Send Pastors To Jail: Why Not? By Okey Ndibe

Okey Ndibe
Columnist: 
Okey Ndibe

It takes a lot to get Nigerians really, really excited these days. Yet, last week, Tunde Bakare managed to get many Nigerians’ full attention. He did so with an astonishing suggestion: that many of Nigeria’s prominent church men – himself included – should be herded into jail. It was a startling prescription. And it came as Mr. Bakare’s unusual response to the festering scandal of money in the Nigerian church. Nothing illustrates that scandal quite so powerfully as Nigerian pastors’ appetite for private jets.

Had the prescription for imprisonment come from a secular source, it would likely have stirred reactions of self-righteous, sanctimonious outrage. Many Nigerians are intolerant of any form of criticism of so-called men/women of God. In the eyes of some faithful, anybody who dares question the choices of a “televangelist” must be a heretic. And any such critic must be hell-bent, and deserving of eternal damnation.  

Mr. Bakare is a now well-known pastor-politician. In the reigning language of Nigerian Pentecostalism, he is the general overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly. Once, he was known for the fiery political denunciations that rained down from his altar. Unafraid to put his pulpit to political uses, he rained scorn on Nigeria’s power abusers and embezzlers. His admirers called him a prophet, a title he seemed to love.

Despite the political nature of his pronouncements, many of us were rather surprised when Mr. Bakare consented to become the underling on Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential ticket in Nigeria’s 2011 elections. The role of full-time politician did not suit him. On the campaign trail, his statements lacked the sharpness and indignation of his pulpit language. And when he tried to speak with his accustomed forcefulness, the fact that he was a partisan robbed his statement of much power.

That brief foray into politics has continued to color public reaction to Mr. Bakare’s political statements. Week after week, he delivers devastating body blows to the Goodluck Jonathan administration. However, some critics often dismiss his mostly on-target criticisms of Mr. Jonathan as signs of a man licking his wounds following a crushing defeat.

Mr. Bakare doesn’t come across as one to bother about how his critics characterize him. He thrives in the art of rhetorical drama. And he’s certainly no believer in polite expression, as if he had decided that Nigerian politics was too septic to warrant temperate language. Before and after dabbling in politics, he has continued to speak in the same brash, take-no-prisoners’ style. A whole gallery could be built around his many unconventional, provocative and even jarring utterances. On occasion, he turns his blistering eye and cutting tongue inward, focusing on those Nigerians call men/women of God.

Often, he appears determined to unmask his fellows, to expose their moral flabbiness to public ridicule. His call for big-time pastors to spend a spell in jail is not the first time he has turned the searchlight on those who trade with the Word. But not even his antecedents prepared me for his latest intervention. It’s no wonder that his statement struck a chord with many Nigerians.

Let’s be clear: faith is not to be belittled. For many people – Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and all – faith matters (a lot). In calling people to set their sights and hearts on noble and ennobling values, faith can serve to lift individuals and cultures. We all have basic needs for food, shelter, healthcare and security. But we also strive for something less tangible but no less indispensable: human dignity. At its best, sound religious faith can both fertilize and serve that demand that humans be treated with dignity.

The most admirable religions and religious officials are those that insist on the inherent dignity of the human person, regardless of his or her social stature. There are many religious figures in Nigeria who speak with moral clarity and stand for exemplary values. Unfortunately, their voices are sometimes drowned out by the fifth columnists whose passion is money, money and more money.

Most religious personalities have the benefit of a pulpit. The best of them try to put those pulpits to the service of the noblest causes. They remind us of the ephemeral nature of material possessions. They urge us to rein in our acquisitive tendencies and to respect the rights of others to decent lives. They remind us that the end hardly ever justifies the means. They teach us that those with more than enough owe an obligation to help the less fortunate. They exhort the strong to assist the weak to rise to their feet, the rich to ensure that the hungry are fed, the powerful to realize that they must act with restraint and give account.

Sadly, too many of Nigeria’s religious leaders (and many adherents of different religions) seem to sorely miss the most important point. That, or they have discovered how easy and enticing it is to turn huge personal profits by playing traitor to what ought to be their (sacred) mission. And so there’s a crisis of faith in Nigeria (and elsewhere in the world). It’s not farfetched to state that too many money-minded charlatans have invaded churches. Too many pastors, priests and imams have remade God in their own frail images. For them, God is another business, another heartless means to hustle cash from people.

And what a mess these traffickers in God have left. They excuse rigging by lying to their congregants that all power comes from God. They harangue their wretched followers to tithe themselves onto death. Many of them have taken to preaching the gospel of prosperity devoid of moral anchor. They quote passages from the Bible, but it’s clear that their faith and deepest loyalties lie elsewhere: in cold cash. They have become apostles of various brands of corruption.

Some people blame the mushrooming religious sects for the derailment of impressive faith. Yes, in a culture where any rogue can concoct an absurd-sounding name for a church and, pronto, become a “general overseer,” standards are apt to go south. Years ago, as a young journalist in Lagos, I received a surprise visit from a man I knew during my years in Enugu. This man, named Lloyd, was notorious for smoking pot, drinking to excess, and consorting with prostitutes. When he came to visit me in Lagos, his eyes were blood-shot and his breath reeked of beer. Yet, he cheekily unfurled a poster of his forthcoming crusade in parts of Lagos. The poster claimed that “Pastor Lloyd” had done many miracles, including raising two women from the dead! And then he disclosed his mission: he wanted me to help him by writing a feature that declared his great powers as a miracle doer.  

I don’t recall how I managed to restrain myself from laughing, but I told the guy to try impressing somebody who didn’t know him. I have since forgotten his last name, but I won’t be surprised at all if Pastor (perhaps Bishop?) Lloyd later struck it big trading in God’s name and preying on the desperation, superstition and gullibility of Nigerians. For all we know, he may well be the proud owner of several expensive cars (even if he has not made the ranks of private jet owners).

In some sense, the Lloyds of Nigeria are minor players in the scandal of religion. Many of the older, traditional churches have become money-grubbing machines. Reluctant to ask hard questions about their benefactors’ sources of wealth, these churches are content to rake in as much filthy cash as possible. They’ve become willing enablers and tools of those who wreck Nigeria by stealing it blind.

A few years ago, a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission singlehandedly built a huge Catholic church in his community. You’d think that morally alert bishops would sit him down and ask where he got all the money from. Instead, several bishops attended the church’s dedication. From the pulpit, they took turns to extol the donor. For good measure, they also scolded those who had raised legitimate questions about the man’s fraud-ridden stewardship at INEC.

The craze for money within the church is driving up corruption in every sector of the country. When bishops, pastors and imams abandon their task to ask tough questions and to uphold sound moral principles, they embed themselves with the elements whose mindless looting has left Nigeria an empty shell. By all means, let’s build more jails and let’s throw in these jet-loving, wealth-flaunting preachers who are veritable fertilizers of graft and greed.

Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe

(okeyndibe@gmail.com)
 

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Open Your Eyes

Once again, Mr Ndibe has done justice to this current debate. Materialism has become the order of the day and our modern day men/women of God are not helping matters. Jesus would certainly cringe at their actions and inactions.

end time has come

Indeed, end time has come. Christians should read the Bible and ask God for the right interpretation. Remember in the days of the Apostles, they sheared their things commonly and equally. They never contributed their money for their leader, rather they had a common goal. I join others to ask, who are the current 'men of God' taking after? Our Lord Jesus, Peter, Paul or who? Remember Jesus was born in a menger of all places, yet he is the king of all kings. To pay tithe is good and to give offering is also good but what is not acceptable is to allow one man to utilize this collective effort of the congregants to live in affluence while others perish in penury. It is not Biblical and the Almighty is not happy about that. 'men of God' repent or ye shall likewise perish. Christians arise and begin to read your Bibles to avoid further exploitation by the hawks called men of God.

Frustrated gullible followers

I am surprised that someone will still believe that millionaires are made by Pastors in Nigeria when millionaires in Asia specifically are being made everyday through hard work and ingenuity without any pastor prophesying on their lives.

Frustrated people seeks easy avenues to achieve what they want be it wealth which is typical of a nigerian hence our quest for miracles these days and not hard-work. I pity the likes of you who still think that millonaires are made by pastors and spend all your quality time in all nights and camps waiting to be a millionaire when your mates in other countries spend quality time to think and come out with inventions that you are dying to have. WAKE UP AND BE PART OF THE CHANGE THAT WILL ENLIGHTEN THE NEXT GENERATION THAT HARD WORK PAYS SO WE CAN BE PROGRESSIVE AS THE ASIAN TIGERS AND NOT SOWING MONEY/ALL NIGHT AND TIME IN FARAWAY CAMPS THAT WILL MAKE US GREAT AS A NATION.

Frustrated Critics

I am surprised that someone will still believe that millionaires are made by Pastors in Nigeria when millionaires in Asia specifically are being made everyday through hard work and ingenuity without any pastor prophesying on their lives.

Frustrated people seeks easy avenues to achieve what they want be it wealth which is typical of a nigerian hence our quest for miracles these days and not hardwork. I pity the likes of you who still think that millonaires are made by pastors and spend all your quality time in all nights and camps waiting to be a millionaire when your mates in other countries spend quality time to think and come out with inventions that you are dying to have. WAKE UP AND BE PART OF THE CHANGE THAT WILL ENLIGHTEN THE NEXT GENERATION THAT HARD WORK PAYS SO WE CAN BE PROGRESSIVE AS THE ASIAN TIGERS AND NOT SOWING MONEY/ALL NIGHT AND TIME IN FARAWAY CAMPS THAT WILL MAKE US GREAT AS A NATION.

Re Frustrated critics

Ade, you said ia ....."some have even loss hope of becoming great in life". Your blinkered view talks of "greatness in life" That's why we have problems with you lot! Think more of your AFTER LIFE than your lousy, brainwashed, polluted, corrupt, greedy "greatness in this useless life".

hmmm.....

We should stick to the topic and call a spade a spade, nobody is criticizing pastor ayo cos he's from the south south. The current trend of materialism in the church has gotten out of hand. I see this as moral weakness of these men of God because in the bible, Jesus himself was humble, u didn't see him taxing his listeners or the crowds that thronged to listen to him preach for money to buy a chariot or to build a castle or for a fleet of horses to alleviate his walking and this was a man who healed the sick, raised the dead and whose death and resurrection is the basis of our faith today. My simple suggestion is that since the church has decided to deviate from its true calling and become a business centre, they should be taxed accordingly.

Nigerian Pastors Are Nigeria Problems

Check out posters of churches in nigeria. What U find is Mr & Mrs(CEO) of Churches. U will never find the Photo Of Jesus on these posters yet, they used the name of The Lord to empower their farmily. They have slot in elections. They organise thanksgiving for electoral thieves. They buy premises of fail companies. They used congration to finance banks and schools for their farmilies. They wear swagger shoes and wrist watches. They drive the best cars and jets. Who do you blame?.....The spiritual illitrates that follow em to the grave.

OKEY! THE AMERICAN DID NOT SEND THEIRS TO JAIL

The USA houses 10 of the highest paid ministers around the globe. Such as Kenneth Copeland, whose 1500 acre compound includes “a church, a private airstrip, a hangar for the ministry’s $17.5 million jet and other aircraft, and a $6 million church owned lakefront mansion.”Then there’s Creflo Dollar — yes, that’s his real name — who “drives a Rolls-Royce, is transported in a private jet, owns a million-dollar Atlanta home and a $2.5 million Manhattan apartment.” And Bishop Charles Blake of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, who “earns a $900,000 salary and owns a 10,000-square-foot mansion in Beverly HILL. So what is the sin of Oritsejafor? That he is an Itsekiri man or what? So should not own a jet abi? Was Pastor Oriitsejafor not already a rich prosperity preacher from the South South, b4 Jonathan became president? What about the others in d Ssouth West-

NIGERIAN RELIGIOUS FRAUDSTERS - MEN/WOMEN OF GOD

Thanks Okey. Only in in a Country like Nigerian that rogue pastors/self acclaimed Bishops are referred to as Men/Women of God. Nigerians MUST also understand that these rogues do not heel nor cure sick persons. They have taken advantage of the less fortunate, the poor, the weak. Persons they claim to have heeled or cured are their associates in crime. Jet flying and wealth displaying Pastors are the evils of the society and have fortified themselves with Voodoos or Magical Evil Powers playing God. Ask any of these rogues to point to you any one they have heeled that is still visibly standing out there --none! No wonder the World Richest Pastors are Nigerians and in Nigeria. GOOGLE THE WORLD RICHEST PASTORS and as a Nigerian you will be ashamed and probably furious. Even the Government that are supposed to protect the citizenry from these Crooks and Religious Fraudsters are themselves charmed into the shameful corrupt religious practices of the so called Nigerian's Men/Women of God.

NIGERIAN RELIGIOUS FRAUDSTERS - MEN/WOMEN OF GOD

Thanks Okey. Only in in a Country like Nigerian that rogue pastors/self acclaimed Bishops are referred to as Men/Women of God. Nigerians MUST also understand that these rogues do not heel nor cure sick persons. They have taken advantage of the less fortunate, the poor, the weak. Persons they claim to have heeled or cured are their associates in crime. Jet flying and wealth displaying Pastors are the evils of the society and have fortified themselves with Voodoos or Magical Evil Powers playing God. Ask any of these rogues to point to you any one they have heeled that is still visibly standing out there --none! No wonder the World Richest Pastors are Nigerians and in Nigeria. GOOGLE THE WORLD RICHEST PASTORS and as a Nigerian you will be ashamed and probably furious. Even the Government that are supposed to protect the citizenry from these Crooks and Religious Fraudsters are themselves charmed into the shameful corrupt religious practices of the so called Nigerian's Men/Women of God.

LATE CARDINAL rEX LAWSON SANG NA YOU GIVE ME NAME

To my Brethren of SS who see ndigbo as their number one enemy but OBJ who killed them at Odi, Ogoni and Etchee they called their friend. Late Rex Cardinal Lawson sang a song Na you give me name, na me give you name papa OC, Papa Oc. he was talking of his case with Obima the owner of Dophin Cafe hotel where Rex went at Onitsha when he left Maryland Hotel PH of Udeaja. My brethren of SS na me give you name, no be you give name. I as Christ of Africa died for you to be free from slavery, but you enslaved yourselves to Hausa, Fulani and Yorubas. Who killed Isaac Adaka Boro? Who killed Saro Wiwa were they killed by ndigbo?

MARRIAGE OF SE AND SS WHO APPROVED IT?

I believed in One Love and equal Rights for all, but will not forced a woman to marry me. An Nnewi Masquerade called (Mmuo Okwudi) says I dont beg people to come to watch me but when they hear Mmuo Okwudi will appear to dance every body will like to come to see him. So, I am to Nigerians and my brethren of SS very soon Ndigbo will have their freedom and became Biafra Grace Land for all Nation in Nigeria. Many people from in and outside Nigeria will like to come to settle there because the shower of grace, peace and prosperity of Christ of Africa will be there for all nations.I was one person who rejected fighting with Cameroon during the case of Bakassi because the Western camerron were one time a part of Eastern Nigeria, so do SS, who says his father and mother are goat is a son or daughter of goat.

Foolish givers

There's no proof that any pastor, big or small, anywhere in Nigeria forces congregants to contribute money toward the pastor's maintenance. If the faithfuls are gullible enough to keep funding the lavish lifestyles of the pastors while they (the followers) lead hardscrabble lives, then so be it.

No one should really castigate pastors who, as far as we know, have not forcibly dispossessed anyone of their money. Personally, I do not feel sorry for those whose tithe finances the pastors' airplanes. Stupidity is a terrible affliction. It renders the sufferers incapable of noticing even when their pockets are being picked.

I’ve read this united states

I’ve read this united states of SE & SS a few times and cannot but wonder once again how misguided some elements are in Nigeria. One of the major setbacks on the declaration of Biafra by Odumegu Ojukwu was the quest to annexe SS as part of Biafra. The Igbos have their own distinct identity separate from the numerous ethnic groups from the SS. Why will a region made up of minorities ethnic groups go into any form of partnership with a domineering majority? Some Nigerians will never learn from history.

DOUBLE STANDARD

UR SO DOUBLE STANDARD;YOU CAN NOT SEE WHY A CRIMINAL JUDGE SHOULD BE CRITICISED BUT YOU ARE VERY QUICK TO CONDEMN CRIMINAL PASTORS(PERHAPS, ONLY ALL THE PASTORS NOT FROM YOUR TRIBE) YOU ARE HAPPY TO BE THROWN INTO JAIL. OPEN YOUR MIND AND EYES ALL CRIMINALS IRRESPECTIVE OF WHOM AND WHERE THEY COME FROM MUST BE DULY TREATED ACCORDINGLY.

Pedestrian angst? Even from

Pedestrian angst? Even from the figure you quoted for a jet and your subsequent argument , the only person pedestrian here is you. Smh.

There is a church in Lagos

There is a church in Lagos that goes by the name Mountain of Tsunami Evagelical church of Yahweh.Do i need to say more.

Yes, I agree with you

I made this point already in my direct response to this article (far below) about the suspicious motivations of some of the harshest critics of all these rich pastors and even politicians or business leaders that may actually be dubious (I'm not excusing them in any way). Some of these loudest critics do so out of burning envy and will do a lot worse if they get the same opportunity as those they're criticizing. But one thing I like about Okey's article is that it's balanced. He pointed out that there are many good ministers of God, and then Okey himself is very religious (not just in words) and has personally proven his own integrity - by shunning many opportunities for dirty money.

Very interesting comments on

Very interesting comments on the write up.
The problems we face in NIGERIA is deeply rooted and longstanding, it has affected our collective psyche and we don't know what to do.
We are denied our livelihood by politicians,pastors,plutocrats,robbers and kidnappers.
Our destiny isin our hand and it will take mass enlightement before we can emancipate ourselves.
For those fellows who are depending on oil in the SS/SE they should realize that the days that oil rules the world is numbered. The civilized world will have no neeed for oil in as short as 20 years from now.The day draws near when Nigeria we beg others to buy her oli for 50cents and they will be shunned,Then we will see what those clamoring for SS independent say then.

The fish begins to rot from the head!

In a society with accountability as its watchword, many of these churches would have been checkmated by govt. long ago. Churches are charities and so have tax exemption. But where a pastor flies one or two personal jets then such tax exemption must be questioned. These churches could either be Charitable Trusts or Unincorporated Organizations. In these situations only the trustees would be held liable for any untoward effect; and the pastors are definitely part of the trustees. Buying jets by the pastor or for the pastor definitely negates the aims of charity, especially where many of the church members suffer under criminal neglect and poverty. Pastors in this brazen abuse of their office are, prima facie, liable and must face the wrath of the law. Accordingly, such pastors could be made to make restitution and subsequently sent to jail.

Better Late Than Never

Bakare lost his standing as a Christian leader when he joined forces with political reactionaries. First of all, he should have called out himself for that unequal yoking. A pastor has no right getting involved in partisan politics. You cannot criticize when you are romancing with power - be it government or its opposition.

That said, his calling out our jet-flying pastors is a welcome development. Hopefully, this will mark the beginning of informed discurse on the role of pastors in the country. Are they merchants or followers of Jesus Christ? If the former, we don't need them in the pulpits but if the later, those who have backslid should repent publicly so that their followers will know the right way.

The tragedy is that many of those calling themselves Christians in Nigeria are followers of leaders of churches or followers of particular denominations and not truly followers of Christ. The time has come for followers of Christ to boldly take a stand for Christ.

Criminal Pastors and the most foolish people of Nigeria.

Adeboye, Oyedepo, Oyakilome, Okotie, Ayo Oritsejafor, Sam Adeyemi and other smaller/unknown pastor and imams deserves to be in jail.

These people have contributed nothing but negativity to Nigeria youth and public. Every youth and the general public is now chasing money as their pastors encourages them through miracle. Can there be any such financial miracle in an economy which has no structure.

I THING GREED IS THIS PASTOR'S PROBLEM

Please God has not given anyone the opportunity or authourity to judge anybody, remember the same measure you use in judging others yours is waiting. When you point somebody one finger where do you expect others to face, i think the problem of nigeria today is greed, criticism, hypocrite etc.
Untill we realize that the problem of nigeria start within ourself soon we will get answers without.
Pastor Bakare remember you have contributed your own quoter of judgement simply because your own has not been discovered
Bye

frustrated critics

we have so many frusrated ppl in nig.some have even loss hope of becoming great in life.what is jet for goodness sake.instead of praying for God's blessing u'r busy criticising.if bakare have the oportunity he will surely buy jet,if not why does he have fleit of Jeep cars?.even for rev. kuka,what does he do with diocesan assesmnent(money) paid by peasant farmers?.adeboye,oyedepo,okonkwo,oyakilome have all make many millionaires and touched so many ppl.wise up pls

Gbam!

Gbam!

This is spot on.Its so pathetic.

Makes me remember Fela!Dude was spot on."and na them dey do bad bad bad bad bad bad thing,through Jesus christ our lord!".

Nice piece(again)

frustrated critics

we have so many frusrated ppl in nig.some have even loss hope of becoming great in life.what is jet for goodness sake.instead of praying for God's blessing u'r busy criticising.if bakare have the oportunity he will surely buy jet,if not why does he have fleit of Jeep cars?.even for rev. kuka,what does he do with diocesan assesmnent(money) paid by peasant farmers?.adeboye,oyedepo,okonkwo,oyakilome have all make many millionaires and touched so many ppl.wise up pls

IS THERE A STRONG MUSLIM PREACHER?

I wish some Islamic preachers would do the same by exposing the trouble makers from within themselves. Life holds hope when we begin to tell ourselves a home truth no matter whose ox is gored. Most young people who're causing trouble here and there in the north are products of such Imams. Even though most well learn Imams in the north are not english lettered or computer litterates, the Muslim journalists should take the risk of saying the truth.

Re: Con Merchants

I have said it before and will continue to say it. These men are ultimate con merchants who have commercialised the gospel for their selfish gains. I keep asking this question and no one has answered me: who are their role models? How much wealth did Jesus, Paul, Peter and the Apostles acquire in their time? By the way, Jesus chose to ride an ass into Jerusalem instead of the best horse in town. The Bible warned that in the last days, 'men shall be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God'. We are witnessing that today in Nigeria. Even the Pope flies Alitalia, a commercial plane, even though his followers can buy the best private jet in the world for him. He shuns ostentatious living and bravado and urges his followers to do same.

@akpos1, I think you have a point

If the Oil in the SS & SE dries up today, will there be Nigeria tomorrow?

Will Buhari & Tinubu still be interested in becoming President?

Will people be asking Great Jona whether he will contest the next election only 2 months into his first term?

a)YES
b)NO

1914 was a useless contraption by the stupid conservative British who had traveled several miles to steal & exploit the resources of the countries of Benin Empires, Oyo empires etc.

Verily verily I say unto you, Nigeria is not a country but a continent. Break up NOW!!!

Long live the United States of the SS & SE

Religion is a private affair

I like this take from Okey. Although he is afraid to mention the names of the people we already know. In Nigeria, the pastors love money too much. That's why they do not call the looters to order. They speak with two sides of their mouths. They need a slice of the stolen money for their increasing fleet of jets.

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