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Pharisees, Judas and private jets!

A generous lady, stricken in her heart by the weight of her sins which Jesus wrote off, broke an alabaster jar of an expensive ointment and poured it all at the head and feet of Jesus, oiling and wiping out the dirt with her lush hair. Hey! What’s going on?

The Pharisees who knew the cost of such ointment raised a hubbub. Why waste so much money on a prophet—if Jesus was truly one! Didn’t Jesus know the value of such ointment, that it could employ over a dozen graduates for a year? Was Jesus not aware of the unemployment situation in Israel, the roaring poverty ravaging the land with many of the poor going hungry?

What kind of insensitivity is this—for a man who claimed to be the son of God? If this wayward woman had so much money, why not direct it to the temple where proper religious leaders would know what to do with such a large sum of money? Even Jesus’ close disciples were clearly aghast and grumbled aloud. Judas, the treasurer, not one to condone waste if he had nothing to do with it, pulled Jesus aside for remonstrations.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied, unmoved by their hypocrisy. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want…She poured the perfume on my body before hand to prepare for my burial.” Well, it will appear that these days, there are still so many Pharisees and Judases around the town.

The hullabaloo over the gift of private jet to the President of Christian Council of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor on his 70th birthday attests to that. Well, what do you expect? Oritsejafor is both the President of CAN and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, two powerful umbrella groups that encompass political and religious leadership of probably over 70 million Christians in Nigeria.

In a manner of speaking, Oritsejafor, like him or hate him—notwithstanding—is leading more flock even if vicariously, than so many African heads of states. On pure logistic terms, his activities are not any less hectic than that of even the busiest head of corporation anywhere in the world or the more busy state governors in Nigeria. The last I checked, nobody went on strike or called for a revolution when many of the state governors we hired with our tax payers money, started acquiring private jets to move around. In fact, even the governor of relatively obscure Taraba State acquired a private jet and a helicopter not so much because his state is in acute need of such luxury, but perhaps more as training toys to sharpen his flying skills!

Unfortunately, such an expensive executive indulgence not only turned tragic but nearly fatal to his life and that of four others. Now, that state is picking the expensive medical bills of the accident victims lying critically ill in hospital in Germany. Yes, somebody might well argue, might such money spent on expensive air misadventure not have been used to upgrade hospital facilities in Taraba State, home of one of Africa’s richest men, General Theophilus Danjuma, according to the latest Forbes list of the world’s richest persons?

The print, electronic and online media are awash with furious attacks on church leaders that acquired private jets. Who are they? Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church who built his church from less than a thousand membership to many millions of membership with thousands of branches in Nigeria and many countries of the world. Adeboye’s church had also invested heavily not only in building a new city out of the jungle, they also own their primary, secondary and private university, the Redeemers University, open to all Nigerians.

Next is Bishop David Oyedepo, the apostle of faith gospel and General Overseer of Winners Chapel. Not only has he built what is described as the largest church auditorium in the world, his two private universities, Covenant University and Landmark University are usually rated as number one among private universities by the National University Commission.

There is Pastor Sam Adeyemi, pastor of Daystar Christian Centre, a very unassuming fellow, who has probably done more than anyone else I know to motivate and build the leaders of tomorrow. It is of course, possible that Pastor Chris Oyakhilome is in this list of private jet owners. Ecclesiastical maverick, Pastor Tunde Bakare, is calling for a revolution to sweep away spiritual leaders who own private jets.

Some critics link the affluence of these prelates which led to their acquiring private jets to the unholy alliance between some church leaders and the corrupt government officials, including especially the oil subsidy rogues who had milked the nation dry.

Many critics talk glibly about how these men are exploiting their gullible flock to milk them of millions in order to aggrandize themselves, a fact which the acquisition of private jets seem to illustrate. But of course, you cannot rule out the issue of exploitation of gullible flock either by these men or pastors generally.

But, even if these were so, is it any different from the exploitation of consumers in all facets of national life by many corporate sharks with their own private jets whom we lionize and celebrate?

Those of us who know how utterly difficult it is to build a ministry to success can equally attest that on the empirical evidence of what these men have achieved as pastors, they are people who could have made it as billionaires even in secular circumstance if they had not been called to the ministry. Otherwise, if running a church is as easy as many seem to suggest, many more Nigerians would have flocked into it to buy their own jets.

But the truth is that so many people indeed flocked into ministry expecting a pot of gold only to hit the sand. As Jesus once said, wisdom is justified by her children. So many of the criticisms are borne more out of frustration than any clear righteous indignation of the type Bakare who is successful on his own, is expressing—wrongly in my view.

A Sunday Punch investigation, for instance, revealed that over N5 trillion had been stolen since President Goodluck Jonathan took over power in May 29, 2010. That amount is more than enough to finance Nigeria’s annual budget for one year and three months without a deficit!

In fact, the Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Task Force reports that 250,000 barrels of crude oil worth about $6.3million are stolen daily—enough money every day to buy a private jet! Rather than wail over such unprecedented national calamity, our critics prefer to turn their guns at church leaders who had private jets.

Since the last dispensation to date, almost all the bank managing directors have private jets at their disposal, ostensibly to aid them in running a bank in Nigeria with thousands of staff and customers.

But some of the pastors who have private jets have thousands of branches with several million members. The fact is that it is not so much that Nigerians are against private persons owning private jets as pastors owning them. Why should pastors, men of God called to piety, own private jets, something that ought to be the exclusive preserve of the world’s affluent private members.

This is a throwback to the old theology that equates piety with poverty; that throws up Lazarus who made it to heaven with his putrefying sores as a model of Christian virtues while his rich and uncaring neighbor ended up in hell. But the gospel of Christ is good news and from the beginning, poverty was not part of God’s agenda for man—until Satan showed up, marketing sin to man. From the beginning, God has always argued that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness therefore (Psalm 24, 50 etc).

Abraham was exceedingly rich in his time; his son Isaac was richer than his host nation; his grandson Jacob was even more abundantly rich; indeed, even the biblical Job had more trailers (camels) for instance than Aliko Dangote, etc. From the beginning, God never wanted the church to be poor. Out of the twelve tribes of Israel, the Levites were not to be given any inheritance when the land was being shared, but then each of the eleven tribes were to pay them 10% of their income as tithes, meaning that in the end, each tribe retains 90% and Levites are left with 110%! The Levites of old are today’s pastors!

How are the pastors getting so rich? From tithes and offerings which are clearly scriptural teachings of the Bible. Of course, tithing and offerings are matters of faith. If you don’t like it, don’t go to churches which teach people to pay tithe. The matter is so simply that it is stupid for anybody to bellyache about churches collecting tithes and offerings. I will probably not consider acquiring a private jet any priority even if I have the money, but that is a matter of choice rather than a doctrine. Of course, there are church leaders who are probably no better than scoundrels, but who is to judge such ones?

Those who want to judge them by sheer force of activism and revolutions are probably indirectly losing faith in the capacity of God to punish those who desecrate his temple. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s move on to more important things!

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  1. NGO November 27, 2012 at 10:29 am

    God bless you Dimgba. Those who castigate men of God are equally those who run to them in times of problem and need for their prayers. Hypocrites. God will judge all of them for every careless word uttered.

  2. socrates ebiware November 27, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    I have always been an avid reader of yr write-ups as you have always seemed to me generally a dispassionate & logical writer. However in the above writeup yr thesis & arguments simply do not add up, feeble & unpersuasive as they are. Nigerian Pastors may choose to acquire private Jets bacause they’re awash in wealth in a poor country. They may gleefully avoid paying taxes because a corrupt system allows them. But justifying the wasteful, capital intensive acquisition & operation of these expensive toys on the exigencies of the nature of work they have to perform, is shameful & illogical.While we are at it, we might as well stretch this rather flawed argument & justifications for acquiring private jets to the national presidents & heads of such important associations as teachers , nurses, labour, the Bar, Journalists; the list goes
    on. The painful truth is that, in Nigeria religion especially Christianity has largely becomed commercialized & it.s fast becoming bastartized.

  3. promise November 27, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Dimgba,am disapointed bt nt surprice bc soon u will be like dem.Those universities u mentioned,hw many of their members can afford it?U ask for my tithe,nd u used it to invest privately.Do u knw d reason for tithe?To make food available in His house,check wheather there re dat food in d store house,i put it to u dt dis men re thiefs nd God will judge dem.U incorporate a church with ur son,wife as ur succesors.U live a larger dan life image nd u cant even preach against sin bc d P.J ur using is a product of corruption.Dimgba, u cant fool me or our God.xtians shld be awake of dis pastorpreneaus nd stop dem bf dey pollute xtiandom.we re waiting for ur own jet.

  4. Prince Chukwuemeziem Anyakoha November 27, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    I feel that people should be a little balanced in their criticism, there is nothing wrong in acquiring a private jet by men of God. If you think you need one and have the money, why not. Or if you think running a church is that easy, why not open yours. Dear Dimbga, I appreciate your very balanced approach to the issue. Congrats Papa Ayo on your birthday.

  5. PETER November 27, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    I have never read your write-ups and the piece above is nothing but a trash in defense of the present generation of rogues called pastors.Are you intelligent at all? I wouldn’t have commented if not for the comparison you drew(in the first four paragraph) between Jesus and these thieves.Firstly there are no basis for comparison because Jesus lived the life he preached.he was born a pauper (carnally) and died as one.Jesus did not approach or try sweet tongue the woman to release her oil(this is contrary to what today’s pastor are ) and what the woman did was a spiritual preparation which your gullible mind cannot appreciate(if it were to be today’s pastor,they will not only stop the woman but collect the oil from her and sell it because nothing is spiritual about them)The whole essence of Christianity is salvation.In Christianity,God is indifferent if a christian died rich or poor as long he/she made it heaven.However if God has destined you to be rich-fine; and if not-fine;but you will definitely not be a beggar. Your today’s pastors employ dubious tricks,methods,sermons to exploit their congregation all in the name of God-God will judge all.FINITO

  6. omoibile November 27, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Hmmmnnn…………..Dimgba you struck it right on the button! You are so sharp and so correct with this write up, well done. NGO and Prince Anyakoba, you are both reading my mind and you are so correct.

    I do not see the logic in saying that in a free liberal democracy where there is freedom of association and people take their money and give it to a church, not a secret cult O and the head man or GO or Bishop buys a jet with it? I understand that people may have a mixed up concept of the Christian as a down and out poor man but it aint not so brother. Did these men of God steal or misappropriate the cash for the jet?

    Yet everyday we see the public money used in sundry illegal or unethical ways and we simply shrug and acquiesce.

    In all seriousness the pastors not only NEED the jet but also DESERVE to own not just one but two or maybe three jets to facilitate their movement in Nigeria, in Africa and internationally.

    Promise, Socrates and Peter you better stop bellyaching over nothing!

  7. Common man November 27, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    The moment we have journalists instead of boot lickers, things will start falling into place. In advanced countries, journalists would’ve conducted water tight investigation into the jet gift to know if it is induced and other relevant things. Questions should be asked why christian parents can’t afford to send their wards to their ‘church’s’ schools when missionaries of old are begging even non christians to come and be educated. When people that should be uncovering wrongs start whitewashing wrong then we are all doomed. Well truth remains constant no matter how men try to manouver it. What is happening today in the country is because of our wrong value systems. Over there when journalists have writer’s block, instead of engaging in praise singing and things like these they go into investigative journalism, even using themselves as baits to catch and expose corrupt people. That was how some fifa officials were caught and disgraced saving the integrity of the round game but in our country the reverse is the case and we are all swimming in the mess. Next week instead of looking for something useful to the society to write on, look on the next money bag on your list to defend. Reasons i cry whenever i remember Dele Giwa.

  8. Samuel November 27, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    This a great “essay” and powerful instruction to the learned.
    But to the folly, their insanity continues.
    Tundee Bakarae isn’t better off, a priest that left his pulpit for politics.
    What action has he taken to walk the talk?
    For kukahh, his is so hypocritical. Whereas the pope locked up his private secretary who leaked the deep rooted corruption and contract inflations in vatican and locked the priest up in a vatican cell, I had thought that Father kukahh would have resigned as to protest such evil and deceit. But he never? And now, he’s attacking Ayo for selfissh reasons. The “vatileak” issue is a worldwide evil and more harmful to Christianity than Pastor Ayo accepting a common Jet gift.
    To Dr. Igwe, keep the ink flowing!

  9. Efeturi Ojakaminor November 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    In Nigeria we can justify just about anything. Sorry, after reading this piece I am not better informed. I will listen to you on this some other time.

  10. Ezinwanne November 27, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Give us a break Pastor Dimgba. Your submissions are not only off the mark, but also self serving.
    Biko chelu, you miss the point

    Pentecostal Christianity is money driven, fake, callous, hypocritical and worldly.
    It is also an avenue to massage the over-bloated egos of the characters who style themselves “Overseers, General Overseers, Daddy this, Mummy that, Apostle this, Prophet that. Man of God…God’s anointed, bla, bla, bla
    Pentecostal Christianity is a symptom and also the fruit of the failure of our economy, the descent into filth of our morality and the unrestrained greed inherent in man.
    Organized religion generally is a mind control gimmick to keep people feeding fat off others (usually the priestly or clergy class feeding off the poor and the ignorant). It has its own uses in organizing and giving a direction to the socio-religious life of mankind, but the abuses will always outweigh the usefulness.
    Will somebody buy me a jet please!!!
    I have some evangelizing to do!
    Somebody say Alleluiyaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!

  11. solution November 27, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Solidarity forever, solidarity forever, solidarity forever, we must always defend our own. No doubt, Pastor Dimgba is in solidarity with his own people. I wonder if you read that your sermon before publishing it? By the way, who is Judas? Bakere or Kukah? Who are Pharisees? Nigerians? How dare you compare Christ, who gave back everything to the society, including his precious life with Nigerian super-rich pastors? God forbid! Is like the problem with Nigeria has caught up with the media, even Dimgba Igwe of all people? Last time you wrote about okada people in Lagos, it sent a message, that insensitivity is gradually overtaking your high sense of objectivity. Chai! How are the mighty falling! My brother try and call a spade by its name. Is it biblical for a pastor to acquire 4 private jests, when a good number of his congregation can barely have their meal? Is it scriptural for one to contrubute for building a school but cannot afford the fees for his children and wards in same school? It is not a sin to be wealthy. But the application of wealth can somehow be a sin, Where is our moral compass? How can these Pastors look to our corrupt politicans in the face and call the bluff? Why did you say personally, if you can afford private jet, you probably would not acquire one? Dont you think that even if you have the money to do all things, as a man of God you need to apply caution for the faith of others? We need wisdom as men of God. Why have you chosen to bury the truth? Truth is sacred and sturbborn. Truth will always stand You are simply defending your own people, abeit illogically. Remember, judgement will start from the household of God.

  12. NOJ November 27, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Here r my submisionz:
    (a) God is d best Judge. He sees d intent as wel as d motive bhind evry action n reaction, n rewadz acordingly. He is no respecter of persons.
    (b) its pathetic when memberz who directly or indirectly contributed 4 d building of their church’s skul can’t send their wards coz of high fees. Is dis wat d early missionaries did when they brought christianity?
    (c) Must christians or their leaders compete wit d world in d pursiut of acquiring mundane things? What abt keeping our treasures in Heaven?
    (d) “They dat must b rich fall in2 diverse temptationz,… but thou o man of God flee these thingz …”
    (e) The Master neva had a charot/donkey/colt yet made full pruf of His ministry n covad much lands in His evangelistic outreaches.
    (f) …

  13. Bishop Michael O. Amamieye November 27, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Dimgba, what an excellent piece! Anyone who publicly declares their disdain and dislike for men of God who have been blessed by God by virtue of their years of labor is not thinking well. If you have worked and you get rewarded, it is your choice to receive or reject your reward. You can put it to use in several other ways of your persuasion. It does not make you God’s standard for the rest. You are unique. Enjoy your unique disposition and let others be what God has designed them to be. Life is short. Enjoy the ride while it last. My private jet is coming soon because I need it. Oosp! Who is offended by this? Get a life for heaven’s sake!

  14. MAXNOVO of UYO November 28, 2012 at 5:33 am

    Remember this scriptural by JESUS? “It would be easier for a carmel to pass through the eyes of a nidle than for a rich man to make heaven” is Christ a fool? Flaunt riches grooms distraction! Pls how many western MEN of GOD owned private jets or are our pastors more bless than they are? This is UNHOLY competition in the vineyard.

  15. evans November 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Dimgba, I am really surprise that you are in support of this unholy adventures of our pastors . AKA. GO s. So you are saying now that since our governors can steal our money and buy jets our men of GOD are also free to use the church money and buy jets and limos for themselves and there families after all they are the GO s . From every indication you are a strong member of one of them so you are doing your own contribution by clearing them in the media free of charge.
    I know they want everything free as GO s so since you can pay up you are paying through talking BS .
    BAD THING IS BAD, There is no justification for any man of GOD to acquire a private jet(s) for himself while millions are suffering everyday to raise the tite they are enjoying. THIS IS NOT THE WAY CHRIST LIVED HIS LIFE AND ASK US TO FOLLOW SUITE.

  16. james November 28, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Vultures of the same feather

  17. chukky November 28, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Dimgba, i am simply disappointed that you have joined the bread and butter journalist. I will pray for you that you dont continue on this terrain. Repent and call things by their name and not embelished names.

  18. TIJJANI ABDUL December 12, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Am sure God is going to call Dimgba to explain more what he knows about these People who defraud their members and live extravagantly. JESUS is one of those who disdain materialism even when he had it under his feet but today’s Churches are encouraging people to do everything to have it and that is contrary to the teaching of Jesus Chris. DIMGBA becareful, God is watching you.

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