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When preachers disparage the president



Tunji Ajibade

The intricacies and the fine lines to observe as a preacher are increasingly being overlooked by many. This is one way of stating that fundamentals that guide religion and everyone who considers themselves a religionist are discarded; many who lead religionists are at the forefront. This is another piece calling attention to the fact. Now, the reader has heard it said that the higher being can use anything and anyone to speak to anybody. This piece is therefore not an attack on any preacher, and in fact none of my pieces addressing religionists has ever been. Rather it is to publicly debate one of the matters that preachers themselves bring to the public space.

Whoever speaks in the public space influences nation and people one way or another. Things said can make millions of Nigerians take either right or wrong decisions. What is said can make some become disobedient to constituted authorities, and sometimes for no reason other than the fact that, for instance, a preacher said it. So, a columnist always on the lookout for public interest would hardly allow the potential dire consequences of what anyone says publicly to pass without calling attention to it. I call attention to another one here.

The other time I interrogated here a comment made by a preacher who reportedly said President Bola Tinubu wasn’t his president. I stated that the preacher was spurring those who followed him into something dangerous when he made such a disparaging comment in the public space. This is more so as preachers are believed to say only the things that the higher being instructs them to say. Is the preacher instructed to announce publicly that the president isn’t his president by the higher being whose calling he receives? If he insists that he has been so instructed, then the preacher is asserting that what is written in the holy book he uses can be contradicted. In this sense, he’s saying spurring people with his disparaging comment to disobey constituted authority is right but what is written in the holy book he uses is wrong. What is written in the holy book he uses? “Honour the king.” His comment doesn’t portray someone who has the mindset to honour the leader of the nation, and this should concern not only his fellow preachers but all Nigerians.

Another question: Does the fact that the president isn’t the person he prefers mean he should publicly disparage the president? Does the holy book this preacher uses teach this? We take example from the same holy book: Being a Jew the founder of this preacher’s religion couldn’t have liked the Roman rulers, but he never publicly disparaged them in the course of his earthly ministry. I explained it here in the past that every Nigerian has a right to say what they want. But we know that what each of us says is equally curtailed by the need to ensure we don’t cause chaos in the nation. When a preacher causes chaos in the nation how will he have a peaceful atmosphere in which to carry out his task? Again, the founder of his religion focused on his task while on earth; he didn’t instigate civil disobedience against the Roman rulers as this preacher’s comment could potentially do.

In the past, I made an observation that each time preachers made a divisive public comment that spurred  debate they subsequently explained to justify the initial comment. Often, when they do they open up controversies and points to debate more than before. Reason? What they say initially isn’t locatable in the holy book they use. This happens because they aren’t instructed by the higher being to say the things they say. Also, what they say is not informed by any expertise they have in the field in which they speak. So when they try to explain later they still open up fault lines for further debates that anyone who reads between the lines clearly sees. When any preacher goes this way he’s more likely to spend even more time to continue to justify himself. Why would any preacher want to do that rather than focus on his primary assignment?

The preacher in question here has since gone ahead to explain his initial comment that the president isn’t his president. I caught a part of what he was saying on TV. He may still continue to do this for a long time to come. That time, he picks passages from the holy book he uses to state that he was told about the person who would win the 2023 presidential election. I suppose it was for this reason he declared publicly that the president wasn’t his president. Now there’s a complication, consequences of this outing that I believe the preacher hasn’t considered. But before I look at them, I pause to lay proper backdrop for my intervention. I shall state what space permits me and I’ll pick up the rest later.

It’s obvious that many preachers aren’t operating strictly according to what they teach their followers. For instance, the said preacher must have severally taught his followers that they should “honour the king.” They should honour their leaders, including him. Of course, he won’t take it lightly if any of his congregants dishonours him. But here he is, disparaging the leader of the nation. Also, he must have taught that whether one likes a leader or not, following a leader is beneficial to the follower himself because he too would become a leader and he would have learnt the rudiments as a follower. But here’s the preacher, using his message on TV to further justify why he made disparaging comments about the president.

Also, many preachers contradict what they teach. There’re preachers who teach one thing and in their private conversation it’s like they don’t believe what they teach. A common looking congregant makes a comment that he’ll become a state governor someday, and the preacher who hears him laughs or gives a cynical smile on hearing this. A congregant told his preacher what he planned to do, but the preacher looked at him and cynically said, “You?” What is the preacher implying? That things can never change for this common looking congregant as they did for the characters in the holy book he uses?

It’s also clear that many preachers have lost focus as to why they take the religious titles they do. They delve into political issues which is their right to do if they’re preachers cum politicians. But when they make comments such as the one that disparages the president of our nation, many Nigerians would only be too happy to debate them, to make them see what they missed, the danger their divisive comments constitute to this nation that we all call ours.

While the said preacher was talking, justifying his initial disparaging comment about the president, I noticed a few things. They are things I see some other preachers do and which  make me wonder what is happening among those who are supposed to talk and conduct themselves as models to the people they preach to. The other time, there was a preacher who was talking about a fellow preacher in a disparaging manner, and publicly too. The first thing that occurred to me at that time was how a preacher could exhibit such hatred and anger towards a fellow preacher. In the course of justifying his initial comment, I noticed that the preacher who said the president wasn’t his president exhibited something similar and I think it would be strange indeed if his congregants didn’t notice this and worry.

He said that before the 2023 elections some fellow preachers said President Tinubu would win. He said other preachers said another candidate would win. He said some other preachers said they were yet to hear anything from above and that they were waiting. He said by that time he had already been told who would win. In the process of saying this part, I noticed anger. I saw arrogance, self-glorification. I heard in the voice a note of ridicule about others. There’s the air of “I know better than others”, and I think this is a terrain no preacher needs to venture into.