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)
 

Comments
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men of Dogs

I have lost respect for most penticostal buisness centers ....sorry Churches...from the genneral overseers to their adherents.
Now its more like "tell me the name of your church and i can tell how stupid you are".
Most people now worship pastors or "my pastor" as they are personalized and not God.
The argument has gone from "my bible said" to "my pastor said".
The now compare adeboye,oyakilome and their fellow men of gold with Jesus the son of God.
Men of God my foot!!!
For the zoombies that will criticize me or this writeup with another misguided bible verse quoted out of context,please save your breath and use it to question you so called pastor...i almost forgot,he cannot hear you because he is on a private jet funded from your meager income!

END TIME HAS COME

" It is not all that is calling my name that will enter the Kingdom of God" So I am not surprise that all Pastors are flying private jet. Some Churches even make it mandatory to contribute money towards building Private University but non of those that contributed money can afford the school fees. End time has come!

How much does a jet cost?

Before writing this, I checked on a popular bidding site for the availability and the current bidding price of a jet. lo and behold, there is one currently attracting £10,000. Conceding that it may be at the bottom price range and multiply the value by 10. Why the hue and cry about aircraft ownership if not a result of pedestrian and poverty mindset? If I have the means. I'll buy one. As far back as the late seventies, when Alhaji Ali Monguno held a party in Borno state, the place was littered with privately owned aircraft brought to that occasion by politicians. More than thirty years later, a supposedly enlightened mind like Okey is adding voice to plebian angst.

Jesus Wept!

Adeboye, Oyedekpo, Oritsejafor and their cabal pastors: send them to hell instead. That is where these cabally  corrupt and decietful pastors belong!

@akpos1, Leave Oritsejafor alone.. He did not buy. It was a GIFT

I support you akpos1.
Talk about those pastors who stole church monies to buy jets
1.. Oduyemi David ==Nationality== Yoruba
2.. Oyedepo David ==Nationality== Yoruba
3.. Enuch adeboye ==Nationality== Yoruba

Who complained about these peiople? NONE!

Now, a gentle but typical & non cowardly pastor from the country of the Republic of the SS & SE gets a GIFT, then Bakare is speaking with his stinking mouth.

Did Pastor Oritsejafor steal church money like the Pastors from the Yoruba countries? Or shud he not receive GIFT anymore?

But Bakare cannot make any statement to criticize when BH is killing christians bcos he is a typical Yoruba coward afraid of bombs. But he will have the effrontery to confront venerable Oritsejafor.

You pple should just wait & see, we the people of the SS & SE have fed you with our Oil for too long. Amalgamation expires in 2014.

Long live Biafra republic
Long live the Niger Delta Republic
Long live the United States of the SS & SE

Bakare & Bishop Kukar ... My anger with them

Okey Boy, your article makes sense but you see, my anger with these two men, Bakare & Bishop Kukar, is that why did they have to wait for a citizen of the country of the SSouth to get a jet before making their useless comments.

When Late David Oduyemi of Bethel Ministries whose naughty daughter exposed her gate of hell for the world to see, was cruising his jet since over ten years ago, why did Bakare not see & speak? Where did Bakare & Bishop Kukar keep their mouths?

When yet another David, David Oyedepo(The witch slapper)bought 3 Hercules jets,where were Bakare & Kukar? Oyedepo even slaps d church members every sunday if their offering is too small.

When yet another from the West Countries of Nigeria - Enuch adeboye bought his jets & helicopters, where were Bakare & Kukar?
But now, Great comrade Oritsejafor merely received a GIFT,he did not buy, & Bakare & Kukar develope mouth cholera. This is unacceptable to the countries of the SS.
Long live the republic of the SS & SE.

God is watching

May God save Nigeria, when i think of all this things sometimes frustration sets in. One can relate it to election period, when most of the churches/some mosque turn thier alters to campagn groud for pdp, but when issue of subsidy came up non of them could come to thesame alter and criticise. I think Pastor Bakare is doing a nice job, may God save us.

Greedy Pastors

Nothing can be further from the truth. Our people are so gullible, even the so-called educated ones. We need to stop fueling this greed of the so-called men of God by refusing to fund their lust.

Gbam!

Gbam!

Spot on!

Makes me remember Fela."na dem dey do bad bad bad bad bad bad bad thing,through Jesus christ our lord'!

Re: Send Pastors to Jail? Why Not?

Thank you very much for this well thought analysis of the mind of the people of the "faith" (the leader and the lead).You are not alone in this embarrassment- Matthew Kukah joined in the discussions.

The FIRS should turn their attention to our places of worship and re-categorise the worship (Church, Mosque, Temples etc)outlets as profit making centres. Company taxes in the Country for these units should go as far as 40%per annum. The business transaction is almost risk free.

Poverty of the mind and the make believe miracles will make Nigerians do anything for their different worship centres.

God bless you for this article. God bless Nigeria.

GO TO JAIL OR GO TO HELL?

God is pure and accept nothing but pure. Tell me the punishment of a person receiving stolen property. Tell me a follower with a masters degree and jobless that contributes money to buy plane for his pastor. Tell me how serious a religion is considered where lies and deception are set at work blatantly by telling people that the plane was donated by the followers not a single individual likely to be the guest of honour at the occasion.

Re: Pastors and private jets

Much as I admire your frankness in this report, I think throwing a person in jail simply for owning a plane is rather barbaric. Why not investigate their finances and see if there's been any foul play? Then you'll be totally justified to jail them for fraud.

The citizenry is fine with

The citizenry is fine with mediocrity at any level.

Fingers crossed...someone will soon comment "Leave my anointed alone".

Gbam!

Gbam!

Makes me remember Fela.

Dude was spot on."na dem dey do bad bad bad bad bad bad thing,through Jesus christ our lord!"

REVERENDS DO CHARITY,IN NIGERIA THEY DO PRIVATE JETS.

Apart from the old generation churches,Catholics,Anglicans,Baptists,Methodists etc,the vast Majority of our so-called men and women of God are impostors who have nothing to do with the worship of Jehovah.
"BIRDS HAVE NESTS,FOXES HAVE HOLES,BUT THE SON OF MAN HAS NO PLACE TO LAY HIS HEAD".This is a direct quote from Jesus, he never even had a home when he went around preaching and teaching.Horses and Camels were available but Jesus rode a lowly Donkey only once during his triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
"IT IS EASIER FOR A CAMEL TO PASS THROUGH THE EYE OF A NEEDLE THAN FOR A RICH MAN TO REACH THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN".Another direct quote from Jesus Christ,the mad rush to acquire earthly things is a direct contradiction to the modesties of the Christian faith.Nigerian Pastors are ruthlessly flaunting wealth mostly acquired by way of deception and corruption,they are just conmen falsely employing Christianity in their evil trade.

Response

These crop of leaders in the churches today are God‘s problem to the Ecclesia as they ve constituted themselves into modern day pharisees & Sadducees having yoked up members of churches with their money grubbing proclivities; like the politicians they are getting richer & richer unlike their members & that‘s why the astronomical increase in worship centres today does not translate to the betterment of the society.
Well done sir for this beautiful piece & may God deliver us all Amen!

Great job Okey!

Mazi Okey Ndibe has written the first truly balanced article on the opulence of many modern-day pastors. Unlike many people that have attempted this topic, Okey is a dedicated Christian and a man of personal integrity who has shunned many opportunities for dirty money. Thus, we can believe his pure motives about this matter. He has not written out of envy of the rich pastors and will not do what these pastors are doing if he had the opportunity. Nor has he judged from the outside as do many critics that don't attend church or mass. Yes, Okey did not spare even his own church - the Catholic Church. Thanks Okey for reminding us that whereas our world is now plagued by thieving pastors, there are still, truly dedicated ministers of God - although they don't make news.

NOW IS CLEAR RELIGION IS BUSINESS THEY SHOULD PAY TAX

Religious Groups have been cheating Nigeria Masses, for not paying tax and import duty. Now is clear they are in business Churches and Muslims must declared their wealth and begin to pay tax and import duty for their goods. They are robbing Christ and Nigerians.Jesus Christ paid tax when he was on earthly ministry. The ministry of Religion Affair must set up a census to count all churches and Mosque in Nigeria. All Evagelical Ministries also to be numbered. This will bring sanity in our religious bodies.Very soon Nigerians and the world will face a great challenge from all working angels of Christ the nature controllers, them the world enslaved. The world creates gods with their wealth but these angels are hungry. The world will face great challenge of nature.

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