you are not likely to consider constant electricity in the 21st century a right that must be fought for if your mental universe is such that you want to mount the pulpit on Sunday and give testimony that you went to the lord in prayer and fasting and came against the spirit of darkness and, behold, “NEPA did not take light during the naming ceremony of my child!”
Add to Pentecostal sedation the hordes of Almajiris and talakawa Moslems that radical Islamism and the northern political elite also brainwash in order to better robotize them as instruments of opportunistic religious crises and you see how Pentecostalism and Islamism (the ideology that is not to be confused with Islam), two supposedly avowed enemies, ironically work together to prevent the emergence of a critical mass that is so vital to socio-political progress.
It is against this backdrop that Pastor Adeboye's new political consciousness and awakening must be welcome. Because of the immense powers of social engineering that they wield, we need more prosperity Pentecostal pastors - Chris Oyakhilome, David Oyedepo, Paul Adefarasin, etc - to embrace the Tunde Bakare philosophy: that philosophy which does not see any contradiction between Christian salvation and political conscientization; that philosophy which encourages the flock not to see the occasional drop of water from the public tap as a miracle to be celebrated during testimony hour on Sunday but as a right they must troop to the streets to demand from Nigeria’s prurient rulers.
Pastor Adeboye, in particular, owes the Nigerian people the restitution of his new investment in political praxis. It is hoped that this is the beginning of a new effort to reposition his church. Under Pastor Adeboye, the Redeem Christian Church of God has been in bed with our enemies in the rulership for too long. During the Obasanjo era, every stupid rigger or political jobber in town felt that the best way to celebrate every billion successfully looted from us was to rush to the Lagos-Ibadan expressway for photo-ops. Farida Waziri once flew to the Lagos-Ibadan expressway with her entire office at our expense just to greet Pastor Adeboye. And Daddy General Overseer indulged so many of these characters. It is no surprise that in the protracted online struggle for meaning between James Ibori's Internet foot soldiers and the forces of progress, a famous photo of Daddy General Overseer welcoming Ibori with a warm handshake to his church was never far away from the sites of discourse. In the build up to 2011, I won’t even be surprised to see ignoble characters like Dimeji Bankole and Iyabo Obasanjo sauntering to the Lagos-Ibadan expressway for their day in the sun with Daddy General Overseer.
It bears repeating: there is such a thing as company a Pentecostal leader must not keep. Yes, one is aware of the argument that Pastor Adeboye’s indiscriminate embrace of the criminals ruling Nigeria whenever they go to his church is sanctioned by Christ’s open sesame to sinners: “I came not to call the righteous but sinners.” But we are dealing here with totally irredeemable criminals who loot, rig, loot again, and rig again before rushing to mock God at Enoch Adeboye’s feet on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
As far as I am concerned, the recidivists ruling Nigeria are not the type of sinners that Jesus came to call. Rather, I suggest we place the rulers of Nigeria within the ambit of a more appropriate injunction: “Get thee behind me Satan.” This is no time for any Pentecostal pastor not to know the difference between the sort of embraceable sinners that Jesus came for and the political Satans we must cast behind us for Nigeria to stand any chance of a renaissance.
Consequently, Pastor Adeboye must not just talk the talk; he must be prepared to walk the walk after the elections in 2011. For there shall be riggers no matter what Attahiru Jega does and we, the people, shall know the riggers. We always do. What we do not want to see is any of the usual suspects rushing to the Lagos-Ibadan expressway for thanksgiving for "winning" the election and being rewarded with a warm handshake and a photo-op. We also do not want to hear talk of any of these despicable characters in the rulership going to render unto God ten percent of every successful loot. If they do, Pastor Adeboye should pick his koboko and broom and do unto them what Jesus did to the moneychangers who defiled His Father’s temple in Jerusalem. That is what we demand of Daddy General Overseer going forward.
(This is an updated and expanded version of an article that was first published in my NEXT column in August 2010)