By Chukwuemeka Otuchikere
After party delegates had their 72 hours of glory in first instance at MKO Abiola Stadium Abuja for the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and later at the Eagle Square also in Abuja for the All Progressives Congress (APC). It was the best kept secret how some delegates got a whopping 50 thousand dollars’ average each for playing kingmakers for one night. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was just as clueless as the rest of Nigerians as not one single arrest was effected despite the numerous ‘red jackets’ in the crowd.
Delegates were the toast of the political process, they were courted from Abia to Zamfara and like the beautiful bride, got maximum attention. However, other constituencies that make up the kingmakers value-chain in Nigerian politics may include the priests, prophets, Alfas, Imams and the African traditional priests operating mainly in the background and out of sight.
This revelation is amplified by the behavior of certain key actors in this sector. They claim that delegates may choose but if we don’t bless, the candidate is going nowhere. Therefore, it is inferred if delegates get pampered with foreign and local currencies why not the spiritual prayer warriors or fathers as most of them love to be called. A prominent Father Ejike Mbaka has, over the years, attracted high traffic of politicians to his Adoration ministry ground where he claims that a hotline runs to heaven from ‘his’ altar. Mbaka happens to lay claim to some special grace to hear clearly from God, curious enough, this might be a common trait he shares with a lot of Nigerian spiritualists, practicing and not-practicing, like Senator Dino Melaye, who recently claimed that God called him thrice concerning the victory of Atiku Abubakar in the 2023 presidential elections. We have not forgotten Pastor Tunde Bakare who claims that this same God told him that he was going to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari as the sixteenth president of Nigeria. Many who believed him are still waiting for this miracle as Pastor Bakare could not muster a single vote even as he scored zero during the All Progressive Congress (APC) primaries which threw up Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) as its flag bearer and presidential candidate.
In Nigeria during a political contest almost everybody hears clearly from God concerning who has been anointed in the spirit realm to get the coveted price. However, this same power cannot be deployed to change the sorry state of our nation. The truth is, there is an unwritten alliance between the political class and so-called spiritual men; what Prof. Ben Ayade referred to as the religious economy. Most of those operating the political economy have no qualms donating generously to religious leaders to get good references, especially in large congregations. The more the crowd that troops to such a church or spiritual centre, the more the headman of the organisation thinks he is a stakeholder in determining how the political pendulum swings. In some notable instances, being on the wrong side of these spiritual authorities has cost politicians dearly. In Imo state, part of Ikedi Ohakim’s challenge and subsequent loss of reelection was a brush with a particular Church leader in Owerri.
Enter Mr. Peter Obi and father Mbaka in 2018/19 campaigns, Obi ignorantly went to Mbaka’s altar without a sacrifice. Was Mr. Obi naïve or was he simply leveraging on his renowned catholic affiliation which he even described as ‘Fundamental Catholic? Obviously, Mbaka was not moved by all that grammar. He needed a figure of the amount coming to his coffers clean and swift, no frills of you know me father. On that 2019 stage, Mbaka was very businesslike, for a man who is claiming friendship with Obi, he was brutal in his verdict: “with this stingy uncooperative attitude, you are going nowhere with Atiku”. Whether this was an inspired prophesy or a ploy to get an offering or pledge at his bazaar, the rest is history. That incident four years ago, caught on video, has defined Obi’s campaign in 2022. Obi has been unveiled as a consistent and principled politician who will not give for vainglorious objectives to get the praise of men and lose the real benefit of philanthropic giving which is to attract God’s commendation and blessings. He has boldly stated that he will not bribe nor give a farthing (shi-shi) in his quest to gain votes. To many of Obi’s youthful followers, it sounds like music to their ears. They rarely can believe that there is a Nigerian politician without guile. Obi seems to be walking the talk of birthing a new Nigeria, where people will migrate from the mentality of sharing formula to production formula. He sounds so convincing that the Labour Party which he adopted may easily be the fastest growing movement in the whole of Africa.
For us, the lesson is that most religious leaders in the country are hobnobbing with politicians who now see them as partners in the political manipulation game. They, the politicians, dole out huge sums to support faith ministries in what they unconsciously term, ‘conscience money’ if they are at peace with the man of God, they reason, by extension, they are at peace with God. However, to the keen observer, it is apparent that the spirit of Gehazi has crept into faith circles. That spirit says nothing goes for nothing. To the politician, he has shared the loot, everybody got his share even when he goes away with the lion’s share. He leaves with a good conscience that God got ‘His’ share and, of course, everybody loves a Father Christmas, even Father Mbaka said a generous old man is preferred than a stingy or prudent younger leader. Can we conclude by this, that the ‘oracle’ of Emene has spoken or do we ride on the wave of peoples’ power to enthrone an Obi? As with all prophecies, only time will tell.
Mr Otuchikere writes Calabar, and could be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org