Religion and the crusade against corruption in Nigeria, by Babafemi A. Badejo


On 27th of August, I sat for five hours in an Anglican Church, watching the pomp and pageantry that accompanied what used to be a solemn ceremony in the days of yore. I wondered what those who originally passed the “Bishops in Foreign Countries Act of 1841” would feel about the service at Archbishop Vining Memorial Service. As an extension of indirect rule (the Church system was a part of our colonisation, including of the mind), it was realised that consecrating “natives” as Bishops of the Anglican Church would be a good buy-in strategy. The British Parliament primarily focused the accommodating and supporting arm on its conquest: ownership and control of the human and material resources of Africa, particularly the lands, that it could grab. It was possible to get an erudite Ajayi Crowther to become a Bishop through that effort. He had been forcefully dragged into the other heinous crime committed against Africans – a dehumanising slavery.

Archbishop Leslie Vining had died at sea on the day I was born. So, in our traditional philosophy, I could be said to be a reincarnation of the first Archbishop of West Africa. At the invitation of my boss, Professor Chinedum Peace Babalola, the vice chancellor of Chrisland University, I was sitting in a Cathedral named after Vining in the Lagos West Diocese, as The Most Reverend Henry C. Ndukuba, Archbishop, Metropolitan, and Primate of the Church of Nigeria, presided over the consecration of four Bishops-Elect, the presentation of two Archbishops (for the Provinces of Lagos and Kaduna) and the Dean of the Church of Nigeria. The new Bishops are Right Reverend Collins Olufemi Babalola, Bishop Festus Uzorka Nwafili, Bishop Ifedola Senasu Okupevi, and Bishop Ebenezer O. Saiki. The Most Reverend Dr. Michael O. Fape was presented as the Archbishop of the Province of Lagos, while The Most Reverend Dr. Timothy Yahaya, was presented as the Archbishop of Kaduna Province. The Most Reverend Dr Blessing C. Enyindah was also presented as the Dean of the Church of Nigeria. The Primate of the Church of Ghana was also in attendance. Mrs Sanwo-Olu, the wife of the governor of Lagos State was in attendance. The Church, pampering to politicians, gave her an opportunity to say “hello” and she took a chunk of time to introduce all politicians and their spouses attending the Church service, before delivering a written address from the governor.

I am glad I attended this beautiful ceremony and was enamoured with its fantastic ‘rituals’ – a word not limited to the Iṣẹṣe practitioners, but through which the Iṣẹṣe people became demonised as part of the mind control strategy of the Church. The Church, in search of adherents, had to create a counter culture that decreed most aspects of the lives of Africans as heathen practices. But it did not stop there. To control the mind is to control the person. Till date, we continue to struggle over who we are. Even advanced minds like that of late Professor Sophie Oluwole found answers for how the Yoruba cosmology is the same with that of the Abrahamic religions over the issues of God and Satan, as well as Heaven and Earth. On the attribution of Satan as Eṣu in Yoruba, a counter effort is on in Brazil to correct the translation error of Ajayi Crowther in mixing up the two figures, and making them one and the same. The Yorubas of Brazil are pointing to the true Yoruba position that “Eṣu” is another deity like “Ogun”, etc. They definitely know better than the young impressionistic Ajayi Crowther, who could not have been as versed in the Yoruba culture that those in Brazil took with them and which they continue to hand down till date, from generations to generations yet unborn.

There was a sea of Bishops, 161 of them, in their respective signature red cassocks. There was drumming, trumpeting, singing – also in Nigerian languages, and dancing. Even the dancing to drop some naira for the Church, as cheerful givers, was fun. It was a nice pageantry, with so many beautiful women wriggling along with their respective curves in different colourful attires. At least we have now gone beyond the thinking that you must dress like Europeans to come before God. I joined in the dancing, maybe as payback to my friend, Professor Venerable Olufemi Onabajo, who, possessed, danced like ‘kokoro’, as the Yoruba would say. He had joined me in the dancing to Iṣẹṣe drum beats after my inaugural at Chrisland University, Abeokuta, on 5 July. Hence my payback.

Most important for me, however, was the sermon by The Most Revd Dr Joseph Akinfenwa, the Bishop of the Ibadan Diocese. He stated that every Church must prioritise soul-winning for Christ. I hasten to note that a retiring Archbishop, in justifying why he must leave with a huge retirement package, did not emphasise the number of souls he had won but rather how much he had expanded the material wealth of the Church, during his term of office. Bishop Akinfenwa delved into the practicalities of life when he pointed to an important role of Bishops and their wives: giving congregants shoulders to lean on and receive succour.

He asked if there was anyone in the Church who was not embarrassed by the level of corruption in Nigeria. I am, but I know that many are not. If many are embarrassed by corruption, we would have stamped it out of our society by now. He noted that the man who came to power to slay corruption, so that corruption would not kill Nigeria, was himself given a technical knockout, to the extent that at the end of his eight years in office, corruption was humongous. He pointed out that we were offered hope from this disastrous situation. But when Nigerians examined the people in the legislature, they screamed as the type of representatives they had there give no hope of countering corruption. The thought of hope also arising from the cabinet of the present administration has resulted in a fainting spells among the people, as they cannot believe that a new government asking for sacrifice would appoint 48 ministers, when a wealthy continent like America has only 15 cabinet members. Definitely, the number is a lot.

However, the comparison with the United States may be faulty though. This is because President Tinubu’s list contains Ministers of State who are really Assistant Ministers. The equivalents in America are many, given the fact that they have Deputy and Assistant Secretaries of State, who are not counted among the 15. Nonetheless, whatever the number the US has, they are working for a wealthier state, as opposed to our own country that has become deeply pauperised as a result of the colossal thefts of past Ministers and their cohorts. More importantly, though, was the point made by the preacher that 41 out of the 48 Ministers have been recycled from past thefts, and they have cases before different anti-corruption agencies. Nine of the 48 Ministers, as pointed out by the Bishop of Ibadan, are politicians who were past governors with F9 results in solving the problems of Nigerians who were entrusted to them. And this category is worse, with the “iberiberism” in the Senate arm of the Nigerian legislature, which has become the resting ground for those with politically arranged dormancy of cases before Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies.

The erudite preacher wondered why we spend colossal amounts of money on elections that are normally followed by sorrow, wailing and cries, as well as humongous expenditures on judicial processes that of necessity accompany our so-called democracy. Would it not be better to handpick from our past thieving leaders and just move on, Dr Akinfenwa thundered aloud. Definitely, such a bold move being suggested by the preacher would save us from going through the harrowing experiences from the deception that Nigerians are being subjected to – the Big Lie that we are a democratic nation. Elections (I have written severally about) do not constitute democracy. Election is a mode of selection of leaders. Even then, some form of election for popular participation in governance is only one-third of the popular definition of democracy as the government of the people, by the people and for the people. In that one-third, modalities for elections vary from a vote of all in a referendum, to votes among parties that are factions of the same ideological orientation, and competition among those of starkly different ideological orientations, as well as leadership selection within a mass party like the Chinese Communist Party.

The preacher rightly stated that good people must be in the majority with respect to our leadership, if we must move forward. He noted that the four Bishops being consecrated are assuming office during a trying time for our country. As he enjoined them to fast and pray, he equally asked them to constantly speak up constructively against evil in our society. This call resonated with me very much. Our preacher was endorsing what is known as the liberation theology, i.e. the freeing of our minds towards the pursuit of freedom. In such a case signalling the need to ensure that fewer people would be seeking succour leaning on the shoulders of Bishops and their wives. In effect, the logical conclusion is that Nigerians must walk on two legs in the pursuit of a comfortable room in the hereafter: they must seek comfort here on earth by holding our mis-leaders to account.

Enthroning probity should be the way forward for the new Bishops, who should be winning souls for Christ. We must arrest the latter-day normality being bestowed on corruption, including stealing. Boldly calling out thieves, as our fore-fathers did, would reduce the collective ills we are being subjected to. Many Imams are standing up and boldly speaking the truth to power by chastising our thieving mis-leaders.


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