It takes a lot to get Nigerians really, really excited these days. Yet, last week, Tunde Bakare managed to get many Nigerians’ full attention. He did so with an astonishing suggestion: that many of Nigeria’s prominent church men – himself included – should be herded into jail. It was a startling prescription.
And it came as Mr. Bakare’s unusual response to the festering scandal of money in the Nigerian church. Nothing illustrates that scandal quite so powerfully as Nigerian pastors’ appetite for private jets. Had the prescription for imprisonment come from a secular source, it would likely have stirred reactions of self-righteous, sanctimonious outrage.
Many Nigerians are intolerant of any form of criticism of so-called men/women of God. In the eyes of some faithful, anybody who dares question the choices of a “televangelist” must be a heretic. And any such critic must be hell-bent, and deserving of eternal damnation.
Mr. Bakare is a now well-known pastor-politician. In the reigning language of Nigerian Pentecostalism, he is the general overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly. Once, he was known for the fiery political denunciations that rained down from his altar. Unafraid to put his pulpit to political uses, he rained scorn on Nigeria’s power abusers and embezzlers.
His admirers called him a prophet, a title he seemed to love. Despite the political nature of his pronouncements, many of us were rather surprised when Mr. Bakare consented to become the underling on Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential ticket in Nigeria’s 2011 elections. The role of full-time politician did not suit him. On the campaign trail, his statements lacked the sharpness and indignation of his pulpit language.Continue reading