By Chika Otuchikere
There is palpable tension in the church in Nigeria over the Companies and Allied Matters Act called CAMA 2020 accented into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 7,2020. Church leaders in the country who sensed more than conspiracy in the law because it deems to introduce government’s interference nd perhaps, control into the administration of the church, have vowed that they will never allow the government to have any say in how the church in Nigeria is run.
The CAMA law provides that government, through the Registrar General of the Corporate Affairs Commission CAC, is empowered to dissolve a church’s board of Trustees and appoint a new board. The CAC boss also has the power to look into the financial activities of the church and make decisions on the church. The leaders of the church who, hitherto, have become used to running their ministries without any interference from the government are finding these provisions as government’s meddlesomeness in a realm they ought not to, given that they are neither trained nor called into such spiritual leadership.
Nigeria’s constitution provides that the country is a secular state and so, has no affiliation or adherence to any religious belief. However, what Nigerians have seen in real life is that the religious institutions wield nearly overbearing influence in the country’s governance system. Elections into political offices are determined, to a large extent, by the religious leaning of the candidates jostling for offices. This was more pronounced in the last two elections that produced the incumbent president and vice president.
It was reported that Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, the choice of the ruling, All Progressives Congress, APC, for the 2015 presidential election was to have Sen. Ahmed Asiwaju Tinubu as running mate. This was rejected by the party’s leadership because it would throw up a Muslim-Muslim ticket, which many party stalwarts felt would jeopardize the party’s chances of winning that election. According to them, the Christians believed to form nearly 50 percent of the voting population, would not endorse such a combination. In a deft political move, the party settled for Prof Yemi Osinbajo, a church leader of one of the most populous Christian ministries in the country. The party eventually won that election due to many permutations, including that many, if not all members of Osinbajo’s church members voted for his party.
After President Buhari was sworn-in in 2015, another religious controversy that reared its ugly head was the perceived skewed appointment of his cabinet and other appointees to favour persons of his religion. A typical case study was the lamentation that Buhari appointed most of the country’s security chiefs from his part of the country and religion. The call for him to overhaul his appointments to reflect a religious and ethnicity balance fell on deaf ears till date.
It would be recalled that the CAMA controversy is not the first time this government appears to poke fingers into the nostrils of the church. In 2016, about one year into the Buhari administration, the government shocked the nation in general and the church in particularly, when it announced a law requiring church leaders or founders to resign the headship of their various gospel ministries at the attainment of 70 years of age. The law required the church leaders to handover the church headship to a non-family member after 70 years of age or 20 years of being in charge of the ministry. The law which was also designed to guarantee financial accountability became law on October 16, 2016.
As controversial as the law was, gospel ministers who had attained 70 years or 20years on the pulpit were poised to comply. Leading the pack of those who complied was Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of Church which also has Osinbajo as one of its leaders. Adeboye announced his resignation. Barely four years after that obnoxious law was shot down, the government has smuggled similar seemingly ‘draconian’ law into the CAMA Act. Again, the government wants to control the leadership and accounts of the church.
The church is more a spiritual entity than a secular one. No government has power or business prying into the affairs of the church. This is because the Bible says Jesus Christ is the Head of the church and Christ is above every government. Any attempt by anybody or government to meddle into the affairs of the church, the Bible says, is like a man hitting his foot against a rock.
An African adage says, rightly, that it is the man that brings ant infested firewood into his house that should be ready to entertain lizards as guests. It is instructive to assert here that if government has begun to make attempts to interfere in the affairs of the church, it is the fault of the church leaders. Many church leaders behave like their god is the material things of this world. The Bible tells us that the world and everything in it shall perish and vanish. The church leaders jettison the teachings of Jesus Christ in their attempts to please the world and acquire the material things of this world. It is only when they are accumulating the material things of the world that they affirm that “the Lord is good”. They surreptitiously denounce Christ in their attempt to please government officials and politicians to share from their largesse, some of which are ill-gotten.
One is yet to find any verse in the Bible, especially in the New Testament which documented the life and times of Jesus Christ on earth and the Act of the Apostles, where it is expressly written or insinuated that a founder of a gospel ministry owns the ministry and must bequeath the ministry or assets of the ministry such as school, to wife, children or blood relatives. Even Christ had siblings but made Apostle Peter the Chief Apostle and Apostle Paul who was not even one of his 12 disciples, one of his principal Apostles, ahead of his sibling James.
Most founders of gospel ministries in Nigeria behave as if the ministry they founded becomes their conquered territory which must be included in their testament and to be handed to their next-of-kin at their demise. No sooner has the ministry begun to win membership, which Jesus Christ referred to as souls, than the founders discover another pursuit: The amassment of wealth and worldly acclaim or popularity. They begin to aspire to gain all the riches of the world. Many of them are associated with stupendous wealth which they obviously acquired in the course of propagating the gospel. They see such wealth as personal property and not for the entire members of the ministry or the church at large. For them, the wealth becomes their ‘reward’ for the propagation of the gospel, which must not be shared with anyone outside their immediate family. They also prefer to keep this wealth to themselves rather than ensuring that it is used for the propagation of the gospel and the welfare of the flock.
These ministers hobnob with powerful people in the society who initially courted their relationship simply because of what they perceive as the power of God and anointing of the Holy Spirit in them. Many of these ministers become overwhelmed by the sheer wealth these powerful people command. In their awe they begin to behave as if these powerful people were more important than the calling of God upon their lives which compels them to draw men to God. They begin to do the bidding of these powerful people even when they can see that some of the doings of these men do not give glory to God. Before long, they begin to backslide in their callings because their vision and calling have changed. Their focus and vision become riches and wealth and all the attendant worldly ‘glory’, what the scripture describes as “vanity upon vanity”.
In a large number of cases, the collateral damage becomes the members who
were supposedly won to Christ. Many of them also lose the focus of the Cross of Jesus Christ and begin to focus on material things, just like their spiritual mentors. In the process, the ministries begin to frustrate the operation of the Holy Spirit given to the believers. Flamboyance becomes the culture of the church, no longer the power to manifest signs and wonders. Believers become powerless in the face of confrontations by the devil and his agents and so, there is hardly any discernable difference between the believer that has been given power to be the Sons of God and the carnal man on the street that has not accepted Christ. This, obviously, explains why the government of the day will decide to interfere with the affairs of the church.
The government must be shown by signs and wonders that they have no jurisdiction to meddle in the affairs of the church. But that is after the church gets its act right and retrace its steps to its first love and realize that anyone that has the love of this world and its ostentations, the love of God and His constituency; the church is not in that person. This text from the book of 1Corinthians chapter 12 verses 25 to 27 will suffice to drum home the onerous responsibility of the church leaders: “That there should be no schism in the body (church); but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular”.