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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Ozobulu Killings: Blood And Blood Money In The Church

Ozobulu Killings: Blood And Blood Money In The Church, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

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Alloysius Ikegwuonu, alias ‘Bishop’, has built at least five churches, roads, schools, and even a bank. He has bought cars for parish priests who cannot plead ignorance of his alleged involvement in the drug trade. Bishop got a hint of the drug feud that led to the killings at Ozobulu and left. Those after him killed members of his family, innocent worshippers and wounded many more and the church he built and donated.

This piece was written by Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

The Ozobulu Killings is hardly any surprise because the enemies of God and man have long found refuge in the church. It is confounding that a people reported as the most religious also top the list of the most corrupt people on earth. These and many more are obvious contradictions in our sociology that point to the anomalies in our individual and collective lives as a people. Some years ago, Nigerians were cited as the happiest people in the world and among the world’s poorest. How can a people be poor and still be the happiest? How can a nation be the most religious and also one of the most corrupt? The rational explanation lies in our perception of the Christian and Muslim God, as an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) – the God of transactions, the God of give and take.

We grow godless with the same alarming rate as the growth of churches and mosques in every city block in the country. Drug lords, treasury looters, ritualists, armed robbers, murderers and every shade of criminals, fund our religious spaces with tithes and offerings, while poverty and misery continue their astronomical rise. Religion is dead in Nigeria. What is practised and branded as religion in the country is a farce. Our religious spaces are a marketplace of fraud. The killings at Ozobulu once again exposes us as a people with no scruples. An Ozobulu will happen when we have no revulsion at accepting a church built and donated by a known and celebrated drug baron. Ozobulu is what we get when we think the blood of Jesus will cleanse all manners of money, including those obtained by spilling human blood. We are the one of the most corrupt people on earth because religion, as it is practised among us, has lost its bite. Clerics have become co-exploiters of the people. Prosperity preaching has taken control of the pulpits, while radical Islamism with promises of a better heaven is the menu served from the minbar in mosques. In the South, clerics preach to the disillusioned poor that money by all means is king and it is better for their congregants to die trying, while the clerics in the North collaborate with treasury looters, encouraging them to feed crumbs to the poor in the guise alms and charity.

How did we get to this sorry station? We need not look too far, our descent into the moral gorge we have found ourselves is an extension of our rentier mentality. The frontiers of American style pentecostalism has been extended and localised well beyond the boundaries of exploitative capitalism, using religious license aided by unreason. Religious life today is no longer about humanism and salvation, but about material accumulation and financial prosperity. A Nigerian will cheat, exploit his kin, cut corners, scam another and when he makes it through these unwholesome means, he sees it as a prayer answered! Of course, the front rows of the mosque and the pews of the church will be reserved for him as long as he brings fat tithes and offerings. The virtues of character, righteousness, honesty, integrity, sacrifice, tolerance, modesty and moral goodness are no longer preached. When emphasis is on money and pleasure, we cannot expect good outcomes from our places of worship. Unfortunately, we are not a nation of laws.

In a nation full of sacred cows, where there are no consequences for actions, we should expect more Ozobulu to happen. Prosperity preachers will continue to feast on the ignorance and gullibility of their congregants. They will continue to capitalise on their bleak socio-economic conditions to rob them of their faith and money. As long as social injustice, fading social mobility, and limited economic opportunity pervade the Homeland, the poor will continue to buy the gospel of miracles, wealth, power, position and privilege, and pastorpreneurs will keep buying more jets and be counted among the richest.

Evil and criminality is as old as man but the prophets of old confronted the socio-political and economic issues of their time with righteousness and an uprightness that is now very absent. Never did they compromise with evil, regardless of its colourations. God does not strike a bargain with criminals. Criminals who support religion as a way of laundering their moral deficiencies are lying to themselves. Building churches, making huge cash donations and sponsoring people on pilgrimage cannot atone for premeditated crimes against thousands of people.

As for the priests of Baal who squeeze away morality from the gospel, they are more dangerous than the criminals they aid and abet. Material provisions by a criminal cannot serve as the basis for determining faith and devotion to the body of Christ.

The Ozobulu killings is a wake up call to all of us. We must reclaim the values of religion as it was, before the Pentecostal invasion. If we must halt the progression of values decay affecting us, God-fearing religious leaders must call out those who pollute their ranks. Nigeria’s redemption must start from the doorsteps of churches and mosques. May the soul of those killed, find peaceful rest and may their traumatised families have the strength, times like this demand.

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst, writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo

This piece was written by Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

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