Last Saturday turned out an evergreen memorial for Nigeria’s Christians as a 100,000-seater auditorium that was built by the Dunamis International Gospel Centre was dedicated. Now the world’s largest Christian auditorium, its dedication attracted the presence of movers and shakers from both spiritual and political realms of the Nigerian society. The presence of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and former President Goodluck Jonathan, among no fewer than 13 sitting governors, proved a melting pot for religious and political leaders.
Considering the feat deployed in achieving this awesome edifice, nothing short of encomiums was fitting for the founder and Senior Pastor of the church, Dr Paul Enenche, and his wife, Dr Becky, who spearheaded the project.
The dedication of the edifice had hardly been concluded when critics in the social media, among others, stormed the cyberspace demanding probe of the source of funding. Some even went further to suggest that the humongous funds deployed for the edifice should have been used to build hospitals and schools, among others. Unimaginable suggestions and outright hallucinatory comments were freely unleashed over a project that is the vision of a man and his ministry. How low critics can stoop in condemning a man whose footprints in his chosen career have stood him out among his peers.
I have never met Dr Enenche in person, but I have watched video clips shared by some members of his church who are my friends. He combines deep seated humility and greatness fused in almost equal measure. His eloquence and dexterity of purpose towards fighting for justice has won several hearts, including mine. Before the dedication of his new project that has caused global joyful bewilderment among Christians, he must have been inspired to take up this project by the six services every Sunday which must be energy sapping and inconvenient to his church members.
Unlike other pastors who would have preferred to buy private jets (and there is nothing wrong with that), the cleric resolved to embark on a project that would provide more space to combat the overflow of worshippers and a conducive atmosphere for worship. With support from members and many other friends who shared in his vision, he laid the foundation of the building, unknown to the world. Now that the glory of a humble beginning has matured and attracted the world to an unprecedented feat, the critics have suddenly found their voices. I am ashamed that most of Enenche’s critics bear Christian names. I am sure if it were a club house, God forbid, that Enenche had built; it would have been all right for these shameless decriers. These critics have now become self-appointed spokespersons for the poor masses in churches. Unfortunately, these Jeremiahs of Enenche’s auditorium are simply blowing hot air into a fiery furnace; they need to check the profile of a man whose antecedents reveal that he does not cave in to agents of intimidation. His silence over these baseless faultfinders is an act of maturity that must be commended. Come to think of it, on what basis should government be called upon to probe the sources of funding for the project? Has the government accounted for the trillions of naira in budget estimates that is now a stealing jamboree for its officials? Those who come to equity must come with clean hands. If government has not been able to absolve itself of sleaze and fraud, how can the same government be called upon to probe another organisation that depends on donations for its programmes? Those who think funds used for construction of the auditorium should have been utilised to help the poor calls to memory the words of Judas on the need to give to the poor the money used in service to the Lord Jesus Christ. In response, Jesus says, “the poor will always be among you.” For the economic eggheads calling on Enenche to embark on industrialisation in place of the auditorium, when has building industries become the responsibility of the Church?
The role of the Church in contemporary Nigeria is gradually changing as the abdication of responsibility by government has forced the church into engaging in issues that are outside its purview. The poor state of health infrastructure in the country has led to many churches setting up hospitals to meet the health needs of the people. Same with education where the standards have gone down the slippery slope of rot. Churches now have kindergarten, primary, secondary and universities to close the yawning gap created by public schools. The church is becoming a prominent employer of labour and creating economic activities for the survival of citizens.
Let’s not quickly forget that throughout the duration of the Dunamis project that took nearly four years to be completed, thousands of Nigerians across religious and ethnic divide earned their living from the project. It is commendable that Nigerian youths, described by President Muhammadu Buhari as lazy, were in charge of the building from scratch to completion. It is to the credit of Pastor Enenche that not a single day did workers carry placards to demand wages. Unlike now where public sector workers are engaged in strikes to either demand payments or review of minimum wage, those who built the Dunamis Dome were insulated from the irresponsibility of government in meeting their part of the bargain.
There’s no doubt that we live in difficult times, but there are many out there doing their best to ameliorate the sufferings of Nigerians. Pastor Enenche is one who has brought good tidings to a nation that is gradually being alienated to everything that is good for development. Instead of unleashing an avalanche of criticisms on him, Enenche is a shining candle light of hope in a nation whose citizens’ future is engrossed in despair and hopelessness. Nationhood is an unfinished task and it is advisable that those who criticise should focus their criticisms against the Nigerian system that has relegated us to the backwaters of development.
Why has it become almost an impossible task to make Ajaokuta work after billions of dollars were spent by successive governments spanning several decades? Why is government finding it too easy to grant licence to retail firms, like Shoprite, to operate in Nigeria, while local firms are not supported? Why do government officials find it so easy to steal money and hide in tax-free safe havens, while they superintend with delight the sufferings of their own citizens? Why do we have a system that encourages states to wait for monthly allocation from the federal government, while they refuse to exploit natural endowments of their states? What kind of system allows the killings of citizens and soldiers by blood-thirsty insurgent groups?
It is disheartening that the enviable feat of Enenche has caused witches and wizards of envy to hit the buttons. Instead of fulminating against the honest works of a man in enthroning an unmatched feat of excellence, they should channel their frustrations against the system that has impoverished us and turned us into pitiful objects in the sight of the global community. Now is not the time to castigate and probe the source of Enenche’s Glory Dome; what we should demand is for our government to make Nigeria work for all of us, no matter our religion, ethnic and socio-political inclinations. Those who demand less simply miss the point.
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