Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has accused some church leaders in the country of not only encouraging corruption but also celebrating people with questionable sources of wealth.
He said this in Abeokuta, Ogun State, on Saturday at the 2017 Convention Lecture of Victor[irp][irp]y Life Bible Church International, while speaking on the theme, ‘The role of the church in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.’
He stated that the fight against corruption must start within the church.
The former president called for a spiritual approach in tackling corruption, tasking the church to rescue the nation from its grip.
He said, “The church needs to clear its Augean stables. The temple of God must be the cleanest to restore the holiness of the church. Our present-day money changers and merchants must be chased out of the church. The pulpit must be used to teach and preach righteous and honest living. To preach that one can acquire wealth without labour is not only deceitful, but also a call to corruption.
“We must be careful in believing and celebrating every testimony of miraculous blessing, otherwise we end up celebrating corruption. The behaviour of some of our men of God leaves much to be desired. They not only celebrate but venerate those whose sources of wealth are questionable. They accept gifts (offerings) from just anybody without asking questions, giving the impression that anything is acceptable in the house of God.”
Obasanjo further noted that legislations alone were not enough in curbing the menace, pointing out that various administrations had tried in vain to make the country corruption-free through enactment of laws and enforcement of integrity systems.
He said, “Legislations alone are not enough as they are often breached by those who make them and those who should implement them. Our main problems are moral, ethical, attitudinal failure and disorientation. The church is an institution that provides the moral and ethical standards for us as believers. Man alone cannot get rid of corruption from the world; he needs the assistance of God.”
He thus called on Christian leaders to sanitise the church for effective anti-graft crusade.
Identify corrupt pastors, Makinde tells Obasanjo
But in a swift reaction, a former Prelate of the Methodist Church Nigeria, Bishop Sunday Ola Makinde, on Saturday, challenged Obasanjo to mention the corrupt Christian leaders in Nigeria.
While absolving leaders of orthodox churches of corrupt practices or condoning corrupt members, he stated that politicians often patronised other churches whose heads he described as “vision seers.”
Makinde said, “I will not say yes or no (to what he said) that religious leaders are to be blamed — or share part of the blame — for corruption in Nigeria. I don’t think when these corrupt politicians give gifts to church leaders, they will ever tell us the source of their money; either they took it from the security vote or from a contract scam or from any other means. They will not!
“Again, religious leaders are in categories. We in the Catholic and orthodox churches don’t prophesy that someone will win (an election); that we have seen the vision. They will not even come near us. We are not prophets; we don’t prophesy. They prefer to go to those who will prophesy that they will win, even when they will not win.
“The Church has always been the conscience of the nation. Those who fought vehemently against June 12 (1993 Presidential election annulled by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida) were religious leaders who stood upright more than any other. Let them (politicians) now come out and name the religious leaders who took money from them and we will rebuke them (religious leaders) and praise them when we have to.”
When asked if it was a challenge to Obasanjo to name names, the retired Prelate replied, “I know Obasanjo; he would have named them. I worked with him for eight years in Abuja. He would mention names. I trust him for that.”
He added, “They are passing the buck and shifting blame when they don’t know where to shift the blame again. How many of us in the Catholic and orthodox churches are living beyond our means? Even if they are buying jets, I don’t think it is from politicians.”
Makinde also cautioned the ex-president against making general statements on Christianity and corruption.
“None of us in the Methodist Church has been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. None! We have to make statements that are discriminative and not collective or general.”
Claim not entirely correct – CAN
The Christian Association of Nigeria in a statement on Saturday said it would not react to the statement credited to the former president because it was his personal opinion which they said was guaranteed by the constitution.
The CAN President, Rev. Olasupo Ayokunle, in a statement by his media assistant, Adebayo Oladiji, however, said the statement credited to Obasanjo “may not be totally correct.”
He said in the statement added, “As someone who had ruled the country twice, he has access to a bank of information which we may not have. But with due respect, if it is true that his representative said the church in Nigeria is corrupt, that may not be totally correct.
“As Christians, we are not to be conformed to this corrupt world, but we are to model our lives after Christ.
“The church leadership represented by the Christian Association of Nigeria is doing its best in its vision and mission to sanitise the body of Christ.”
Obasanjo also guilty — Okogie
In a related development, a former President of the CAN, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, has described leaders who cannot protect their people as total failures.
Okogie stated this on Saturday through a statement titled, ‘We Live in Clear and Present Danger.’ made available to SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday, on the spate of insecurity in the country.
The former Catholic Archbishop of Lagos lamented that almost 60 years after independence and 70 years after the establishment of Nigeria’s premier University of Ibadan, the country still had to rely on medical tourism.
In a veiled reference to President Muhammadu Buhari who spent 49 days in the United Kingdom for medical tourism, the outspoken cleric asked how many poor Nigerians could afford to spend one day in a foreign hospital and how many could afford to be away from their work for three months.
“When shall we cease to make our country a laughing stock in the comity of nations? We cannot reasonably dictate to people where they are to seek medical attention. But we Nigerians have the capacity to run good hospitals. All we just need is a leadership that enables, not one that disables,” he said.
Okogie stated that the humiliation of Nigerians was unending because the leaders “have made a hobby of dereliction of duty.” According to him, they receive the perks of office in a land where workers have gone unpaid for months.
He said, “Yet, for all the money spent in maintaining them in government — and it is a huge fraction of our countrys annual budget — government does not serve the Nigerians, the public servant does not serve the public.”
“Does the life of the Nigerian have any value? If it does, can it be truly said that Nigerians appreciate the value of life? The questions are meant for all of us. We all have to take responsibility for protection of life and property in this country,” he added.
When asked by one of our correspondents to react to Obasanjo’s speech, the cleric, “Obasanjo is also guilty of what he is saying. He is part of those he is referring to.”