For the second year running, corporate oragnisations operating in Nigeria have formed the habit of doing sacrilegious promotions during the Easter celebration, all in the name of advertisement.
In 2021, Sterling Bank Plc approved the publication of a blasphemous advert at Easter.
The bank, in its thoughtlessness and insensitivity, rolled out a piece of advert about the resurrection of Christ and compared it to the rise of Agege bread, artificially enhanced with yeast.
“Like Agege Bread, He rose! Happy Easter,” it said in the advert with the photo of puffed, golden-brown, halved Agege bread brand which is popular in Lagos.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) fumed saying the material came from a depraved mind.
“The advertisement was provocative but we will refuse to be provoked simply not only because it is not in our characters but it came from an uninformed mind of neither of the two leading religions in the country,” CAN said in a statement.
The association reminded the bank management that in resurrecting Jesus from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty over life and death.
“In the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, God put our punishment on Christ so that we could be justified before Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). The resurrection of Jesus confirms that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice for sin on the cross and gives us access to a right relationship with Him.
“The Empty tomb shows the supremacy of Jesus. Go to the grave of any other religious founder and his carcasses are still there being worshipped, but where Jesus was buried, it is boldly written; “He is no longer here, He has Risen”! That is what we are celebrating at Easter and for Sterling Bank to compare it with a loaf of bread is blasphemous and insensitive to the religion embraced by billions of people globally,” it added.
The apex Christian body appealed for calm and urged all Christian faithful “not to take the law into their hands in seeking redress, but to let the relevant authorities handle the matter.”
However, it called for the immediate removal of the chief executive of the bank, Mr. Abubakar Suleiman “whose actions have clearly shown their hostility and hatred for the Christian faith.”
Following the backlash, the bank pulled down the material from its social media pages and uploaded another copy of an opened tomb significant of Christ’s departure from the grave.
“For our recent errors, we sincerely apologise. Forgive us in the spirit of Easter.
“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. We humbly celebrate His resurrection, the defeat of death and the hope of salvation,” it added.
To show that the ‘apology’ did not come from the heart, the bank referenced John 8:7 saying “…let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.”
In 2023, it was the turn of FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria, makers of Peak Milk, to use the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as a metaphor to promote its product on Good Friday.
In the offensive advert, two holes are drilled into a tin of Peak milk which spilled over. Then the caption ‘Bruised and pierced for us.’
For CAN reacted saying the advert is insensitive, offensive and totally unacceptable.
In a statement issued in Abuja, the general secretary of CAN, Mr. Joseph Daramola, said the association was “deeply disappointed that a company of such repute would stoop so low to exploit the religious sentiments of its customers for profit.”
“Good Friday is a solemn day for Christians all over the world, a day we commemorate the death of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who was crucified on the cross for our sins. It is not a day to be used for crass commercial purposes.
“FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria Plc’s action is not only disrespectful to the Christian faith but also an affront to the millions of Christians in Nigeria and beyond. We are deeply disappointed that a company of such repute would stoop so low to exploit the religious sentiments of its customers for profit.
“We recall a similar incident in the past when Sterling Bank Plc used a crucifixion imagery to promote their product. We condemned it then, and we condemn it now. We, therefore, urge all companies and organisations to be mindful of the religious and cultural sensitivities of their customers when promoting their products. We will not tolerate any attempt to trivialise or disrespect our faith. Be warned!” it said.
CAN went further to say it was considering sanctions against FrieslandCampina “including a boycott of their products by our members and all well-meaning Nigerians who share our concerns.”
Alternatively, it called on the company “to issue an unreserved apology to the Christian community and withdraw the offensive advert immediately.”
Reacting, the spokesman for the company, Ore Famurewa, apologised to Christians in a letter to the CAN president, Archbishop Daniel Okoh.
In the letter dated April 10, 2023, and entitled, ‘Apology for the Good Friday social media post by the Peak Brand”, the company said it did not intend “to make light of the significance of the season nor to inordinately exploit the unmatched sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”
“On behalf of FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria PLC, I hereby tender our unreserved apology to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) as well as to the Christian community at large for the recent Good Friday social media post on the Company’s Social Media Handle.
“We acknowledge the sensitivity of the social media post considering the sobriety of the season. It was neither intended to make light of the significance of the season nor to inordinately exploit the unmatched sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
“We hereby restate our commitment to our unwavering mission of nurturing Nigeria while maintaining the respect of all religious laws, tenets and guidelines.
“We wish to inform the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) that the social media post has since been withdrawn.”
“Once again, please accept our deepest apology and pledge to prevent a reoccurrence of such in the future. Do accept the assurances of my esteemed regards,” the company said.
Religion is a very sensitive issue in Nigeria; that is why persons and oragnisations are reminded to stay within their bounds. The dairy food could not have made such silly advert about some other religions and still remain standing.
Recall that a 200 level female Christian student, Deborah Yakubu, was stoned to death and set ablaze at the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto in 2022.
Deborah allegedly had argument with fellow students of a different religion and they felt that she blasphemed the leader of their faith.
Deborah was atrociously killed by her fellow male students on campus for alleged profanity and her body torched.
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah expressed indignation against such inhuman act called on the Sokoto state government and the relevant authorities to investigate the incident to ascertain the cause of the action and bring the perpetrators of the act to book.
He said the only obligation owed the parents of the murdered student, her fellow students and the College is to ensure that those who carried out the act are punished, no matter their motivation.
It is also worthy to note that a comment a comment in ThisDay newspaper of November 16, 2002 which, in every material particular was considered innocuous, touched off riots in Nigeria from November 20-23, resulting in many deaths and Nigeria losing the hosting right of that year’s Miss World Beauty Pageant.
Section 38(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) guarantees freedom of religion, but the freedom does not permit anyone to abuse or disparage other people’s religious beliefs or inclination under any guise.
This goes to FrieslanCampina Wamco and any other organisation that will deliberately inflame religious passion under the guise of promotion and turn around to tender a half-hearted apology when the chips are all down.