Open letter to General Gowon and Pastor Oritsejafor By Adeolu Ademoyo

Dear venerable ones,

You will please permit my making this letter to you public.  kindly permit, also, the length for this is a serious matter. We need to say everything that bothers our souls and hearts. I am writing to you based on the public nature of your Christian ministry. Nothing, after all, is private before our God. Everything is open. And nakedness as the mode of our arrival on this earth and as the mode of our eternal departure from mother earth remains a necessary and universal truth. None of these words shall be taken away.

Taking my cue from you General Gowon, you will kindly recall the immediate aftermath of the civil war and the way we used the nobility of your name as one of the markers of our national consciousness.   You will kindly recall that we Nigerians turned the letters of your name around in 1967 in order for it to represent our collective national aspirations –GO ON WITH ONE NIGERIA-GOWON.

Sir, I am a member of that generation that witnessed and participated patriotically in the deconstruction and appropriation of your name to symbolize our nationalistic aspirations as we emerged from the unfortunate civil war we are currently failing to learn from. Hence, my generation is inclined to think Nigeria, walk Nigeria, sleep Nigeria and wake Nigeria. Absolute belief and faith in Nigeria is a critical theology for us. It will remain so.

Recently, you and Pastor Oritsejafor visited President Goodluck Jonathan to conduct a prayer session. As one of the holiest seasons in the Christian faith, I understand the Easter period as the ultimate triumph of the ethics of eternal life and light over moral darkness. Hence, one can understand your Easter prayer session at the presidency though we need to pray and watch; walk ethics rather than talk ethics.

Venerable ones, I do not know  what you and Pastor Oritsejafor saw during the prayer session at the presidency, which makes the Pastor say that President Jonathan, has a “transformation agenda which is one of the greatest thing that happened to Nigeria…” In view of the fact that there could be regressive or progressive transformation, I do not know which one Pastor Oritsejafor meant or whether he was speaking with a tongue in the cheek. But brute facts allow us to look at reality beyond our own interpretations.

Here are some chilling revelations t starts this piece. Recently, the House of Representative Committee on Foreign Affairs was worried about the negative attacks on Nigerians by other African countries. In other words we are under stress even in African countries. Another fact is that of 1.5 million students who took the recent 2012 UTME examination by JAMB ONLY THREE STUDENTS got above 300, and only 72,243 out of 1.5 million students got above 250 marks. And this number includes students in Nigerian private schools where our ruling elites ferried their children to after they wrecked the public schools and turned then to symbols of illiteracy for the poor children of Nigerian working people. The fact is that no Nigerian university is highly rated anymore in the global rating of universities. I do not want to increase our moral pain by pointing to power, water supply etc.

So, Pastor Oritsejafor where is the transformation you are talking about in the lives of the working people and their children? Yet you are a man of God. I say this with a lot of pain and regret because our Christian parents brought us up in the old school tradition to always say the truth for this is the way of Christian faith. Pastor Oritsejafor, in view of this you need to point to the truth in your assertion about the transformation in President Jonathan’s agenda otherwise you would have turned the Christian faith to a piece of merchandise to be hawked and negotiated for profit. And that is unacceptable.

Venerable ones, in the presidential homily which Pastor Oritsejafor called “The Power of The Altar” Pastor Oritsejafor he quoted Judges 6: 25-26 which says: That same night the Lord said to him, ‘Take the seven –year old spare bullock and destroy your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the sacred pole that is by it. You shall build instead the proper kind of altar to the Lord, your God on top of this stronghold. Then take the spare bullock and offer it as a holocaust on the wood from the sacred pole you have cut down…”

Sirs, my question to you is: how do you “build the proper kind of altar to the Lord our God on top of this stronghold” if Mr. Jonathan’s presidency reels in, reeks in, seethes and breathes corruption? Sirs you said this and want to walk away, but we will not allow you because this matter is too urgent. This is our life, this is our children’s life. This is the lives of Nigerian children who my colleague, Mr. Muhammad Jameel Yushau, recently informed  are being asked to beg on the streets of  Jeddah Saudi Arabia.

Sirs, have you read John 15: 9-17 where Jesus says, “As the father loves me, so I love you. Remain in my love…”? Do you think the Nigerian political class and the presidency where you conducted the Easter prayer love these Nigerian children (as Jesus loves us) who are being condemned to live as beggars in foreign lands? Do you think these child beggars remain in the president’s love? General Gowon and Pastor Oritsejafor those Nigerian child beggars in Saudi Arabia are my children, they are your children, they are the children of any Nigerian parents. We must do something about this and more before our eternal departure form this world.

So did you tell President Jonathan about these Nigerian children who beg in foreign lands? Can you now see why I said this matter is urgent and we will not allow you talk prayer and just leave?  We Nigerian parents will not allow Pastors and Imams who are becoming complicit of the moral and economic crimes being committed by Nigerian political class against Nigerian working people and their children to just talk and walk away anymore. You must respond to this both in your prayers and in your deeds at the presidency.

So sirs, since you talked about destroying and building altars in Judges 6: 25-26, I wish to ask if have you read John 2: 13-16.  It is called the “Cleansing of The Temple” by our Lord Jesus Christ. And sirs, this is the full text as documented by John “Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money –changers and over turned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here and stop making my Father’s house a market place.” Here Our Lord Jesus Christ with prayer and whip stood proudly tall against filth, greed and privatizing and turning the peoples’ common estate into personal and private estates. Sirs as gentlemen Christians and Pastor you can do the same?

In the 21st century can you see how –Nigeria and the presidency -have been turned to a market place by   the ruining elites and politicians who are ruling and ruining Nigeria daily? Those who Jesus drove out of our Father’s house  are those you conduct prayer sessions for. They are right there in the presidency. They are the politicians who bring bagged blood money to the mosques and churches and the Pastors and Imams who receive the money, bless the money in the name of God and pocket the money.

Sirs have you forgotten the Otuoke Church gift in Mr. President’s village? That contractor Gitto Construzioni Generali and his presidency clients are good examples of the biblical tax collectors and moneychangers who need Jesus Christ’s cleansing measures. Sirs, did you ask Mr. Jonathan about this gift as a metaphor of corruption? If you did what did he say and tell you? If you did not why did you not ask  after praying for him? Are you comfortable with such immoral gifts? Are you comfortable with Jesus’ biblical tax collectors and money changers in modern times? Pastor Oritsejafor will your church be comfortable with immoral gifts? Would you have asked the president  to ask one of his contractors to renovate your church too?

Sirs, our appropriation of General Gowon’s name in late 1960s(GOWON-GO ON WITH ONE NIGERIA) to chart a true path of national consciousness for Nigeria still rings  bell in me. But it seems to me that mere words can no longer do this. As Christian prayer warriors I think this is only possible if we walk the Christian ethics, which is a complete negation of the moral corruption, which the presidency sits on. Sirs, as Christians, did you tell Mr. President this when you visited? And the claim that you are not politicians is unhelpful. Since you have brought the bible to the market place and to symbols of corruption, and since you have not said that you did this for the purpose of healing and redemption, you have exposed the church to public scrutiny.

Therefore, General Gowon and Pastor Oritsejafor, as Christians are you ready to walk, work and pray with   Nigerian working people so that we follow Jesus’ example and paradigm, to cleanse this Augean stable, drive away Nigeria’s biblical tax collectors, money changers and build a new altar free of corruption, stench and filthy money as Jesus enjoins us to do? Will you? Can you?

Sirs, General Gowon Pastor Oritsejafor may God endow and empower both of you with courage to be able to speak truth to power like our Lord Jesus Christ did.

Next week I will let us see how a view of Faith and Politics is destroying our great country. As a country and people, time is no longer on our side.

Good morning and Thank you sirs for your attention.

Adeolu Ademoyo is of the Africana Studies Department, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.




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