Ambode, CAN and the Lagos pastor
A democracy fiesta which began nationwide some days ago climaxed last Monday. Lagos strove to outdo other states with its Lagos My Success Story through which it celebrated those it considered as the exemplars of its exceptionalism. But the nebulous character of the concept became a source of excoriation for the state government in so far as it neglected some people whose successes constituted the excellence of the state.
But this is not what has imbued the memory of the past few days with an unforgettable quality. Rather, it is the fact that the period unveiled a Lady Macbeth in the Lagos State house and that while the state government was valourising democracy which privileges the will of the people, it was at the same time serving one of its residents a robust measure of authoritarianism.
If the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, is really concerned with the wellbeing of the people through building bridges and roads in neglected communities, then he needs to put his home in order for the citizens to better appreciate whatever development he is bringing to them. For, if Ambode knows how to navigate power for the benefit of the citizens, the same cannot be said about his wife. She is carried away by the power of her husband’s office. She wants to feel all the weight of that power as the wife of the state governor. A poor pastor became the victim of her quest for the demonstration of her power and glory. It was a Sunday morning. The anointing service of the Chapel of Christ the Light, Alausa, Ikeja owned by the state government was on. Pastor Femi Taiwo told members of the church who were interested in being anointed to come forward. The church members obliged. Among them was the governor’s wife. She was anointed.
But this was not all the governor’s wife craved for. She wanted to be called out and be the first to be anointed. But when she could not get this, she left the church in a huff. But the pastor would not go unpunished. It was an opportunity for the governor’s wife to demonstrate her power. The next day, he was sacked and given 24 hours to vacate his official residence.
The state government does not want us to link the ordeal of the pastor to the insufferable arrogance of the governor’s wife. It wants us to accept that the pastor had been a serial offender and it was the culmination of his offences that led to the termination of his employment and eviction. But if the government forgot to gleefully brandish the list of the offences of the pastor, the outrage against it would have made it to do this if such a list really existed. Thus, we are left with no option than to align ourselves with the perspective that the pastor was only victimised by the power-drunk wife of the governor with the acquiescence of her husband. If the government would like us to believe its perspective, it must tell us the nature of the pastor’s offence. Did he offend the government? Did the government tell it to preach in a certain way and he refused? It is clear that the pastor did not offend the members of his church. That was why they felt aggrieved at his ordeal at the hands of Mrs. Ambode. They stood by their pastor and provided him four houses for him to stay after being evicted. They went further by furnishing the house he chose to stay. Would they have done all this if the pastor was the one who offended them?
Instead of corralling others to justify Mrs. Ambode, the governor should be fair in tackling the matter. One way of doing this was not his avoiding the church as he did when he took the Lagos at 50 thanksgiving service from the chapel to the banquet hall of the state house. This was how Patience Jonathan was making enemies for her husband who eventually evicted him from Aso Rock.
The governor’s wife might have read somewhere the blurred lines between the state and the church in medieval times. Unfortunately for her, the state now should not be concerned with running the affairs of the church. This confusion is created by the government getting involved at all in church affairs. The state should not be involved in sponsoring pilgrimages. Let individuals do this. The government should not use the state money to fund church activities. It is not everybody who is paying taxes in Lagos and who expects good governance who is a Moslem or Christian. If the state government were really concerned about the religious wellbeing of its people why did it not build houses of worship for other religious adherents? Must it be only Moslems and Christians? If religious activities were not funded by the state, government officials would not think of controlling religious leaders.
Again, what really gives Mrs. Ambode the power she is exercising? The people of the state elected her husband as the governor. She has no constitutional duty to perform. If she cannot influence her husband positively in public affairs, she should wait for him in the “other room” instead of provoking the citizens’ animus against him.
It is disappointing that CAN has failed to give the harried young pastor a shoulder to lean on. At a press briefing, CAN declared the pastor guilty simply because he was an employee of the state government that had the right to fire him. Yet, CAN, like the state government, failed to tell us what the pastor did wrong. Did he breach any rules? Even if the state government had the right to sack him, should this be done in a way to dehumanise him and his family through an instant eviction?
Clearly, it is not CAN but the African Church, that sent the pastor to the state government chapel that is eligible to attest to his character. His leaders and other members in the African Church have not declared themselves scandalised by his betrayal of the confidence they reposed in him. Therefore, the verdict of CAN is an exercise in self-mockery. It is because of the penchant of CAN leaders for hobnobbing with corrupt political leaders that has made it unable to attract Christian clerics who still value their integrity. CAN is now populated by bribe-starved beggars and renegades in the cloaks of clerics. If CAN knew that it could not speak the truth, it should have just kept quiet and refused to be drawn into the controversy instead of disgracing itself. Ambode’s wife has no right to treat a citizen the way she has done to the pastor. Being a governor’s wife is not a passport to immunity and impunity.
Overwhelmed by the power and glory of their position, Mrs. Ambode and her husband may have forgotten that they are in the state house to serve. But this self-inflicted embarrassment should rouse them to the reality that they are just servants of the people and not their mistress and master. If Ambode fails to make amends for the impunity of his wife, this may be one of the darkest spots in his public career. In the long run, it is not the young pastor who has been humiliated but it is the humanity and sense of justice of Ambode, his wife and the leaders of CAN in Lagos State that have been called to question by their scurrilities and complicity in his cruel treatment.