Reno Omokri is a Pentecostal pastor. He is the founder of a certain Mind of Christ Christian Centre. Keep that name in mind.
He flaunts his knowledge of the Bible. He dispenses nuggets. He has written a book on Godly wisdom. And another, interestingly, on “short cut to God.” He has taught Jesus on television. He was once a spokesman for a country’s president. Yet, he is, obviously, a flippant man.
He is, evidently, a political attack dog. He is, seemingly, incapable of sobriety. And apparently, he has no use for self-restraint. But this is not about a 43-year-old Papa Reno Omokri. It is about the watery Pentecostalism that has birthed many of his kind. It is about a pattern of dissonance, a habitual lack of harmony between what is preached in words and what is preached indeed. It’s about naked hypocrisy that is rampant in our politics, that has seized the church by the scruff of the neck. It is about the lust for titles, and for oversized names of worship centers. It’s about shameless charlatanism. It isn’t just the empty spirituality that rankles. It is the obtrusiveness of it, that getting into people’s faces, that is unbearable.
The 1970s Pentecostal Christians weren’t saints, but they were visibly different. Had Omokri met the Pentecostalism of the 70s, he could have been a more temperate man. Now, there is a Reno Omokri who clings to the reputation of a pastor but who engages in political diatribes like a motor park tout. When he likes, he masquerades as Wendell Simlin. When he is not dishing nuggets, he is splashing insults. The modern Pentecostal duplicity. Pastors ought to be conscious of the moral burden and expectations priesthood places on them. We know anger can detonate bombs. But how can anyone explain a pastor deliberately making a career out of being a political attack dog? Yes, pastors aren’t saints. But pastors are supposed to be seen striving, struggling, to be moral examples. They can’t relapse into chronic self-indulgence, they can’t run brothels and they can’t live as pimps. They simply can’t be resident in sin.
Where, in the chaotic soul of a political attack dog can the Holy Spirit find rest? Pentecostalism is now all talk, no action. Intemperate glib talkers are all pastors. Pastor Reno Omokri is the founder of Mind of Christ. So he is a papa too. But there is no link between the name of his church and many of his public utterances. Some other pastors are less dissembling. A pastor named his church “Now Now Miracle Centre.” Nigeria lives in the present, and everybody wants quick fixes. The pastor, with an eye on earthly acquisitions, preaches materialism in the name of prosperity. It makes sense, there is congruity. An irascible attack dog can shepherd anything but not a ‘Mind of Christ Centre.’
He should have cobbled something with—fire, spirit and sword, something menacing. He is perhaps no different from a garrulous friend of mine. A very miserly man, who loves and brandishes the title ‘Ochiriozua.’ By that title he lays claim to exceptional philanthropy-he pretends to be he, who feeds and trains his community. Like Reno Omokri, who preaches generosity of the spirit and practices political bitterness, my friend is only renown for theoretical philanthropy. This new watery Pentecostalism is not built on the fear of God. It lets ‘Area boys’(urchins) who haven’t completed drug rehabilitation programs become pastors. Those capable of sobriety are reluctant to be ordained. Yes, they are fainthearted. But they are honest. The burdens and the expectations of genuine priesthood are scary. Charlatans make an easy leap for the title and fame, for recognition, for status.
They don’t need attitudinal changes, they can just put on the mask. Then with jollity, throw themselves forward as worthy of communal respect. Their courage comes from knowing, from the outset, that they won’t have to live their sermons, and nuggets. Many Nigerians have regrettably kept away from politics for similar reasons. What has Christ to do with acrimony and vindictiveness? Christ’s mind can’t look at a sick old man and mock him. It cannot sit with fools and churn out conspiracy theories. Christ’s mind has no room for the ‘yab me, I yab you’ mentality Reno Omokri has patented in Nigeria. Yet Omokri is not a truck pusher in Ochanja market, he is not an Obalende danfo driver. He is a Pentecostal pastor. Pentecostal Christians have been at the forefront of Christian evangelism in Nigeria in the last 40 years. They have been aggressive. But what they have succeeded in spreading, of late, is a form of flaky Christianity. A Christianity remarkable for being extravagant and superficial. They like to preach on T.V and in buses.
They like to build big churches with loud microphones and musical equipment. What they don’t do, is preach with their lives. When they serve in public offices, their works don’t recommend Jesus. They lead double lives. One rolls on the floor in churches. And the other takes over in the office shaming Christ, propagating evil. Reno Omokri is the founder of Mind of Christ Centre, but you can catch him yelling publicly at a minister “your mother! It’s possible. He once looked at Rotimi Amaechi and called him” a pot-bellied mad man.” He fights for President Jonathan. President Jonathan is not a pastor, but he has never been uncouth in public. I can’t understand this perpetual wallowing in and splashing of, mud by any pastor. Nominal Christians experience bouts of sobriety in between sinfulness. They come back to their senses, call victims and apologize, make confessions and seek forgiveness. Pastor Omokri can quarrel, every day, for 365 days.
Omokri is a manifestation of faulty Pentecostalism. “You are a waste, you should be thrown away by Lagos Waste Management Authority,” he once told Gov Amaechi. He publicly referred to Rev Fr Mbaka and Pastor Bakare as blooming hypocrites. They disagreed with him on Buhari and Jonathan. He has uttered childish insults like: “You are as useless as ‘P’ in psychology.” He has never tendered any public apologies. I tried to imagine some of these vileness dropping from Pastor Adeboye’s lips and I was struck by vertigo. Modern Pentecostal pastors always look too well fed. But from their fruits, you know that many are spiritually malnourished.
Pastor Omokri bakes nuggets. Yet he exhibits all the signs and symptoms of spiritual malnutrition. Perhaps he needs nuggets of humility from Femi Adesina. Adesina is a presidential spokesman. He is not a pastor. But he carries himself with the dignity of a bishop. He needs nuggets from Prof Osinbajo. Osinbajo is a pastor and comports himself like a cardinal.