Hail the Bishop! How do we stop the praise-singing of crooked people?

by Alexander O. Onukwue

As reflections continue over the tragic killing of Sunday worshippers in a Church in Anambra state, the central figure and supposed target of the attackers, Aloysius Ikegwuonu aka ‘Bishop’, is becoming more known to the public.

There are at least two videos of him on the internet where he displays his ostentatious belongings, one featuring the spraying of wads of notes which look like money. A few days ago, the Nigerian-born American rapper, Wale, found allies in Nigerians when he was criticized for a video of his daughter being sprayed, defending the ‘Nigerian culture’ of spraying money at parties. But the videos of ‘Bishop’ with bundles of notes too heavy, even with arm support, is, at the very least, nauseating.

Hailed in the video as ‘Escobar’ (after the Colombian footballer, Adrian Escobar, killed by alleged drug gang members) by the cheerleaders in that video, it is not unreasonable to think that the nature of Mr. Ikegwuonu’s means of livelihood was well known to people. They are well acquainted with his going out and coming in. They know what he does, but it does not prevent from seeking what he can give.

He is both Escobar – dribbles his way through legal bounds to achieve his goal – and Bishop, dispensing benevolence and generosity with encore waves of his hand. To avoid doubts that he is doing the right thing, there was a cross on his chest while he doled out his benediction.

Praise-singing for people with questionable means of income is way too ordinary in Nigeria that it is a tradition to do so. Whether it is James Ibori, or Tafa Balogun, or even Evans the Kidnapper, anyone who has a deep pocket will have their praise singers.

Should this be a practice that should meet with more discouragement? One would wish to think so.

However, there are obvious challenges that need to be overcome. People are poor and hungry, and ready to take what they can in the immediate situation. A similar reason encourages young people to break bottles for politicians at rallies and the voluntary exchange of voter cards for N2,000. It is not the absolute solution, but this basic existentialist problem will have to pass.

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