Breaking the anti-Adeboye code
It is unnecessary to boast about the defeat of the contentious corporate governance code of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN). Neither the religious people, especially the Christians who felt affronted by it nor the government and its officials have fought a good fight that requires self-adulation. The only loser is seemingly the Executive Secretary of the FRCN, Jim Obazee. He overreached himself by insisting on the implementation of the code that precipitated the exit of Pastor Enoch Adeboye as the General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God. Consequently, Obazee was sacked by the authorities he defied.
But the Christians must have a fair share of the blame for waiting for the matter to degenerate to this extent. It is good that the Christians as represented by Adeboye want to be good citizens by obeying the laws of the land and this was why the famous cleric offered to quit. But they should have also used the laws of the land to relentlessly interrogate a policy they found iniquitous. They should not have waited for the government to help them. It is not enough for them to seek redress in the court, lose and give up. They should have gone the whole judicial hog – to the Supremacy Court. Even the policy was made when Christians led by Goodluck Jonathan were in power.
Instead of pastors and bishops leveraging the influence of these people to make policies in their favour, they were busy collecting fat offerings in their churches when they came to give testimonies of how God made them to win elections, without hinting at how their so-called electoral victories were preceded by killing, maiming, lying and cheating. It is the same way bad policies are made by the government and clerics watch in acquiescence as their members writhe under them. They watch when teenage girls, especially Christians, are forcibly converted and married off. In the same vein, lawmakers in the National Assembly and other leaders in government, and Christians and their clerics are now keeping quiet when efforts to forcibly take over their land through the grazing bill are being made. After the law is now made, they would now wait for a miracle to deliver them from its baleful implications.
It is to the government’s credit that it took an action that negated the suspicion that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari wants to Islamise the nation. This suspicion existed even though the code was not originated by this government. However, the development has also thrown into sharp relief how the rules of men and not those of the land determine the actions of our government. For it is not likely that if Adeboye were a different person, the government would have quickly roused itself from its now familiar dithering and sacked Obazee as it did. There is the perception that it is because the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah are pastors in The Redeemed Church that the government’s intervention was timeous.
Since the government has proved to be able to muster such a swift response to a controversial issue, it is expected henceforth to react promptly to matters that affect the wellbeing of the citizens. If it had been prompt in its responses, our teenage girls would not be abducted, converted and forced into marriage with the complicity of emirs. There would have been peace in all the parts of the country. The carnage in southern Kaduna and other forms of Fulani herdsmen’s terrorism would not have festered, and the crises in the Niger Delta and the South East would have been resolved. And there would have been restructuring of the polity which is believed to be the panacea to the ills plaguing the nation.
Besides, the government must not interfere in the religious activities of its citizens. It must accept that religion is a private affair. All the government is expected to do is to provide a conducive environment for the citizens to worship God the way they like. It is the government’s lack of the understanding of its place in the citizens’ religious affairs that has made it to be sponsoring pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Mecca and enriching the economies of Israel and Saudi Arabia. It is what has led to the government subsidising foreign exchange for its citizens to go on pilgrimages at a time that industries are collapsing, relocating to neighbouring countries and thousands of the citizens are rendered jobless because there are no dollars with which to import the materials needed for business. It is this muddled thinking that has made the government to try to limit the tenures of the leaders of the churches.
Since the government exists for the wellbeing of the citizens, it makes sense if it decides to monitor how their money is spent in religious organisations. Thus, if the FRCN code is limited to ensuring financial accountability in the churches, we need not split hairs. Indeed, government should not just watch as pastors feed fat, fly on private jets and build expensive private universities while the members of their churches wallow in abject misery and are unable to send their children to school. But as long as the government puts in place measures to ensure financial transparency in the churches and punishes those who violate them, it should not be necessary that they should be taxed. The government must not cease seeing the churches as not-for-profit organisations because of the flamboyance and greed of some pastors and bishops.
It is good that the FRCN code is suspended until it is reviewed with the input of all stakeholders. This would enable all stakeholders to really understand its motive. Was it a vindictive measure by Obazee to fight his former pastor as it was alleged? After considering all the benefits of the code, the government with the approval of stakeholders may decide to reactivate it. In that case, efforts must be made to increase the scope of those whose terms are to be limited. It is not only Christian and Muslim leaders who must be forced to quit after a certain period in office. Traditional rulers also must be made to quit after a certain time limit. Their case is even more important than that of Christian and Muslim leaders. After all, traditional rulers are pampered, made to live in luxury and paid to satisfy their sometimes dark tastes with the taxes of the citizens.
Again, if a 70-year-old person with his mental faculties alert can be forced to retire, why must the same government keep on inflicting centenarians on the citizens as their traditional leaders? If the argument is that succession in the churches is often trouble-prone, how about that of the traditional institution? Indeed, succession tussle is much more rampant and devastating in the traditional institution. This is where siblings spend fortunes on protracted litigations to prove the rightful heirs. Others resort to crude means such as violent elimination of rivals to assert their rightful ownership of the throne.