Phe­nom­e­non of spir­i­tual cor­rup­tion in Nige­ria

The Punch - - NEWS - Jide Ojo Prince Jus­tice Faloye

Nige­ria is a very re­li­gious so­ci­ety no doubt. Churches, mosques and shrines dot the coun­try’s land­scape. The athe­ist pop­u­la­tion in Nige­ria is very in­signif­i­cant as many of the cit­i­zens are ad­her­ents of Chris­tian­ity, Is­lam or African In­dige­nous Re­li­gions. Our re­li­gios­ity re­flects not only in our modes of wor­ship but also in our names and ways of dress­ing. Re­li­gious festivals are com­mon­place here. The Osun Osogbo Fes­ti­val holds ev­ery Au­gust in Osogbo. There is the Olojo Fes­ti­val in Ile-ife. The Ojude Oba Fes­ti­val is cel­e­brated in Ijebu-ode on the sec­ond day of the Eid el Kabir fes­ti­val. Easter and Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tions are ob­served an­nu­ally by Chris­tians. These are apart from the an­nual church con­gresses and con­ven­tions.

Last Satur­day, De­cem­ber 7, I was one of the guest speak­ers at the Abuja Chris­tian Youth Par­ley on an­ti­cor­rup­tion or­gan­ised by the Aro­jah Theatre group. There, i pre­sented a pa­per on “Di­min­ish­ing Cor­rup­tion in Nige­ria”. In the course of the pro­gramme, the Di­rec­tor of Aro­jah Theatre, Prince Jerry Ade­sewo, said some­thing in­struc­tive which stuck with me. The word is “Spir­i­tual Cor­rup­tion”. He said Wole Soyinka’s 1960 clas­sic play, “The Tri­als of Brother Jero”, al­ludes to this phe­nom­e­non.

En­cy­clo­pe­ de­scribes the book as “a light satiric comedy that takes aim at re­li­gious hypocrisy in the form of a char­la­tan, or fraud, named Brother Jero, who preaches to his fol­low­ers on Bar Beach in La­gos, Nige­ria. Jero is a mas­ter of ma­nip­u­la­tion and keeps his fol­low­ers in a sub­servient po­si­tion be­cause he un­der­stands what they long for-money, so­cial sta­tus, and power-and con­vinces them that they will soon be able to ful­fil these ma­te­ri­al­is­tic de­sires.” That got me think­ing. in­deed, spir­i­tual cor­rup­tion thrives in this coun­try with mil­lions of peo­ple be­ing daily scammed by sup­posed re­li­gious lead­ers.

In or­der to be con­vinced of this as­ser­tion, what is cor­rup­tion? Wikipedia de­fines it as a form of dis­hon­esty or crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity un­der­taken by a per­son or or­gan­i­sa­tion en­trusted with a po­si­tion of au­thor­ity, of­ten to ac­quire il­licit ben­e­fit, or, abuse of en­trusted power for one’s pri­vate gain. Ac­cord­ing to the Ber­lin-based in­ter­na­tional anti-cor­rup­tion agency, Trans­parency in­ter­na­tional, “gen­er­ally speak­ing, HIS lat­est study claim­ing the evo­lu­tion of hu­man­ity oc­curred in a huge lake that pre­vi­ously ex­isted in Botswana over­looks a fun­da­men­tal re­quire­ment that the en­vi­ron­ment should be salty marine wa­ter as well as have a fresh­wa­ter source due to the phys­i­o­log­i­cal makeup of Man that in­cludes some salts. No other sub­re­gion in Africa has the nec­es­sary en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions, apart from South­ern Nige­ria with the largest con­ti­nen­tal man­grove and fresh­wa­ter swamp and low­land Rain­for­est in Africa.

Un­like with the the­o­ret­i­cal Botswana lake that can only oc­cur within a short time­frame by stretch­ing the 26,000 year pre­ces­sion of the equinox, in Nige­ria, for mil­lions of years, a ma­jor­ity of the rain from the At­lantic Ocean, es­pe­cially from Guinean high­lands and Jos Plateau wa­ter­sheds, is fun­nelled out back to the At­lantic Ocean through Nige­ria’s per­ma­nent con­ti­nen­tal fresh­wa­ter and man­grove swamps.

Nige­ria is also the cen­tre of the Yam belt known to be the food of evo­lu­tion picked in the wild by our first an­ces­tors that were hunter gath­er­ers. When ini­tially sug­gested that Man evolved in a rain­for­est, due to the fact that all ho­minids skele­tons un­earthed had den­tal mark­ings that showed a pre­vi­ous rain­for­est habi­tat, what be­came known as the Wild Yam ques­tion was raised that Man couldn’t have sur­vived on wild yams alone through var­i­ous sea­sons with­out sa­vanna grains agri­cul­ture. How­ever, it has re­cently

Tcor­rup­tion is the abuse of en­trusted power for pri­vate gain”.

I re­call an in­ci­dent in Prof. Ak­in­wumi Ishola’s epic novel, “Oleku”. A typ­i­cal spir­i­tual cor­rup­tion took place when Asake’s father’s younger brother whom she’s liv­ing with along­side with her mum sent her to a fi­nan­cially in­duced prophet whom he had col­luded with to tell the belle that the lady’s pre­ferred choice of hus­band, Ajani, is not di­vinely ap­proved. Rather God’s choice for her is a rich, dash­ing young man whom the lady did not love. That sin­gu­lar false proph­esy threw span­ner in the mar­riage plan of Asake to Ajani which led her to a tragic end.

As it was in that book, many fake prophets are out there giv­ing false proph­e­sies to hood­wink un­sus­pect­ing mem­bers of the pub­lic. Re­li­gion has been so com­mer­cialised and com­modi­tised to the ex­tent that we now have “prayer con­sul­tants and con­trac­tors” whose task is to as­sist spir­i­tu­ally “weak” peo­ple to fast and pray for di­vine so­lu­tions to their prob­lems. Their trade­mark is to see scary vi­sions about their vic­tims whom they will ask to go on fast­ing and in­tense prayers to ward off the loom­ing dan­ger on their lives or those of their fam­ily. If the vic­tim says they do not have the strength for such a spir­i­tual ex­er­cise, they will of­fer to help out for a fee. Of­ten­times, the so-called vi­sion is a fig­ment of imag­i­na­tion of these fraud­sters mas­querad­ing as men of God.

A case of spir­i­tual cor­rup­tion in the Bi­ble was the ac­tion of Ge­hazi, one of the ser­vants of Prophet Elisha. Naa­man, an Army com­man­der in Aram, re­ceived heal­ing through the di­vine guid­ance from Elisha. He was so joy­ous that he of­fered pre­cious gifts to the prophet which he de­clined. Ge­hazi, out of greed, ran af­ter Naa­man and lied that the prophet had asked him to col­lect some of the ear­lier re­jected gifts. This war­ranted a curse of lep­rosy on Ge­hazi and his de­scen­dants from the Prophet Elisha. De­tails of this spir­i­tual cor­rup­tion can be found in 2 Kings Chap­ter 5

There are sev­eral Ifa priests out there who would lie on the or­a­cle that it had asked the client to bring sac­ri­fi­cial items like goat or ram, money, food items, among oth­ers in or­der for the pa­tron to have so­lu­tions to their prob­lems. This, some­times, is un­true. These items pre­scribed for sac­ri­fice are just to quash the hunger of the fam­ily of the priests. There are many herbal­ists who would lie about their skill for money rit­ual or good luck charm. Know­ing full well how many of my com­pa­tri­ots are gullible about ‘free money’, they will make heavy fi­nan­cial de­mands on these poor folk with the hope of mak­ing them rich which is bla­tant lie and a rip-off.

Re­cently, when gov­ern­ment started to smash many of the re­li­gious re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tres, it came to the fore that some of the Al­fas lured par­ents of those ‘pa­tients’ to bring them to their ‘heal­ing homes’ where they would pay monthly main­te­nance fees. Many of these spir­i­tu­al­ists laid claims to ce­les­tial pow­ers they did not have all in a bid to bam­boo­zle peo­ple to pa­tro­n­ise them. it is not un­com­mon for these fake priests, prophets and al­fas to stage-man­age mir­a­cles. This news­pa­per in its De­cem­ber 4 edi­tion re­ported how “Per­son­nel of the State Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion and In­tel­li­gence Depart­ment of the La­gos State Po­lice Com­mand have ar­rested four sus­pects, in­clud­ing two pas­tors, for al­legedly stag­ing fake mir­a­cles to de­fraud un­sus­pect­ing mem­bers of the pub­lic in the Lekki and Epe ar­eas of the state. The al­leged pas­tors, Favour David and Favour Chi­mobi, were said to have con­nived with Rukayat Fo­lawewo and Bunmi Joshua to per­pe­trate the crime.”

Ly­ing in the name of God for pe­cu­niary pur­poses is spir­i­tual cor­rup­tion. How­ever, there are those who are gen­uine ser­vants of God who also en­gage in cor­rupt en­rich­ment. Some of them steal from the church’s till. When they are caught, they claim it was the devil that pushed them to do it.

It is quite un­for­tu­nate that cor­rup­tion is to­day fes­ter­ing in re­li­gious houses where God is sup­posed to be served and wor­shiped in the beauty of His ho­li­ness. It is heart-rend­ing that the places of redemp­tion for sin­ners are them­selves turn­ing to cen­tres of grand cor­rup­tion where the name of God is be­ing used to de­fraud, dis­ori­ent and mis­lead the con­gre­gants.

The irony of it all is that many of these “Men of God” hold their mem­bers spell­bound by their or­a­toral prow­ess and deep un­der­stand­ing of spir­i­tual mat­ters so much so that it is very dif­fi­cult to fault them. By the time they are found out, they must have suc­cess­fully de­frauded a lot of peo­ple in­clud­ing mis­lead­ing them spir­i­tu­ally. That’s some­times why some con­gre­gants part ways with re­li­gious mat­ters hav­ing been long de­ceived. It is im­por­tant for the ad­her­ents of ev­ery re­li­gion to have an in­de­pen­dent un­der­stand­ing of their re­li­gion be­yond that which is be­ing in­ter­preted to them by their spir­i­tual lead­ers.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @jideo­jong

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