Thursday, 16 October 2014

Oritsejafor: The Miry Dance

Oritsejafor: The Miry Dance
Lately, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has been in the eye of the storm for the most controversial of reasons. The South African authorities, about three weeks ago, apprehended two Nigerians along with an Israeli on their shores with an undeclared sum of 9.3million US dollars on a private air plane belonging to the CAN President. The Nigerian government rose to own up that the said amount was meant for the procurement of arm for the Nigerian Armed Forces. Ayo Oritsejafor himself, upon enquiry from the media, said he never knew anything about it other than that he leased out the craft to an air operator, Eagle Air, who rented it out to a third party, thus the plane ending up in South Africa. He is said to have a controlling share of Eagle Air. Many people do not believe him, especially President Jonathan’s opponents and also many of the nation’s Muslims.
The real intent of the people, money and plane in South Africa is not the subject of this piece. What we are concerned with is the fact that the “number one” Christian in Nigeria is once again in murky waters and it doesn’t matter whether he dove into it by himself or he was pushed; and, by the way, from preceding event since he became CAN chairman in 2010, anybody may as well conclude that he dove into those waters. The question might just be about what he went looking for in the waters when he took the dip.
Never in its life has Christendom in Nigeria been as divided as under the leadership of Pst Oritsejafor. Ab initio, he never tried to mask his relationship with President Jonathan. Of course he was never expected to severe any relationship that had hitherto probably existed between them, but it was expected that in the light of his new position as the leader of CAN, considered to be the moral compass of the nation, he would device a way of balancing, even delicately, his personal and official life. But alas, the man of God would speak concerning Goodluck Jonathan as a Chief Edwin Clark or an Asari Dokubo would. It got to a head early in the day that, in September 2012, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria withdrew from CAN at the national level, citing Oritsejafor’s closeness to the president and the presidency as uncomfortable and debilitating to the independence and the rectitude of the Association. The Bishops indicated that in the two years, then, of Oritsejafor, CAN had deviated from its founding precepts and concepts. That is also beside the man’s own style and temperament in engaging national matters, which many have considered rather caustic and hormonal, lacking in the deep reflection becoming of sage bodies like CAN. Little wonder, matters concerning him brought about steep, virulent and polar reactions among Nigerian Christians, not to mention the Muslims who see in him the enemy numero uno.
Therefore, when, in November 2012, Pst Oritsejafor acquired the gift of a private jet to mark his fortieth anniversary in ministry, it was another hue among Christians. When Bishop Kukah, in a paper at a Baptist Church in lagos read by a representative priest, remarked generally that “the embarrassing stories of pastors displaying conspicuous wealth as we hear from the purchases of private jets and so on clearly diminish our moral voice,” hell broke loose. Pst Tunde Bakare, a Pentecostal like Oritsejafor, had made similar remarks. Sunday Oibe, CAN’s spokesman, lashed back, suggesting that both religious leaders might have something against Pastor Oritsejafor, and were merely hiding under the cloak of the gift of a jet to attack him. He said “If there is any clergyman in the country whose constituency is government, it is Bishop Kukah, who served every government in power in the last decade”. Reacting to Oibe, the Concerned Northern Nigerian Christians (CNNC) retorted, saying that Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor cannot match Bishop Kukah in integrity and morality. The acrimony did not stop at those levels; it went right down the ranks.
Clearly, it appears that Oritsejafor has been incapable of disambiguating between life as the pastor of his Warri Church and the headship of CAN. Of course no one talks at that level of Oyedepo or Adeboye or Oyakhilome, who are said to have about ten jets between them, because they have not come up to represent the entirety of Christians in Nigeria. They are entitled to their morality and those who troop to them are entitled to their choices. He has also not realized the fact that he is CAN President at a difficult time in the nation’s life: with an insurgency that clearly feeds on unabated corruption, a corruption that this government has not been seen to help but to perpetrate.  He has not been able to see that he needs uncommon wisdom and self denial to navigate through these waters. Now his controversial toy, the private jet, has brought him needless attention, in the dimensions of money laundering or arms race. And as I say here, perception is powerful. But then correlation is not necessarily causation.
Oritsejafor has not realized that the present insurgency and what it stands for is a great embarrassment to some quarters and since they cannot wish it away, they will stop at nothing to drag him or the body he represents to the mud, if only to manage to let the embarrassment go round.
He needs prayers for he has danced deep into mire. He may just need to do the needful: he should resign. But can he? He’s a Nigerian too.

BLUEPRINT Newspaper; Oct. 2, 2014

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