Bishop, you sound strange


Tunji Ajibade

Bishop, sometimes I wonder if you listen to what you and some of your lieutenants say. You say you shouldn’t be held responsible for the unacceptable conduct of your followers. However, when some of them, especially prominent public officers, behave well you praise them. You say such followers practice what your faith says. You proudly say they conduct themselves well because they accept what you teach them. Does a father claim as his only the good child and not the bad child?

When you make the argument that the conduct of some of your followers shouldn‘t be linked to you,  is it that you don’t realise you occupy the seat you do because of the same followers? Are these followers—citizens—not the reason governments accord you respect,  tax exemption and the rest of the privileges you enjoy? Are these followers not the reason governments invite you to meetings, so that you can help get your followers to conduct themselves in ways that make the task of the government easier?

Bishop, this kind of talk trivialises a very serious matter. I don’t recall a teacher who refuses to admit that something may be inadequate in the manner they teach when a majority of their pupils fail regularly. In private schools, a teacher whose students fail examinations often is sacked. Listen, Bishop, no one is saying as a human being you would get all things right. What annoys is that your argument infers you don’t think there’s anything to review or adjust in how you handle your followers.

No system is perfect. No one’s arresting you for the conduct of your followers. But by denying followers, whose conduct isn’t right, you’re saying your system is perfect; there’s nothing to improve. You don’t teach your followers that there’s nothing for them to improve in their personal lives, do you? So why do you infer, in your argument, that you have nothing to improve in the manner you carry out your assignment as a religious leader?

Now, there’re reasons I raise this issue with you. The other day, Pastor Femi Faseru of the KICC Mission, Lagos, spoke on sundry issues in a TV interview. One of them was the manner members of the different faith missions conducted themselves in a less than acceptable manner.  When Faseru was specifically asked about this challenge and what could be done, he neither shared blames nor allocated responsibilities. I noticed he looked sober as the serious issue involved and the question demanded. To me, he got the cue right. Then he carefully explained that what he and others in missions would have to do was to continue to teach their followers the right way to conduct themselves. He said they wouldn’t give up; they would just have to continue to try.

Bishop, when the same question was asked of you and your lieutenants in the course of programmes, you got the cue all wrong. You unabashedly dived into a long and winding explanation of why no one should blame you. If you say you share no responsibility, then what’s your work? Why are you still in this business of calling people to a Supreme Being since you feel once those people fail then there’s nothing more you can do? A paid CEO under whom a company fails resigns, Bishop. These are the issues the response you and your lieutenants gave threw up in the mind of your listeners.

It’s not always that one gets it right on the first try. There’re areas one can still improve upon. But your response doesn’t indicate you have this awareness. One would feel satisfied to hear you and your lieutenants say humbly and soberly that calling people to a Supreme Being is your job, so you would continue to seek ways of doing the job better in order to achieve the set outcomes. One would like to hear you say you would assess your present approach and see areas that needed improvement. It’s what you should do rather than throw your hands in the air and give up. That’s what you and your lieutenants were doing when you said your followers’ conduct mustn’t be linked to you.

Here’s an irony. You, with some of your lieutenants, sneer and say if the president cannot get security right then he should step aside. Bishop, the work you and your lieutenants do isn’t reflected in the conduct of some of your members but you say no one should blame you. By implication, you’re saying your religion is no more relevant in making people conduct themselves well. You imply that your religion has no power to make people behave.  In that case, Bishop, do you think you have any job left? There’s no reason governments should treat you and your lieutenants as resource persons in any effort to restore sanity in our nation.

Another reason I raise this issue with you has to do with some of the activist comments you made. Where do they come from? From the book knowledge you have or from the Supreme Being, whose servant you say you are?  Is it the Supreme Being that says you should deny your role with regard to the conduct of your followers? Every servant takes instructions from his master and repeats exactly the same. If you say you’re a minister of a Supreme Being, we know every minister should take instruction from his superior. Cabinet ministers in Nigeria do what the president has outlined in his policy statement that they should do. Some of the things we hear you and your lieutenants say are too anger-propelled to be divine. Bishop, where do you take your instructions? Those controversial hate-filled and ethnic-driven sentiments you express, are they from the Supreme Being whose minister you are?

Increasingly, you and your lieutenants leave the task of calling people to a Supreme Being to do something else. For instance, you say on the podium, with all your energy, that a certain ethnic group would never take over the land of the ethnic group to which you belong. Is that the message the Supreme Being to whom you are a servant gives you? There’re as well those threats that faith-based associations make regarding the religious colouration of a political party’s presidential ticket. These days, you talk as if you’re political activists. Bishop, are you and your lieutenants political activists and ethnic agitators?

You need to be clear. For you cannot issue threats like political activists, make hate-filled ethnicity-driven comments that are divisive and then hide behind the excuse of being a religious leader. It’s the job of a journalist to interrogate the intervention of everyone who comes to our public space. When you make divisive comments regarding our nation, not just to your followers, you ask for debate from concerned Nigerians.

Bishop, I ask where your messages come from for the following reasons. The other day, one of your lieutenants was reading a message which he called the imbalance in the political appointment of Nigerians across religions. He mentioned offices and the ethnic group and religion of those who occupied them. He concluded by saying somebody sent the message to him. It means you and some of your lieutenants are delivering messages that the Supreme Being, you say you serve, doesn’t give you. Other people give you messages. These other people, agitators for politicians and tribes, have found new assignments for you.

I hear other strange things too. You and your lieutenants publicly address political authorities and some traditional authorities in a desultory manner that you would never permit your followers to do to you. Also, the immediate past head of your national association lamented in a TV interview that some members say the association is the “political arm” of your religion. Political arm?

No wonder some members treat your religion as exclusive to their tribe. It’s become their means of claiming religious ‘persecution’ when all they’re actually doing is engaging in ethnic agitation, determined to turn your national association into their microphone. They’re everywhere, claiming ‘extinction’ of their ethnic group when thousands of other Nigerians also die due to our security challenges. Is this what your religion has become, Bishop? You and your lieutenants increasingly sound strange and divisive. I advise you to exercise restraint and focus on your calling.


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