Saturday, 26 October 2019

Restoring Sanity to Nigerian Religious Industry - Alisonomi

With all these dancing pastors and fake miracle workers parading our cities, I believe Nigeria should follow the footsteps of the Rwandan government. Rwanda, recently, in a bid to prevent the usurpation of religion, made it compulsory for pastors to obtain a degree in theology to practice. The measure saw hundreds of mushroom churches closed down. A very hard and strict measure, one would say, but what we are seeing in Nigeria these days, calls for certain regulatory measures to be taken. Just in October alone, thanks to citizen journalism, it has been brought to the public notice the presence of many wolves in sheepskins among our Christian Nigerian leadership. We have been presented with pastors orchestrating entertainment shows to rob the faithful of their hard-earned currencies or staging up fake miracles to draw to themselves more vulnerable followers. 
This might look like a new development, but it is not. The only thing new is the method of exposing them. Seyi Rhodes has already realized an important documentary on these practices as early as 2013. In his documentary ‘Unreported World: Nigeria’s Millionaire Preachers’, he followed few popular Nigerian pastors down to their dens. In that documentary, the costume pastors, as he calls them, are trying to break through using every means at their disposal. 
Among the few ones who opened their doors to him was pastor Ofuche Ukoha known as Sign Fireman. This flirting pastor who moves around in fleets of hummer jeeps went as long as telling him that Jesus was not poor. He even accused Seyi of lying when he insisted that Jesus saying he had an accountant that followed him around. 
Of course, Pastor Fireman is not the only Nigerian pastor who believes that prosperity is an integral part of Pentecostal preaching. He is just one of those prosperity gospel preachers still trying to break into the Nigerian religious industry.
Another popular prosperity preacher, Pastor Chris Okotie, in 2011, had affirmed this to Tomi Oladipo of BBC Lagos. He stated “It is written about Jesus, specifically, that he became poor so that the believer might become rich because he recognized that poverty is not part of God’s plan for man.” A beautiful quotation that serves as a cosmetic touch to their fraudulent enterprises. 
When Mr. Seyi accosted the same Pastor Chris, comparing the lifestyle of Nigerian pastors to the life Nigerian politicians, he waved his points away with a simple argument. He reiterated : “we practice a philosophy that guarantees prosperity, God has offered an alternative, a church, where there is equality, there is prosperity, there is hope, there is faith’ According to the pastor, it is God who offered them an opportunity to rob Nigerians of their money and reasoning.
 Many other ones refused to welcome him, and some even almost maltreated him. He said he was lucky they did not beat him up as another journalist claimed to have once been in the same documentary.  
Unfortunately, even among the organized Christian setups, we also have such charlatans. A few years back, we had one fake priest called Fr Chilaka who also faked miracles. He went as far as letting one of his acolytes drop a lizard in front of a presumed sick person to deceive the people in believing that the person vomited a lizard. Unlucky for him, the guy was caught on camera dropping it. But unfortunately, many gullible Christians still followed him like rams being taken to the slaughterhouse. 
Outside the Christian circle, we also have such fraudulent religious leaders among the Islamic clerics. Recently, the Nigerian police force retrieved over 300 children maltreated and abused in a Koranic school. They were attached to chains like animals. We also know that that’s not the only Islamic school where impunity and anarchy are the order of the day.
There are even certain Islamic preachers who are trying to imitate the methods of these prosperity gospel preachers. They organize prayer sessions similar to all these popular Christian crusades and conventions. Some of them even try out their hands in healing sessions. 
And I need not say that there is no need to talk about other spiritual healers as they do not hide their fraudulent tactics. 
So, with all these incidents, there is an urgent need to act if we wish to save the future of Christianity in our nation. I do understand the political implications. It is not always good to allow the government to dictate the law to the church. But when the ethics of leadership is trodden upon by those who have both moral and religious duties to protect society, it should take over the mantle of leadership. 
On another hand, it will be beneficial to those religious leaders who strive to maintain a healthy practice. I believe that we should learn from the western experience. Christianity was vital to the development of Western society. And even at that, the younger generation is giving up religious practices, imagine what will be the consequence in a society where the churches are instead robbing the citizens. Brief, I am convinced that the consequences of allowing the government to strike the balance through certain regulations would be better than the consequences of this commercialization of Christianity in Nigeria.

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