Many Nigerians are applauding the sacking of the Executive Secretary (ES) of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN). His crime is that he forced the ‘resignation’ of the GO of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. I have put resignation in quote because my reading of what happened is that the GO restructured RCCG organisation and delegated the running of the Nigerian arm of the Church to another person. The issue is not about the Papa Adeboye, one of Nigeria’s most revered figures. The issues are deeper than that.
The first point is the definition of the Nigerian State and the way it is run. The country made a law more than six years ago. If that law was not what the country needed, the proper course was to repeal or even amend it. If this did not happen, no one can fault Mr Obaeze for enforcing it. Many times in Nigeria, we talk about building strong institutions. This can only be achieved if those tasked with such institutions enforce the statutes which set them up. By sacking a man for doing his job, we have sent a wrong message to other public office holders that they are on their own in enforcing the laws of the land.
The second point is that we personalise matters. If the ES had forced the resignation of a much lesser figure, would he have been sacked?
The third point is the way Nigerians engage with the governance process. We lack a capacity to foresee outcomes. For this law to have been passed, it went through three readings in both chambers of the national assembly. If the church felt it was inimical to their interest, why were christians in the national assembly not mobilised to stop the passage of the bill? We wait for matters to get out of hand before we scream.
The fourth point is the relationship between the state and religion. Many times, we have bent the rules to create the fact that religion is not subject to regulation by the state. It is the problem we have with the enforcement of sharia law in Nigeria, a secular state. If we want the Nigerian state to be subject to sharia and canon laws, we should so state in our constitution. If not, religious institutions should be subject to the laws of the land. No country which made religion the directing principle of state policy has ever progressed.
Are Nigerians faulting this law? What of the aspect of the law that stops you from handing over to your son or daughter? Are we against that too?
The church is resisting regulation but if they are not careful what happened to journalism will happen to the church. In the early 1990s, Tony Momoh, a celebrated Nigerian journalist became the minister for information. He came up with a law to regulate the operations of the media Nigeria especially by stipulating minimum entry levels for professional practice. Journalists rose against the man. The argument then was that the press can regulate itself. Three decades later, the social media came in and all somone needs to create a news media platform is a N10,000 mobile phone.
Today, you see people who call themselves journalists in Nigeria and you are ashamed to be one. We are living witnesses to what is happening to the pentecostal church. We need some form of regulation. In the UK, the churches register as charities and are subject to all kinds of rules. In Nigeria, our churches are personal business empires trading on vulnerable minds.
My suggestion is that we create structures for the church and separate the offices of spiritual leader from that of the organisation’s chief executive.
Ekoriko is a London-based Nigerian journalist