by Dele Agekameh
The situation has degenerated so badly that our supposed men of God now compete favourably with armed robbers, kidnappers, oil thieves, rapists, fraudsters and those engaged in other despicable vices to wreak havoc on the society. In this way, they have turned a place of sanctuary to a place where evil is being meted out to unsuspecting people and the society at large.
In the last three decades, there has been a systematic upsurge in the number of places of worship that have kept on mushrooming in every nook and cranny of the country. Today, religion has virtually moved from the spiritual realm to become a major factor for economic development for many Nigerians. Nowadays, regardless of family background, many Nigerian men and women have abandoned the search for gainful employment for the warm embrace of what could be termed ‘economic spirituality’. What this means is that many people now see religion as a means to an end or as the quickest way to make money and live in opulence. Indeed, the whole thing has become a big industry on its own.
As it is, all that is needed to start a church is for an individual to look for a one-bedroom apartment, a small shop somewhere or make do with a makeshift shed either with raffia palm or a disused container. Gradually, what begins with a congregation of less than five people, mostly the husband, wife and children, often grows to become a big place of worship that will require a land upon which a church will be built. From there, the thing keeps on expanding. And if the finances of the newly established church are properly managed, the congregation could stay together for long. If, on the other hand, there is any sign of smartness anywhere, particularly in the area of finance, then there is the likelihood of a faction breaking off to form a new church elsewhere. This has become a major factor responsible for the multiplicity of worship places now dotting the entire landscape of the country.
The increase in churches has given rise to a new set of nouveaux riche who are also managers and chief executives of these churches. They go by various names and titles such as primate, supreme shepherd, general overseer, founding bishop and many more. As soon as there is a boom in their congregations, these individuals who are driven by the lure of money and power, will then transform themselves gradually into the overlords of the business empires, which by now have become a very large conglomerate. What is then used to bamboozle their followers is the claim that they are anointed by the Holy Spirit, or that they have received divine call to embark on their ministries. And of course, a few ‘miracles’ here and there take place to convince the congregation that, indeed, the spirit of God is dwelling in the heart of the big boss.
I remember in those days, in the early 80s when I used to live in a place called Idimu in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State. At that time, what baffled me was that on my street alone, Powerline Street, I could count at least about 13 places of worship belonging to different denominations of the Christian faith. Some were worshipping in uncompleted buildings, in one-room apartments, shops, open spaces and all that. They equally had their different modes of worship, which included, in most cases, nocturnal prayers and rituals particularly beginning at midnight to the wee hours of the morning with the accompanied noise making which more or less contributed greatly to their nuisance values. The last time I was there a few months ago, I noticed a great reduction in the churches. It is either some of them have relocated or they simply close shop for ‘lack of patronage’.
We have watched helplessly as the focus of the religious merchants have shifted from spiritual intercession to save humanity from perdition and doom, to a clandestine scramble for obscene wealth and other inanities of life. By virtue of their headship of various churches and the unrestricted access to the common till of their congregation, our men of God now fall over themselves to take vantage positions where they could get closer to politicians and the elite class. They sustain their sartorial taste for luxury and questionable wealth by preaching the gospel of prosperity rather than that of salvation. Under this deceit, they tell anyone they put under their spell that God never created anybody to be poor, and that people could be rich and possess everything they want if only they could be closer to God by sowing seeds in the house of the Lord. This is why when it comes to “offering time” in the church, the pastors implore everybody present to deep his or her hand deeper into the pocket and bring out something tangible by saying: “The measure you give is the measure you get in return”. In actual fact, what this translates into is giving more passionately from their meagre earnings to sustain the ministry and indeed the pastor’s weird standard of living.
The situation has degenerated so badly that our supposed men of God now compete favourably with armed robbers, kidnappers, oil thieves, rapists, fraudsters and those engaged in other despicable vices to wreak havoc on the society. In this way, they have turned a place of sanctuary to a place where evil is being meted out to unsuspecting people and the society at large. The other day, I was quite perplexed when this screaming headline went into town: “Armed Gunmen Beat Up, Kidnap Pastor and His Six Children in Lagos”. In view of what has been going on in the country in recent times, I quickly beckoned to the vendor to bring a copy of the paper. It was dark as I left home very early that morning in order to keep up an appointment.
I had to put on the inner light of the car to read the story. What I saw scared and infuriated me at the same time. According to the story, a 27-man gang had abducted a pastor, Godson Akubuiro, and six of his children from their residence in Ikorodu area of Lagos. Akubuiro is said to be the founder of Mountain of Breakthrough Church in the area. The incident was said to have occurred about 1.30am. It was later learnt that the Akubiros were arrested by operatives of the Department of State Security Service, SSS, in Lokoja, Kogi state. At the time they were arrested, Rita, the wife of the pastor, was said to be away in South Africa. On her return to the country, she tried to whip up sentiments that her husband and children were innocent and all that.
A few days later, the SSS in Kogi announced the arrest of a syndicate, including Akubuiro and his six children, for allegedly printing and circulation of fake naira notes. Mike Fubara, the Director, who presented the suspects to journalists, said the syndicate included 15 others. Fubara said items recovered from the suspects include equipment and materials used in printing fake currencies. Other items recovered were a large quantity of printed fake notes, cut-to-size blank currency notes and N1.3 million fake naira notes. At the conference, Akubuiro, who was looking sober and downcast, said he did not use the money for himself but in supporting the less privileged and the needy in his congregation. He pleaded for leniency, saying men of God were often tempted like King David in the bible, who as a man after God’s heart, fell many times but was still pardoned by God.
The Akubuiro clan has become the latest in the lengthy list of men of God who are actually worshiping mammon rather than worshiping God, which they so profess. I am sure there are many other Akubuiros still walking free, pretending to be holier than thou. Even Rita, the wife, who has been trying to stir up emotions to confuse the general public, is certainly one of them. From the way they are going, the Akubuiros might as well enter the Guinness World Record as one family in which all members of the same family – father, mother and children – have constituted a dynasty of criminals. This is, indeed, a tragedy for this country and more so, for Christendom, which calls for a very high degree of religious spirituality. It is quite unfortunate.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.