Oyedepo, Mbaka: A Terrible Day for Religion(Must Read)

It was a terrible day for religion in Nigeria this past week as the overseeing Bishop of the Living Faith Churches, David Oyedepo, and the man at Adoration Ministries, Enugu, Fr. Ejike Mbaka, made various gaffes in their sermons that caught the attention of Nigerians. What might have been more tragic about these statements was that these popular charismatics ministers may not have realized the mistakes in their statements. Instead their followers have stood with them, while the pastors utilize age old silence to subdue their critics who have drawn their attention variously to these matters.

David Oyedepo, while ministering to members of his church at Otta, Ogun State, spoke of the growing rumour among Nigerians that an impersonator has taken the place of Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian President, at the nation’s seat of power in Abuja. To lend credence to his position, Oyedepo quotes Olatunji Dare article of 27th November, 2018, titled “Buhari’s Double”. Oyedepo, reading from a script, said:

“This disturbing information came from the Nation Newspaper of Tuesday, 27th November 2018, written by one Olatunji Dare, exploded with ‘authoritative assertions’, he said, claiming among others: That President Buhari had died in the U.K. in 2017, whilst he was undergoing medical treatment. HOW? That the entrenched cabal in Aso Rock had procured ‘President Buhari’s double’ in Sudan and pressed him to serve as Nigerian President. What? That the representatives of the ‘Jubril’ family having discovered the gigantic swindle, suddenly showed up in Abuja and demanded to be compensated with power-sharing arrangement at the Federal level in perpetuity plus 50% of Nigerian oil revenues for 10 years in the first instance.”

What the Bishop read was precisely what Mr. Dare wrote. What the revered minister failed to see in the write up was the satire in the whole piece. Olatunji Dare had been discussing the matter of Nnamdi Kanu and his propagating of the “Buhari Double” rumour. Mr. Dare, in his bid to make Kanu’s position sound even more ridiculous, went further to say that the family of Buhari’s impersonator, Jibril, were blackmailing the Nigerian government on the whole matter. Dare made up the satire to make Kanu’s position sound preposterous. This is what David Oyedepo read to his congregation as news!

The other gaffe that made the news in the past week was the one from Fr. Ejike Mbaka of the Adoration Ministries, Enugu. The revered Catholic Charismatic pastor did not conceal his love for money when he took the Nigerian president through his legendary caustic tongue. Mbaka said that he had prayed for the recovery of President Buhari and in return the President should have come to Adoration Ministries to “thank God”. He said no one cheats God and goes free. He warned that Buhari’s illness may return if the President did not come to him and offer thanksgiving.

While many where still in the dark as to the nature of the gratitude the President should offer, Mbaka embarks on a tirade of other political figures. He says that Peter Obi is stingy. That all he could offer his ministry was a miserly half a million naira. He said:

“(Gov. Dave) Umahi (of Ebonyi State) donated 1,000 bags of rice and 1,000 tubers of yam to us, but it meant nothing to me until he handed N10 million cheque to me and promised to build a project for the ministry. This is the type of gesture we require from Obi.”

At the end of the tirade, it was clear that pecuniary reasons were the factors that were engendering the latest statement from the popular Enugu reverend father.

These two incidents have quite unexpectedly revealed certain realities about popular figures in Nigerian religious life. Speaking on the incident, Bamidele Ademola-Olateju gave this advice on her Facebook wall: “…Good education is sweet! Read classics, great biographies & good fiction. You can’t achieve depth by reading; Rich Dad, Poor Dad…” She was saying, in other words, that if David Oyedepo was adept in reading, beyond the prosperity/faith jargon he writes, he would have recognized satire from what Olatunji Dare wrote.

The fact of the matter is that some of the least informed set of people in the country today are Pentecostal Pastors and their followers. Beyond whatever professional career they may be involved with, Pentecostals do not read anything but Prosperity/Faith theological books. At the end, they are usually wholly uninformed when it comes to dealing with other matters in the real world.

On the other hand, and quite unfortunately, Fr. Ejike Mbaka has revealed what many of us have long suspected is the underlying motive for his kind of ministry: MONEY. Mbaka spoke from the abundance of his heart, and since Catholic Charismatics are usually not the object of criticism in the religious sphere, he felt free to speak about the pecuniary undertone of his ministry. Unfortunately for him, he revealed too much.

In November this year, I was in Enugu to market my book Victor Banjo. My friends, who were taking me around to see the city, pointed out to me that Mbaka’s bottled water Aqua Rapha was the leading bottled water company in Enugu and environs. In fact it was initially named Healing Waters. But NAFDAC had a running battle with Mbaka and forced him to change the name, so that the public are not deceived to using the water for healing purposes.

Yet, the bottled water is all that Enugu folks drink. Why? They hold that Mbaka’s healing powers are in the water. Besides, the term “Aqua Rapha” is still “healing water” in Greek. That experience with Aqua Rapha remains the only let down to my wonderful experience while visiting the beautiful city of Enugu.

What is my point?

For too long we have centred our attention on Pentecostals and their use of God to make money in ministry. Very few people are commenting on Catholic Charismatics. The fact, as revealed in the latest Mbaka gaffe, is that there is practically no difference in all of them. Mbaka is in this thing for the money; just like his Pentecostal counterparts.

The lesson is simple: men’s hearts are revealed from the multitudes of the words they proclaim. The wise speak little so as to reveal less folly. The foolish utter it all to his own disgrace. It was a terrible day for religion in Nigeria with these various gaffes from David Oyedepo and Ejike Mbaka.

By: Deji Yesufu, the author of the book Victor Banjo. He can be reached on newdejix@gmail.com