In 2007, a certain politician, Chief Okeke Ajayi sponsored by a prominent godfather contested elections as a gubernatorial candidate. On the day of the elections hundreds of armed thugs in the payroll of the godfather stormed the various polling booths and snatched ballot boxes, in the ensuing violence more than ten people were killed. In some other polling locations considered too much of a strong hold for the opponent, voting materials as pre-arranged with INEC by the godfather did not arrive at all. The election was a total sham as most people couldnâ€™t vote, and those that did had the ballot boxes snatched and stuffed. But by 4 pm the next day, INEC announced the results and declared Chief Okeke Ajayi the winner. Flanked by the Godfather and other supporters Chief Okeke Ajayi organised a press conference where he thanked his supporters and declared that his victory came from God because â€œGod gives power.â€
When his opponent cried foul and pointed out the massive fraud that ensued in the elections, he was quickly advised to accept the verdict and reminded that â€œpower comes only from God.â€ By the next Sunday, Chief Okeke Ajayi was in church for a thanksgiving. His entourage was welcomed by a standing ovation and given specially prepared seats. During the sermon Chief Okeke Ajayi repeatedly thanked God for giving him power, and the church pastor spent the rest of the service thanking God for the testimony of giving power to Chief Okeke Ajayi.
This narrative is typical of the fraud purportedly committed in the name and with the consent of God. A politician, who rigged-steals election claims that God gave him power, meaning that God is involved in 419 by being a facilitator of fraud. His church and pastor legitimises the fraudulent claim by making the same assertions in church and our own dear beloved God ends up a 419ner in Nigeria. This is the extent to which religion and the church in Nigeria has been bastardised. Little wonder, that in spite of practically every street having either a church or a mosque, the value systems have virtually collapsed. There is more hate, more wickedness, more corruption and more enslavement of the masses in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world.
Added to this is the lack of social responsibility associated with present day Nigerian churches since the advent and growth of Pentecostal churches. Back in the 70â€™s the Catholic Church, Baptist church, Anglican Church and other conventional churches managed schools and built hospitals that delivered high quality education and healthcare affordable by all. They also ran orphanages and organised numerous charities that gave help to the poor solely from the donations and tithes paid in Church. That era of social responsibility central to the doctrine in the bible of helping the poor, the sick and the disposed has since disappeared.
The church in Nigeria is now a business centre where loads of material goods and cash go into the church coffers through donations, tithes and cash for miracles schemes on a weekly basis with promises of financial bounties to those who part with handsome sums of money. The monies raised go into the private coffers and use of the church executives with the construction or purchase of palatial residential mansions in the most expensive areas of any major city for the church leader, the purchase of private jets for the use of the church leaders and the construction of very expensive profit making elitist private schools reserved only for the very rich to the exclusion of the poor and the families of the ordinary church members who donate and pay their tithes in the church every week.
Whereas Pentecostal churches in faraway America and Europe raise money for numerous charities to help the sick and the poor in their home countries and in Africa and Asia, Nigerian Pentecostal churches are just as insensitive as the Nigerian government. There is hardly any charity or social programmes linked to the churches to help the poor in spite of the billions they make annually from hapless citizens and in spite of the unbelievable poverty in the nation. Churches and religious organisations in other parts of the world have always been the conscience of their nations, leading the campaign against corrupt and misgoverning regimes, in Nigeria, the churches are in bed with criminal leaders, celebrating 419 electoral victories in the name of God and practically praying for them to continue to hold sway over the enslaved masses.
The verdict therefore is that the Nigerian church has failed itself, failed God and failed the citizens they are supposed to serve. There should therefore be critical reforms which will re-position the church in Nigeria to serve its true purpose as is consistent with the doctrine by disassociating with fraudulent politicians and leading the campaign for good governance, preaching the values of love, honesty and hard work, re-investing a significant amount of what they make from donations and other sources in sponsoring charities dedicated to helping the poor and building schools, hospitals and other social institutions targeted specifically at the poor and other disadvantaged persons.
These reforms will bring back the values which represent the true purpose of God as is evident in the doctrine and the Nigerian church can only fulfil this purpose when it returns to these core values.