Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Our jerry curls billionaire pastors and their private jets, By Ose Oyamendan

Published:

It’s the season of plenty in Nigeria. You don’t have to look far to see evidence of plenty everywhere. All you have to do is look at the skies. There’s always a private jet kissing the Nigerian skies.

Once, ownership of private jets was the exclusive domain of politicians and businessmen who are government contractors anyway. Now, a new group has entered and put some colours into Nigerian private jet-dom.

They are called the preachers. They are so colourful they still wear the same jerry curls Michael Jackson wore when his hair caught fire three decades ago. It’s a funny thing. I keep looking for African-Americans with jerry curls and they all seem extinct. I think they may have moved on to the Nigerian pulpit.

I believe in God and I love the Nigerian preachers who have put up ladders from their churches to the gates of heaven. It always gladdens my heart that since Nigeria can’t export the oil it produces properly, God has seen it fit that Nigerian preachers will repackage Christianity, put a “made in Nigeria” on it and export it to the land where it came from.

But, I have this friend who is contemptuous of the riches God has bestowed on Nigerian preachers. He always wonders why it’s always years of plenty for the preachers while famine ravage their followers. It made me wonder what church he goes to because most of the modern day churches preach wealth and plenty.

Nigerians are too smart to fall for smarty-pants preachers. I’m certain the followers of these jet set pastors are not far from owning their own jets. Surely, no poor man would make a rich pastor richer? It goes against any logic and it goes against the Nigerian spirit.

My friend who I seriously suspect is jealous of Nigerian preachers disagrees. “It’s exploitation, man,” he says with one tongue. Then, he added, “I made a mistake. I should have been a preacher. I could have been a billionaire!” And, that convinced he’s been bitter for many years.

He dug in. “You’ve been to a few places, is this how it is everywhere?” he asked. That made me mad a little because I like to think I’ve been to a lot of places, deliberately mistaking cities in one country as two or three countries so I sound like a world traveller. Laugh all you can but let me tell ya, people love it when you say you’ve been to a lot of places. Sometimes I even go Baba Sala on people and invent countries in Eastern Europe and Asia.

But, my friend does have a point. One of the countries I’ve been in that you cannot count twice because it’s really small is Israel. My friend wonders what the man the private jet pastors franchised would think about the jets.

You see, the Middle Eastern terrain is not for the faint hearted. But, Jesus Christ trekked all over it, winning hearts and pissing a few people off. If there was every one man who needed a private jet, it was Christ. The man had a father that could make anything happen. Surely, a private jet was nothing. The private jet back then was an elegant horse. But, when the man upgraded from walking, he chose a donkey. Once!

I felt my friend had a point and I told him so. Bad idea. His gloom deepened. You see, he could really have been a billionaire. He has a sweet tongue and when he’s on a roll, he can sell ice to an Eskimo. He had a chance to be a pastor but it would have left blood on the floor in the competitive world of preaching.

My friend opted to go the information technology route. He’s done well for himself – nice house, good cars and a bank account he denies is fat. But, he’s got no private jet. And that kills him.

He guilt me into a belly ache too. You see, before I made the long trek from Maryland to California to study filmmaking a little over a decade ago, my local pastor was so proud I was making a leap to what some saw as an impossibility, he thought I could inspire the younger member of the congregation by giving a short speech.

Now, I hate public speaking. My heart does multiple somersaults every time someone put a microphone in my hand. I tried to smile it off but the buckets of sweat rolling down my head always fail to help.

So, I get on stage and forced myself into giving a speech. Somehow, I got on a roll and imagined myself as Martin Luther King on the Washington Mall. In actual sense, I was more like a fake drug hawker in a molue bus. But, the pastor was impressed, or he did a great job lying. He said, “Brother Ose, maybe you should join us on this side. You have talent.”

I should have listened. But, who knew? Who knew you could be a billionaire talking the word of God. Who knew you could be the proud owner of private jets by just ministering to poor, scared souls? Now, I got jets crowding Nigerian airspaces and a friend sad he missed the spiritual ATM train.

 

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