“Let’s put our minds into any gad***n church, any gad***n mosque, any gad***n Celestical (Celestial), including Sera-FUM (Seraphim) and Cheru-BUM (Cherubim). And you non-Christians, listen to me with open mind”
Two nights ago, I took a break from research work, decided to watch news on local television and catch up with goings-on in the polity. After the news, I was not quite enjoying an old movie flick, ‘Broken Arrow’ featuring John Travolta and Christian Slater, being shown on one of the stations and decided to flip to another station. My remote control took me to the 61st Annual Convention of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and I was just too happy to catch up with the Convention in my living room. Anointing can be anywhere, if faith is exuded like the Centurion.
Then before sermon, General Overseer of RCCG, Pastor Adeboye made a special announcement. The church is to build a new auditorium, stretching 3km in length and width, and four times the size of the present auditorium, to accommodate many more parishioners, before next year’s convention. Everyone was naturally excited, particularly those who get to camp ground late and cannot be seated in the present auditorium. Then Pastor Adeboye shocked me with the following pronouncement:
“We need N1 Billion from ten (10) people, If you are one of them, please see my personal Secretary after we finish today. We also need N100million from those who can afford it, if you are in that category, please see my personal Secretary as well. Nonetheless, we need everyone’s involvement. If you can afford N50million, N20million, N5million, N1million to as low as N100, kindly make sure you participate. How many of you will build for the Lord?” All hands naturally went up in delirium.
I could not believe my eyes. I should not bother myself with how a church raises money to finance projects but a dangerous trend is being set and we are made to believe if we cannot ‘donate’ a certain amount of money, we cannot see Daddy G.O.’s personal Secretary. Such ‘privilege’ is for those that can donate handsomely for the work of God. Assuming a rich man in the Convention donates N1Billion effortlessly and a widow, whose next source of meal is unsure, donates her last N100; who among the two should see Pastor Adeboye’s personal Secretary? Well the answer lies in Luke 21:1-4 and Mark 12:41-44, where Jesus Christ acknowledged the poor widow who donated two copper coins (mite) over the rich donors and said “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on”.
How do we begin to justify asking members of a congregation to donate such a huge amount of money when poverty is smiling at most of the country’s citizens? The last time they were told to donate generously for the Lord towards a University project, as ordained by God, they all gladly did. The sad thing is at N510,000 per session for College of Humanities (100L & 200L), N520,000 for Management Science students and N550,000 for Natural Sciences students; Redeemer’s University is not for a Redeemer whose minimum wage is around N18,000. So they have contributed to a project, believing they are sowing for God, yet cannot send their wards/kids to such schools. Interestingly, many of the Pastors (and church leaders) running private Universities today, all enjoyed free education (absolutely free, including free lunch of Rice and Chicken – every Sunday) under Awolowo’s magnanimity. Education is now for rich members only but poor members are not exempt from donations. Hmmmm!
If the project was for research on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, I would not bat an eyelid. If it was for national fight against Polio eradication in Nigeria like the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation in Africa, we would see the immediate benefits. If it was some sort of entrepreneurial aid to jobless youths, we would feel the impact as a nation. In spite of Bill and Melinda Gates contributions to Polio eradication, Nigeria remains the only African country (not Rwanda, not Mali, not Somalia or Sudan) where Polio is endemic and she shares this feat with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Interestingly, Pakistan reduced the number of polio cases from 198 in 2011 to 56 in 2012; Afghanistan saw a decrease from 80 to 35 during the same period, however, Nigeria increased from 62 in 2011 to 119 in 2012.
In 2013, The Gates foundation committed a fresh $1.8 Billion to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) out of the $5.5 Billion required. Britain contributed $457 million, Canada donated $250 million while $240 million came from Norway. Even the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan donated $120 million. Remarkably, these donations from foreign countries are geared towards solving the Polio scourge in 3 countries, Nigeria included. Foreigners help us to fight major health challenges while our idea of development is in gigantic buildings to be used once or twice a month for religious purposes. Our own priority in Nigeria is owning jets, breaking heads with mace, fighting for elections and building bigger auditoriums. Is it not clear why we are not developing as a country?
The message I got from the pulpit was clear, concise and profound. It does not matter where the N1 Billion comes from, provided it is donated for God’s work. Ever wonder why it is difficult for Pastors and General Overseers to condemn those who have looted our treasury? Recall when Cecelia Ibru and Erastus Akingbola had front row seats at major religious conventions in Nigeria? Did any Pastor speak against their deeds, like Nathan confronted and condemned King David in 2 Samuel 12? The subtle message is clear: “we need your money for the work of God and it does not matter how you get it”. Those who have sincerely worked hard for their wealth will only donate to worthy causes such as Aliko Dangote did when he announced a relief fund contribution of N2.5 Billion to the relief effort of flood victims in 2012.
The opening quote is an expression in one of Fela’s songs. If only we can all have open minds, we may yet realise that what we need in Nigeria are religious leaders who can speak out against evil without mincing words. Excuse me please, I have to find my own N1 Billion now, so I can have pastoral access. Shalom!
Originally published on Peniel Plus.