Adeboye’s resignation, FRC and sundry reform matters
The relationship between the church and the state has always been a very complex affair. One example suffices of this complex relationship—the turbulence that marked the charged affairs between Henry VIII and the Papacy in the 16th century as well as the entire chain of events that led Henry VIII to break with the Catholic Church and establish the Church of England. This was a major historical occurrence that clearly outlined the kind of conflict the religious could have in relationship with the state. When, during the Enlightenment in the 18th century, secularity made its appearance with the seemingly final separation between the church and the state, it was almost certain that the tension had been dealt with by a masterstroke of modern sensibility. Not quite. The rational architects of the church-state separation failed to take into consideration all the possible modes of actions and interactions that will inevitably always instigate conflict wherever the church dabbles into political issues or whenever the state attempts to regulate spiritual matters.
It is no longer news that the Financial Regulatory Council of Nigeria (FRCN), through its executive secretary, unilaterally implemented a certain clause in the Corporate Governance Code, especially for Not-For-Profit-Organisations (NFPO), which necessitated fixing the tenure of the general overseers of religious organisations in Nigeria. One of the major consequences of that decision was the resignation of Pastor E. A. Adeboye as the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Nigeria. The justification of the FRCN executive secretary was that he was upholding the relevant parts of the corporate governance code. If that were the case, then it would be within the legal purview of the organisation to do so. And this has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the executive secretary, now relieved of his duty, was a former pastor at RCCG. But, as with most things legal, social and religious in Nigeria, the reality is much more complex than what we are presented. The outcry that has trailed the FRCN’s move and the reactions from several quarters, especially on the resignation of Pastor Adeboye, not only points at a complex situation, but also calls for a cautious but critical attention to some key issues concerning corporate governance, religious matters and the democratic functionality of institutions in Nigeria.
Permit a caveat that should address all hints of prejudice. This is critical because I am aware of the enormous anxiety and anger that attend the perceived misadventure of religion in Nigeria. I am a Christian with strong conviction that the church is one and will best achieve its earthly mission if it remains one in spite of inescapable denominational imperative. Consequently, whereas I am a Baptist by birth and orientation, I was largely groomed into spiritual maturity by the RCCG as a full-fledged member. I, indeed like millions of others, holds Pastor E. A. Adeboye in the highest esteem for the tremendous grace upon his ministry of which I am direct beneficiary in a classical sense and for the achievements that the RCCG has garnered since he became the general overseer many years ago. RCCG’s greatness as an organisation has many dimensions. Apart from its centrality as a leading religious organisation, RCCG has also in several ways insinuated itself into the development and social challenges that confronts Nigerians. We can see the church as a development partner with several Nigerian governments over the years. And this comes also in terms of the general overseer serving as religious adviser in one form or the other. An empirical statistics will reveal the immense impacts that the RCCG, and any other well-meaning religious organisation, has had in the lives of Nigerians.
But the issues at stake in this matter transcend my RCCG connection. It’s especially critical given the extent to which the legion of charlatans in the cloak of Levitical priesthood have infiltrated Christendom with diabolic and commercial mission and are daily denigrating the faith because they are provided umbrage by the absence of corporate governance codes and their enforcement. These are issues of democratic surveillance, organisational integrity, institutional capacity and reform. In this regard, the FRCN constitutes a significant dimension of the ensemble of democratic institutions in Nigeria. And this is more so with regard to the monitoring of corporate governance matters. On its website, the FRCN outlines its mission as simply as possible: “To bring utmost confidence to investors, reputation to oversight and ensure quality in accounting, auditing, actuarial, valuation and corporate governance standards and non-financial reporting issues.” This is seriously commendable because corporate governance is a very significant aspect of democratic governance in Nigeria. Ensuring good corporate governance practices is a sine qua non for laying the foundation of an accountability principle in the national economy that will eventually devolve on the well-being of Nigerians. The Not-For-Profit-Organisations (NFPO) are equally part of this corporate governance accountability concern because they equally impact on the financial profile of the nation and of individuals and organisations.
If all these are correct, what then went wrong? There are two immediate wrong steps I see. First, understandably Daddy G.O. is above reproach in that he would prefer to give to Caesar and to God what belongs to God as a man who understands the covenant essence of Exodus 14v14, it was precipitate for the RCCG and Pastor Adeboye to capitulate to the NFPO Code of Corporate Governance without at least exploring the option of challenging its stipulations for rightness, legality and legitimacy. Of course, religious organisations should be at the forefront as one of the most law-abiding entities anywhere, but that should not encroach on RCCG’s constitutional duty to challenge any legislation that encroaches on their fundamental rights, or has any whiff of irregularity or obscurity. While wishing Pastor Joseph Obayemi, the new general overseer for Nigeria, well in this new and most serious spiritual endeavour, it seems that the RCCG jumped the gun and capitulated without exploring available avenues, including the courts, that would have allowed a rethinking of the said legislation. The second issue is even more perplexing, and this is how porous our institutional dynamics have become to the extent that individuals are allowed to initiate impetuous actions that throw the society into tension
• Olaopa is executive vice-chairman Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP).
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