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 Christian 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 to Islamize Nigeria. This stuck out like a sore thumb.
Converse arguments from the gap-toothed General that membership of the OIC does not necessarily transform a country into an Islamic nation did not hold water in the ecumenical din. With a combination of pastoral blackmail, peppered with apt verses of the Bible, massive power of mass communication of the pulpit and the gullibility of Christendom of the time, no one was interested in looking at the veracity of this ecumenical claim.
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.
In the constant clashes of faiths between government on one hand and adherents of Christian and Islamic faiths on the other, suspicion against government had always been very strong. 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religion barons’ spat is the tango on the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 (CAMA 2020), which repealed the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 1990 . 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. That section which the ecumenical warlords found offensive to their practice of Christianity relates to Trustees of Non-Governmental Organizations, (NGOs). Nigeria seems to have been quaking ever since, with these religionists mounting the pulpit to denounce CAMA as designed from the pit of hell.
Entitled “Suspension of Trustees and Appointment of Interim Manager(s),”Section 839 (1) empowers the Commission to suspend trustees of an association and appoint interim managers to manage the affairs of the association where it reasonably believes that- (a) There is or has been misconduct or mismanagement in the administration of the association; (b) it is necessary or desirable for the purpose of; i. Protecting the property of the association ii. Securing a proper application for the property of the association towards achieving the objects of the association, the purpose of the association of that property or of the property coming to the association, iii. Public interest; or (c) the affairs of the association are being run fraudulently.
Subsection 2: 1. The trustees shall be suspended by an order of Court upon the petition of the Commission or Members consisting of one-fifth of the association, and the petitioners shall present all reasonable evidence or such evidence as requested by the Court in respect of the petition.
What the foregoing provision 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) 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 his congregants last Sunday, Oyedepo spat fire like 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.”
“Molest the wife of somebody and you will see the anger of that person. The church is the bride of Christ. You know how a strong man is when you tamper with his wife. The church is the body of Christ. We are under obligation to give warnings to wicked rulers so we could be free from their blood. The church works on the pattern delivered by God not the pattern of man. Government has no power to appoint people over churches. This is a secular nation.
“The church is the greatest asset of God in this country. Please be warned. Judgment is coming. The Lord says I have been still but now I will arise. Anybody that is in this deal is taking poison. This will never work. I am waiting for a day when anybody will appoint a trustee over this church. You can’t gag anybody. We own this country together. It is only in Africa that people who are over 80 years still run around to become president. I know that it is the prosperity of the church that is making them jealous. But I am going to live to see an army of many winners soar greater. In this church shall emerge one of the largest concentration(s) of giants on earth,” Oyedepo said.
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, self-centered 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 lacerating 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 private jet-junketing billionaires and multi-millionaires who care less about their people. Many of them have no blood flowing in their veins. 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 complicity 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 guarding the operations of the church.
Even though it has not been tested, it is obvious that the particular provision of CAMA 2020’s intendment is to curtail the massive looting, money laundering and manipulation by Nigerian pastors. They 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. COVID-19 has shown Nigerians that God inhabits the hearts of men and not elegant sanctuaries where pastors collect mindless tolls.
Why do the Oyedepos gladly subject themselves to same rules overseas where they extend the octopodial 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 mis-governance 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. As puerile as the argument may be, Buhari may give shine to the suspicion.
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.
The Blood of Southern Kaduna People From the Prism of el-Rufai and NBA
The social media quaked recently when the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) extended an invitation to the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai as a participant in its forthcoming annual general election. All of a sudden, vociferous voices rose alleging that the governor was either one of the traducers of the people or abetted this seeming carnage.
Of a truth, the ceaseless killing of innocent people in his Kaduna enclave has become a huge bother. Gory figures of horrendously murdered people are displayed on social media under what appears like a deafening silence from both the federal and state governments. As at the last count, thousands have lost their lives to these mindless killings. Southern Kaduna people claim, supported with hard-to-rebut evidence, that their traducers were ethnic ilk of the governor, Fulani, who storm their homes with machetes, guns and other dangerous weapons to wreck these colossal havocs. In a release they issued a few hours ago, they claimed that in the last eight months, 104 communities in Southern Kaduna have been attacked and 400 lives have been lost.
Of a truth, the Southern Kaduna imbroglio is about 40 years old now. It even nearly cost the life of their icon and founder of Southern Kaduna Elders Forum, General Zamani Lekwot during the Zango Kataf uprising in 1992. Under the duo of Buhari and el-Rufai however, there has been an upswing in the carnage, with Southern Kaduna being visited with an adjudged worst form of carnage in recent history. Hundreds of residents of the area were cruelly murdered by bandits and their corpses litter their homes. Apparently helpless, leaders of Southern Kaduna, which included a lawmaker representing Zagon Kataf/Jaba Federal Constituency, Amos Magaji, have unequivocally claimed that el-Rufai, ostensibly due to his ethnic affiliation to the alleged aggressors, the Fulani, had been abetting the genocide, as well as in the various ethnic and religious clashes bedeviling the area.
While security has generally gone to the dogs under Muhammadu Buhari, Governor el-Rufai’s comments about the killings in his domain leave much to be desired. To exculpate self from the killings, he once claimed that he had paid huge sums of money to the alleged Fulani killers of the people of Southern Kaduna to secure armistice. In an interview with some select journalists in his office, the governor claimed that his government traced some aggrieved and decidedly violent Fulani bandits, foreigners he claimed, to their countries and paid them to stop the carnage in Southern Kaduna.
“Some of them were from Niger, Cameroun, Chad, Mali and Senegal… So many of these people were killed, cattle lost and they organized themselves and came back to revenge… We got a group of people that were going round trying to trace some of these people in Cameroun, Niger Republic and so on to tell them that there is a new governor who is Fulani like them and has no problem paying compensations for lives lost and… we paid some,” el-Rufai said.
A few days ago, the same governor told the world that the din over the killings by the victims – Southern Kaduna leaders – was due to his refusal to appease the leadership by oiling their palms.
“I have no time for nonsense. I will not appease criminals. I will not appease idle people who have nothing to do but to raise a spectre of genocide. They do that to get money into their bank accounts and get donations from abroad instead of standing up,” el-Rufai announced in an interview on Channels Television’s political programme, Sunday Politics.
To confirm that el-Rufai’s mind is steeped in divisiveness and culpable abetment, by this comment, it is irrebutable that he had already criminalized Southern Kaduna elders, even without a cogent and verifiable reason. The “new governor who is Fulani like them and has no problem paying compensations” was ready to appease his established genocidal Fulani kinsmen for peace to reign but “had no time for nonsense” and indeed loathed “to appease criminals,” people who are decidedly victims of this carnage.
The social media-propelled uproar over the nomination of a governor with such a biased mindset on a ceaseless carnage against his people was so high that the NBA, in a resolution at its council meeting, had to withdraw the invitation to the governor. This isn’t actually the news. The news is that, thereafter, Nigeria and her manacles which have prevented an upward mobility began to set in. Some social media apologists demanded that Nyesom Wike, Rivers governor, alleged to be notorious for exhibition of brute brawns rather than his brains, be de-invited as well. Then, Yobe State NBA and some northern lawyers also expressed their intention not to attend the meeting. A group which called itself the Muslim Lawyers’ Association of Nigeria also joined the fray, taking the argument to a very obtuse and ridiculous level. It asked that ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo should be included in the list of those to be barred from speaking at the conference. As I write this, many northern and Islamic-propelled groups have expressed intention not to attend the congress.
On a television programme last week, I was asked that, if Nigeria and Mali people’s situations are not dissimilar as I said, Malians came out en-masse to demand the resignation of Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta as President and the crowd of #RevolutionNow protesters in Nigeria were far between. I told the audience that it was due to the 1914 Lord Lugardian false contraption which has led to very fractious internal contradictions in the country. Nigerians are not and can never be united in calls for stoppage of their oppression as they did last week in Mali. For reasons of ethnicity, religion, political affiliation and many other primordial sentiments, there can never be unanimity of opinion to rout the oppressor. The June 12 uprising was basically a Southern or Western, if you like, embarrassment of the Nigerian state into surrender as against a unanimously prosecuted national umbrage against injustice.
While it is a new vista in Nigerians’ quest to use social media uproar to hold people accountable, the sad thing about it is that the Lugardian contradictions will ensure that it is done to appease the god of our primordial sentiments. It is this calamitous feature that has kept on recycling our maggots in government and political offices for decades.
Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.