To say that Nigeria is a 419 republic would be an understatement. Practically everywhere you look there is a scam. Whether in the government, the private sector and nowadays even in the once hallowed churches, there is an ongoing scam every second of the day. In the last few weeks alone, we have been regaled with a pension scam, the oil subsidy scam and the Farouk Lawan scam. To make matters worse, scamming has progressed to the trillion naira era. But of all these heinous scams, the most sinister that should bother every right thinking person is the descent of the church and other religious organisations into barefaced fraud. Scamming people in the name of God is the most vile, unconscionable and despicable crime that can ever be committed and serves as a pointer that the larger Nigerian society is fast becoming the biblical “Sodom and Gomorrah” which ended up in total destruction.
Nigeria has more churches than any other country on the planet. In practically every street there is a church. They sing, they preach and most importantly they extort their church members who pay generously in the hope of getting a better life. The first sign of the fraudulent nature of Nigeria’s churches is the corruption, deceit, greed, lack of charity, lack of humility, hatred, bigotry and vices that pervade a society in which you can find a church in every street. Because the churches exist only for the purpose of extortion, none of the values of honesty, love, charity or modesty ordinarily associated with the church can be found in the larger society.
In other parts of the world, churches preach and practice love, charity and other general values which are immediately noticeable in those societies from the leadership to the common man. Churches also engage in extensive charity not only locally but internationally, using some of the donations they get from church members to feed the poor, build free or subsidised hospitals and schools for the under-privileged, build feeding centres, hostels and houses for the poor and homeless, provide quick relief for disaster victims, give grants to students amongst others. Indeed, the church historically started the payment of social welfare benefits to the poor and unemployed in the United Kingdom sometime in the 19th century before the government took over that function in later years. In other climes, churches also act as social critics, criticising the government and fighting for social justice. It is on record that the church led the struggle for the abolition of the slave trade; they also led the civil rights movement in America and campaigned vigorously for the cancellation of the debt of poor countries amongst others.
Nigerian churches are exactly the opposite of churches elsewhere. In Nigeria, churches become or aspire to become megabucks 419 businesses. The pastors are millionaires-billionaires and many of them ride on private jets, all from the money duped from vulnerable citizens. Some pastors even have more fleets of jets than the presidency. They build the most expensive schools and hospitals and run them as elitist business institutions that most of their church members cannot afford. They build housing estates for the super-rich. They wine, dine and collect contracts from monumentally corrupt, evil, wicked, unconscionable, sadistic, psychopathic and satanic Nigerian leaders who preside over the pauperization, oppression, dehumanization and genocide of their own citizens.
Unlike churches elsewhere that used social criticisms to free their suffering masses and bring change in their respective nations, Nigerian churches are in bed with the very destroyers of the nation. They never criticise nor stand in opposition to the government, rather they play along and partake in the corruption that has crippled the nation and impoverished the masses. In spite of Nigeria recording the highest levels of poverty in the world and in spite of the billions the churches make, they provide neither charity nor aid to the poor masses. They build neither hospitals nor schools for the poor. Like every fraud, the ultimate aim of these churches is not to help the poor, propagate love and charity, nor to practice what they preach but to use deceit to dupe the hapless citizenry and profit themselves at the expense of the poor masses and wretched of the earth. Once they make the money, true to type they join the oppressors, wearing the most expensive robes, suits and jewellery, flaunting flashy cars, flying private jets when even the Pope owns no jet and living in vast opulent mansions reeking of luxury while their church members and the larger society throng the streets in abject poverty.
The 419 Pentecostal church businesses have now become so profitable that it has become a franchise locally and globally. All kinds of shady characters are given licenses to operate and extort the gullible public and pay remittances to the head office. Across every street in Nigeria and across the world, in the UK, USA, CANADA, Ireland amongst others, these franchises are popping up increasingly, manned by fraudsters. They engage in the usual hullabaloo and make a handsome living from the proceeds of the scam while paying remittances to the head office. It is now time to callout these fraudulent churches and serve them notice. Thankfully, the awareness is growing. It is either they reform and practice religion the way it should be practiced or face attacks and be run out of town!
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu