by Paul John
I was very annoyed after watching an online version of a new year message credited to a renowned priest in Enugu state. My question was, why should men of God be turning our sacred pulpits to campaign grounds for one political party or the other? To show maturity and civility, I have decided not to be personal in this discourse.
When Jesus was tempted to comment on the leadership styles of Emperor Tiberius Caesar, the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus, Jesus in His ingenuity dodged that by asking the pharisees to,’ give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s ‘. Saint Peter went on to enjoin all Christians to pray for our leaders in authority because,’ no one will be a leader unless God has destined it.’ However, in Nigeria the reverse is the case as religious leaders openly endorse one candidate or another . It should be noted that emperor Tiberius Caesar was really an emperor in the true sense of an emperor. His own dictatorship was as bad as that of his predecessors, Julius and Augustus Caesar. See Luke 2:1, And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. All emperors ruled by decree the way our military leaders ruled us with decree.
Jesus survived two emperors, Augustus Caesar who died at the age of 75 at AD 14 and Tiberius Caesar who ruled between 14-37 AD and Jesus never openly preached against them even when corruption was the order of the day then. See Luke 3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraeand of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene. It has to be noted that all these leaders were really tyrannical with the exception of Herod Philip and Lysanias but Jesus never openly incited His people against their leaders even when the leaders were corrupt .My gratitude goes to Reverend Jolly Nyame ,the former governor of Taraba state, that showed us that a man of God could fully participate in politics to the extent of vying for and winning the office of the governor of a state. Jolly was ( and he is still) a truthful man as he never hid under an anointing to turn his sacred pulpit into a campaign ground for a particular political party.
What do we see today? Men of God have left their divine calling to openly campaign for a particular political party. Since Obama has openly supported gay marriage in USA and elsewhere in the world, how many men of God there have openly incited their congregation against Obama or did they campaign against him during his reelection in 2012 ? But here in Nigeria we exploit the high rate of illiteracy among the Nigeripublic to campaign for a particular political party in our sacred pulpits . Argumentum ad verecundiam is what we have here. A proposition is claimed to be true because an esteemed person says it is true. This Argumentum ad verecundiam will lead us to Argumentum ad populum, a proposition is true because many held it to be true, what a fallacy? I want to state categorically clear that informed Nigerian public shoulbe very careful as the propagators of that specious and unsubstantiated rumour that ousted Chief Ikedi Ohakim from Imo state government house have started again on the pulpits of God.
Last time I was discussing with one of my colleagues about the expected outcomes of our 2015 general elections ,he reminded me of an incident that happened in 2011 general election when he went to his village to convince his own aged mother to vote for a particular candidate for the gubernatorial election, his mother asked him to go for a confession to the priest for supporting a candidate that their priest did not ask theto vote for. My friend later learnt that the priest in their local church had consistently worked on the psychology of his members on the preferred candidate to be voted for. The said preferred candidate bought a new car for the priest with other financial packages hence the priest turned the pulpit of God to a campaign ground for the preferred candidate.
During the campaign for the last Anambra state gubernatorial election ,it was reported that scores of salvation seekers died in a stampede at a crusade ground after a particular political party members visited the priest at the crusade ground. Expectedly, that incident has been swept under the carpet hence others can continue in the impunity of turning their religious gatherings into a campaign ground for a particular political party. How many times did Saint Paul fight or preach against the government in his time? No one preaches about the salvation for the soul nowadays, if it is not about preaching for prosperity and the principles of tithing, it will be about a preaching in favour of one political party or the other. Is this why the Bible said that judgement will start from the church? Believe you me, the salvation seekers that went there that day must have gone there to seek the face of God and to spiritually prepare themselves for the new year but this priest turned it to a campaign ground for the opposition party.
I lost my immediate elder sister on November 17,1989 due to this type of lopsided preaching of these men of God. They had told my mother that my elder sister was an Ogbanje hence anytime she was sick ,she should be brought to the church because her problem was spiritual hence there was nothing medical profession could do for her. Armed with this wrong information, on the said date my sister came down with fever, photophobia, headache, neck stiffness, diarrhoea, vomiting etc which were obvious clinical features of meningitis but my mother preferred taking my beloved sister to the church having been instructed by God’s representative here on earth. The summary is that I lost that my beloved sister who was as cerebral as I am. Trust them, the priest told my mother that it was the will of God and nobody told my mother to leave that church, what an arrant nonsense?
I think time has come for the activities of these religious leaders to be checked. Imagine if my ‘gullible’ mother had run to the nearest health center, my beloved sister would have been alive today. What has a religious house got to do with the management of dehydration in a paediatric child having diarrhoea ? But my mother fell prey to their antics.
This priest whose new year message is spreading like wildfire recently blew a false alarm that the current governor of Imo state, Owelle Rochas Okorocha issued a dud cheque to Owerri diocese which the diocese came out and denied ,wondering why the said priest should be bothering himself with activities in other dioceses? We should not forget in a hurry how this same priest helped propagate the rumour that the then governor of Imo state ,Chief Ikedi Ohakim, slapped a fellow priest. The rumour spread like a wild fire and I even believed that nonsense until when I heard the truth from the horse’s mouth some years after Chief Ikedi Ohakim was unceremoniously voted out of power.
Armed with this wrong information,I had to plead with my cousin who hails from Imo state but then serving his NYSC year in Gombe state to come down to the east in order to obtain his voter’s card to vote out Ikedi Ohakim, the alleged priest slapper . My cousin told me that he would only do that on the condition that I would foot the bill, I accepted to pick up all his transport expenses for him to procure the voter’s card and to come back during the election to vote out Ohakim .It was after many months that I learnt that the rumour was just a hoax and that the opposition party ‘judiciously’ made use of the so-called men of God to hoodwink the Nigerian public and today Ikedim Ohakim is no longer the governor of Imo state due to a concocted rumour even when the bishop of the affected diocese came out on air to refute the rumour and to prove Ohakim’s innocence.
Why can’t our religious leaders remain nonpartisan? Why can’t they remain neutral so that warring parties can come to them for pieces of advice? America is what they are today because they never allowed any religion to be preached in their public places .Today,Nigeria is divided into two main religions, Christianity and Islam. We don’t see ourselves as Nigerians anymore rather these religious leaders have exploited the high rate of illiteracy among the populace to incite the people. Saint Paul in his letters always made it clear to the reader whenever he wanted to state his own mind,he would not hide under anointing and be perpetrating evil and believe that his own immunity is the biblical injunction, touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm.
Paul John is a Port Harcourt-based physician and public affairs commentator.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.