•How he fell out with Ambode’s wife
•Nigerians knock CAN

By Sam Eyoboka & Olayinka Latona

JOURNALISTS who thronged the Chapel of Christ the Light in Alausa, Lagos on Tuesday afternoon for a scheduled press conference by the Lagos State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN on the sack of Venerable Femi Taiwo left the venue disappointed. The journalists had converged in the auditorium with different shades of video cameras and recording devices very expectant, hoping that the CAN leadership would take a crucial stand to defend one of their members who was, two weeks earlier, sacked and forcefully evicted from his official vicerage by some overzealous operatives of the state government 24 hours after his sack letter.

Instead of throwing its weight behind their anointed colleague who was humiliated in breach of biblical injunction that says; “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm,” the eminent state CAN leaders, opted to justify the sack, contending: “having investigated this matter carefully and objectively, CAN, Lagos State, wish to state today that the Governing Council that recruited Venerable Taiwo acted within its constitutional authority to terminate Venerable Femi Taiwo.”

Media reports during the week suggested that Ven. Femi Taiwo’s uncharitable removal as the presiding chaplain of the chapel dedicated by former CAN president, Sunday Mbang on March 25, 1999 during the administration of Col. Mohammed Buba Marwa, came after his actions during an anointing service on May 14 offended the Lagos State governor’s wife, Bolanle Ambode, who was in attendance.

Venerable Femi Taiwo

The reports said Mrs. Ambode waited longer than was expected when she joined a queue to be anointed. No preferential treatment was accorded her. She was said to have taken offence and stormed out of the church in anger after being anointed. She was said to have rebuffed   entreaties by the wife of the presiding chaplain and several other women present at the service. The following day, the chaplain got the unfriendly letter of sack with an order to vacate his official residence within 24 hours.

The backlash that trailed that incident, necessitated the state government to relocate its Lagos at 50 thanksgiving service earlier scheduled for the chapel to the banquet hall of the state house, Ikeja. That was the setting when the Lagos CAN invited media practitioners to the same chapel for a briefing on the issue. Journalists were ready 30 minutes before the scheduled 2.00 p.m.

The 8-paragraph statement read by the state chairman, Apostle Alexander Bamgbola who was flanked by his vice chairman, Rev. Emmanuel Oguntosin, Secretary, Elder Israel Akinadewo, his treasurer, Bishop Stephen Adegbite and Bishop Michael Adeyemi, described the accusation of “our revered and most responsible First Lady of Lagos State, Deaconess (Mrs) Bolanle Ambode, as being instrumental, in the termination of the Presiding Chaplain because of one anointing service,” as erroneous.

“We wish to state clearly here today, that this is far from the truth. Deaconess (Mrs) Bolanle Ambode is a true Woman of God, who fears God and lives a godly life and whom it has pleased God to raise to be First Lady in Lagos State at this time. This error of judgment is most unfortunate and unfair to Her Excellency, the entire Lagos Government and the Church in Lagos at large,” Bamgbola said to the consternation of the crowded hall.

According to him, over the past three weeks while thanking our God and celebrating “our jubilee in Lagos State, one very simple matter has been dominating the social media unfortunately as you are fully aware of. This is the issue of the termination of the employment of Venerable Femi Taiwo, the former Presiding Chaplain of The Chapel of Christ The Light, by his employers. As a result of the unfortunate misunderstanding of the public which has been fanned by erroneous publications in the print media and social media generally, we believe that CAN Lagos State, must make clarification and educate the public correctly on this matter having looked into the matter objectively.

“Chapel of Christ The Light was built by Lagos State Government for itself, its family of Christian employees and their families in The State of Lagos and the public at large. The State Government makes it available to all denominations of the Church in Lagos State for Christian activities. It has always made available for the use of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Lagos State.

“The State Government created a standing legal constitution for The Chapel of Christ The Light, which has guided the running of it over the years. By this Constitution, the chapel is run by a Governing Council which reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Governing Council has the Constitutional responsibility and authority to recruit and terminate the two officers who run the Chapel of Light i.e the Presiding Chaplain and the Chaplain.

“With this clarification, it should be known by the generality of the public that these two officers who run the Chapel are strictly employees of the State Government. They are subject to terms and conditions of employment of the State Government,” the state CAN chairman stated and appealed to the Press and Social Media to please desist henceforth, “from publishing and circulating erroneous publications concerning this matter. Please let us be very careful with God.”

All attempts by concerned journalists who wondered why the state CAN has come to that conclusion without addressing the violation of human rights of Ven. Taiwo who was evicted along with his wife and children from their official vicarage within 24 hours, were parried by the CAN leaders who insisted that the matter should be allowed to rest.

The venerable’s sack came in a very dramatic fashion on Monday, May 15, a day after Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, the wife of the state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, stormed out of an anointing service at the chapel. Sources claimed that Mrs. Bolanle Ambode   stormed out of the anointing service in anger because the Presiding Chaplain failed to accord   her special treatment.   The Social Media has been abuzz since the incidence with thousands including Ven. Taiwo’s leader at the African Church, Ifako Diocese, Rt. Rev. Michael Adeyemi, who described the action of Bolanle and the state government as ungodly and sacrilegious, demanding an unreserved apology from the state government.

The Tuesday press conference by the state CAN has been described as nothing but an attempt to further ridicule the Church in Nigeria instead of its avowed mediation mission to calm nerves. Speaking to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, a senior clergyman in Lagos said it appears that   the script read by the CAN chairman was written for them.

The first salvo came from a Catholic bishop who described the intervention of the Lagos CAN as a bad advertisement copy for the Lagos State government which further ridiculed the sacked chaplain, the Church in the nation and the assemblage of like minds called CAN. He wondered if the sacked chaplain was ordained by the state government, describing the act as an abuse of executive powers.

“My take on the entire episode is that there’s already an abuse of executive powers. I have not been able to understand what concerns a woman who is a wife to somebody somewhere now coming to influence an institution to remove a minister he didn’t ordain from his work and give him 24 hours to vacate his official residence.

“And the minister was there before the governor came to power two years ago. This is the executive recklessness we often talk about. When we talk about this action in a military era, it’s understandable. But gradually and systematically we are witnessing the militarization of our democratic process and I implore the journalists in the country to stimulate the response of the civil society in the country.

“I am aware that things are not working well in the country otherwise this is the kind of situation where media men should arouse the interest of the constituencies involved. By the time the civil societies react they will now be able to make a distinction between the religious groups and the state.”

Continuing, he expressed more concern that there’s always a distinction between government and religious organisation though there’s supposed to be a point of convergence in the interest of the people of the nation.

Speaking in the same vein, a senior Methodist priest who also craved anonymity said: “The CAN executives present at that briefing, were not the ones that wrote that paper. Some individuals wrote it for them and it’s a shame. I understand what they are trying to do. They wanted a situation whereby CAN would support… but whoever advised them on that channel succeeded in putting extra petrol to the fire because they were naive. All those things they said at the Press Conference, denying what actually happened, throwing that man (Ven. Taiwo) under the moving bus wasn’t the best,” he stated.

Speaking further, the reverend gentlemen said: “It’s not the best for the faith, not the best for Christendom, not the best for the image of Christianity in Lagos, and   we had two past governors who never did anything to ridicule that institution.

Describing the entire scenario as unfortunate, the clergyman said the man in the eye of the storm, Ven. Taiwo has a personality problem but his current travails can be looked at as a case of morality versus the law.

“He may not have high standards when it comes to human relations, he may be poor in that aspect, but does that give any government personality   the temerity to sack a minister and give him 24 hours to vacate his residence? There’s no basis! And to think that a letter was written to that effect. The state government went overboard. And for CAN to now come out to say there is no truth to all the things that are being bandied around is very unfortunate,”

How the frosty relationship between Mrs Ambode and Ven. Taiwo started

Our contact who claims to know the erstwhile presiding chaplain personally hinted of a frosty relationship between the Ven. Taiwo and the state First Lady, saying that some months ago, “an incident   happened.” He told the story this way: “Taiwo was an assistant to the former Presiding Chaplain who was of ECWA group and he was later appointed Special Adviser to the governor on religious matters. He is closer to the first family than Taiwo. There were things that happened and Taiwo was once queried. It was understood that the First Lady asked that he be queried. In his response to the query, Ven. Taiwo wrote an epistle trying to justify everything although he eventually apologised. Ever since then, I think the guy started giving the woman cold shoulders. Whenever she came to the chapel, he didn’t recognise her. So this is the background information. I know that he’s a pastor and the church is a leveler, but either way, this is still the first citizen of the state, when they come to the church, you don’t need to recognise all and sundry.

“It is not sycophancy. It’s paying obeisance. The bible says obey and respect those who are in authority. Nobody is saying that you must begin to eulogise her but just welcome her and appreciate her even if she’s not doing anything. But he would ignore the woman. So there was a build up to the whole thing. So I think there was this anointing service they said the woman was there. Ordinarily, apart from the ministers, you call the woman forward, she’s the wife of the first citizen of the state. You call the woman forward and anoint her and then others will follow, which is okay. There’s nothing special.

“Those are the morality part. The man too went overboard. I won’t lie to you because I’m involved. The man went overboard no doubt. But however, based on the law of the land, nobody should be sacked because he didn’t greet you or because he ignored one or did not pay special attention to somebody in the church. If he’s found wanting on his job or has stolen church funds or found with a woman, you follow due process in sacking the person. And you don’t sack the person so unceremoniously as if you are sacking a dog. He has a family. It’s not as if he has built his own house.   Even if he has built his house, he still has to carefully move his things.

“I can tell you those involved lacked some decorum in human relations, but CAN just messed it up by denying too many things and making it sound as if there was a misunderstanding. There’s a way you handle such matters. You don’t need to read any statement. We’ve seen many of such instances before. For me, I just think that it’s unfortunate for CAN. They are benefitting from government and didn’t want to offend the government. There are so many angles to the story.

But I can tell you that Ven. Taiwo has a personality problem. You need to meet the guy to see that he may not be as humble as you may expect.

“But that is no justification for what has happened. There are many other ways of doing it. The Commissioner of Women Affairs can invite him and say the government of the day is not happy with his administration of that place. Invite him and his denominational bishop and say you are giving him two or three months to prepare himself and tender his resignation. It will not be like the way things are.

Osu reacts

From the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, we got the diocesan director of Social Communications, Rev. Monsignor Gabriel Osu to react on the development and his initial comment was to describe the entire episode as sycophancy at it peak.

“If they did that(sacking of Taiwo) in the name of the governor it will be difficult to say. I am quite sure, being a man of integrity, a man of honour who fears God, I don’t think he knew about these developments. It’s over zealousness on the part of people around him who should have counselled him well.

Do they have special respect for some people in the house of God? I am sure the Governor’s wife herself may not have sent them to terminate an appointment of a clergyman. She knows it was a House of God which is a place of prayer, a place of equality—and not a place of politics—where everybody stands before God begging for forgiveness, seeking God’s favour. They are not in the church as Angels who have no sins.

“As a governor’s wife she should come to church to beg for wisdom. The governor should call his men to order as quickly as possible. That is not how to treat a clergyman.

On the intervention of CAN in Lagos State, the Catholic cleric argued that no one should be surprised at such actions, noting that in the Nigerian society today, people are full of surprises.” epeat, they should not carry their luck too far.

It’s a bad PR for Lagos Govt

“If the governor or his wife attends a service where Cardinal Okogie or Pastor Adeboye is preaching, will they attempt to direct either of them on what to preach or how to welcome guests/dignitaries in the Church? I know the governor and his wife; they are not proud people, the way I see them. it’s just the overzealousness of people around them and that is what people refer to as power show,” Osu added stressing that it’s a passing phase but certainly it’s a bad Public Relations for the government of the state.

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