Like Ebenezer Obadare, I am not one of those Nigerians who consider “men of God” – as some refer to Christian clergymen in our country – to be beyond reproach. When you question the actions of such men, even those that seem to contradict scripture, you’re wont to hear their uncritical flock quote the Bible verse “touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm” to rebuke you; which, in such situations, strikes one as a misuse of scripture to encourage clerical misconduct.
For a proof that I can be critical of “men of God”: I wrote the piece titled “Oyedepo and the Jesus ‘witch’”, published on page 81 of The Guardian of January 5, 2012. It questions the propriety of Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church slapping a young girl who described herself as a “witch for Jesus” in that infamous video, and calling her “a foul devil”, and telling her she “was not ready for deliverance” and was “free to go to hell”, whereas the example of Jesus Christ, whose life should serve as a model for Christians like Bishop Oyedepo, could have taught him to show her grace and pray for her deliverance, assuming she was truly a witch and didn’t make that strange “confession” out of ignorance. I cite this to discourage the reader from seeing me as a fan of the clerical life or either clergymen mentioned in the title of this piece, though I respect both men and the institutions they represent.
It is simply in the public interest that I have chosen to defend both men from Obadare’s criticism in his piece titled “Where is Daddy G.O.?” published by Premium Times on June 10, 2014. And though only Pastor Enoch Adeboye is mentioned (as “Daddy G.O.”) in the title of Obadare’s piece, it is clear from its body that his criticism is also directed at Father Mathew Hassan Kukah. Incidentally, Pastor Adeboye is the General Overseer (shortened as G.O.) of the Redeemed Christian Church of God while Father Kukah is the Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.
And here is the crux of Obadare’s criticism of both men, taken from his said piece: “… they literally connived in preparing the narrative of President Jonathan’s divine installation. And now that everything with the administration of the country has gone pear-shaped, both have retreated into an unbecoming and morally grotesque silence.”
Obadare then follows with these demands, reinforcing his strictures on both men: “Nigerians must pressure them to speak up. For all their bad judgment, they remain widely influential, and we need the weight of their reputation as we sustain pressure on the government to find and bring back the Chibok girls. More important, we need their apology, apology for selling us a bad product. President Jonathan is not… a divine candidate…”
Now, the basic problem with Obadare’s summation above is that he seems not to understand that others are at liberty to see President Jonathan as “a divine candidate” as he is to consider him otherwise. For me, it is a mark of intolerance to feel entitled to one’s opinion while denying others the right to hold a contrary opinion on such an issue about which one has not produced any concrete proof – in the form of a signed documentary confirmation or rebuttal from God, for instance – to back one’s position or disprove the contrary view.
But a closer reading of Obadare’s piece would reveal the origin of this illogical disposition: his impression that things would not have turned “pear-shaped”, otherwise dissatisfactory, with the Jonathan Presidency – if it was endorsed by God as claimed by Pastor Adeboye and Bishop Kukah. In response, I note that he does not tell us in his piece that either cleric had predicted that the Jonathan Presidency would not be attended by any dissatisfactory outcome for being endorsed by God. So trying to invalidate their claim of its divine endorsement because of such outcome is unjustified. If Pastor Adeboye and Bishop Kukah had said: “God gave us President Jonathan. So his tenure would be problem-free”, then Obadare could invalidate their claim of the President’s divine endorsement by pointing out that his tenure has not been problem-free. But did they say so?
And one can cite several cases from the Bible, the scripture for Christians like Pastor Adeboye and Bishop Kukah, to prove that a dissatisfactory outcome, for either God or humans, does not invalidate God’s endorsement, unlike Obadare suggests in his piece. Nor does God’s endorsement necessarily guarantee a satisfactory outcome for either God or humans. For instance, the Bible says that God personally created the first man, Adam, and afterwards looked at everything he created and pronounced it good. And what greater divine endorsement of a man could there be than God’s personal creation of Adam? But things later turned dissatisfactory with Adam’s disobedience of God, so much so that the same Bible declares that God regretted creating man. Does that dissatisfaction negate God’s endorsement implicated in his having created Adam?
And for kings or other forms of leaders – a group to which President Jonathan can be compared – there is evidence in the Bible that their being chosen by God did not always bring satisfactory results to God or the people they led. For instance, God chose Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. But faced with what seemed an uncertain future in the wilderness after Egypt, some of the Israelites became so dissatisfied with his leadership that they longed to return to the “security” of slavery in Egypt, while others “murmured” against him. Moses also displeased God, resulting in God declaring him unfit to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. Does the dissatisfaction obviate the fact that God chose him to lead the Israelites?
Similarly, King Saul was endorsed by God as implicated in his anointment by the prophet, Samuel. Does the eventual dissatisfaction of God, the prophet and the Israelites with his reign negate God’s earlier endorsement of his kingship?
Also, Obadare’s apparent exaggeration that “everything with the administration of the country has gone pear-shaped” (under President Jonathan) seems to originate from a lack of understanding that even when God chooses someone for a role, the person could still face challenges while fulfilling that role, like some Red Sea to cross and temporary lack of food and water in the wilderness. That God’s endorsement does not insulate us from difficulty. And that, as portrayed by the ultimate Christian symbol: the divine, humanised, royal saviour must redeem on the cross of suffering.
And those who believe in President Jonathan’s divine endorsement may argue that the various challenges he is facing – from the apparently contrived Chibok girls imbroglio, to the Boko Haram insurgency and bombing campaigns, to the sabotage of his reforms in the power sector, etc., are among the challenges he must overcome to fulfil his great destiny to become the architect of a truly modern and progressive Nigeria free from the stranglehold of some vested interests.
Finally, I consider Obadare’s call for an apology from Pastor Adeboye and Father Kukah “for selling us a bad product” as the act of someone who seems not to understand that setbacks can be temporary. That, as Pindar, the Greek poet of antiquity, writes in an ode on an athlete in the Olympic games, which Plato cites in The Republic, gloating over the perceived failure of the Jonathan Presidency is tantamount to “plucking the unripe fruits of laughter” over a race that is still evolving.
I regard the call and the apology it anticipates as unwarranted.
Mr. Oke, a writer, poet, and public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.