Reuben Abati and the Amen quota By Adeolu Ademoyo

Recently, Reverend Peter Akinola of the Anglican Church was invited to the State House Interdenominational service to mark democracy day.  Before then, the country has been literally enveloped by major cases of mind-boggling corruption under the watch of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Other important cases which intersect corruption and that deserve attention, under the watch of Mr. President, are as follows: the UNDP African Human Development Report reveals that two thirds of Nigerians live in abject poverty; while the 2012 JAMB result tells us that only three students out of 1.5million students got more than 300 in the JAMB examination. These students include students in private schools.

With this terrifying report card on the Nigerian condition playing at the subconscious of every Nigerian, Reverend Akinola mounted the pulpit. President Jonathan and some members of his cabinet were present. Without trying to be a mind reader I characterize this report card as terrifying in the expectation that most Nigerians are shocked to disbelief by it. On my own part, the previous plan to write on President Olusegun Obasanjo’s role in the unmaking of our greatness this week promptly compelled me to put off that concern for this disturbing reality.

I am neither a Pastor nor am I priest. But there is an intersection between the material and the immaterial in our lives. The material is represented by our living and lived experiences, while the immaterial being the lived invisible “world” beyond us as mortals. I was not there. So I will not know if Reverend Akinola came to the service prepared with a hand written homily. Whether he did or not, it seemed that the Nigerian condition must have weighed heavily on the spirit of the man of God.

We know that if it is of God, the spirit will be directed accordingly. Thus, in a jiffy, this happened, and Reverend Akinola made a prayer request against corruption in Nigeria. There was dead silence from the congregation. President Jonathan was there at the head of his government. The man of God repeated the prayer request, again dead silence-nobody said Amen. The man of God was shocked and he asked if no one was ready to fight the cankerworm of corruption in the State House congregation at the presidency in Abuja.

I do not know if Reverend Akinola remembered at that point John 2: 13-16 when Jesus drove the money changers out of his father’s house. But the picture and the uncomfortable voice against corruption of Reverend Akinola, which I heard on the Premium Times website gave me a mental picture of the cleansing act of Jesus at the temple

And because I was surprised about what the big deal about saying Amen at the man of God’s prayer was, I looked for the equivalent and meaning of Amen in different languages. I came up with one that cuts across. Amen means, “So be it.” This was when I understood the discomfort of the man of God at the blunt refusal to say Amen to a call to prayer against corruption.

Given that a refusal to say, “So be it” to a prayer against corruption, is a negation, which means, “So be it not” it can conceptually be said that our President and his officials have made a negative choice on the prayer against corruption. Also, given that the human subconscious is a powerful organ of the human body, which is taken, to be the real character in us, did the president and his officials betray that personality and what is stored in their subconscious in failing to say Amen to the public call to prayer to fight corruption? Was the silence a slip and stream of consciousness?

The logic of people at the corridors of power will be naturally different, and whether it is right or wrong is immaterial, but the purported views of the president’s spokesperson, Dr. Reuben Abati, for whom a satirical response of rejection was published in the popular press, deserve some commentary on the typical complexity of power psychosis. Mr. Abati’s response was to the effect of a previously unknown presidential quota to Amen in prayers.

Will it be material if Dr. Abati is talking about a law, protocol or convention on Amen quota?  For one thing, it is also unclear that this law, protocol or convention is written or it is couched in African oral tradition that is passed from mouth to mouth at the presidency. 

We do not know which presidency Dr. Abati is talking about. In other words, is Dr. Abati talking about a presidential quota on Amen in ALL Nigerian presidencies including past, present and future or is he talking ONLY about President Jonathan’s presidency?

And more importantly, this leads to the question as to which is superior in President Jonathan’s presidency: the realm of spiritual or the secular power? Is the presidential quota on Amen, which is a secular and temporal power superior to the spiritual power, which is the Amen in itself? Dr. Abati, one ought to demand, has the moral and professional obligation to clarify this.

But more importantly, this is not the first time a man of God will come calling at the presidency. During the Easter season, the president played host to Pastor Oritsejafor and General Gowon. Against the background of a terrifying 155 billion naira Malibu Oil Block scandal of which Mr. president needs to clear his name, it was Pastor Oritsejafor who described President Jonathan’s presidency as ‘transformative”.

To be honest, we do not know the content of Pastor Oritsejafor’s prayer call. But if Pastor Oritsejafor described President Jonathan’s presidency as being transformative, then the Pastor does not have any basis to call for a prayer against corruption. No one changes a winning team and a transformative program. Thus, Pastor Oritsejafor’s prayer call will be different. And his own presidential Amen quota may be different.

One thing however bothers me in all these. If one man of God declares a spiritual war against corruption at the presidency without presidential support and seal, and another man of God describes what the other man of God is against as being transformative and got presidential support and seal, we must ask who out of these men of God was given the highest presidential quota of Amen and why.  Will Dr. Reuben Abati kindly let we who pay the taxes to fund these two types of prayers know?  

Finally, in view of the problem which the lack of CONSULTATION has created in the presidential renaming of University of Lagos, will Dr. Abati kindly inform us as humble tax payers if we are going to be CONSULTED in future about these presidential Amen quotas on the prayers of men and women of God at the presidency?

Adeolu Ademoyo is of the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca NY.


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