AS August 27 anniversary of the 35 years that wily military General, Ibrahim Babangida, gunned himself into office draws near, his baptism with a national uproar on account of his attempt to drag Nigeria into the Organization of Islamic Congress (OIC) will remain indelible in national mind. As soon as the information got into national limelight, Babangida received one of his vilest criticisms ever from the Nigerian religious class comprising Bishops, Pentecostals and their ecumenical brethren. One of such criticisms against him was that the OIC was an agenda by the North agenda to Islamize Nigeria. This stuck like a sore thumb.
It may not be an understatement that Nigerian Christian religionists shook the Babangida government to its foundation. Subsequently, Babangida was forced to publicly announce the withdrawal of Nigeria from the organization.
Fast-track however to August 2020, 35 years after: Christendom is no longer shaken by what appears to be ecumenical principalities’ blackmail and is persuaded to interrogate every claim with the firmness of a tooth comb.
Today, the most potent clone of the OIC government/Christian religion barons’ spat is the tango on the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 (CAMA 2020). Assented into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 7, 2020, its Section 839 (1) and (2) has spurned bitter commentaries against government, suggesting that it is a document whose main agenda was to Islamize Nigeria, designed from the pit of hell.
What the provisions of the section of CAMA 2020 means is that, rather than the practice before now when NGOs, among which churches and mosques were ranked, operated as Lords of the Manor and had overarching powers over their organizations, henceforth, the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) now has the power to lawfully place on suspension trustees of any of the above associations principally on grounds stated above. Specifically, the trustees shall be suspended “by an order of Court” which can only be actioned “upon the petition of the Commission” or “members consisting of one-fifth of the association” alleging mismanagement of their organizations’ funds.
A seismic shake has thereafter been made by the church. Voluble Pastor, David Oyedepo, presiding Bishop of Living Faith Church Worldwide, as usual, was the first to raise umbrage. Addressing members his congregants last Sunday, Oyedepo spat the fire of a dragon. He was quoted to have claimed that government was jealous of “the prosperity of the church” and queried the rationality of ranking churches alongside companies, the church being “God’s heritage on earth.”
In time past, Oyedepo’s umbrage would be greeted with infectious rebellion in and outside the church against government. Not anymore. The tragedy of COVID-19 has opened the eyes of many Nigerians and spurred them to interrogate the place of the Nigerian church and their hyper-capitalist pastors in their lives. In the process, they discovered that many of those so-called religious barons are unmitigated disasters, selfcentered and self-seeking charlatans who use the bible and the words of God as façade for self enrichment.
COVID-19 revealed all those and more. One of the ancillary revelations of the pandemic is that the so-called men of God merely use the narrative of God and the bible to their personal advantage, most times in flagrant disregard for the rules of logic. Yes, the church is the bride of Christ but when Jesus was on earth, He asked that what belonged to Caesar be given to Caesar and even paid tax. Yes, the church works on the pattern delivered by God but is obligated to factor in the pattern of man as anything short of this would be against the teaching of Christ Himself. The Oyedepo spit of fire, coated in the scary lacerative venom of God’s wrath, has its applicability for sure but certainly not on a law targeted at purging the church of pastors who are profiting egregiously and callously too from the naivety of church members and their thirst for eternity.
Nigerian pastors are bloodless billionaires and multi-million aires who care less about their people. Some who do merely give tokenism from their pool of wealth. These were men who, a few years back, barely scrounged a living. No thanks to the complicit nature of the Nigerian ruling class who bow down before them in churches, they have transmuted into stunningly rich billionaires and jet-owning barons. All because there are no strict laws guiding the operations of the church.
The Christian religious barons explore and exploit the hopelessness in the land brought about by equally wicked and selfish successive governments and use the twine of prosperity and blissful eternal life to empty the wallets of their congregants at bible-point. If not, the sensationalist harangue of this provision of CAMA 2020 is needless, unless the church barons are admitting that they are running the churches fraudulently. Hyping the narrative that, by virtue of the law, the “Islamist government” wanted to appoint “unbelievers” to preside over the church will not hold water. This is because the provisions are not ambiguous at all. Only fraudulently-run churches need to be afraid.
First, the law gives the right to suspend trustees of the church to the CAC and the church members themselves and the petition, which must be signed by either the commission or church members, must give evidence of fraud. Even at that, it is the church that would effect the suspension.
Read in totality, it is obvious that this provision of the law is in the public interest and answers to silent agitations over the years of how church barons had unconscionably looted church funds in the name of God. Churches are no longer houses of God but ravenous extensions of business empires of some greedy capitalists who forcefully take people’s money by conjurations of ad- hominem, fiery biblical Armageddon curses if the funds are not surrendered.
Why do the Oyedepos of this world gladly subject themselves to same rules overseas where they extend the octopodal roots of their financial empires nicknamed church and willy-nilly subject their church administration to the rules of trustees as NGOs? Why then do they dissent in this instance? It is on record that many of them have been fined millions of pounds, escaping the jailhouse by the whiskers in the process, while trying to brandish their Nigerian brand of lawlessness and primitive gluttony abroad.
It must however be said that the Buhari administration’s proclivity for misgovernance and pristine cronyism may not totally allow one to apply the right cudgel on this misguided opposition to this section of CAMA 2020. If you sit the religious barons down to a discussion, they are likely to offer as alibi to their dissention to the law the infamous antecedent of Buhari Fulanizing every appointment and his tendency to want to use CAMA 2020 to foist his known mindset on the church.
These same barons failed woefully in getting spiritual intercession for the affliction of COVID-19 and were totally absent with appropriate succour when the pandemic ravaged their Nigerian faithful from whom they have collected even before colonial infiltration into the Nigerian social and political space. Crying foul on a law that is aimed at bringing sanity to their greed is tendentious. They should take a step forward and see their congregation laughing at their folly.
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