The people of Odigbo, Oke-Igbo, Ile-Oluji might have in time past been deprived of the chance to enjoy or benefit from the dividends of a…
Coronavirus, Science and Nigerian Religious Leaders
By Wale Adegoroye
This is definitely not the best of time for people across the world as the dreaded Coronavirus has sadly become a global pandemic. The world is basically on compulsory holiday as schools have been hurriedly shut, companies have closed shops, religious worship centers can no longer conduct services, all other forms of gathering have been banned; even as markets have also been shut. Here in Nigeria, all Federal Government workers and nearly all the state workforce have been told to stay away from work. Majority of private employers have told their staff to work from home. Except the situation gets improves in days to come, the Federal Government may be forced to embark on an enforced lockdown.
Nigeria could arguably be described as the global headquarters of pentecostalism. On the basis of this, one would have expected at least one of our countless pastors to predict the Coronavirus pandemic in their trademark new year predictions. It simply means that the disease caught nearly all our pastors unawares. Although, a revered pastor whose church headquarter is at Ebute-Meta in Lagos made an illusion to the disease in his yearly new year predictions. By and large, this disease has truly revealed the low sides of some religious leaders in Nigerian.
The Coronavirus pandemic has regretably thrown light on what seems to have chiefly motivated some of Nigerian pentecostal preachers into pastoral calling. It was observed with regret that a handful of this pastors disobeyed the directive of the governments of states like Lagos, Ogun and Ondo which banned gathering of people that are more than 50 in number. If the truth must be told, it could be argued that the pastors that flouted the instruction of their respective states where they domiciled are simply self seeking preachers. It could also be argued that the disobedient pastors have given themselves away as being more concerned about their weekly income targets than the health and wellbeing of their congregations.
While admixture of ignorance and greed could be easily spotted in some of Nigerian preachers; leaders of Islamic region in the country deserve commendation for strict compliance with the directives given by the government.
Sheer ignorance was seen in a preacher who openly told his members that Coronavirus is not in Nigeria. The pastor is here quoted :
“This thing called coronavirus is not in Nigeria. I can assure you of that. Nigeria is too hot for Coronavirus to survive. Even if it manages to come into the country, it can’t enter this church because we have corrosive anointing. What is Coronavirus in the before corrosive anointing”?
Funnily, a popular ‘talk and happen’ pastor whose church is located at Ikotun -Egbe in Lagos has declared that rain would wash away Coronavirus before 27th day of March, 2020; yet the number of confirmed cases in Nigeria has been on the increase even till this day. However, the pastor should be reminded that we all patiently waiting for the rain in our respective homes.
Another worrisome scene was when a popular Bishop of a pentecostal church still went ahead to hold a packed church service on Sunday, March 22, 2020 at his Ota headquarters, thereby flouting the instruction of Ogun State Government. After a barrage of criticism, the church struggled to issue a statement that it only held service so as to enlighten the congregants on preventive and hygiene measures to be taken. The reason was nothing better than being truthful half way. As a matter of fact, the so called enlightenment service could haven been conducted online and still achieve the same purpose; instead of endangering the lives of members that attended the service.
The General Overseer of another pentecostal church who has an expansive camp on Lagos- Ibadan expressway and national headquarters at Ebute-Meta impressively portrayed himself as a respecter of constitutes authority. The headquarter of this popular church promptly issued a circular in which members were advised to stay hooked to the dedicated digital television station for a live broadcast service by the revered General Overseer.
The humble General Overseer who seems to have a clearer communication channel with God assured during the online service that this panicky phase of Coronavirus would soon be over. He however said that the scourge would not be completely eradicated. This appears a good news in the face of consistent gloomy news of hundreds of deaths being recorded daily in Italy, Spain, USA, UK and other countries of the world due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
If the nail must be hit on it’s head, some of Nigerian preachers have disappointedly disobeyed the Biblical instruction given in the book of Romans 13 :1-3. The Bible verse enjoins Christians to obey constituted authority. Sadly, preachers whose major ministration instrument is the Holy Bible could not lead by example.
The directives given by the Federal Government and some state governors on social distancing and avoidance of large gatherings amongst other tips are primarily meant for the good of the people and the Nigerian nation at large. God forbid that we find ourselves in the situation of Italy, Spain or China; mortality loss due to the pandemic would only be better imagined than experienced.
It appears baffling that another pentecostal preacher whose Nigerian headquarter is located on a popular street at Maryland, Lagos sent out instruction to his church members that obviously could not make it church to ensure that their tithes and offerings were given online. How fair is it to tell church members that have been forced to stay away from work to still pay tithes and offering? Is Pentecostalism more of receiving from the congregants than truly experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit? Can’t church think it necessary for once to give to the members even in a time like this ?
Inasmuch as some churches in Nigeria have not seen anything wrong in demanding tithes and offerings from members that are still struggling to stock their kitchens with basic foodstuff in the event of a national lockdown; givers amongst the pastors must be commended. The same General Overseer whose church national headquarters is located at Ebute-Meta had donated a sophisticated ward with modern ventilators to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH). The preacher had also stepped a step further by equipping the ward with an oxygen plant and a modern intensive care unit. This was done by this respected pastor in anticipation of the outbreak of Coronavirus in Lagos State. This is exactly what Jesus Christ expects of Christians and not the type of preachers of the gospel that will keep asking their members to bring to the church.
The helplessness of many global pentecostal pastors in the face of ravaging Coronavirus ought to have sent a salient message to Nigerian youths whose brains appear to have been suspended due to long years of bamboozlement by their pastors. Nothing could be more instructive than the fact that the heads of all the leading religions in the world are now waiting for scientists to come up with vaccines for the treatment or management of this deadly disease. The Lord Jesus Christ even underscored the importance of physicians in time of sickness. Credence is lend to this assertion in Luke 5 :31 and Mark 2 :17. The fact that none of the anointed oil or anointed handkerchiefs or holy water has given cure to Coronavirus should send a strong message of hard work in research and technology to our youths that have strong belief in ‘divine shortcuts’.
In spite of all these, the essence of the power of prayers, divine healing and divine protection is not lost on me. While the scientists across the world are busy working in various laboratories to come up with therapeutic medications and vaccines for Coronavirus; prayer is also important. However, prescribed hygiene practices by medical experts should be strictly obeyed. After all, cleanliness is next to Godliness.
While we are all contending with the biting effects of Coronavirus, my heart goes to those that have already lost their loved ones to the deadly virus. However, we can all draw our words of assurance from
Numbers 31:49. As God lives and His spirit lives, by the time this Coronavirus brouhaha will be over, one minute silence shall not be observed for you and any member of your household.