Gospel of Arms and Mammon by Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor-Once again, the Jonathan administration evokes a political malady tinged with comedy when a jet owned by Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor loaded with $9.3 million cash ferried to South Africa to smuggle arms was detained by the South African government.
The Oritsejaforgate is one of the reasons why we should engage the Nigerian Church with its spiritually dysfunctional pastors in the difficult conversation about their corruption, unjust enrichment, and their collusion with the government to oppress the poor.
Nigeria is a country that has become increasingly polarized between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” A country in which the “have-nots” have become pauperized, the involvement of Pastor Oritsejafor founding Senior Pastor of Word of Life Bible Church and President Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in arms smuggling and currency trafficking reminds us how the likes of Oritsejafors stand in stark contrast to the teachings of Jesus.
Most of the Nigerian Jet Pastors represent a ridiculous caricature of traditional Christian thinking, teaching, and values. The socio-economic situation of the time of Jesus is similar to the present socio-economic structure in Nigeria.
Many of Jesus’ parables graphically illustrated were based on the socio-economic conditions of his days. In the days of Jesus, there was a sharply class-structured society with land-owners, stewards, tenant-farmers, day laborers, and slaves. The few rich people wore the best dress and feast sumptuously every day. The legion of
the poor were the beggars who sat at the gates begging for alms and fighting over crumbs.
Conditions for the poor were further aggravated by the flagrant inequalities of the quasi-feudal society compounded by Roman economic policy of heavy tax burden as high as 40% of an average income aside from the extra exactions of the local tax collectors.
Within this social set up, one could safely describe Jesus’ family as “middle-class.” The Son of a skilled “carpenter,” was a valuable integral part of the village economy. As a self-employed, Joseph probably had apprentices and employed some journeymen. Jesus’ closest disciples who were fishermen with hired laborers and tax-collectors no doubt belong to the same social category. To be sure, Jesus’ family were not rich, but they were not near the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.
Against this backdrop, the stunning contrast of Jesus life-style informed his ministry and his teachings. Right from the start of his ministry, he renounced all financial security. No job, and no permanent home. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests,” Jesus tells his disciples, “but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Meaning that he expects his disciples to imitate his life style.
The disciples were to depend on their heavenly Father for food, clothing, and other necessities as he does for the birds and flowers. In practical terms, Jesus and his closest disciples depended on the gifts and hospitality of well-wishers like the household of Lazarus, Martha, Mary and others who invited them for meals.
It’s no wonder then that Jesus was always the guest, never the host. He sent his disciples out on their mission without financial upkeep. They depended on hospitality. Any money given to them was shared. Judas as the treasurer was in charge of the purse, and it was his job to provide for the necessities of the group. Even under this hand-to-mouth financial state, they were able to meet the traditional Jewish obligation of giving to the poor.
Where does Oritsejafor as a pastor and most importantly, as CAN President fit in in his calling as a “disciple” of Jesus? Does the life style of Oritsejafor reflects Jesus’ renunciation of bourgeois security? Where is the proof that he’s detached from material accumulation and acquisition? Where is his discipleship on communal living and open generosity to others in need as preached and demonstrated by Jesus?
The company Jesus kept and the values he preached were heresy to the establishment of his day. The company that Oritsejafor keeps is a company of men in high places who profit and thrive in wickedness. Men who are paragons of corruption. Men who milk Nigeria and Nigerians bone dry. Men who are purveyors of everything antichrist. Men of no conscience, no shame, no repentance.
That Jesus frowned on the dangers of affluence was never in question. He vehemently condemned the dangers of affluence and of wanting to be affluent. His slogan, “the last will be the first and the first last,” was an inconvenient truth to the powers that be in his days.
Jesus explains further that it is “the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things which choke the growth of the good seed. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Take heed, and beware of all covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
How could Oritsejafor reconcile Jesus’ teachings and principles with his greed for riches and his association with Aso Rock? How could Pastor Oritsejafor as President of CAN relate this to ferrying $9.3 million raw cash in his plane to smuggle arms to Nigeria from South Africa?
Jesus demonstrates over and over again that materialism is the great enemy of spirituality. Jesus’ warning on the dangers of affluence is deafening: “No one can serve two masters … you cannot serve God and mammon. Mammon means possessions. The phrase is used particularly for bribes, unjust gain, and other corrupt practices.
How can Pastor Oritsejafor serve CAN and Aso Rock Mammon at the same time? How much money did Aso Rock pay for leasing his jet? Contrary to the claim by Word of Life Bible Church congregants that the jet was a birthday present to their pastor, many Nigerians believed it was a gift from Mr. Jonathan bought with tax payers’ money.
The poverty stricken Nigerians are usually the humble ones whose trust is in God and are oppressed by the godless including the so called pastors. Most times as Christians we are in a fix to reconcile the oppression of the poor with the sovereignty of God. But our answer lies in the belief that there is blessing in store for the oppressed poor Nigerians, but retribution awaits our wicked leaders and pastors.
It is stating the obvious that Pastor Oritsejafor has failed abysmally to use CAN as a platform to create sustainable solutions through community based initiatives to the issues Nigerians face every day: social injustice, income inequalities, wealth disparity, economic empowerment, and public health.
He has failed to draw strength from belief and faith in divine power to use CAN to remedy wrongs in times of socio-economic and political turmoil Nigerians are going through. Unemployment in Nigeria is at a runaway double or triple digits. The best anti-hunger and anti-poverty program is employment. This is patently missing in the mission of CAN under Pastor Oritsejafor.
In a country of plenty, hunger, poverty, disease, unemployment should be outrage. Pastor Oritsejafor through CAN should help focus the attention of Jonathan’s administration on investing jobs and not as government agent in arms smuggling and currency trafficking.
CAN was formed in 1976 by five Christian blocs in Nigeria: the Christian Council of Nigeria, the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, the Pentecostal fellowship of Nigeria, Organization of African Instituted Churches, and the Evangelical Fellowship of West Africa.
Under the presidency of Pastor Oritsejafor, it is the first time in the 37-year history of CAN that any of its five blocs – the Catholic Church – would pull out over alleged poor leadership and politicization of the association. This is not the CAN Bishop Okogie and other venerable disciples built.
In a letter dated September 24, 2012, signed by Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBNC), said his group was suspending “participation in CAN meetings at the national level until such a time the leadership of CAN reverse back to the original vision, mission, and objectives of CAN. CAN is being dragged into partisan politics thereby compromising the ability to play its true role as conscience of the nation and the voice of the voiceless.”
Pastor Oritsejafor has often been accused of being divisive in the way he is running the association, often making comments in support of PDP led federal government and President Jonathan.
You’re judged by the company you keep. The latest incident makes Pastor Oritsejafor guilty by association with Mr. Jonathan. This is the beginning of the volcanic meltdown of Pastor Oritsejafor CAN Presidency.
…And Paranoid Ranting of Femi Fani-Kayode
Now, to the son of Fani Power. The article by Femi Fani-Kayode the new addition to Interpreters of Maladies at Aso Rock, in defense of Pastor Oritsejafor and Mr. Jonathan, is at best a distastefully cynical demagoguery. Fani-Kayode always insinuates conspiracy behind every criticism of the Jonathan administration. His lengthy empty response reads like a paranoid ranting of a silver-tongued, narcissistic demagogue.
No one should be surprised by his zealous distortion of the facts in the aborted illegal arms smuggling and currency trafficking. I refuse to dignify his statement by trying to sift through the mountain of cow dung that flowed from his mouth or mind.
It is too soon to forget his primitive past with insatiable appetite for corruption and malfeasance that form the epitaph of his tenure as minister of aviation under Obasanjo administration. We don’t need a Femi Fani-Kayode to indoctrinate our civilized and informed minds with his defective intelligence and filthy rancor concerning the facts and personalities surrounding the illegal transaction.
The fires of divine truth will expose and extinguish his lies sooner than later.
Bayo Oluwasanmi, firstname.lastname@example.org