For the record, I was not exactly surprised to find out which side of the divide Dele Momodu’s back page contribution in the March 21, 2008 edition of This Day weekend newspaper would swing to (pun intended) on the controversy regarding the alleged acquisition of a $28million private jet by the Redeemed Christian Church of God for the use of its General Overseer, Pastor Enoch Adeboye.
Mr. Momodu started out his article by seeking permission to “digress a little”. However, by the time he was done taking us through his personal ordeal on a flight to the Seychelles Island and eventually arrived at the conclusion of his article, he had pretty much digressed way beyond a little and in the process lost the point being made by critics of the acquisition.
He attributed the criticisms against the acquisition to the, “usual vicious darts that Africans were fond of throwing at one another”. As he put it, “… we are incapable of settling our differences like all responsible people do…we suspect everything and everyone… we are a bitter people…it is amazing how we loathe ourselves. Our poverty mentality sometimes beats me hollow…it is as if some of us wake up praying for a rain of misery to fall on us and our neighbours. Many seem to be melancholic and behave as if they carry all of mankind’s tribulations on their head…our case is so critical that no human being can escape the mendacity of our human dragons”.
Is it just me or is there an apparent irony here? For someone who is deprecating a perceived bitterness in others, Mr. Momodu has expended so much bile in venting his response to the controversy. Much like the attitude he deprecates, he appears to be the one who suspects everything and everyone on the other side of the divide.
Contrary to his submission, criticisms of the acquisition are not actuated by any perceived patently African proclivity for self-loathing and melancholy, or a poverty-influenced mental outlook on life. Rather, the criticisms are informed by what is rightly perceived as a bad judgment call in the wake of a prevailing global economic depression and the better use to which such funds could have been put.
Indeed, were Pastor Adeboye to be Caucasian or any other race, the reaction would not have been any different. Bad decisions and the criticisms that attend them are universal and not the peculiar preserve of any particular race. Recall the public relations gaffe when the CEOs of the big 3 auto giants in the United States of America flew in into Washington cap-in-hand (or more appropriately tongue-in-cheek) to ask Congress for bail out funds in their corporate jets rather than flying coach, or even the more recent decision by AIG to pay bonuses totalling $165million to its executives from tax payers bail out funds extended to the company. These decisions were roundly condemned and thankfully, nobody saw any reason to do otherwise.
I suspect Mr. Momodu’s position(and indeed that of others in the amen corner) is influenced not so much by his conviction in the wisdom of the acquisition as by his admitted admiration of Pastor Adeboye, and by extension, the ill-logic of his belief in the infallibility of the latter. Granted, Pastor Adeboye has a reputation of shunning flamboyance and is reputedly one of the 50 most influential men in the world and as Mr. Momodu put it, “…his children are very well behaved unlike Eli’s children in the bible”. However, this notwithstanding, our dear Pastor Adeboye is, like the rest of us lesser mortals, human and susceptible to making wrong judgment calls pretty much like the rest of us. The fact that one is a man of God or a god of man should not exempt one from having their actions and decisions capable of affecting the lives of others from being double checked by the public.
Mr. Momodu made light of the issue by wondering why, “this same man is being rubbished by his own people over a mere toy called private jet” He further argued that, “small boys and girls are busy flying private jets all over the globe for holding microphones and singing a cacophony of pop and rock…Oprah Winfrey has her private jets and yachts at her beck and call”. Apparently, Mr. Momodu’s justification of the jet is not so much influenced by any perceived necessity to facilitate Pastor Adeboye’s evangelical endeavours as by the need to for him to keep up with the Joneses.
Contrary to Mr. Momodu’s opinion, for the price tag of $28million, that jet is no mere toy and if he still feels otherwise, I recommend to him a report in the front page of the Guardian newspaper of March 23, 2009, detailing the cost of maintaining a private jet here in Nigeria. For the records, very few pop stars own or can afford a private jet. The small boys and girls referred to by Mr. Momodu certainly cannot afford it given the transient nature of stardom in today’s pop music world. A majority of pop celebrities charter the jets they use. Since it apparently escaped Mr. Momodu’s attention, it needs to be stated that Oprah Winfrey and the other celebrities who own private jets acquired same with their own money. In Pastor Adeboye’s case, the money is not his.
Mr. Momodu advised critics to be, “practical and not to act on hearsay and not to form opinion based on prejudices”. He identified their failure to do so as being the reason why critics, “hardly do well in politics and business”. He then went on to posit that, “many good people are running away from politics and public service because of this fear of serial critics who see everyone as rogues no matter how hard you try to stay above board”.
I dare say Mr. Momodu will do well to heed his own advice and be more practical in his own criticism (Seriously, Pastor Adeboye should have a jet because Oprah does?) and not form his opinion based on prejudices (People are criticising the jet because they cannot break away form the shackles of poverty, really?) He may also want to know that good people stay away from politics not because of serial critics, but because our electoral system is essentially flawed and programmed to exclude such people who genuinely intend to serve rather than amass wealth in public office.
It is high time we learn to hold those in positions of authority to a high standard of accountability. An even higher standard of accountability should and must be expected of religious leaders. A situation where material acquisition is equated with spiritual upliftment should be deprecated by all with the understandable exception of those living in Dele Momodu country.
A pastor, irrespective of his calling, is still a human being and should be subject to the same standards of accountability as everyone else. However, unlike everyone else, a pastor, by virtue of his calling, should not be given to the ways of the world. As the Bible puts it, “let your moderation be known to all men”. Jet planes and state-of-the-art automobiles with personalised license plates should not be the concern of a religious leader. While I am not in any way suggesting that Pastor Adeboye is guilty of such, I am certain we are all aware of such vain-glorious so-called men of God that abound all around us.
First published in Thisday Newspaper and Pointblanknews.com in March 2008.