Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How the Nigerian church is plotting to hijack 2011 from politicians

Half a million voices raised in supplication at The Experience 2010

The Experience concert was all it was billed to be. It was the largest Gospel music concert in the World. Over 500,000 people gathered at the Tafawa Balewa Square on the night of December 3 to praise and pray for Nigeria. Artist bands came from as far as the United States and Jamaica to usher the huge gathering into the spiritual presence of the Most High. Sweet music was rendered by popular Christian acts like Don Moen, Ron Kenoly, Fred Hammond, Israel Houghton, Phil Driscoll, Mary Mary, Chevele Franklyn, Sammie Okposo and Mike Aremu.

The arena was packed to the rafters and many like myself (attending for only the second time) had to endure a nine-hour vigil on our feet. What this fifth edition of The Experience showed is that the Nigerian church is finally waking up to its political strength. For it was clear that night that this was more than a concert, it was turning into a political movement as church leaders, one after the other, led prayers for the nation. Guest preachers prayed for the Niger Delta, constant power supply, better roads, better leaders, peace in the religious troubled North, and above all credible elections in 2011. (See my 2006 article How the church got her groove back)

But instead of just prescribing more prayers like they are wont to do, the clergy went further by encouraging all Christians to register to vote when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, commences its voter registration in January. Through a video slide, leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, headed by the irrepressible Ayo Oritsejafor urged Christians to become more involved in the choice of who leads them next year.

"The church has the responsibility to make Nigeria one. We are one and we will remain one. The troublers of Nigeria will be troubled," Oritsejafor told the crowd who echoed a big amen in the open night air that echoed all around the Lagos Island and environs. "Go and register, you will vote, there are right people to vote for. Nigeria will not break," he concluded.

And it wasn't just a night for the men of cloth. President Goodluck Jonathan addressed the gathering via a recorded video message where he praised the ingenuity of the organizers House on The Rock church led by Paul Adefarasin. Jonathan said it is a great achievement in the life of Nigeria that the world's biggest Gospel music concert is being held in Lagos in the country's fiftieth anniversary year.

As part of the high political profile given the event, Lagos governor Babatunde Fashola as the crowd to begin creating a change in their own domains.
"If we leave here tonight with the mindset to become a part of the solution and not part of the problem I'm sure we will begin to have 24 hour electricity in our nation," said Fashola. And in reference to the various industrial disputes he's been locked into with labour groups in the state he said, "We need the value of sacrifice to put an end to any form of strikes so as to enjoy the best years of our nation".

Above all, it was a show of political force by the Nigerian Christian community which had been content to stay on the sidelines on political issues in the past. Christians had always believed that politics was a dirty game that believers ought not get entangled with. However, cases in other countries have shown how revolutions have been led from the pulpit onto the streets. Churches led by Martin Luther King, Jr among many other clergy championed the Civil Rights movement in America. Even in Nigeria Pastor Tunde Bakare has become a leading voice in constitutional rule through the Save Nigeria Group.

Is the church finally rising up to its potential after all these years of sitting on the fence with arms folded as political jobbers took the country for a ride?
Adefarasin offered an answer that will make 2011 a very interesting period in Nigeria's political experiment with its over sixty million members. "The sleeping giant, the church, is about to wake up and take its rightful place in the nation," said Adefarasin.

1 comment: