By Sam Eyoboka
NIGER State governor and chairman of Northern Governors Forum, Alhaji Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu gave Nigerians a pleasant new year present when he declared five days into 2015 that only liars can survive in the game of politics in the country. The governor also reportedly added that there is no morality in politics.
“If you cannot lie, get out of politics. Anything you are involved in has its own rule…..If you are talking of honesty or morals, go and become an Imam or pastor. Politics cannot be the way it used to be. The challenges are more now, the variables have changed, the issues that we are going to face in 2015 are different from the ones we faced in 1999 and we must bear this in mind. Our society is not as grateful as it used to be, the values and morals have gone down. If you want to win, use the modern morality,” he added.
Twenty nine days later, the former chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the governor of Rivers State, Hon. Rotimi Chubuike Amaechi who once said that those who carry brooms are night soil men and juju priests, had made some damning allegations against PDP. The governor said PDP had given some pastors N6 billion to publicly endorse President Goodluck Jonathan and sabotage the APC and her presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.
All major newspapers screemed with the news on a day the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, was opening its 13th national biennial conference at the TREM headquarters in Lagos. The first salvo was fired by the General Overseer of Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye who in his characteristic subtle manner, expressed shock at the gubernatorial accusation, and urged the PFN leaders to ask the governor to name names if he is sure of his facts.
“But as a small boy speaking to elder brothers, if there is any speck of truth in it at all, may I advise that if you take money from any politician for the purpose of influencing elections one way or the other, you should return the money quickly. Return the money very quickly! Because if you receive money to influence elections one way or the other; you are not just selling your votes, you are selling your anointing. You might even be selling your calling,” Adeboye emphasised.
Speaking on “Expanding the capacity for His power”, president of Living Faith Church, Dr. David Oyedepo described the allegation as a blatant lie, urging Pentecostal ministers to ignore the story and endeavour to forgive the perpetrators.
“I think if N6 billion ever transpired in this country for the Church, our president should have a share of it. May be they should remember me, as one of the small pastors in this country. It is a lie. There is nothing like that. I am speaking the truth. Don’t bother your heads for what you know is not true,” Oyedepo said, stressing the need for the congregation to forgive the purveyors of ungodly gospel.
“Let us pray to God to heal our country against every traitor in every part of the nation,” he added, noting that PFN is a Christian organisation that above evil plot against the Church.
Making brief remarks at the closing service of the conference, the national president of PFN, Rev. Felix Omobude assured the modest congregation that PFN had nothing to do with the alleged bribe taking because “it is not in our character.”
Taking a cue from Pastor Adeboye and Dr. Oyedepo, Rev. Omobude said the governor should substantiate his claims by naming names. “I challenge Nigerian journalists to help the Nigerian nation by asking the governor to go the whole hug by revealing names of the pastors who had taken monies for such unholy endeavour and who had given our collective wealth to a few pastors.”
Continuing, Omobude urged all Christians across the country who have not collected their Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, to take advantage of the remaining few days to collect same to enable them to actively participate in the electoral process, stressing that PFN is not partisan because the churches represent all the political parties in the land.
“We will not be partisan. We are not partisan. We are not recommending any candidate for you, instead we urge you to pray and vote wisely. You must ask questions before you cast your vote. You must not mortgage your future for a bag of rice or a few naira notes. Your four vote is very important and you must use it wisely.
“Do not use your hand to vote for someone who will fight you tomorrow. It is important that we use our votes wisely in the coming elections. We must come out to cast our ballot for any of the candidates that build a Nigeria of our dreams”, he said.
He called on all Pentecostal ministers in the country to ensure that they help to put the house in order, stressing that PFN must hold on to the values handed to us and must pass on the flame of love and oneness.
According to Omobude, God has been good to the Nigerian Church, adding that there are many nations in the world so blessed, noting yet “we have our shortcomings. We have our challenges. We must put our house in order. Enough is enough of indiscipline.”
He noted that God did not bless the Nigerian Church not to compete with one another. As you leave this conference, please you must not forget our heritage. Pentecostalism which started in Nigeria in a very small scale has grown to become a major voice in the country.
According to him, “we can harness this tremendous growth to renew our values,” stressing that he was tired of hearing stories of 60-year old men defiling 12-year old girls and they are said to be pastors.
Rev. Yakubu Pam from Jos in Plateau State also lent his voice in defence of the Pentecostal leaders, saying that the governor must not play politics with the church. He should mention the names of all those who have collected any amount in order to influence votes for any candidate.
“I align myself with what Pastor Adeboye had said earlier. The governor should mention the names of the people who had collected money and the body will call them to order. We are in the period of politicking and everybody is trying to canvass for advantage and hear all kinds of things about monies exchanging hands here and there. Some of them are speculations and some of them could be real and you can’t stop politicians from playing dirty politics,” he noted.
According to Rev. Pam the onus is on Gov. Amaechi to tell the nation the source of his story, insisting that it should not be seen as an indictment on the Church, adding that the other faith is not isolated. Pam maintained that N6 billion is not something that can be parceled in a Ghana-must-go bag, “where did the money come from and who and who received the said money?”
Also reacting, a social critique and former senatorial aspirant from Edo State, Mr. Egheomhanre Emmanuel Eyieyien said: “I can’t remember who now, but someone wrote in an article sometime ago that many Nigerians have lost their sense of “shockability”. Many things happen and many things are said these days that Nigerians take for granted. However novel, absurd, incredulous, obscene, vain, ridiculous, ludicrous, rude, awkward, superfluous, fallacious, untrue….etc. a matter is, there are some Nigerians that would not bat an eyelid or even question its veracity. Truth has become endangered.
Nowhere else is this the case as in our politics. And in this elections season, there are lies aplenty. If it is in the media, especially social media, it must be true. A popular refrain these days is “focus on the message and not the messenger”. I don’t know how this became received wisdom. I grew up knowing that the credibility of a message depends on who the messenger is. Why would anyone believe what a known liar says! And why do journalists refer to “usually credible sources” to give credence to a tale they know many would need more than a pinch of salt to believe?
It was the Facebook post of a Buharist that I first read the claim that the Federal Government had given N6 billion to some Nigerian pastors to campaign against Mr. Muhammadu Buhari and project him as an Islamic fundamentalist who is out to Islamise Nigeria if he becomes the President. I even shared the post on my Facebook Timeline and said it was the latest fabrication from the propaganda machinery of the All Progressives Party (APC) which is unlikely to gain traction since it was not first published by Sahara “Reporters”. That was the night of Tuesday, February 3, 2015. I was wrong.
The Governor equally revealed that the Pastors were mandated by the Federal Government to distribute some literature about Buhari’s Islamisation Plan to Christians. The Governor, as a devout Catholic, exonerated Roman Catholic Priests from the conspiracy and made it clear that it was the Commercial, Mammon-loving Clergymen (and Clergywomen) outside of his Church who were guilty of this un-Christ-like conduct. He dutifully appealed to the sinning Pastors (apparently of the Protestant fold) to repent and return our money to the National Treasury.
Very impressive. Ehmm….but is this not a crime which His Excellency just uncovered? Should there be no consequences for this blatant case of stealing….and corruption? Since Gov. Amaechi is so highly placed, his uncovering of this illegality should not be sneered at. Surely, as a two-term Governor, he has the contacts and requisite connections to get at the root of the matter. He couldn’t be saying this openly at a Campaign Rally if he didn’t have his facts and figures.
I hope I am not being preemptive here; the Governor most certainly must have compiled the names of those wicked Pastors and obtained the details of how the monies were surreptitiously paid to them. It has never been easier to trace payments as it is today. N6Billion is unlikely to have been disbursed by cash. Or was it? Anyway, the Governor knows.
He probably already has his legal folks working on a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). This kind of whistle-blowing is easier for a Governor: he has immunity from prosecution by anyone who would attempt to detract Nigerians from the issue by filing a libel suit and he needs no Whistle-blower Protection, thanks to his new Governor-friendly State Police Commissioner.
I have no doubt that Gov. Rotimi Amaechi knows that he has a civic duty to assist our anti-corruption agencies with all relevant information to deal with this crime. Moreover, as the Campaigner-in-Chief of Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, the Corruption Burster, nothing less can be expected.
This Pastor-bribing episode now makes me suspicious of those Pastors who recently met with Pastor Prof. Yemi Osinbajo in Kaduna and Makurdi when the APC Presidential Campaign Team was in those cities. How much might they have also collected from the APC to campaign for Mr. Buhari? Since Mr. Buhari’s Islamic fundamentalism is well known because of utterances he made himself about his commitment to entrenching Sharia nationwide and his urging Muslims to vote only for Muslims so as to protect the interest of Islam, it would appear more plausible that his Campaign Team may be more motivated to recruit and induce Pastors to sell his candidacy to Christians in Nigeria.
It would seem that Muslim clerics do not love money. Unlike their Protestant Christian peers, many Imams are happily and zealously promoting Mr. Buhari in their Mosques up north as Allah’s Candidate gratuitously. But if that be not the case no one has a smoking gun such as Gov. Rotimi Amaechi has on the conniving Pastors.