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" 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

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?