BUSOLA Dakolo, the wife of a popular entertainer, Timi Dakolo, sent shockwaves through the Nigerian media space over the weekend when she accused the founder of Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, COZA, Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo, of raping her as a young girl.
Mr. Fatoyinbo was also accused of rape by another young woman, Ese Walters, in 2013 and a number of other women (some of them church members) have allegedly made similar allegations of sexual impropriety or outright assault in relation to him over the years.
Interestingly, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, whom many expected to deal with the issue, released a statement saying the organisation could not “interfere” as it only deals with contacts and affairs between the church and government.
Nigerians’ reactions varied from puzzlement to outrage: a member of CAN, a founder of a popular church was accused of rape which, whether we like it or not, smears the reputation of the church as an institution.
The Catholic Church had to issue an apology following the recurring scandals in relation to the abuse of altar boys by Catholic priests in the United States and the United Kingdom. Yet, in Nigeria, the central body which ought to supervise pastors and unite Christians in universal condemnation of wrongdoing, claims it can’t take a stand.
Yes, Mr. Fatoyinbo has not been found guilty by a court of law. But CAN owes it to Nigerians, and to all those who look up to the church for moral leadership and guidance to condemn the act of rape first and foremost. And in the process, reassuring Nigerians and Christians; proving it takes the accusations seriously and is committed to finding out the truth after which it ought to have asked Mr. Fatoyinbo to step aside while a proper investigation is conducted.
By refusing to do that, CAN showed it is only interested in the politicisation of religion, or the performance of religious activity for the political gain of private actors rather than the well-being of the faithful.
Are Nigerian pastors granted a license before they are allowed to open a church? If so by whom? What are churches’ governing structures? Where are the checks and balances to protect their congregations from abuse? It isn’t enough to say “God will judge”.
The Bible warned of false prophets, yet the prosperity gospel preached by the church in a socio-economic climate as harsh as Nigeria’s carries with it a cult of obedience to seniority and status which hands every rich and powerful individual a “get out of jail free” card, granting them permission to break laws under the cover of their “anointing”.
Also, if CAN isn’t the supervisory body for churches, then who is? Does this mean that pastors in Nigeria make their own rules, picking and choosing when to abide by them? It always takes a scandal to get us thinking about public morality, governance and various forms of misconduct in Nigeria.
The closeness between former President Goodluck Jonathan and CAN gave rise to a number of allegations which were never investigated.
Prominent pastors also participated in the reconciliation between the PDP’s presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and his former boss, Olusegun Obasanjo, after which more claims surfaced hinting that “God’s work” or “pastoral intervention” also came with a cost. Pastors are constantly involved in politics in Nigeria where there is no real separation between church and state. But when does CAN stand up for ordinary men and women? Leah Shuaibu is CAN’s favourite topic of conversation because she was kidnapped by Islamist fundamentalists which fits into CAN’s narrative of “islamisation”.
Also, it is interesting that Busola Dakolo’s story went viral in a way Ese Walters, another accuser of Pastor Fatoyinbo’s, didn’t. Do we only care about wrongs done to people of a certain status? Have Nigerians chosen what “victims” are more believable? Miss Walters was instantly castigated and called names because she was a single mother, but Mrs. Dakolo is a married woman with “celebrity clout”.
There is something very unsettling about a society that picks and chooses whose pain deserves our attention, or whose story is worth fighting for. In fact, CAN has proven it will only fight over politics and (some) politicians.
After all, how does one explain that when former president Jonathan was proclaimed “life patron” of the Miyetti Allah cattle breeding organisation during the 2015 presidential election, CAN didn’t protest.
Nor did it complain when Jonathan praised cattle herders, calling them a “a major economic group in Nigeria with substantial contributions to food security in the country”. Jonathan also said his government was “developing cattle rearing in Nigeria to a level where the nation can earn higher revenues from meat exports”.
Why wasn’t CAN propagating conspiracy theories about land seizure and “islamisation” or “fulanisation” then? Cattle ranching has always been a policy of the Federal Government.
In fact, it was already supported by Awolowo, premier of the Western Region as far back as the 1960s. It was military rule and the rampant corruption under successive administrations which destroyed ranching and impoverished those involved in animal husbandry. Furthermore, no law then or now says that ranch owners must be Fulani.
The derogatory, divisive political sentiments encouraged by CAN over the ranching issue begin to make sense when one considers that the organisation has stated its objectives: political affairs but of a very specific sort.
Nigeria has many government interventions for farmers; why do some people insist on politicising the intervention for cattle rearing?
When government (AMCON) bails out businesses belonging to private individuals who leave shareholders and staff to deal with their financial mismanagement, why doesn’t CAN complain? Social justice is one of the founding principles of every major religion. Yet, CAN ignores the crimes committed by the rich and powerful, preferring to define crime by ethnicity and religion.
Ethnicity and religion
The “Ruga settlement”, which has become politicised, is optional. No states are being forced to give up land. No one is being colonised. Primarily Northern states have opted for settlements on their lands.
Besides the obvious objective of tackling clashes between herders and farmers over land, water and other resources threatened by climate change, the overall gains for our economic prosperity once this business is professionalised and standardised will benefit us all.
Does CAN care about people’s well-being if there is no “islamisation” story to tell?
Emir of Kano
MUHAMMAD Sanusi II said there is “nothing like non-indigenship” in Kano. Whoever lives in Kano, he said, is an indigene irrespective of their ethno-religious belonging.
He is right and it should be the same for all states in Nigeria. State of origin and indigeneity divide Nigerians who compete on that basis for benefits from the state.
The Constitution should be amended to enable our nation building efforts to move beyond the realm of dreams into reality.
GOVERNOR Dave Umahi, the Chairman of the South-East Governors’ Forum, says the zone will give grass to herdsmen in exchange for meat. Those who aren’t being mischievous and unnecessarily divisive know the Ruga settlements are optional.
In fact, Governor Umahi should be commended for his approach: creating economic and business ties between diverse populations is the smart way to manage ethnicity.
Tabia Princewill is a strategic communications consultant and public policy analyst. She is also the co-host and executive producer of a talk show, WALK THE TALK which airs on Channels TV.