Saturday, 10th June 2023

Tinubu/Shettima: Bishops spoke. But what is Jesus saying to his church?

By Omotayo Suleiman
26 February 2023   |   2:48 pm
Behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was…

Behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice…and said, What doest thou here…? -1 Kings 19: 11-13
But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil – Romans 5:14.

Now the Bereans were more noble…in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.- Acts 17: 11.

As the turbo charged campaign machines of the leading presidential candidates hurtle furiously towards the much-anticipated vote, one of the great curiosities of the 2023 presidential race in Nigeria is that the fire tested Tinubu/Shettima ticket entered the last lap of the race with sweltering mega crowds of supporters giving it what appears to be unassailable propulsion, even as some prominent church leaders remained stridently implacable against the ticket.

Within the context of Nigeria’s religious plurality, how this all Muslim ticket emerged from the testy days of its initial unveiling to achieve its electrifying transmutation into clear front runner status, drawing robust followership from Christians and Muslims alike, is a phenomenon that should challenge political strategy scholars for a very long time.

In one of the fiercest presidential contests in memory, Tinubu himself shocked those who questioned his health and fitness by subjecting himself to a punishing campaign schedule, crisscrossing the country at a frenetic pace, appearing in multiple cities in one day, packing each 24 hours with tasking events that should ordinarily break younger men.

This disciplined self- exertion appears to have been touched with the engracing fire of divine providence too, as the ticket succeeded in building fearsome electability across its targeted electoral strongholds, riding on monstrous momentum into the home stretch of a grueling campaign. That it achieved that feat despite a firestorm of political deterrents thrown at it, is an instructive pointer to the place of strategic clarity, courage, conviction and faith in leadership.

It perhaps speaks to the fluidity of ethno/religious dynamics in our evolving democracy, that while ferocious and unremitting animus from some church leaders against Tinubu/Shettima has instigated its own vibrant dynamic as plainly seen in the trajectory of another candidate, the ticket has drawn unprecedented crowds from targeted geographies, with ardent followers from both faiths, especially in the religiously homogenous South West.

Cynics insist that those surging crowds are nothing but paid hirelings – hundreds of thousands of them at each rally – but the fact that Tinubu’s campaigns continued to burst at the seams with boisterous and ululating crowds should hopefully tell intransigent naysayers in cassock that there is perhaps some stubborn truths fueling the ticket’s unyielding dynamism.

The sacrosanct facts of electoral science are however a stubborn nuisance to the indolent presumptions of posturing and inattentive pundits. On the eve of APC’s presidential primaries, when a bewildering storm of shenanigans had all but pointed to imminent defeat for Tinubu, this writer had made a spirited case to APC leaders on why its wisest choice would be Tinubu and why Tinubu’s wisest pick for a running mate would be a fellow Muslim from the North. (Omotayo Suleiman, Premium Times, June 7th, 2022) That I, a professing Christian – and a minister by the grace of God – would make such a plea was perplexing to some. But I wrote then, and write now with a pure conscience.

In this essay, it seeks to interrogate the error of some brazenly partisan church leaders, who railed endlessly against the Tinubu/Shettima ticket.

The rebuke of such inattentive church leaders is altogether justified. All people of goodwill must condemn the extreme folly of relentless animosity from some pulpits against the Tinubu/Shettima ticket. The hysteria such misguided clerics sought to whip up among congregants portends far more ominous consequences than the recklessly partisan church leaders tend to realize.
True, it’s a time of great national distress and the need for stern-faced spiritual authority has never been more poignant.

The caveat is that the church, a purely spiritual body with unassailable power when it properly locates itself in the word, in the spirit and in love, is conversely nothing but a castrated and toothless bull dog when it allows itself to be seduced into the purely sensual.

The privileged few who are now basking in wanton abuse of their God-given power of influence by railing against a presidential tag team have only succumbed to the glamour and celebrity of altogether sterile populism. Stoking up negative emotions among vulnerable congregants is not sensitive exercise of leadership.

Hear Jesus in plain scripture! James 3: 6
“The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell”
The Bishops reckless turning of sacred altars of God into a soap box dedicated to demonizing a political tag team from another faith have not considered the spectre of serious fractures in social, political and especially ethno/religious cohesion that can come out of the intensity of incendiary rabble rousing.
No matter the environmental distractions, the core mission of the church on earth is crystal clear. The mandate is to help saved humans enter the pearly gates of heaven. But now there
entry into Aso Rock.

The mandate to the church is expressly manifest in scripture. The purpose and destination is as basic, as uncomplicated, as unglamorous and unambiguous as when the lord himself first preached it on earth. In its ruggedly unvarnished simplicity, the gospel of our lord Jesus Christ remains brutally direct in its proposition: The salvation of a repentant soul from an otherwise certain eternity of perdition. While an abundant life filled with joy, power and dominion remain happy benefits of a sanctified life, crass emphasis on material pursuits (including obsessive fixation with purely sense driven political permutations) are exactly contrary to the purpose of the gospel.
Sadly, the journey to the shameless hate mongering against the Tinubu/Shettima ticket among some of the most influential leaders of the Nigerian church started long before
now. This misadventure has its ignominious roots in the apostasy that has for decades seen a pivoting from simple preaching of salvation and sanctification to a strange and psychedelic pseudo pentecostal religion that peddles the purely sensual as spiritual.

Whole ministries, which started with wholesome intentions, preaching sound doctrine and ruggedly focused on preaching genuine salvation in Christ have abandoned their first love

In this systematic decapitation of the Nigerian church, Satan has carefully orchestrated the mainstreaming of soulish messaging, majoring on the material to the detriment of sound teachings in righteousness.

Many church leaders, perhaps not realizing this, have continually grieved the Holy Spirit into abstaining from otherwise revered and world renown altars, thereby loosing legions and legions of false spirits into the nation’s firmament.

Unbeknown perhaps to the newly politicized church leaders, the church, in her brazen whoredom is exactly culpable for the complete nightmare in our country. Abandoning its guardianship, drained of its intercessory and evangelizing force, the church, dazed in its fixation with mammon, watched in a stupor as every day, we witnessed heart breaking manifestations of Nigeria’s descent into utterly avoidable backwardness. With all pervading dysfunctions in politics, governance the economy and social life, our beloved nation is now gasping in the vicious grip of a legion of vices.

Tragically, the church seems not remotely aware of the multiplication effect of its own unrepented sin. Yet the robust recovery of our nation from perennial political, economic and social dysfunctions are intricately tied to the spiritual health and power of the church, the potency of its praying life and the doctrinal alignment of its mainstreamed messaging.

The crass materialism of the new messaging mainstream in the Nigerian church has also feasted on the poverty, ignorance and gullibility of millions in Nigeria to propagate and populate a feckless, neo contemporary parody of the gospel.

Men of God became men of gourds, drunk of a false spirit. A dangerous and aberrant ‘Christian’ religiosity blossomed in place of Calvary purchased, Christ led and word centered spirituality. In place of dominion of the believer, there is only the manipulative domination of the overseer. Thus, beyond the addictive pull of weekly emotional satiation for these mega crowds, the power to release real, sustainable victory into afflicted lives is tragically lacking.

It was in this sordid state that some Nigerian church leaders, tragically deficit in prophetic authority, encountered the coming of Tinubu/Shettima. In place of apostolic leadership that thrive on prayer and scripture, to correctly discern the times, some leaders impulsively and arrogantly assumed unsolicited paternal responsibility for the millions in Nigeria who profess the ‘Christian religion’ – the rallying cry being a push back to some phantom and imminent Muslim domination!

Sad in the extreme. For if the lord were physically here and these regally robed modern day Nicodemuses could go ask him about Tinubu/Shettima, would Jesus not have smiled, saying IT IS ME, children!

But alas, some General Overseers vacated their intercessory authority in favour of ineffectual demagogy and misguided adventures in socio-political activism of an extremely partisan nature.
One was amused to hear one of the most brazen of these priest-partisans reminding his tumultuous congregation that the 2023 Presidential election is a spiritual battle between our faith and the other. The poor congregants sadly do not know that spiritual battle is not about who Brother Moses will vote for versus who Alhaji Musa will vote for. Spiritual warfare, waged in Calvary love would actually pray for the peace and wellbeing of all. Brother Moses. Alhaji Musa. Everyone.

The bible says the earth is the lords and the fullness thereof. Sound doctrine is that which reminds all of us that the fullness referred to includes people of all faiths. The benevolence of God keeps them all.

Despite the dereliction of care among some church leaders, it is a relief that millions of Christians are ardent supporters of the Tinubu/Shettima ticket, purely on their own reasoned volition, unbenumbed by the futile demarketing attempts from tainted pulpits.

But had the clerics themselves searched scriptures in prayer, they might have had the fog of carnality cleared so they could see Jesus and what the sovereign Lord might elect to do with Tinubu/Shettima.

Hear the piercing words of Christ yet again!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts – Isaiah 58: 8 &9.”

For years, precious Nigerian Christian folk have prayed earnestly for a deliverer who would help move our nation forward. Convention after convention, night vigil after night vigil, we shout ourselves hoarse, bawling our distresses to God while groaning with exotic tongues that our sense bound cognitive faculties cannot even comprehend. What makes us think God didn’t hear those prayers? And who bewitched us to think that the answer from a sovereign God would look anything like our finite minds ever contemplated?

Spirit defeats sense!

When Jesus wanted fire to utterly consume the wood on Mount Carmel, he ordered tankers of water!

When Jesus wanted Israel delivered from a hot pursuing Egyptian army, he took Israel to the Red Sea!

When Jesus wanted the world’s choicest wine at Canna of Galilei, he ordered the exact opposite of what the human brain expected – water in earthen pots!

Now, Tinubu we know.
Who would deny his performance pedigree in a nation steeped in mediocrity?
Papa Awolowo had uncommon intellect, matchless policy literacy and patriotism that so ached to do Nigeria good. Immortal Awolowo died with all his lofty ideas. Papa only lacked the cross regional alliances that could secure the presidency.
Tinubu came, took key learning, deciding to apply pragmatic wisdom to build those bridges. With super human patience, he committed his heart and soul to a lifetime of dogged, painstaking, sacrificial building of goodwill across key geopolitical centers of influence.
The race to Aso Rock is a marathon. It’s never going to be a sprint. It is never going to be a one ethnic group thing. That’s the difference between dreamers and day dreamers.
Where did Tinubu find the patience? 30 long years! Where did Tinubu find the generousity of spirit? Where did he find the faith to give so recklessly? And some Bishop thinks heaven did not notice?

Listen to Jesus in Proverbs 22: 29…

”Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men”
Seest a man! Any man, Muslim, Christian, Pagan. God’s laws are immutable in His creation. Selah.

And this Alhaji Shettima! What a revelation! What intellect. What clarity of thought. What incredible depth of policy literacy! This Kashim Shettima. What a miss we would have had, if Tinubu had not had the courage and faith to pick this brilliant, brilliant, passionate, passionate man!
When a member of our family needs urgent surgery, do we insist the surgeon has to be a Christian or the anaesthetist with him be a Christian? It is the tragedy of our national experience that we would sacrifice competence on the alter of religion.

But Muslim-Muslim? Tinubu’s courageous choice sounds like a foolish idea to you? Listen to Jesus again. Corinthians 1: 27.
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise…”

Omotayo Suleiman, Policy Analyst & Public Affairs Commentator wrote in from