On Sunday, Politics Times has on its website this caption: "Let Nigerians express their views-- Shehu Sani cautions Kumuyi.” I was attracted to read the publication because it has the name of a man I deeply respect and have seen from a close range. Once upon on a time, I lived with my maternal uncle and his wife in Lagos. Occasionally, they did compel me to follow them to their church, The Deeper Christian Life Ministry. I was living in their house and eating their food, and did not have any option than to follow them sometimes to their church to avoid homelessness and starvation. Anyone who has lived or encountered any member of Deeper Life can attest that they hardly live with "unbelievers." I am a Catholic, my parents were Catholics, my family is Catholic. My uncle was in the know of those facts. He was also aware that I wanted to be a Catholic priest, still, that didn't stop him from trying to evangelize me. He too was once a Catholic before, according to him, "he saw the light" and followed the light to Deeper Life Church.
Some of those compelled church attendances did take me to the Deeper Life Center at Ayobo, Lagos, where the Easter Retreat usually take place and to Gbagada, Lagos, the headquarters of the Deeper Life Bible Church. On two occasions, I was seated close enough to see the General Superintendent, Pastor William Kumuyi. Honestly, I was impressed by him. I have major doctrinal disagreements with him, which of course, is expected. But I do respect him. He is a man of God and a man of conviction. He is an incredible preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is a simple man who abhors the lavish lifestyle. Personally, I like him. I believe he is authentic. I believe he is a fellow disciple of Jesus Christ. I believe he is fulfilling the Lord's final injunction to his disciples before his Ascension, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creatures.”
So, due to past contacts with Pastor Kumuyi and his church, my attention was easily drawn to the aforementioned caption published on Politics Times’ website. The story is about the lawmaker representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, giving counsel to Pastor Kumuyi, to allow Nigerians to express their views about their leaders. It is alleged that on Sunday during his sermon at the headquarter of Deeper Life in Gbagada, Pastor Kumuyi said the following: “Don’t attack the president of the country whether in words or in the newspaper or through the internet. Honor kings; don’t disrespect or dishonor the governors. Don’t disrespect leaders of community and leaders in the church” Reacting to those words alleged to have come from the mouth of Pastor Kumuyi, Senator Shehu wrote on his Twitter page, “Pastor Kumuyi is a respectable and responsible man of God. I like him. But he should allow people to express their views about their leaders and speak truth to power, that is their only shield of defending democracy and propelling the wheel of freedom and justice.”
To be straightforward with you, I agree with Senator Shehu Sani and I vehemently disagree with Pastor Kumuyi. I believe that the man of God was making reference to Romans 13:1-7, where St. Paul talks about obedience to those in authority. St. Paul believes that those in authority are appointed by God; that the ruler’s duty is to punish evildoers; that anyone who does not want to be afraid of those in authority should avoid evil and do the good. However, I have the following questions to ask: what kind of authority or rulership was St. Paul talking about? Was it a democracy or theocracy? St. Paul said it is only evil doers that should be afraid of those in authority. But what happens when the evildoers are those in authority? If the authority is someone who does not believe in the dignity of all persons can the marginalized and oppressed group wisely subordinate to that authority? If the authority is someone who does not hide his hatred for others in the nation's community, can the hated ones wisely subordinate to him? If the authority is the one inflicting wrath on the people, are we still bound by the Pauline injunction to be subordinate to him? According to St. Paul, the role of authority is to punish evildoers, who then should punish evil and authoritarian authority?
If Nigerians remain silent, tolerate and accept what President Buhari and some of the governors are doing in Nigeria today, a day will come when even Pastor Kumuyi will not have a place to worship God or be permitted to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. The real evildoers in Nigeria are the political leaders. They have raped the people, stolen from them, impoverished them, wreaked them and abandoned them to waste away in penury and disease. How can Pastor Kumuyi expect the people to remain silent when there has been prolonged widespread poverty in the land? As people are dying of treatable diseases due to serious decay in the medical sector, Buhari continues to use every opportunity to run to the UK for medical treatment. How can the man of God ask Nigerian Christians to remain silent when there is high insecurity in the land. Every sector of the economy is begging for help. Since elected in 2015, Buhari has not addressed one single problem— major or minor in Nigeria. For me, to ask Christians to remain silent in the face of all these oddities is tantamount to subjecting to slavery without resistance. Pastor William Kumuyi is wrong. I urge all Christians in Nigeria, including the members of his church to ignore his counsel. This is not the time to keep silent. Remain silent, and see Buhari and his Fulani brothers conquer and dominate us. As Obasanjo stated recently, there is fulanization and Islamization that is taking place in the country. These are not normal times, and definitely, not the time to remain silent.
Rev. Divine Marcel Emeka Okwara writes from Whittier, California.