Monday, January 27, 2014

Bountiful Harvest In Nigerian Churches

I am always baffled by the way our people behave within religious circles. How they seem to lose their senses once the name of Jesus Christ and God are mentioned. Leads one to wonder if they leave their brains at home and resort to think for their ass.These has raised series of yet unanswered questions. Questions like; How naive and gullible are the average people on the Nigerian streets? Are Nigerians as educated as they pride themselves to be? Nigerians have a (undeniably) international reputation of being "Smart", How does this street smart "Wise Man" reputation reflect on the average parishioner, How deluded are our people? Does the average Nigerian christian read the Bible? Finding answers to these questions compelled me to write my article in 2013 on "Delusions in Christian Parishes" http://www.tantiblo.blogspot.com/2013/08/true-skeptist-in-religion.html to which I still receive hate mails reminding me of the impending doom if I did not repent. These threats forced me to stay quite as topical issues of 2013 passed by - The recent declarations by the pope putting Heaven and Hell in the proper perspective. The truth that Adam & Eve stories like several other Bible stories were mere allegories. Topics that could have strengthen my argument that religion is a creation of man. arguments that the generality of Nigerians don't appreciate. But hey! there is still a freedom of speech right? However, an article culled from Premium Times is instructive. The article depicts Dr. Fireman's brand of extortion and how ironically, his congregation continues to grow. I watched a documentary on Dr. Fireman on CNN. The show sought to expose how religious Nigerians were and how exploitative their pastors were. The article reads:-

Mr. Fireman returns to his tricks



The elderly woman went down on her knees, tears streaming down both corners of her eyes. Her movement was laboured, but when she opened her mouth, the words spilled out in torrents. Her elder brother had died last Friday. But the seemingly tragic incident provided a veritable platform to flaunt the efficacy of “the Jesus Christ of Dr. Fireman.”

“When they called me to inform me of my brother’s death, I took my anointing oil which was blessed by Dr. Fireman and went there. When I got there, there were pastors there, I asked everyone to leave the room. I used my anointing oil and called the God of Fireman and he answered me. I used the oil to anoint my brother and he sneezed and came back to life,” the woman declared.”The moment he stood up, he requested for food. Then he said he wants to eat apple. I told them it is the God of Dr. Fireman.”

The church erupted into claps and cheers...

The supervising pastor called on the congregation to hurry and buy a bottle of the anointing oil – selling at N500 per bottle – and bring to the altar for “Daddy” to touch for a fresh anointing.
“The one you have before will not work,” the pastor said.”If you don’t have money, borrow from your neighbour and go and buy. When you blow, you give him back.”

Such money-spinning episodes dominated Sunday’s service at the Perfect Christianity Mission’s grounds at Surulere, Lagos.

Last week was awash with news reports of the involvement of the church’s General Overseer, Ofuche Ukoha aka Dr. Sign Fireman, in an alleged rape and killing of a 12-year-old girl in Badagry.
According to Ikechukwu Egbo, 18, who allegedly carried out the dastardly act, Mr. Ukoha instructed him to strangle a female virgin, obtain the faeces she would pass out in the throes of death, and bring to him for a reward of N100,000.

Sunday’s service began with an unusual absence of Mr. Ukoha. Church members arranged themselves into groups and launched into a prayer session that lasted an hour.
“We are going to end this session with a seed. Dip your hands in your pocket and raise it up,” the voice of one of the pastors rose across the hall. “Everyone must participate. Raise up N1000, N500, N200, N100. Everybody must participate,” he repeated, and then launched into a missile against unseen enemies. “Every arrow of the enemy against my life, my progress, my family, this ministry, by this seed I cancel it.”

“I want you to pick up a seed and drop at her feet. Anybody that wants to take your husband, life, piece of your land, your vehicle, property. As you drop that seed, it shall come back to you,” the pastor enjoined the congregation.

A young man beside me unfolded his wallet. A single N500 note lay with about half a dozen N20 notes. He carefully extricated a N20 note, clenched his fist, and marched towards the altar.

In another testimony, a lady said the man of God prophesied to her in her dream and her three year job hunting came to an abrupt end last Tuesday. Her new job also came with an accommodation. A bus driver narrated how, on his way back to Lagos from his village in the east, he used ordinary rope soaked in Mr. Fireman’s anointing oil as a fan belt for his faulty vehicle. Another lady said she woke up in the middle of the night to see a bird inside her room.

“I brought out my anointing oil and said ‘In the name of Jesus of Dr. Sign Fireman.’ The bird disappeared.”

More testimonies flowed, each followed by calls by the pastor to the congregation to, with various sums of money, tap into the good fortunes of their fellow members. Members who attempted to testify about the miracle of Mr. Fireman’s ordeal and his surprising appearance in church were rushed through their testimonies...

“If you are here this morning and you want God to take you to a new financial level, pick up a seed of N1,000, N2,000, and line up here. If he (Fireman) touches you, you go back to your seat quickly,” the pastor at the pulpit shouted. “If you don’t have N1,000 or N2,000, pick up N500 and join them at the back.” I needed to get a closer look at Fireman and possibly scan him for torture marks. So, I joined them at the back. Sporting a grey jacket atop a white shirt and black pants, Fireman, looked leaner than when I first saw him seven months ago. Seated on a white upholstered chair, he appeared withdrawn, a deviation from his usual boisterous self.

We dropped our seeds into a basket and knelt before him, he patted our shoulders without uttering a word. His black hair glistened under the altar lights. There were no signs he had been tortured.
When it was time for him to speak, he merely stood on the pulpit and allowed a smile that began at the corner of his mouth to travel across his face...

Before Mr. Fireman introduced the day’s guest preacher, more members came out to narrate tales of how they “sowed blindly” and then enjoyed a bountiful harvest afterwards.

One member said he, following the directive of Mr. Fireman, donated his only vehicle which doubled as a source of income for his family to the church. Four months later, he got a better vehicle.
The pastor’s voice rang out again: “If you want to buy something and your money is not enough, come out with a seed of N200 and Daddy will shake you. You will meet someone who shall sell it to you at a cheap price.”

For the next person, who said he paid N2,500 for a one year rent on a room and parlour apartment; the pastor called for a N100 seed.

For more details http://premiumtimesng.com/news/153262-accused-ritual-killing-pastor-fireman-returns-heros-welcome.html

As I read the lengthy article, I wonder what the congregation was thinking while the pastor frisked their pockets. Even worse, how they manage to come back every other Sunday (These days, there is always a church activity every week day). Whether we see it clearly or not, this is a financial crime, in the name of God, solely aimed at defrauding gullible Nigerians. Something needs to be done to stop it. Whats your take?



Thursday, October 3, 2013

Money Matters!



A very rich man once said, "If you took all the money in the world and divided it equally among everybody, it would soon be back in the same pockets it was before [you started]." This is only true because our knack for finances vary. While most are extravagant even in the midst of poverty, a few are prudent and know just how to carry on living counting their pennies.

My entire outlook in life was molded by the wise thoughts of my late Father Chief Seth Okachi Eleonu. Like most kids, I thought he was being too hard on me at the time, but I have recognized the fact that he was preparing me for the difficult task of leading an honest life and earning enough to take care of my family. He went about his life lessons in odd ways. Impacting knowledge by making me watch & practice what I had seen, teaching me by instructions and most of all allowing me to play.

Watching and Practice
I learned to watch and practice the hard way. As a young school boy, I spent most of my mid term breaks working as an artisan – as a carpenter one day, an electrician next break, helping out with a Welder one holiday and working with a Mechanic next one. This early exposure to professional handiwork resulted in the “Techie Guy” most of you know today. (see what my friends think of me http://www.tantiblo.blogspot.com/2012/10/jack-of-all-trade-master-of-non.html) This post however, is not about technical stuff though, it is about another hard lesson my Father taught me – Money Matters! 

Teaching Money Matters by Play
My Father is the most prudent man who ever lived. I often thought he was been stingy to himself as he did not care about the "Jones". He bought things based on function, price and durability rather than form or trend as most people would. He taught me to make a note of what I wanted and think around the issue contemplating other possible more cost effective options. He insisted on comparing prices and never to rush into the market. Most importantly, he taught me that it is hard to keep that which has not been obtained through personal development and hard work. According to him, "everything has a law controlling it. The car functions because of the law of combustion. The aircraft fly because of lift aerofoil and boats would not float with the law of dispersion. Money also has its own rule" – as he would put it “Easy come, Easy go!” 

These are sound advice I have imbibed and practiced throughout my life, to the ridicule of my friends and acquaintances.  In University (just as today), I was always the one friends ran to for a small loan when times where hard. I was usually the one with change when most would have squandered their pocket money. My friends would often say I am financially disciplined, but what I never told them was that I learned it through play. It is a known fact that most of us are not disciplined when it comes to finances. We are unable to resist the urge to SPEND, PAY, BUY. Little wonder why it is often difficult pay for ______ (type in your usual monthly head ache) subscription, let alone pay the children school fees. 

Abundant literature exists on how to make money and keep it, but theory is often very difficult to put to practice. Some clever guys have even devised bogus opportunities that gradually impoverish the uncanny – “Make $5000 from you house over the internet”. Others have opened up workshops to teach housewives how to make money by trading forex online, but they fall short to tell them that they will have to part with a lot of money in the process and end up broke (see https://www.google.com.ng/search?q=Make+money+online&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&gws_rd=cr&ei=xaRNUrqiI-jX0QX7p4DADg). Others less risk-averse folks have resorted to class rooms to learn the art. 

The Central Bank of Nigeria has drawn an inference with the financial literacy and the high exclusion rate in Nigeria. The Bank has commenced on a new initiative to include financial literacy in the educational system. Only recently, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi recently picked up chalk to teach school children about financial literacy (see all the photos http://www.flickr.com/photos/78609336@N02/sets/72157636108988423/). He noted that most children nowadays struggle with ‘peer pressure’, which he said always pushes them to making unjustifiable demands from their parents, who also have needs and responsibilities to take care of. I am sure that many of them will miss the mark. What they will get is the sound advice. They however still need to practice what they have heard. As they say practice makes perfect and there is no better time to start practicing than as a youg school child.So, I have decided to let the secret out on how I practiced to be prudent. I believe it is a better and more effective way to learn prudence. – wait for it….
..
.
Play Monopoly! 
Yes, play the board game Monopoly™. Charles Darrow, the inventor of Monopoly couldn’t have evolved a better way to teach most economic principles in a tidy small board. As a child I played it at every passing spare time. We had protracted games involving all the kids in the neighborhood. Some would act as Bankers, others as advisers to players. We spurned a “Naija flavor” to it (there is now a Lagos edition), and changed some rules to make it even more interesting. We even encouraged teaming up to win and Yes, some people preferred to steal money houses, rub the bank when no one was watching, sell black market money and deeds to get rich. Monopoly taught me the following hard lessons in life;

  • all the financial terms and concepts I know without ever studying commerce or economics (two subjects I hated with a passion) terms like, Mortgage, Tax, Liquidation, Bankrupt, Rent, Title Deed, Remortgage, Utility Bill, Assets, Liquid, Float, Salary, etc.
  • we all start out equal but certain decisions will impact on ones ability to “Monopolize”
  • you can only spend what you have
  • you have to guard my business – no need to let the neighbors know what I have until…
  • bluffing is an art and it have saved many a lives
  • spending all you have to look good is not the aim of the game of life ultimate aim is to stay on and buy important deeds or deal out your opponents
  • Salary may not come at the end of a run (month)
  • you have to make provisions for Chance and falling fowl of the law
  •  that making the right “friends” is important
  • buying what you don’t need is like slashing your wrist and then taking a shower
  •  Its all about strategy -buying “Old Kent Road” can win the game and mortgaging “Mayfair” could be a life saver.

As a parent, I am now struggling to impact the same values on my children – Chisom (9) Oma (3) and Chime (well lets say for now he play the bank robber as he is only 1yr old and does not speak any English). You may argue that it will be difficult since the days when families gather around the TV in the sitting room are long gone. Hand held computer games, including mobile phones and the internet have taken over the minds of the youths, but I have painstakingly reintroduced Monopoly to my family and insisted that Sundays is game night and everyone must play educational games. I intend to keep it up until Chisom understands the concepts. I trust it will work for you too if you try. The CBN Governor warned that “people could become poor when they spend more than they earn, and would conversely, become wealthy when they spend less than they earn”. A stitch in time saves nine. Unless You Change How You Are, You'll Always Have What You've Got.