Nigeria is a trip! I used to think that Lagos has too many churches. I thought that Lagos was the church capital of the world until I happened on Warri. Per square meter weighted against proportional population, Warri is without doubt number one in terms of churches.
Actually, the whole of Delta State is church infested. Nothing is shown on local TV other than news of the State’s governor and his wife, obituary announcements, and then some church programme or the other. Musical interludes are exclusively church/Christian songs.
Passing through Warri (including Effurun), you are immediately assaulted by two things: Large billboards of Governor Uduaghan informing you that you are in paradise and should therefore vote for him again, and signboards of churches. I am sure that all the name combinations that could possibly be used for a church assemblage or a place of worship have been used in Warri. Besides the usual known suspects, there are places with names such as: Great Minds Christian Centre; Church to Heaven Ministries; Outreach International - Point and Kill; Consuming Fire of God; Fresh Fire Ministries; The Carpenter’s Church; Arrow of Redemption; Heroes Family Wonderland; Heartbeat of God Ministries; God is Real Ministries; The Old Path Revival Commission; Voice of Freedom; Living Standard Ministries; Ministry of Perfection International; Chapel of Destiny Restoration; The Testimony Chapel; United Believers Mission; Divine Flow International; God’s Favour Ministries; Christ The First Fruit Ministries; World Community of Yahweh; Life Time Liberation; Answers Worldwide Integrated Ministries; End of Time Ministries; etc, etc, etc. Almost all of these churches are of course incorporated entities.
Of all of these places, taking the pride of place right at the very top is the one and only “God’s Grace Ministry Incorporated.” - GGM for short. GGM is led by one affable Urhobo chap who used to be known as Daniel Miyeriaye. Miyeriaye used to be one of the priests in the Warri Anglican dioceses until he left in a fit of disaffection. The name, ‘Miyeriaye’ means ‘I praise them.’ But that was in the past. As soon as he broke lose from the Anglican fold, this chap promptly changed his name to ‘MiyeriJesu’ (I praise Jesus). His followers then began to affectionately call him DKJ. But he didn’t stop there. Soon, he added ‘Osu’ to his name. Osu means leader. Then he added ‘Demon Destroyer’ (Double D). Then came ‘Jesus Holiness.’ Not quite content, he added ‘Saint’ in front of his names and titles. His followers and the media now refers to him as Saint DKJ. Still not quite happy, he has recently added ‘Bishop of the Whole World’ to his ever growing names and titles. You would hate to see his business card.
He never tires of telling people that God actually tapped him on the shoulder one fine day, commended him for his exemplary work, and told him that he was consequently and thenceforth the bishop of the whole world. Believe me; I am not making any of this up. This chap features on Delta State TV every other Thursday in the evening. There is a giant billboard of him at a very busy junction in town where he announced his ordination as bishop of the whole world. That billboard comes complete with a picture of him kneeling down before a depiction of God with God’s two hands placed affectionately on his head.
DKJ’s usual attire is a wine-coloured Bishop’s robe and a skull cap. His very many and very energetic dancing pastors wear Catholic priest-like white soutanes.
His first claim to fame was that he went around some Urhobo villages and hamlets and razed to the ground their native shrines and other sundry places of idol worship. I was surprised to hear that such places still exist in this day and age. He was also in the habit of going into the bush accompanied by a chainsaw and some burly men. DKJ would point at a random tree, and the men would cut it down. Then he would place one leg on the felled tree and proclaim that the tree was inhabited by demons. But DKJ really made his name when news emerged that he went to one place in Orogun where some people had been worshipping a stranded alligator. The story was that DKJ slaughtered the poor alligator and used some of its meat to cook Banga Soup which he alone consumed. After his meal, he proceeded to baptise most of the still stunned villagers.
His sermons have two main themes: Stop the worship of idols (which is fair enough), and nobody should doubt or question his utterances. If folks believe his words and do as he says, they are sure to prosper; if however they don’t believe him or doubt him in anyway, they stand condemned and would be visited by untold hardship and suffering which would persist until they “repent.”
His pastime, I have since learnt, is the acquisition of properties – especially anything close to his main church in Warri. He has bought and is in the process of knocking down most of the houses on that road. God only knows what he is planning to do.
There was a recent TV documentary where this chap made a “crusading” visit to some places in Isoko and environs. I have seen a lot but I have never seen anything quite like this! For several days, the man went around in broad daylight in a very long convoy of vehicles with full headlights and flashing hazard lights – although some of those vehicles had only one functional headlight. The lead vehicle was always an open truck filled with trumpeters and drummers heralding his motorcade. He himself was in a Lexus jeep where he stood and stuck his head and shoulders out of the sunroof, waving to the crowd. About half a dozen blue-uniformed security guards basically clamped themselves to his jeep in a manner that suggested that they were expecting somebody or something to come and attack their principal. After this, he would go off to a sitdown with the towns’ people including their local government officials, some chiefs and elders. Invariably, he is presented a gift which his wife prays over and blesses before he himself accepts them. Then in the evenings, he conducted his services which were largely him singing and dancing for a long time. Then he repeats his well worn themes: Say no to idol worship; and recounting his credentials as the bishop of the whole world.
At some point, he would whip out some papers on which he would say were written 12-point (or so) prayer demands from the town officials. Towards the end of his services, he would turn and place his mouth against a very large Hollywood-inspired painting of a very blonde Caucasian Jesus. As he does this, his announcer would ask the crowd for silence, informing them that the Bishop was communicating with God! It was surreal.
In Warri, every few minutes or so, an escorted, blackened-out-windows jeep with flashing lights and blaring sirens hurtles down the road. Yes, it is usually a Pastor going from point A to point B. They no longer submit their meek and holy selves to regular traffic like the rest of their flocks.
But our God is very patient. I suppose that is why He is God. He obviously has an enormous capacity to overlook all kinds of inanities. I guess the most that can be said for some of these people is that maybe – just maybe – they might manage to win a soul or two for God from the teeming people that daily flock after them.
And oh; then there was the case of the (Nigerian) Chelsea Football fans in Warri who turned up in church for a thanksgiving service complete with an offering-gift because Chelsea won the English Premiership title in 2010!
God help us all sha. Happy New Year.