Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Oyedepo’s Savage Outburst is Perfect For Nigeria - Justin Irabor

If you haven’t read it already, I’ll give you the abridged version: a YouTube video achieved viral status a few days ago, and it showed the World-Record breaking Bishop David Oyedepo furiously condemning the Boko Haram sect.

However, this wasn’t the regular, run-of-the-mill condemnation; this was angry, this was guttural, this was straight from a fiery soul speaking into the soulless fieriness of the Boko Haram endemic, and as one would expect, when inflammable objects collide, sparks fly.

What am I talking about? Bishop Oyedepo said controversial things on the altar when addressing his Living Faith congregation on Sunday. He said things that formed headlines that made a lot of people race to Twitter and Facebook to discuss heatedly.

The first headline I read said: “Bishop Oyedepo Tells Church Members – “If You Catch Islamic Jihadists, Kill Them & Pull Out Their Necks.””

You can already predict the responses from vicarious Nigerians from the various corners of their smart devices and social media apparatuses. The line was divided between those who thought it was outrageous and downright scandalous for a man of God to speak so ‘carelessly’, while others felt it was perfectly fine and that ‘someone ought to have said something like this a long time ago.’ Soon the arguments degenerated into people shifting their attack from the preacher to the people who would dare to support whatever the preacher said in his very interesting video.

I have had the unique opportunity to observe every political and religious issue in the country from my vantage point of pristine asexuality (as I like to call it), and as such I decided to consider Bishop Oyedepo as a pastor and the Boko Haram situation as a, well, as a situation. Before we decide that the pastor was well within his rights to lash out so vehemently or, alternatively, before we decide to banish him to the very lake of fire for his ‘unguarded’ utterances, we need to be sure we are playing with a full deck of cards.

Analyzing Bishop David Oyedepo’s Statements from the Religious and Political Perspectives It Deserves

For a minute, let us totally attenuate his controversial sermon. Remove the hoarseness of his voice, the anger and the ever-so-distracting speaking of unknown tongues. Strip it down to just…words, and let’s start from that foundation.

The first shriek from outraged quarters, naturally, would be: HE HAS BASICALLY INCITED HIS CONGREGATION TO COMMIT MURDER! HE IS TRYING TO START A HOLY WAR.

Absolutely. I agree.

That is exactly what he has done – and what, I suspect, he planned on doing (I am not of the school of thought that believes pastors speak on impulse – I strongly believe their ‘sermons on the mount’ are premeditated. I refuse to believe a man who commandeers the hundreds of thousands of the Lord’s flock rose to that height by speaking loquaciously and unguardedly.)

Bearing in mind the inflammatory statement: ““If you catch anyone that looks like them (an Islamic demon) – kill him! Kill him and pull out his neck. I will spill his blood on the ground. What nonsense!” one is perfectly justified in saying the good pastor has told his church to run amok, killing industrious mai shai guys, money changers, shoe-shiners and our very trustymaiguards.

Since we have established that the pastor has said some rather appalling things, might we move on to separating fact from fiction?

The first thing we have to realize is that the pastor’s statement was not long in coming and it was, as a matter of fact, inevitable. Life seeks to strike a balance, and where the constituted authority refuses to use its administrative sway to restore the tumped-over polity, nature must raise people – such as the man Oyedepo – to incite a counter-crowd.

(Also – the Jonathan government seems to constantly market ‘Freedom of Expression’ as its strongest blessing to Nigerians, so one might understand why a pastor might decide to key into this generous ‘blessing’)

For a while now, the Boko Haram sect has brazenly and rather impetuously laid waste to human lives in the north and the government has done absolutely nothing plaque-worthy to stop the carnage. The entire polity of 170-million-strong people has been held to ransom by a few unwashed men in turbans, and the Grand Commander of the Federal Armed Forces hasn’t done any applaud-worthy commanding of the Federal Armed Forces.

Recently, the internet was agog with a publication about a Redeemed pastor who played a presentation video to his congregation, showing them that while the media might make it look like a free-for-all bloodbath, Christians and Christian churches appeared to be a personal favorite of the Boko Haram sect, as people were being beheaded for the singular transgression of believing in Jesus Christ.

One does not need to watch too many videos from Abubakar Shekau to see that he repeatedly mentions Christians (the ‘infidels’), saying he would ‘purge the North’ of Christianity and Westernization – his own way of killing two birds with one stone, I reckon.

As a matter of fact, when stripped to the bare essentials, one would realize that the idea that ‘Boko Haram is a tool created by powerful politicians to discredit (or strengthen, depending on which tabloids you follow) President Jonathan’ is one only echoed by the media, and not by Boko Haram itself.

Where does that leave us? If we are to take the Boko Haram sect literally, it would not be illogical for a Christian to feel threatened by it. The fact that they are not operating in the South is inconsequential for someone such as Oyedepo – who, you will find, began his ministry in the North (specifically, Kaduna.)

To someone like Bishop Oyedepo, the Christians in the North are every bit as important as the Southern Christians and while people might grumble at his call to kill anyone looking like an ‘Islamic Demon’ (whatever that means), the fact remains that no matter how many times Muslim clerics mount the podium to scream ‘Boko Haram are not Muslims!’ neither you nor I have seen any of the insurgents clutching a rosary.

Matters would not have degenerated into this if the government, realizing that Nigeria is a secular state and its secularity must be preserved by ensuring that no one religion threatens the others, had rapidly stamped out the ignobly pimply face of terrorism. Instead, the incumbent administration and its opposition (either causatively or after the fact) decided to use the terrorism to further their divergent agendas.

Nature abhors vacuum, and will always strive to strike the balance where it finds it upended. Hate begets hate, and it was only a matter of time for the insurgency, left unchecked to breed a counter-flow of hatred.

Christianity and Islam are the largest religions in Nigeria, and they have largely co-existed side-by-side with the unspoken agreement that their principles must be obeyed, or at least deferred to in matters which concern their constituents. Christianity – by virtue of its contemporary history – is a religion of peace, but we must not hesitate to recall that Christianity was spawned in as much violent history as Islam, and if a Bishop such as Oyedepo has decided to tap into that raw zealotry, he may be justified by his own compass – the bible. (There is a whole new argument that might show that Jesus Christ didn’t actually abolish the old, violent laws of Christianity ('I have not come to bring peace, but a sword'), but that Christianity decided to move on of its own accord towards the end goal of its core value – world peace. For this, ‘the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent taketh it by force’ might be taken quite literally.)

Hate begets hate. While we might express our disappointment in Bishop Oyedepo, we need to realize he is merely the localized node swelling close to an open sore – he is the symptom, and not the disease. If not Oyedepo – and if this continued unchecked – it would eventually be someone else. Perhaps some kid who watched his Christian parents lynched in the open by the insurgents as they praised Allah in drunken worship. A domino effect of sorts.

It gives us a sense of righteous indignation to cry for Oyedepo’s head, but the truth is, it really isn’t about Oyedepo. At the end of it all, it isn’t even about you, or me, or what we believe in. It is about good governance and the restoration of law and order. We find Oyedepo’s statements shocking, but Abubakar Shekau has been saying worse things about Christians – and killing them to buttress his words – and nothing has been done. If we must consider both men religious extremists (which they are, admittedly – Oyedepo’s ‘Witch For Christ’ slapping episode is still fresh in our minds), shall we not observe cause and effect?

Without Boko Haram, would Oyedepo have made that statement? And who allowed Boko Haram to thrive? Is it you? Me? Or the government? Channel your outrage as appropriate.

Written by: Irabor Justin Ikhide.

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