The above was how NTA Network captioned proceedings at the National Christian Centre, formally, the National Ecumenical Centre, where interdenominational services are held, which, I think, would be more apt in capturing what really happened at the centre. That was not a church service. It was an interdenominational service for 2012 Democracy Day.
The online community’s comments and media reports have dwelt more on the aspect of corruption as addressed by the guest speaker ARCHBISHOP PETER AKINOLA, and it is with this aspect of his speech I shall begin.
Credit must be given to Archbishop Peter Akinola for his firm words against corruption, the part of his speech that got media attention, as mentioned earlier. The pulpit has never been so frank on the issue of corruption. This aspect of the speech did not leave anybody out – we are all in it together; ‘almost everybody is stealing either with his pen or gun’.
Everybody is part of the corruption monster in Nigeria, he said: public and private office holders, the politicians, the clergy and everyday people who steal everything they set eyes on, from streetlights to bridge rails, anything in Nigeria is stolen ‘like an abandoned wreckage’.
He also said that ‘Government has only a half-hearted resolve to fighting corruption, or punishing those guilty of corrupt practices.’ Only those who lost favour with the government of the day are punished. Those with the right political connection are spared. ‘Those fighting corruption in the judiciary and police have no clean hands’.
Even National Assembly’s invitations are addressed only to such government ministries, parastatals and agencies that have not remitted part of their loot to individual members of the committees overseeing them. ‘Those who have made their way with’ our commonwealth ‘and are living far beyond their means’ are further rewarded by our traditional rulers, making them high chiefs.
‘Our universities have joined the queue by inviting such people and giving them honorary doctorate degrees’. Corruption will continue to strive ‘in full gear because Nigerians and their governments have chosen to give only lip service to its eradication’.
He concluded by what is called Mubaahalah in Islamic parlance as in Qur’an 3:61, for two disputing parties to gather together, ‘earnestly pray, and invoke the curse of Allah on those who lie!". He said, of course paraphrasing Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him...: ‘I believe there is a way out, as a Christian, as a preacher, as one who reads the Bible; I believe there is a way out. Corruption is another word for stealing; stealing is a sin, God commands us all not to commit.
And as you know, every soul that sins and fails to repent shall die in its sin and end up in Hell. So, let us resolve here today, to take to the Court of God, beginning from this place, all those thieves who have failed to repent.’
At this point he perused the audience carefully as if to make sure who and who was there. Seated right in front of him was President Jonathan, state governors and leaders of the National Assembly or their representatives. Also present were ministers and other top government functionaries.
Then the guest speaker, Archbishop Akinola asked ‘Will you join me?’ in connection to what he said earlier of taking ‘all those thieves to the Court of God’. No response. Nobody said amen. You could hear a pin drop. Quiet, save a faint murmur! ‘Are your hands clean enough?’ He charged further. No answer.
The scenario would have been the same if this mubaahalah were conducted in any mosque in this country. Thievery knows no bounds or religion. The counterparts of the same people who gathered at the Christian Centre among the Muslims are also stealing the country blind. If any imam would be courageous enough to invoke Allah’s curse on thieves of our commonwealth only a few or none of his congregation will dare say ameen.
The few minutes of that silence in the Christian Centre lingered, then the guest speaker broke it ‘There you go’; said he, ‘corruption is corruption but you are not ready to fight it, because you are all beneficiaries of it. Whether you steal in a small way or you steal in a big way, stealing is stealing.’
He then turned to his constituency, the clergy, and challenged them for eating people’s property in vanity, devouring what does not belong to them and interacting with the thieves in government without speaking truth to power. ‘Let us take our case to the Court of God if you dare!’ On this also there was complete silence. ‘So,’ he continued, ‘who is deceiving who? You are only deceiving yourselves, not God.’
It takes courage and sincere passion to say the words he said and more so in the presence of the country’s sitting president. He minced no words and the elite present meekly listened to these outpourings of a distressed heart. It is as he said: the rich and the political class are running this country aground.
They do not steal by the millions any more but by the billions and lately, trillions! Exactly how long any sane person thinks this can last, I do not know; but I know it is not sustainable for any length of time.
I admire courage whenever it is honestly displayed and I would like to think this particular one was not stage-managed but sincere. Akinola has a good track record in calling a spade a spade in the presence of authority.
I recall his encounter with the Anglican Communion leadership in England when he threatened to secede with millions of Anglicans from the central body for what he believed to be immoral interpretations of the Bible which were used in support of same sex marriages.
Allah willing, I will dwell on another aspect of his speech which perhaps more important but is almost altogether missing from the press reports of the event I have read or seen. I wish to also analyse the implications of that aspect of the speech which I find unpalatable and inexcusable for a man of God of his calibre.