Lately, the chief priest of the House on the Rock, Pastor Paul Adefarasin, has been championing an advocacy of sorts. Merely professing Christianity, he postulates, is not what prospers a nation. Which explains why most of the supposedly prosperous nations in Asia and the Gulf today are homes to worshippers of faiths other than Christianity.
Instead, Pastor Adefarasin preaches righteousness. Religiosity should not be mistaken for spirituality. Whereas the former births hypocrisy, the latter begets righteousness. So, if Nigeria is under-achieving, the Christian community is, according to the H.O.R pastor, vicariously liable.
His prescription? It is high time true Christians took more than passing interest in partisan politics – right from the street to ward, council, state and national levels; so that “public policies will be determined by the righteous.”
In recent memory, as president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan would often be found in the company of men in long, immaculate cassocks, many of whom, with the benefit of hindsight, could now be properly addressed as false prophets. Most totemic of that fraternity was the portrait of the Nigerian president kneeling on Jerusalem soil and an assortment of anointed hands congregating on his head in a supreme gesture of supplication.
But such affectation of piety obviously contrasts starkly with the stench oozing from Dasukigate in the last one year.
No longer content with staying in the corner and lamenting, like the proverbial Jeremiah, that democracy is not yielding enough fruits for the populace, the debonair Pentecostal preacher is taking an unprecedented step: his church has volunteered to help political parties in their individual membership recruitment drive.
So, a desk has been opened at the imposing House on the Rock temple where congregants are encouraged to write their names and their party preferences with a view to formally getting them registered.
With that gesture, Adefarasin is undoubtedly following in the illustrious steps of Archi-Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa during Apartheid South Africa and Martin Luther King of the civil rights movement in the United States of the 1950/60s who counted it ungodly for the church to remain aloof in the season of moral turbulence, particularly when social justice comes under assault.
To be sure, Pastor Adefarasin is, however, quick to clarify that he remains non-partisan as the head of the H.O.R family. Rather, he is seeking to extend the frontiers beyond where fellow pastors like Tunde Bakare and Chris Okotie ended.
As running mate to Muhammadu Buhari in 2011 on the platform of CPC, the former came miserably far, far behind. While Okotie’s Fresh Party never really went beyond the razzmatazz of the soapbox for all its consecutive bids for the presidency over the years.
Through this initiative, Adefarasin is seeking to populate the parties with “Christian missionaries” who hopefully will, with time, purge the environment of cant and change the prevailing culture of predation to service and sacrifice. The nation will certainly do better with more inculcation of the values of tolerance, honesty, compassion, fairness and justice.
Today, we do not need to look too far for the poster child for the foregoing qualities on the national stage. The Adefarasins will proudly point at Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as the embodiment. Never shy to flaunt his evangelical credentials as senior pastor of the Redeemed Church, the erudite professor of law has in the past nineteen months undoubtedly cut for himself the picture of competence, temperance, humility and integrity.
But it is debatable if, surrounded more by political sharks and buccaneers, Osinbajo’s sterling persona has really changed the quality of thinking in Abuja today. Or, if the fortune of Nigeria as a nation can be said to have dramatically changed for that matter.
If nothing has changed, perhaps it can be argued that it is only because the likes of Osinbajo are in the minority in the polity and the politics – a justification, therefore, for the urgency of the Adefarasin doctrine.
But ultimately, much more will still be required to appreciably alter the quality of leadership in Nigeria. Equal ethical re-engineering is sorely needed in other equally critical realms for synergy.
A notable scholar in the cathedral, Bishop Mathew Kukah, brought a rather jocular – but nonetheless germane – perspective to the debate recently. He revealed that whenever any parishioner requested him to bless their business these days he never proceeds without first establishing its nature, partly as an insistence on a certain ethical minimum. He also added that he never accepts gift or donation from congregants without ascertaining the provenance.
So, bold as Adefarasin’s recipe might appear, let it however be added that its efficacy wholly depends on the alignment of other levels of authority on the social landscape to reorientation or rehabilitation.
These include traditional and religious authorities. Dominant as political leadership is, the truth is that it is only a reflection of the character of the civil society. So without the led also resolving to discard their old toxic values, new players wishing to force the stated Christian values in public office will likely get overwhelmed before too long. I speak from experience.
During my recent Sabbatical in Edo, I believe I made more foes than friends on account on one’s inability to meet too many high expectations. Due to the erosion of our values over the years and the ensuing addiction to instant gratification, almost everyone – relation, neighbor, clansman, and acquaintance – now assumes that political appointments are synonymous with contracts, contracts and contracts.
To such people, the number of juicy contracts you award them is the measure of your “performance” in office.
If you replied that as an appointee you have no power to award contract, the insolent ones would likely counter, “So, if you can’t give contract or make money, what the hell are you doing there?”
Those in too much hurry will likely bombard your phone daily with bank details for instant cash transfer. The political officer’s legitimate pay is public knowledge. So, the expected satiation of such financial demand could only be based on the unspoken assumption: the public officer must be “making” money, anyhow.
Invariably, it is impossible for anyone, not even the governor or the president, to meet a fraction of these financial demands from relations, friends, neighbors and acquaintances without having to steal.
The craze for instant gratification also explains why the provision of “stomach infrastructure” on election eve, rather than tangible evidence of real hard work in office, seems to have become the new determinant of electoral outcome in contemporary Nigeria.
Not until the larger community is also reformed would Pastor Adefarasin’s anointed be able to proper in the public office.