BREAKING: A time to pray and a time to work

BREAKING: A time to pray and a time to work

In the build-up to the 2015 presidential poll that led to the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari, the then Governor of Rivers state and Director-General of Buhari Campaign Organisation, Rotimi Amaechi, raised an alarm that the Jonathan Presidency doled out a whopping sum of N6bn to the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for prayers and vote-catching. I deliberately maintained studied silence when the allegation was thrown up. This was because I did not want to be dragged into any controversy. Ordinarily, I could have risen in defence of the Body of Christ under normal circumstances. But this is Nigeria where all things are possible.

But then, I asked myself: “Can the Presidency have the guts to tempt men of God with huge cash? Wouldn’t they, save two of them that are super rich, faint at the mere mention of such a windfall talk less of seeing the cash?”

I had my doubts, trying to convince myself that the accuser was on a mission to tar the unblemished Body of Christ with Mammon brush so as to gain undue political mileage.

Many believed Rotimi Amaechi considering the intensity of the romance between the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and the pastors at the time. If churchmanship was a passport to heaven, the ex-President would qualify as an automatic entrant.

Then on Friday, February 20, 2015 precisely, one of the clergymen dropped a bombshell, accusing the association of collecting N7bn (not N6bn as Amaechi claimed) in order to campaign and/or pray for Mr. President. The cleric that opened the “CAN of worms” was Kallamu Musa-Dikwa, a former associate pastor with Enklesiyan Yan’uwan, a Nigeria or EYN Church stationed in Maiduguri between 2002 and 2004. At the time Kallamu dropped the bombshell, he was the executive director of the Voice of Northern Christian Movement (VNCM). He alleged that CAN collected the money on January 26, 2015 and disbursed N3m each to the 36 state chairmen of the umbrella body across the country, translating into a miserable sum of N108m. He also alleged that the beneficiaries of the largesse are browbeating their gullible followers to vote for Mr. President in the (rescheduled) presidential poll or the host of hell would be let loose on the entire nation as allegedly threatened by one high-profile Pentecostal Papa.

Expectedly, the public relations officer of the Northern CAN, Mr. Sunday Oibe, denied the startling allegations that could send the Tempter-in-Chief himself reeling with guffaw in his hellish kingdom. The allegations triggered off a chain of rebuttals from many quarters. But Christians were very worried about the mud being slung at the Church, rightly or wrongly. The CAN as an institution found itself in the eye of the storm since the mantle of leadership was dyed in Pentecostal colour during the period. There was also a controversy that surrounded the seizure of raw cash amounting to over $9m in South Africa intended to purchase weapons from the black market to fight the Boko Haram insurgents. The jet that was used to ferry the money to the former apartheid enclave allegedly belonged to the sitting CAN head, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor.

The CAN was still battling to rescue its image being dragged in the mud when the fiery Anglican Bishop, Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma, threw up more mud. He threatened to open the CAN of worms, and gave himself a deadline to do so. Curiously, the clergyman was unable to make good his threat until the mud dried up.

I know that our pastors love money which the Bible says is the root of all evil. I know that many so-called pastors are in the habit of charging various sums of fees in order to dispense prayers. I will not want to proceed any further on this ugly spectacle because I have already been diagnosed as suffering from pastor aversion syndrome (PAS). It is not entirely my fault. I am just obsessed with perfection in the Body of Christ. And the fact that he who comes to the pulpit must do so with clean hands. In any case, l have always frowned at prayers that are tied to cash. No such prayers will go beyond the clouds even if you are screaming “in Jesus mighty name” to high heavens!

In 2015, while billions of naira were being doled out for prayers to secure electoral victory on the one hand, several billions were also flying around for prayers for victory over insecurity on the other hand. The huge cash was sliced from the gargantuan budget of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) meant to procure arms and ammunition to fight the perennial Boko Haram insurgency.

One of the figures currently being thrown up is up to N4bn dispensed to mercantile clerics through a former governor from the Northeast to wage spiritual war against the rampaging criminal elements ravaging the axis and beyond. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been shunting from pillar to post trying to recover the prayer money. To be frank, more than 90 per cent of the spirituality booty would normally end up in the deep pockets of the facilitators.

Nigerians believe so much in prayers even though the Holy Writ tells us that faith without works will lead to zilch. Where they are supposed to act, they would go the way of the river and choose the path of least resistance… pray. Not long ago, an arsenal of prayer warriors ran a ring around a transformer damaged beyond repairs. Perhaps after failing to get it repaired or replaced, they turned to prayers, commanding Holy Ghost fire to fall on the transformer to come alive. Of course, no such miracle happened until they dispersed one after the other in anger, frustration and disappointment.

Those who brought the two major religions to this country have left us far, far behind. They are not running a theocracy. Their citizens work round the clock, Sundays inclusive. Here, we are brainwashed to go to church from Mondays to Saturdays, contributing generously to the pastors’ till through tithes, offerings, among other coercions instead of working to grow the economy. Whereas, the economies of those who imported the religions are vibrant, driven not by generators and they have kept corruption, the invidious crime that impoverishes the masses, at bay with harsh measures and laws. Today, billions meant for the welfare and benefit of Nigerian people are looted freely. And the looters are worshipped for their (criminal) efforts!

Also today and owing to the collapse of the power sector, many manufacturing firms have shut down or relocated to neighbouring countries. In their places, mega worship centres have sprung up and Nigerian youths troop there to pray for elusive jobs.

Our mentality towards prayers alone as panaceas to the myriad of problems bedeviling our country ought to change now or we will continue to wallow in the nether region of poverty and under-development.

It is foolishness and naivety that are responsible for our bothersome (praying) attitude of asking God to do for us what He has prepared us to do for ourselves. Is it not said that heavens help those who first help themselves?

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