When Donald Andrew “Donnie” McClurkin, Jr., an American gospel singer and minister of God, went to the studio to produce one of his hit songs composed by Robin Mark, and titled “Days of Elijah”, he may not have had the plight of Christians in Nigeria in mind. However, when I was alone at home recently, I had the opportunity of listening to the lyrics of the popular song without witnessing any scintilla of distraction from my children. As I listened to the music, I could not help thinking of how the lyrics rhymed with the prevailing situation that Christians in Nigeria are facing.
For the sake of clarity, the four lyrical lines that unarguably rhymed with the challenges which Christians in Nigeria are facing at the moment went thus: ”These are the days of great trials, Of famine and darkness and sword, Still we are the voice in the desert crying Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”
Yes! Christians in Nigeria at the moment are witnessing days of great trials, of famine and darkness and sword. That they are witnessing days of great trials cannot be disputed when seen from the prism of the fact that Christians, particularly the pastors among them, have been bombarded with all manners of legislation. Of more devastating effect to the Christendom in the country was the first salvo that was literarily fired from Kaduna state by Governor Nasir El-Rufai and his legislative team when a bill that sought to regulate the activities of Muslim and Christian preachers was made known to the public. The bill, as reported in the media, was specifically drafted to issue licenses to Kaduna State-based preachers while visiting preachers are to be given permits. It also prohibits the use of loud speakers in churches and mosques after 8:00 pm. The bill actually applied to both Christians and Moslems in the state but Christians were not comfortable with the bill as they ostensibly felt Pastors may be biased against at the stage of application of the law.
Figuratively put, the most deafening salvo came from the Financial Regulatory Council of Nigeria (FRCN), through its then executive secretary, Jim Obazee, under whose tenure a certain clause in the Corporate Governance Code was implemented, especially for Not-For-Profit-Organisations (NFPO). The implementation which necessitated fixing the tenure of the general overseers of religious organisations in Nigeria made Pastor E. A. Adeboye, in obedience to the law, become the General Overseer (Worldwide) of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) while Pastor Joseph Obayemi became the head the Church in Nigeria.
While many Christians are still finding it difficult to come to term with the explanation of Obaze, that he was upholding the relevant parts of the corporate governance code, it was extremely difficult for them to come to term with the somewhat pogrom that was almost within the same period orchestrated against the Christian community in Kaduna state.
As if the foregoing instances were not enough, not a few Nigerians in the Christendom were recently shocked on hearing the news that Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, foiled an attempt by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) from arresting Apostle Johnson Suleiman of The Omega Fire Ministries Worldwide in Ado Ekiti. The Pastor was accused of preaching against Islamization of Nigeria and inciting members of his church to resist the killing of Christians across the country by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
As I repeatedly played the track, “Days of Elijah”, and listening to the lyrical lines that rhymed with the situation that Nigerian Christians are passing through, I could not help thinking and agreeing with Mclurkin that “Truly, these are the days of Elijah” in Nigeria.
To me, leaders in government should always have it at the back of their minds when implementing laws that concern the church and Christians that Section 38 (1) of the 1999 constitution and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right, provide that:
“Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
Finally, religious preachers across all religious divide in the country should eschew making inciting statements to avoid civil unrest in the country. While religious followers should accept what is going on now in the Christendom with a sense of equanimity but not without prayer, they should equally adopt the Christian attitude of internalising the scriptures that specifically relate to the prevailing challenge in their daily life. The reason for the foregoing advise is not farfetched as Garrison Keillor had right said that “Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian must also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car.” Christians must be seen as Christians in any circumstance they are faced with. They should not forget that in the days of Elijah that the prophet never “wrestled against flesh and blood but against powers, principalities and spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Isaac Asabor, a Journalist, writes from Lagos