Opinion: Why is religion in Nigeria profit-based?

by Adewale Sogunro

The more I contemplate on the state of religion in Nigeria, the more I equate some pastors with corrupt politicians and multinational corporations that exploit Nigerians…

Every Sunday some of us wake up to attend church services, enduring long hours of worship. To a certain degree, it’s fair to accept that Nigerian cultural norms and values as well as our upbringing has programmed some of us to adopt religious practices almost mechanically, it’s become second nature to us. Even our language carries the rich tone of Christianity, which is exemplified by people using phrases such as “blood of Jesus” or “deliver me from Satan” in normal conversations. When I visited Lagos this past July, I was in awe not only at the level of people’s commitment to religion, but their financial dedication to churches.

I witnessed pastors with Mercedes Benzes, Hummer jeeps and other fancy vehicles of expensive taste. This perplexed me, for the reason that when I read the Bible, Jesus Christ and his disciples didn’t have horses and chariots or were adorned with elegant apparel. In fact, I can’t remember one biblical verse that even mentions Jesus asking for money after healing the sick. On the contrary, Jesus and his disciples seem to live a modest life style. The Man rode a donkey into Bethlehem for goodness sakes that speaks volumes of Him.

Contrary to the example of the author of Christianity, Jesus Christ, some present day Nigerian church leaders have turned church services into a business enterprise or profit. They have enriched themselves at the detriment of their desperate congregational followers, who are mired in tough economic, psychological, physical and emotional circumstances. These pastors exchange words of encouragement and blessings for a fee, gathering church offerings from people who are trying to survive on meager earnings. I have even heard of pastors that pass tithe offering plate around until a certain amount has been acquired from the congregation.

A famous Western philosopher named Socrates once mentioned, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” The more I contemplate on the state of religion in Nigeria, the more I equate some pastors with corrupt politicians and multinational corporations that exploit Nigerians due to a lacking of political order that would sustain society through job creation. As a nation Nigeria was noted “among the top failed states in Africa and 24th in the global index of failed states” by The Fund for Peace (TFP). This is further evidence that the exploitation of the Nigerian masses will continue by the privileged and powerful few until an efficient and effective political and economic system is functioning to benefit not the individual but the general public.

The nature and seriousness of this problem – categorizing Nigeria as a failed state – can be explained best by comparing our reality to a more severe one occurring in Somalia, which is another nation that made the list of “failed states” by TFP. In Somalia, warlords control and exploit the masses by controlling resources to enrich themselves, since they have the weaponry and money to do as they please.  This form of anarchy mirrors what is occurring in Nigeria, but in a more subtle and sophisticated manner. Pastors, politicians and multinational corporations are benefiting from the political chaos and disorder in Nigeria, enriching themselves at the detriment of the masses.

I am not claiming all pastors are evil or in the wrong, but for those who see church as a business venture and are willing to exploit the poor, so they can sit in luxurious comfort; they and their members need to examine themselves. As a people, we need to start applying deep introspection and questioning of the false situations we find ourselves in Nigerian society. Where is the money trail? Who is benefiting from Nigeria’s chaos and social disorder? These are healthy points of questioning; we should entertain once in awhile that will surely lead to our liberation. Then in view of the fact that we are liberated mentally, then will we be able to organize and build solidarity across ethnic and religious lines to work towards establishing a political system that will serve and meet the needs of the people.


Adewale Sogunro obtained an undergraduate degree in history and a graduate degree in public administration from Brigham Young University. He has been a public servant in the U.S government sector for the past eight years. He participated and contributed to the Occupy Nigeria movement in Washington, DC. He seeks to provide unique insight into explaining the challenges facing Nigerians while also seeking to establish a just political system.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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