Up until not too long ago, everybody we knew was Anglican, Catholic or something similar to that. The clergymen were then known by titles such as canon, reverend, father and vicar. They were known for their robes, collar and demeanor; they were not necessarily good public or motivational speakers but they were clearly knowledgeably, well read, generally full of common sense and always capable offering administrative aid such as letter writing and providing reference and representations. Miracles were not part of the most frequently discussed topics of the clergymen of then and their congregations were quite content.
All that was up until the late seventies, since then a lot has changed. Most people we now know are Pentecostals; their clergymen are known by terms and titles such as pastors, daddies (in the Lord) and men of God. In this new order of things, their wives too occupy very important and functional roles in the set up so we now have mummies (in the Lord) and women of God. Personally, my first contact with the Pentecostal movement was encouraged, facilitated or forced upon me by my darling mother, Mrs Ronke Kila. I have since then indulgently viewed members of the Pentecostal movement as similar to my dear mum.
One of the most fascinating things any onlooker will quickly pick up in observing these new religious movements is the relationship between the shepherds and their flocks. Particularly worthy of note is the eagerness with which members of the congregation are willing to subdue themselves to the authority and influence of their men and women of God who they call mummy and daddy. During my visits to Lagos, I noticed that the only people that can contend the prize of the most quoted source with the men and women of God are home videos. In discussions, many Nigerians now make their points by pointing out that their pastor says this and that or by referring to one film they just saw.
It must be clearly said, the status obtained by these religious leaders is well deserved. In the last three decades, churches have proven to be arguably one of the three best managed organizations in the country. Notwithstanding their obvious shortcomings, these Nigerian pastors should be respected; they have succeeded where teachers, writers, doctors, public managers and political leaders failed. These pastors have successfully built, maintained, expanded and even exported their brands.
They have been able to inspire Nigerians to pay tithes and aspire to be pastors, they have successfully turned the church into being a cool place to be and even prostitutes and fraudsters are now genuinely religious or at least defer to their pastors.
With all these deference going on, one wonders who in the country will tell these men and women of God some urgent truths. We need someone to tell them for example that given that there are more churches and mosques than libraries in the country, there is an urgent need to fill the void of providing information and knowledge to a whole generation growing up on just motivational literature and with almost no exposure to historical and analytical writings. Someone has to tell these leaders that the consequence of such abyss, if unfilled, might be dire for the country.
In the churches where millions worship almost every day of the week, everybody seems full of praise, hope, joy and everyone is helpful to one another when in the presence of their adored pastors. Someone however needs to tell these daddies and mummies that their ‘children’ are not so well behaved outside the church. These pastors need to know that very little is Christian about the way their members drive on the roads of Nigeria. Our religious leaders need to know that it will be beneficial to the country if they took some time to talk about and monitor the way their flocks drive and behave on the roads.
In most of the sermons church goers listen to during their services and even in their cars, the themes and examples used to explain, inspire and to buttress lessons of life are now mostly around and about miracles. In a country where the quest of miracle induced testimonies and the space reserved for them is now a constant and sizeable part of every church gathering, it will be frankly dangerous not to soberly reflect on the possible side effects of all these on the country and its systems. Someone needs to tell our men and women of God that they need to better manage their children and hence the country’s dependence on miracles. Somebody needs to take responsibility for explaining to these Shepherds and their flocks that a miracle is an exception and that life is in most part made of planning and perseverance.
Religion is bound to become more important and always more central to the lives of Nigerians. The religious leaders that manage it deserves all the glory and comfort they get for doing their fascinating job, in return they however need to give a bit more, in terms of value, to the land that has giving them so much.