Fiery Lagos preacher and Serving Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly Church in Lagos, Pastor Tunde Bakare, has warned that the Church in Nigeria will face confusion over which of the principal candidates to support in next month’s presidential election.
In his sermon in Lagos on Sunday, Pastor Bakare asserted that 2011, the church was entangled in a bribery web, as some pastors were heavily paid by the President Goodluck Jonathan team to mobilize Christians through different means, and that they delivered for him.
The outspoken pastor did not mention any names, but noted that if put on the spot to do so, he would.
It would be recalled that ahead of that election, President Jonathan appeared at the Redemption Camp of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, where he was widely photographed kneeling down in prayer before Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, the General Overseer.
Pastor Adeboye prayed for Mr. Jonathan, and enjoined congregants to "stretch forth your hands and let us pray for our President".
On that occasion, President Jonathan was also allowed to speak, which was the equivalent of a campaign opportunity, if not outright endorsement. He appropriately thanked the General Overseer and members of the Church for giving him to the privilege.
In Pastor Bakare's State-of-the-Nation broadcast from his church on Sunday, he suggested that the emergence of Pastor Yemi Osinbajo, as a recognized member of RCCG, the largest Christian denomination in Nigeria, now puts the Church in a tight position as regards which candidate to support.
Pastor Bakare titled his sermon “The Seven Signs The 2015 Elections Will Shipwreck Nigeria”, which he described as indices that would cause the 2015 election to end in disaster if not taken care of.
Speaking on the seventh sign, "Potential Religious Confusion, Betrayals, Scandals and Persecution," he recalled 2011 when he was selected as General Buhari’s running mate, and observed that there was a gang-up against that ticket by a substantial section of the church which preferred Jonathan, the candidate that was perceived as being “Christian”.
"Not only was the church not convinced about General Buhari’s non-fundamentalist stance, it also refused to give support to the running mate who, in its perception, is controversial and non-conformist. At that time, the mantra amongst many men of God was that a pastor had nothing to do with politics.
Pastor Bakare, who is also an activist and lawyer, said he received reports that some Christian clergy received financial inducement from President Jonathan.
"To compound the matter [this time around], General Buhari's running mate is another pastor who should ordinarily have the support of his home church, a very influential denomination in and outside the country and whose head is highly respected in the Christian establishment.
“Therefore, ordinarily, for those to whom religion means a lot in the making of electoral decisions, the current running mate of the APC should be tiwa n tiwa, that is, “our own” and should be massively supported by the church.”
He noted, however, that it would not be that easy. "What would be the implication of turning away from the incumbent who was massively supported in 2011 by the church establishment? How about those for whom the president has done one favour or another, such as waivers, contracts, soft landings, protection of vested interests in one form or another, or even outright monetary gifts - not necessarily bribery, just a 'harmless' gift? Would these pastors, priests and prophets now turn against their benefactor, the president, to give support to “our own”?”
He specifically questioned what the position of the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) would be, as organizations that have been massively behind President Jonathan and who are likely biased against All Progressives Congress, as revealed by PFN's 2015 round-the-clock circulated prayer bulletin.
"Would there be reminders that this same incumbent has knelt before us at our conventions where we laid hands on him and supposedly endorsed him?” he asked. “Or, would we make a U-turn now that this is “our own”? Would such a U-turn not come with dire consequences reminiscent of the Abimelech experience with the men of Shechem in Judges 9:22-24 (NKJV)?”
On Abimelech, he quoted the Bible, as follows, from the Book of Judges:
22 After Abimelech had reigned over Israel three years, 23 God sent a spirit of ill will between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech, 24 that the crime done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might be settled and their blood be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who aided him in the killing of his brothers.
He underlined that the men of Shechem paid dearly for those actions with their lives.
“Do we see persecution looming for the church? Do we see high profile scandals emerging if the church makes such a U-turn? Or would the church simply deny or betray its own or, like the ostrich deprived of wisdom, treat its young harshly and choose to support incumbency in order to stay safe and protect interests and investments? Would the question of support and endorsement pitch major religious leaders against one another with brothers fighting against brother whether in secret or in the open?”
He again turned to the Bible Job 39:13-18 (NKJV):
13. The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, But are her wings and pinions like the kindly stork’s?
14. For she leaves her eggs on the ground, And warms them in the dust;
15. She forgets that a foot may crush them, Or that a wild beast may break them.
16. She treats her young harshly, as though they were not hers; Her labor is in vain, without concern
17. Because God deprived her of wisdom, And did not endow her with understanding.
18. When she lifts herself on high, She scorns the horse and its rider"
Contacted by our correspondent after the sermon to mention the names of the pastors who received money from President Jonathan to "mobilize" Christians for him for the 2011 election, Pastor Bakare chose to keep that information to himself, but said of a widely-known street where his church is located, "One of them, his Church is right here along this Acme".