Philip Graham, former publisher of Newsweek magazine and Washington Post, said during the shooting of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy of the United States of America, that journalism is the first rough draft of history. How true this is! Since my recruitment into this profession of historicity, I have come to flesh out and lend credence to the authenticity of this postulation. Journalism is a profession that chronicles history in a hurry. Sometimes the event may be rough and tempestuous but you have to draft it, you don’t shy away from it.
But in matters that border on faith and religion, how do you approach it, how do you draft it? How do you slant your views to avoid being accused of heresy or appearing irreligious before your readers? What do you have to say when the custodians of your faith who are supposed to embody all the virtues of godliness are at daggers drawn? This is why I am miffed at the recent altercation between the Catholic Church and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
Few days ago the Catholic Church blew open, as if upon the rooftops, the blight of spiritual perfidy in the CAN. It accused the leadership of the umbrella body of Christians in Nigeria of sleaze and unholy alliance with governments and abandoning the spiritual vision of its founding fathers.
The Diocesean Administrator of the Catholic Church in Abeokuta, Monsignor Christopher Ajala opened a can of worms when he said on 23rd of January in a press statement at Abeokuta that the Catholic Church has “decided to withdraw from the activities of CAN”. He explained further:
“The Catholic Church took their stand before the purchase of the aircraft was donated to him (Oritsejafor). But what the Catholic Bishops Conference is complaining about is the way they are running the national CAN. It is not meeting the objectives and the goals of CAN and the forefathers of CAN. It is now being run as part of government and we said no. If you can use money to buy our religious leaders, then there is no hope for the common man”.
Since Bishop Ayo Oritsejafor, President of CAN and former President of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN)< got enrolled into the controversial and questionable club of Private Jet Owners Club of Nigeria last year, much attention has been focused not only on the leadership of CAN but also on how our men of God manage the finances of the church.
The crisis in CAN is giving me serious concern. Can a house divided against itself stand? Is CAN singing its nun dimities or should we say, like The Smokie, hasta la vista (goodbye) to it? Some already are advocating that the Catholic Church should pull out from CAN if it is not satisfied with the leadership of Oritsejafor and form CAN 2, that is Catholics Association of Nigeria. It is a dangerous thing to do; The Catholic Church should not attempt that, it is like the advice of Ahitophel who told David’s rebellious son Absalom to sleep with his mother to make himself odious to his father!
The implication of a division in CAN cannot be contemplated. If CAN is divided who will speak for Christians in Nigeria? Who will fight our wars? CAN has been able to unite Christians in the country and hold at bay the Islamic onslaught on Nigeria. Moslem fundamentalists have vowed not to stop until they dip the Quran on the Niger and put a fingerprint of blood in every hamlet across the country. Who will halt this fundamentalist jihadist group in the guise of Boko Haram when they perceive, in the event of a break up in CAN, from unleashing their mindless bombs on Christians? No, the Catholic Church should not contemplate that, it is a powerful religious group whose views and stand on issues are respected not only in the country but worldwide. It is because of the advocacy of CAN and the Catholic Church that Nigeria has not become a full member of Organisation of Islamic Conference, (OIC). Their pulling out from CAN will ignite fire that will burn brighter than Dante’s Inferno!
However, I share the views of Ajala. I am as worried as the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria which has stated its stand on the perceived mess in CAN. The romance of the leadership of CAN with governments has become like that of Romeo and Juliet. Any concerned Christian in Nigeria should be as worried as the Catholic Church. When there is romance between the church and state, who will bark when the state no longer lives up to the expectations of the people? Who will show our leaders the pitfalls? Who will tell them the truth so that they can hear and repent? This is why I am worried.
Throughout the scripture, I have never read of where the prophets of old romanced with the political institutions. They were detached but not aloof to the issues of their day. They were the thermometer in measuring the spiritual pulse of society. That was why Prophet Nathan rebuked David for his amorous dalliance with Bathsheba; that was why King Ahab and Elijah never saw eye to eye. The prophets were bold, audacious and resolute, they spoke and the kings trembled because they were the mouthpiece of God.
But regrettably today, our men of God in Nigeria are spiritual feather-weights; they dine and wine with the leadership and say they are eating the riches of the Gentiles. They see no evil and say no evil against our politicians even in the face of glaring shortcomings.
I am not calling to question the propriety of the CAN president owning a private jet, but what does not sit well with me is the timing. Although he has explained that it was purchased for him by members of his church, as president of a religious body whose closeness to government was already becoming suspicious, the timing of the gift, if it is what it is, was inappropriate. Is it not reasonable therefore for us to surmise that the government facilitated this Greek gift? I stand to be corrected.
Monsignor Ajala wants Oritsejafor to maintain, if he cannot elevate, the spiritual purity of CAN in line with the vision of its founding fathers. But what he forgot, or remembered but failed to acknowledge, was the fact that there are many traders in the Kingdom, whom I may, for want of a better term, call ‘Jesuspreneurs’. I am not saying that the CAN president is one, but since the first century when there arose a sharp division among the followers of Christ prompting each to say: “I am of Paul, and I of Apollo’s and I of Cephas, and I of Christ”, men with the business mindset have exploited that to their gain. This was the beginning of the entry of the world into the church! That is why today we see many ministries and churches, which are actually family businesses, springing up even when those behind them have gone on spiritual furlough. The emphasis is on quantity, not quality. Today, success in the ministry is denominated in the number of miracles a pastor performs, the number of choice cars he owns, the type of house he lives in and the number of overseas trips he makes in a year. The church is no longer seen as people of faith called out and separated unto God but as a bazaar for all manner of things and all manner of people. May God have mercy!
In all, the Catholic Church and the leadership of CAN should sort themselves out. No one is perfect and expecting perfection from a clay-footed being is to play God. But on the other hand Oritsejafor should listen to the complaints of the church and others. His closeness to the powers that be is too close for comfort.
AND ONE MORE THING…
Can APC Cure Our Headache?
Politicians of different political persuasions and ethnic colouration gathered last Tuesday at the Marina residence of Governor Fashola to give birth to a new political movement known as All Progressives Congress, APC. When I heard of APC, I remembered my perennial headache. As a college student in secondary school I was always suffering from headache and my recourse was to swallow some tablets of a drug called APC by then. It didn’t cure it, but I got some temporary relief. I understand NAFDAC (National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control) has banned that substance. So last week when I heard that some political parties with the name All Progressive Congress (APC) have ganged together to wrestle power from PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) and dictate the momentum and trajectory of politics come 2015, I asked: can this APC cure our headache? Will it be able to offer a credible alternative political platform, or is it merely playing to the gallery as usual? The history of political party mergers in Nigeria does not give me the optimism to hope APC will offer something revolutionary. If it will make any difference, it will just be like the difference between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Let us watch and pray.