Religion is a controversial subject in Nigeria as Muslims and Christians clash, but it seems that isn’t the only religious conflict in the country.
Disclaimer: This article is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Foreign Report as a whole.
Christianity is one of the major religions in Nigeria and according to pew study carried out in 2011, they constitute 51% of the population and are spread across the 36 states of Nigeria. Christianity teaches the value of sharing, generosity, humility, equity, justice, and the early Nigerian church contributed to the building of schools, hospitals and support centres.
In the modern-day Nigerian church, however, this seems not to be the case as the lifestyles of the religious elites seem a far cry from those of the churches’ congregation. Nigeria, with a population of about 200million people, of which more than half are unemployed and live below the poverty level, ranked the 3rd most corrupt country in the world and as a place with a high level of insecurity and unrest.
At the same time, however, many parts of Nigeria are home to the most devout Christians in the world. Some argue that the high crime and corruption rates show a need for yet more churches, but looking at the situation more sternly you would see that churches have veered from teaching the good news to a place where clergy men can easily accumulate wealth from the congregation who are desperately seeking for hope and would do anything to buy hope. Corruption has eaten its way to the church. Being a pastor has almost become a short cut to a better livelihood, fame or an escape from unemployment.
Attend church service in some of these churches, what would strike you the most is the exquisite nature of these church buildings, polished environments, well dressed and attractive looking pastors in well lit alters adorned with gold and shinny ribbons… but look closely at the faces of the people who attend service there ,the sick, hunger stricken, tattered looking, wrinkle filled faces crying out for their next meal or asking God to pay for their hospital bills, they make up the large majority.
Pastors most times use carefully chosen words and some verses in the bible to lure people for tithes and offerings, sometimes their appeal for funds are spiced up with some form of threat. They tell you of hell fire, how you will get burnt by a raging fire if you don’t comply with Gods words, they tell you that God says whatever you give you get a thousand folds, “if you give nothing”, you get nothing, “God loves cheerful givers and if you don’t give God’s blessing won’t be showered down on you and your family”. It begins to seem as if they want the members of their congregation to buy miracles and protection.
Most heads of congregation even go as far as ask the church members to contribute to their personal businesses, its common knowledge in how members of Redeemed Christian church of God were asked to contribute money via special offerings towards the construction of Redeemers University but Upon the universities completion and commissioning in 2005, most of the people who contributed financially to the completion of the university can’t send their wards there because school fees were placed at a very unaffordable level. Only the children of the rich can have their kids sent there. Whereas, being a church property one would expect that it would offer quality and affordable options for those seeking to be educated.
Pastors now live a life of opulence, get mentioned on the pages of Forbes magazine’s in the same column as wealthy business men and politicians, own private jets and even private hangers. Some have been investigated for money laundering, been accused of being members of cults or a confraternity. The question in the lips of well-meaning Nigerians is, where else would a pastor get 30 million dollars to buy a private jet from? What happened to donating relief material for motherless babies and war torn communities; donating towards finding a cure for diseases, research funding or education scholarships?
With this trend, one is left stunned and amazed at the ways supposed men of God have lost core values like Charity, humility, humanity and sacrifice and have opted for fame, glam and flamboyance. One way to cob this trend is for Government to place a check on the activities of these preachers. If any irregularity is observed in the way they conduct their businesses such irregularities should be exposed and investigated as a way to ensure people are not stripped off their possessions. It was reported in the media how a man lost his life savings to a man of God because he was told that his wealth will be doubled in 24 hours if he gave out all his possessions to God.
Secondly, there has to be a formal enlightenment campaign undertaken by well meaning Nigerians focusing on skill acquisition and self dependence as dependence on pastors and clergy men for success is the root cause of this problem.
The Government of Nigeria lead by President Ebele Goodluck Jonathan should also work towards providing employment and reducing poverty in the country.
Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters