By Joseph Edgar… Religion has been tribalized in today’s Nigeria, especially Christianity. This has come to the fore with the recent retirement of the General Overseer and spiritual leader of the Redeemed Christian Church, Pastor Enoch Adeboye. Following the new regulation enacted by government, nobody is expected to hold on to power in our charities or non-profits which these churches fall into for more than 20 years or at an age above 70. This has led to the leadership change in the church with the leader appointing a successor and moving to become overseas leader.
This in itself threw up something which was hitherto hidden. The tribalization of big religion. The new leadership in the redeemed church shows the top three positions being held by people from the south west region of the country. Yoruba people, to be precise. This in itself should not be a problem but if you look at it from the angle that the church today is the largest controller of collective wealth aside the Federal Government then you will begin to understand the magnitude of the problem. Religion today is so wealthy that if care is not taken they can compete with the federal government Naira for Naira in some areas, if allowed.
The biggest churches are held by individuals from a particular section of the country. That is, the Pentecostal fold and from the pulpits they wield enormous power and influence and this could be better illustrated in the role they played in the last administration where the President Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces regularly went to bow in the temples of these Lords.
They also played a significant role in the election that brought this same government into power with the current Vice President being one of its major adherents ensuring that the influence and power seeps into the corridors of power. Remember that President Buhari, in his last lost election, also had a Pastor controlling enormous wealth and influence as his running mate.
The churches have been shared amongst the major tribes of the country. The south Easterners have cornered the Catholic Church which is another bastion of unbridled wealth and power. You see people like Father Mbarka controlling so much power and influence up to the point of declaring a sitting President unfit and throwing his cassock weight on the candidacy of another and ensuring he wins with a flurry of prophesies and incantations.
So what we are seeing today now is the bigger tribes of Nigeria going beyond the political space to continue with their hegemonic control of the nation but this time with religion which is very powerful and numbing as a veritable tool of cohesion. The Northerners have annexed Islam and have continued to use it to herd the people into continued enslavement.
Today’s article is really about the behemoth Christian Pentecostal financial empires and how they have annexed so much wealth, corralled this wealth for themselves, family and cronies and then how they continue to use this, should I say ”ill gotten wealth’ and affluence, to execute already predetermined outcomes.
These churches control a large swath of the population especially in south western Nigeria although membership cuts across the whole southern Nigeria. From their congregations, they preach the sermons of wealth aquisition, pushing for all sort of tithes, levies and donations into charity – not-for-profit based accounts and from there they are diversified into real business activities which are well run with the highest levels of corporate governance thereby churning out huge non-taxed profits that coral themselves back into the accounts of the charity controlled by a few.
From airlines, schools, hospitals, banks, factories and agriculture, these churches own and control these businesses with the efficiency of an Italian mafia lord. All stakeholders apart from the church promoters and their closest disciples lose out of these great business activities. The government does not get paid taxes, the members still have to cough out from their lean pockets to access these services even though it is their tithes and donations that birth them in the first place. So you see it is just a round trip of carnivorous excesses perpetuated under the name of the Lord.
Apart from maybe the Catholic Church, you never see a well structured system of succession. You never see a separation of powers. The spiritual Head is also the chairman of the bank or the proprietor of the school and the chancellor of the university. So you get very wealthy promoters flying in private jets and living the life of affluence in the midst of increasing poverty.
The monthly prayer sessions along the Lagos Ibadan stretch witnesses a huge concentration of very poor people looking for salvation from the Lord. They spend days on the whole witnessing large scale personal suffering, clogging the road and blocking a major road artery to the rest of the nation thereby paralyzing economic activities only for the promoters to either fly in by helicopter or build amazing mansions within the compound where they are already relaxed and comfortable days before the event awaiting the flock.
Government’s attempt to regulate at least the business part of the enterprise is welcome. Like the government spokesperson says, if you have been called by the Holy Spirit, that does not mean that he has called you to be the accountant and lawyer also. There must be a division of labour and the business side must be tenured and also operate along the lines of real business, otherwise you would be getting an undue advantage over your competition.
Finally , the democratization of its leadership must be pursued vigorously simply becuase of the amount of wealth and influence they chorale. Look, you can almost divide all the big churches according to the concentration of tribes and this is really unfair as the minority tribes will also continue their enslavement even in their place of worship. How can the Overseas GO, the Local GO and the Church Secetray all come from one tribe in a church that has its tentacles in all the nook and crannies of the country. Should we wait until government also steps in to force reforms?
Time is now.
Ripples Nigeria…without borders, without fears