By Bola Bolawole
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Circumstances have an uncanny way of radicalising even the most conservative of men – and women. Such a situation is what we are witnessing right now in Nigeria. Many of those leading secessionist moves in the country today would, ordinarily and in normal situations, not do so. Many fire-eating Marxists of yore have become what some derisively call tribal jingoists and ethnic irredentists or chauvinists. Fire-spitting nationalists have retreated into their native or ethnic cocoons. Conservative Christian leaders appear the most hit; the acts of genocide perpetrated by Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen ,and bandits, directed frontally at Christians and the Church, have rattled and smoked Christian leaders out of their comfort zone. Myths, old ladies’ tales, false doctrines, and ill-digested scriptures are fast giving way as the realities of the moment and the exigency of survival stare Church leaders in the face.
To be sure, latching on the scripture to exploit, mislead, confuse, confound and impoverish the congregation while weakening the Church and making it an easy prey for enemies is not a new phenomenon. One such doctrine once forbade members to own television or watch television programmes because they were deemed to be worldly. Members were led to destroy their television sets and other electronic gadgets. Years and decades down the road, the leader recanted but what of the harm already done and the losses already suffered by his congregation? Who paid for those? Can anyone imagine a gospel today that can do without the power of technology? Unfortunately, an aspect of that doctrine is still alive and well! In many places, church members are instructed not to listen to “worldly” music because of its so-called “corrupting” influence.
To be sure, some music can be lewd but not all non-gospel music is lewd and not all gospel music edifies. Some of my best musicians are Jimmy Cliff (House of Exile); Tracy Chapman (All you have is your soul); Orlando Owoh, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Fela, to mention but a few. Check out Fela’s ”Yellow Fever”, “Suffering and smiling” and “Zombie”, among others. A lot of non-gospel music conveys didactic and soul-edifying messages; as such, not all should be treated as garbage to be tossed out of the window – just like that! How many church leaders have come to this realization and understanding?
The days and years were not far behind when many church leaders preached that born-again Christians had no part in this “sinful and sin-filled” world. The focus and goal should be heaven! Quoting scriptures, we were told “we are in this world but not of this world”! So, Christians left the affairs of their communities and the nation’s in the hands of other faiths and non-believers alike. With the levers of power firmly in the hands of other people, Christians and the Church have been the worst for it. Thanks to Muhammadu Buhari and the cabals behind him for their unpretentious disposition to their mission and the relentless pursuit of their vision. Suddenly but after years of procrastination, fruitless denials, wishful thinking, ineffectual prayers not matched with action, and abject pleas and slavish grovelling at the feet of satanic elements that fell on deaf ears, Church leaders began to wake up from their slumber. Today, they are asking their members to enter the fray! But “na today day break”, as they say! While we may say it is better late than never, the Church and its leaders have a mountain to climb in its quest to now take its destiny in its own hands, as it were.
You cannot send men into the warfront without properly arming and kitting them. Ask the Nigerian soldiers of their experience fighting Boko Haram with obsolete and outdated weapons and, in some cases, with bare hands! You do not send men into battle without providing them with the necessary wherewithal and needed logistics. If you do, you have not just made them cannon fodders but have also heard your result ab initio! The Christians the Church leaders are urging to go into politics, how prepared are they? And what back-up are the Church leaders prepared to give? It is said: Owo ni keke ihin rere (Money is the wheel that drives the gospel) This is even more so in politics! Whatever any one may say, politics is time consuming and money guzzling, not only here in Nigeria but elsewhere, especially so with the American-style presidential system that we operate here. Either you are a moneybag or you have the backing of a moneybag. If you are a church rat, so to say, your chances of making it are slim – except a miracle happens. What financial support has the Church and its leaders prepared for its members heeding the clarion call to go into politics?
It is heart-warming that many Christians are already heeding the clarion call from their leaders. Permit me to relay the experience of one of them here: “Please how can you be of help to me? (Am) completely new in politics; as a pastor trained by Pastor Kumuyi, I believed that my only role was to vote but it is a big regret that we have voted the enemies of God (into power) which, today, is sorrowful. As a pastor (who) has never stolen, it is not so easy because everyone believes all politicians must have stolen enough to share this time. Some Christian leaders are even expecting you to give them money for endorsement. Please help!” Without the requisite funding at the appropriate level, you can hardly stand a chance in Nigeria’s money-dominated politics. You must have the capacity to do “stomach infrastructure”; unable to, even the members of your own household and your fellow church members may not queue behind you. Some will even mock you to your face; they will ask, “Na by force?”
I, therefore, plead with Nigeria’s Church fathers to do something. They should also lead by example! Come out of your comfort zones and throw your own hats in the ring as well! Come out and contest elections into the Senate! Come out and contest as governor of your state! Age should not be a barrier. If the correct age is declared, many of those contesting election today or who are in office already are in the same age bracket as many of the Church fathers. Let no one tell us there is something unscriptural in this suggestion. We all can read the bible, thanks to Martin Luther and the Reformation he ignited. Jesus left his comfort zone in heaven when the situation demanded it. The situation in which we find ourselves in Nigeria today demands that the Church leaders leave their comfort zones and come to rescue the nation. Hear the cries of your congregation and hearken! The people are crying: Come to Macedonia and help us! Come feel our pains the same way Jesus came down to feel the pains of the people. The Church fathers must now do likewise.
They have the resources – or can better mobilize the needed resources than the hapless church members they are encouraging to go into the fray. The Church fathers will be better able to mobilize the voters. We see how their crusades and church programmes are packed full with tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or even millions, of worshippers. The people will respect and hearken unto them better. The Church fathers cannot also be easily brow-beaten, elbowed out of the way or silenced by the powers-that-be. It will not be easy to rig them out if and when they win an election. And imagine what a powerful voice Christians and the Church will have in the National Assembly when we have Church leaders as Senators and Honourable Members! When we have Church fathers as governors – even if only one of them – imagine the worthy example he will set as he turns his state into an El Dorado for others to emulate!
But Church fathers in politics will also quickly learn a lesson – apart from money politics – that politics is a game of numbers. Regardless of what anyone may say about the falsification of census figures (which is true that the figures are falsified in favour of the largely arid North), the truth of the matter is also that the rate of procreation of Muslims/Muslim North is far higher than that of Christians/Christian South. The one-man, one-wife policy of many Christian sects and Church fathers is largely responsible for this. It is also responsible for the prevalence of Christian single ladies and the rising number of such singles getting married to men of other faiths. Did the scripture actually say ALL Christians must marry only one wife? Was this not a prescription only for those who would be pastors? Is God perturbed whether or not you are monogamist or polygamist? Population and warfare are two potent weapons that other faiths have successfully employed to turn the tide against Christians and the Church. Witness Turkey; witness Lebanon! The weapon of population, especially, is being employed as we speak against Europe; and in Nigeria, it is the combination of population and warfare.
Is the Book of Nehemiah in the bible of Nigeria’s Church fathers? Nehemiah led his people to rebuild the collapsed wall of Jerusalem. Bible records that in one hand they carried weapons to protect themselves and ward off the enemy; with the other hand they built. Why, then, are our own Church fathers reluctant to counsel and do exactly what Nehemiah did? Why speak this moment and recant the next? Will the Church fathers wait again until it is too late before they scamper to appropriately review scriptures being stood on its head?
- Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board & Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of The Westerner newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.