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Dame Patience Jonathan’s Pastor Goes To Jail

Dame Patience Jonathan’s Pastor Goes To Jail



In October 2011, the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, was in South Korea as a participant in an international conference on church growth organised by Yoido Full Gospel Church, the largest Pentecostal church in the world. The photo-op that accompanied the report captured Dame Jonathan kneeling before the founder of the church, Pastor David Yonggi Cho; her bejewelled hands in his hands.

The First Lady was enacting what has come to be recognised as what she and her husband do best since they got to office – a public display of godliness that turns every church pulpit into a soap box. In the photo with Cho, she cut the perfect image of piety and religious devotion, but only if you didn’t know better.

Fast forward two years. She returned to South Korea to collect an honorary doctorate from Hansei University. The university said it honoured her for her “many good causes” and that she was a “defender of the poor” in Nigeria.

In her citation, she was described as “a humanitarian who has dedicated her life to working for the less privileged in Nigeria and Africa especially for women and children.” The irony of celebrating her philanthropic activities does not factor into account that as First Lady she had no business doing what the state is mandated to do for its citizens, let alone being honoured for the same. The entire affair would have been just laughable if it were not curious that her other side, the political part of hers, which has earned her opprobrium, is not available on the Internet for any and everyone to read.

Dame Jonathan, on her part, received the “award” with “surprise.” She said she was just “doing her own thing” in Nigeria not knowing someone faraway in Asia noticed. She promised to do more good works with God’s help.

The interesting part of Dame Jonathan’s honorary doctorate was that the awarding institution is co-founded by Cho, the same man of God she visited two years earlier. Cho is even the Chancellor of Hansei. He described her as “selfless” in order to justify the honorary doctorate.

Recently, Cho was, wait for it, sentenced to jail for corruption. And that was when some things about the award and the way they showered her with empty praises began to make sense.

To say every man has a price is jaded philosophising. What is news here is that for 14 years, an elder in Yoido Church said he beseeched Cho to end his unethical practices. Despite praying for many nations and individuals, Cho could not do the needful for his own salvation.

Cho, 78, has been a pastor far longer than Nigeria has been an independent country. He started his church in 1958 in the midst of an economic crisis. Both the country and the church rose to prosperity together. His church boasts some one million members/attendees. Cho is a prosperity preacher who took his own message too seriously.

Now, he has been convicted of financial misappropriation to the tune of $12m and directed to pay back $4.6m. He was also stamped with racketeering and tax evasion, and subsequently sentenced to three years imprisonment. He should be going to jail with his first son, Cho Hee-Jun, a mini-Cho whose list of sexual scandals and financial impropriety is longer than a leg but his sentence is suspended.

Three losers here: Nigeria for wasted resources devoted to the “prayer” photo-op; Dame Jonathan for being a dupe and, Cho for his crimes.

South Korea, in this story, is clearly a winner.

It takes moral courage to “touch the Lord’s Anointed”, especially one that has become a cultural icon like Cho. Who would have dared that in Nigeria? Cho says he has learnt that the pursuit of materialism is useless. Quite a humbling experience for a man who has spent decades preaching about God but the takeaway is that he was taught this lesson.

He will hopefully spend the rest of his life learning that being called by God does not immune one from responsibility. If he were a Nigerian, this might be a needless lesson because here, pastors get away with non-accountability and even boast about it. Last year, Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo of COZA church, Abuja, was accused of marital infidelity. This alone should be enough for the church to investigate him to demonstrate moral standards existed in their church.

What did Fatoyinbo do when the story broke? He trivialised the allegation and fibbed during a church service. In one breath, he said God told him not to respond. Moments later, he said he was packaging a “robust reply.” Since then, he has not deemed it fit to tell us whether he had sex with his church member or not. He continues to pastor his church to the background song of devoted worshippers who throw around Bible verses about not judging another man’s servant. The point, however, lingers: If we fail to question our pastors’ excesses, we will carry over the same attitude to our political leaders.

People try to draw a line between the two vocations saying pastors are called by God, and not elected by people. What they forget is that we carry over attitudes from spiritual spaces to the secular. By the way, since pastors/churches have become a huge part of Nigeria’s political culture, they are no longer sacrosanct. Who holds them to account on issues of corruption?

It is bad enough that Nigerian churches and mosques do not pay taxes, they still get import waivers thereby denying the country revenue. Who says because they preach against sin they cannot be corrupt? Cho has pastored for longer than half of the world’s population has existed, yet he still used the devil (or the devil used him, whatever!). Who still thinks that “anointed-ness” immunes you against your own human failings?

The family that established global televangelism through satellite station, Trinity Broadcasting Network, racked up a massive corruption record that would make even the devil quake with envy. We know these things because they live in relatively accountable societies. In Nigeria where pastors are never pressured for their “robust reply,” how do you keep them in line? And which agency can develop the balls to start scrutinising the activities of these “men of God” when the President and his wife openly fraternise with them?











Source: Punch


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