Editor's note: Public affairs commentator, Etim Etim, writes on the recent decision of the Redeemed Christian Church of God to create a Directorate of Politics and Governance and the responses it generated by a section of the political class ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The anxiety and panic attack that have overwhelmed some politicians over the perceived support of Professor Yemi Osinbajo by the leadership of his church is a needless fright these politicians have brought upon themselves. Although the VP is yet to formally announce his presidential bid, the mounting groundswell of support nationwide for him is enough to create fear and tension in the camps of some presidential aspirants.
It is therefore understandable that the recent announcement by the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) that it had created a Directorate of Politics and Governance to promote the participation of members in politics and support good governance would be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of the Osibanjo candidacy by the church. Their outrage is unfounded and, in many ways, their trepidation reflects a clear lack of self-confidence in their abilities.
By raising dust over RCCG's announcement and linking Prof Osinbajo to it as the sole beneficiary of the new policy, these budding contestants want to embarrass the church, create disharmony among its members, mortify the VP and generate religious controversies and acrimony in the polity. It is a very malevolent way of running a campaign. Nobody should try to advance his political career by demeaning others and setting the church on fire.
I have been a member of RCCG for well over 20 years now, worshipping regularly in parishes in Lagos, Abuja, and Uyo, my hometown. I listen to Pastor Enoch Adeboye's sermons often and I am always bowled over by his meekness, humility, emphasis on holiness, and the need for governments to live up to their responsibilities. Pastor Adeboye is a quintessential leader whose exemplary guidance and direction are visible.
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While some other Christian leaders were busy spinning conspiracy theories in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic on the virus and vaccines, Adeboye was the first Christian leader to openly ask his members to abide by government's protocols on mitigating the disease, including the use of masks and social distancing. While clerics like Bishop David Oyedepo and Pastor Chris Oyakhilome were making a mockery of government's efforts at stemming the spread of the virus by openly asking their members not to wear masks and not to take the vaccines, Adeboye was quick to instruct his congregations to obey all the COVID-19 protocols. He led by example.
In the 40 years that Pastor Adeboye has been in the saddle as the General Overseer of RCCG, the church has grown into a huge institution, with a presence in almost all the countries of the world. In Nigeria, especially the southern parts, a branch is in every neighbourhood. RCCG's emphasis on good governance and responsible political leadership is a major attraction for some of us. The church stresses the importance of governments living up to their responsibilities. In the first two months of this year, its Sunday School teachings were on ''Christian and Politics'' in which members were encouraged to participate in politics and go to the polls to elect good and responsible leaders of their choice. Throughout this series, never for once did the pastor bring up the VP's name, or any other politician, as the preferred choice. I should note that the same Sunday School manual is used in all its congregations throughout the world.
Among millions of RCCG's members are politicians from different political parties. In fact, in my parish in Uyo, the president of the men's fellowship is a prominent PDP politician. His predecessor was an APC member. We all worship the same God in harmony, friendship, and cordiality. Politics and partisan considerations have never been a factor in RCCG. In addition, the church regularly plays hosts to politicians of different political hues persuasions. Former President Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Samuel Ortom, Governor Udom Emmanuel, and Gov. Douye Diri, all PDP chieftains, have worshipped at the church many times; and they were hosted by Pastor Adeboye himself. The GO has preached at the yearly Christmas Carole service in Uyo many times, in addition to being a guest of the governor during official visits. Akwa Ibom has been governed by PDP governors since 1999! Yet nobody complained that the church was tilting towards PDP!
RCCG is a big Christian institution that opens its doors to all shades of politicians, without discrimination. It is therefore unthinkable that the leadership will contemplate asking all the members to vote for or support the VP whenever he declares to run for president, as recently speculated by Dele Momodu, the Nigerian journalist who's running for president under PDP. Momodu is facing an array of experienced politicians like Former Vice President Atiku Abubarkar; Former Senate President Abubarkar Saraki, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, and Governor Bala Mohammed in the presidential race. The preponderance of northern candidates in the race is an indication of the party's zoning preference. Clearly, Momodu, from Edo state, with a little political pedigree, is swimming against the tide in his party. If his poll numbers are not going up, he should not vent his anger on the VP or his church.
I have no doubt in my mind that most of the RCCG members will vote for Osinbajo without being prompted by anybody whenever the VP declares his interest in the politics of 2023. Apart from being a long-standing pastor in the church, the VP's personal and official conduct and his sterling performance on his job have endeared him to the RCCG flock, just like several millions of Nigerians outside the church. In the last seven years of this administration, there has never been a moment the VP and the President have disagreed over religious matters.
In setting up the new directorate on politics, RCCG is simply keeping to the general instruction issued by the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) that member churches should engage more deeply in our politics and should establish such departments that would offer support and guidance to members who are pursuing political aspirations. RCCG, and indeed, all the other churches in the PFN fold, will never foist a particular member on their members as the preferred candidate. The fact that members are of various political persuasions will make that practically unattainable.
I urge politicians, especially those with fledging presidential ambitions, to leave Yemi Osinbajo out of their misfortune. They should not cause disharmony in the church with reckless statements. For now, the VP is focusing on his work, especially as the president is out of the country. The VP's mass appeal amongst Nigerians is rooted in his commitment to his responsibilities and dedication to his duties.
It is not an issue for airing religious differences or creating disharmony among people of a particular faith. Who doesn't know that the VP has conducted himself far above board and he is today one of the strongest voices for unity in our country?
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