There are Nigerian clerics who are not scared to speak the truth to the powers that be. These are some of those clerics.
As Nigerians bask in the spirit of the ongoing Lent and Ramadan fasting periods, and in view of the worsening state of security in the country, we take a look at Christian and Muslim clerics who have spoken truth to power in recent times
Pastor Enoch Adeboye
The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, is undoubtedly one of the most influential clerics in the country that occasionally speaks truth to power. This was evident in his most recent Sunday sermon given at the church’s Redemption Camp on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. During the sermon, Adeboye expressed concern about the spate of insecurity in Kaduna State. He said, “You cannot go to Kaduna by road, air or train. That brings so many questions to my mind as a man of prayers. Why Kaduna? Who is trying to isolate Kaduna? Why? After Kaduna, which next?”
He added,“I am also worried about rising crude oil theft in the country. News has it that as of now, more than 80 per cent of oil produced in the country is stolen. It is in the news and nobody has denied it. That leads me to several questions. Who is stealing the oil? Where is the money going? What do they want to do with the money? Who are the foreign nations buying this stolen oil? How many of these nations of the world are your friends?
“It is also in the news that more than 90 per cent of Nigeria’s income is used to pay interest on money borrowed, and we are still borrowing more. This means we are moving steadily into bankruptcy. I am more concerned about all these for now and not who becomes what at the next general elections,”he said.
Adeboye also insisted that politics is not his calling, and he will never become a politician. He said, “I have said it before and I will say it again. I am not and will never be a politician. I am a pastor; that is what God called me to be. Please, do not distract me. My assignment is to be a pastor; to pray for you, to pray for nations, including Nigeria. I have no anointed candidate. In RCCG, every political party is heavily represented. I have never told you which party to vote for, whether in secret or in the open. So, it will be unjust to tell you to support one party over another. Anybody that comes to me to seek prayers, I will gladly pray for the person because I am a pastor. I will say, ‘father let your perfect will concerning this person be done. Remember, it is written, the highest rules in the affairs of men and gives power to whoever pleases Him.’”
Adeboye’s declaration comes after a recent circular by the church on the creation of a Directorate of Politics and Governance, which many people interpreted to mean that the church was canvassing support for its members who have political interests in the forthcoming general elections.
Recall that in February 2020, Adeboye had carried a placard and led a protest against insecurity in the country.
Sheikh Nuru Khalid
One of the most recent criticisms of the Buhari regime by a cleric was the sermon delivered on Friday, April 1, by the former Imam of the Apo Legislators Quarters Central Mosque, Sheik Nuru Khalid. The sermon, however, led to the cleric’s suspension and subsequent sack by the mosque’s administrators.
During his sermon, Sheikh Khalid spoke about the government’s failure to handle insecurity in the country. He said, “Everyone condemned the incident (train attack in Kaduna State), except the bandits. So, condemnation is not enough. The President should visit the state to sympathise with the victims. The President has been to Kaduna for campaigns but he could not go there on a sympathy visit.”
Khalid also urged Nigerians not to partake in elections if the government could not guarantee their safety. He said, “Nigerian masses should resort to only one term which is – protect our lives, (and) we will come out to vote. Let us be killed, (and) we will not come out to vote, since it’s only elections that you people know.”
Following the fiery sermon, Khalid was suspended. In a letter, the Chairman of the mosque’s steering committee, Senator Sai’du Dansadau, said the imam was suspected for the ‘inciting sermon’.
Announcing Khalid’s suspension, Senator Dansadau said in a statement, “I am informing you that you have been suspended from leading prayers in the Apo Legislative Quarters Mosque from today, April 2, 2022, until further notice. The decision was taken because of the inciting sermon you delivered on April 1, 2022, where you advised people not to vote in the 2023 general elections unless politicians respond to some critical questions. You should have advised them to vote out those that transgress the Almighty and breach people’s social contract as well as the state.”
However, the Sheik said he was unperturbed. He also vowed to continue speaking the truth, daring those who perceived his sermon as inciting to show evidence.
Meanwhile, the mosque eventually sacked the Khalid, for ‘not showing remorse for his attitude that led to his suspension’.
Khalid, who is also the founder of the Islamic Research and Da’awah Foundation, later announced that he had been appointed as the imam of a mosque situated behind the Central Bank of Nigeria’s quarters in Abuja.
He said, “My sack is a reflection of how Nigeria is today. Many people are hiding under the cover of religion to perpetrate all manners of unwholesome acts. Such people would stop at nothing to take away people like me, who are pro-masses and bold enough to speak the truth to power always on behalf of voiceless Nigerians. This is the price we pay for aligning with the people and identifying with their sufferings. By the Grace of Almighty Allah, I will be leading my new congregation this Friday, because as clerics, we need a platform to operate.”
Bishop David Oyedepo
The founder of the Living Faith Church Worldwide (Winners Chapel), Bishop David Oyedepo, is another popular critic of the Buhari regime. On several occasions, Oyedepo has come under attack by supporters of the President over his criticism of the regime.
In December 2021, during the church’s Shiloh programme, Oyedepo said President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime was the worst thing that had happened to Nigeria. He said, “I have never suffered one sleepless night on the issues of this nation but what God tells me to say, I say it clearly, unashamedly and unperturbed. I am at rest at all times. I knew this government won’t do Nigeria any good and I told you from the beginning. The worst thing that has ever happened to this nation is this devilish, murderous government. It is retrogressive in every way. But I told you before and I shouted it clearly and never denied it.”
In July 2021, Oyedepo had described the Buhari regime as an ‘evil filled wilderness’.
In March 2020, Oyedepo had said Buhari’s government was the most wicked in the history of Nigeria. Criticising the government’s approach to the proposed Hate Speech Bill while delivering a sermon in his church, Oyedepo claimed that the government was trying to criminalise hate speech while those who committed the actual offence went unpunished.
He said, “The government in this country is making a draconian law– hate speech. They said if you speak hatefully, you have committed murder. Between someone who says, ‘I will kill you’ and the one who kills, who has committed a crime? I don’t understand which kind of animal farm we live in. In my view, you are bad and shouldn’t be a leader. I have the right to say so. I am a true born and thoroughly-bred Nigerian; an intelligent one. In my view, this is the worst thing that has happened to Nigeria — this government. It is the worst and in fact, it is like a curse.”
In December 2019, Oyedepo had slammed the government over its failure to cater to the needs of the people. According to him, the President had misplaced priorities.
He said, “If the government was doing well, the people would not complain. People are complaining because you are not doing well.”
Also, in July 2018, Oyedepo asked Buhari to resign from office. While reacting to killings by herdsmen, Oyedepo, alongside the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church, Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan and a former Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Lagos, Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, called for the resignation of the President.
Oyedepo said, “The most honourable thing for any non-performing leader to do is to resign. Get out of the office! Even our Islamic friends in the north are calling on him (Buhari) to resign. That’s the noblest thing to do. Or, are we going to look at one system destroying a whole nation?”
Cardinal John Onaiyekan
Another religious leader who is a staunch critic of the Buhari regime is Cardinal John Onaiyekan. On January 22, 2022, during the annual St. Paul’s lecture and merit award of the national missionary seminary of St. Paul Gwagwalada, Abuja, the former Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, chided the President on the approach of his government towards solving the problem of insecurity.
Onaiyekan expressed displeasure that the insecurity in the country had persisted. Speaking on the theme, ‘Constructing redemptive narratives of hope in Nigeria’, he lamented that Nigeria had failed as a nation if killings and kidnapping and other social vices continue till 2023.
He said, “There is no reason for the spate of insecurity to continue like this till 2023. There is no reason the nation should not be able to finally settle this problem before 2022 is over. My advice for President Muhammadu Buhari is that he should realise that he has finished his tenure, and he should allow Nigerians to pick his successor. I am one of those who believe that a lot still can be done between now and 2023 to improve our electoral system. What we had in 2019 was a shame. There is still rancour between the National Assembly and the Presidency, and the rancour between the political parties. If the political parties cannot come out in a reasonable way with candidates, respecting all the rules of democracy, how can we have a democratic government? The political parties are the ones to give us the candidates that we would vote for.”
In April 2021, during an interview with AIT, Onaiyekan had said he believed genuine religious leaders had a role to play in politics, which included advancing the cause of the masses and speaking truth to power in the name of God.
He said, “With all due respect to whoever is speaking for the Presidency, he has a wrong idea of politics. Maybe, for him, politics has been just a game they play in the middle of the night. But, if you understand politics as to how you organise and manage the community for the common good, we are all supposed to be politicians. Does that mean that whenever we (religious leaders) tell the truth and work to make our country better, we should shut up because we are playing politics?
Onaiyekan also urged President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo not to merely preach to the people during religious festivals that ‘all will be well’, but to back up their messages with the right actions to produce results.
In December 2020, Onaiyekan had said President Buhari’s admittance that Nigerians don’t trust his government was a positive step. The clergyman stated this while reacting to Buhari’s Christmas message. He attributed the rising public distrust in Buhari’s regime to widespread deceit being peddled on numerous occasions.
Reverend Father Mbaka
The Spiritual Director of Adoration Ministry, Enugu, Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka, is another cleric who criticises bad governance. Even before Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)’s regime, Mbaka had criticised former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. At that time, many members of the All Progressives Congress had hailed him. However, Buhari’s regime has been at loggerheads with the priest because of his scathing criticism of the government particularly over the rising state of insecurity in the country.
On January 7, 2022, Mbaka had during a sermon warned Buhari against handing over power to someone of northern extraction.
Warning that Nigeria may cease to exist if the north retains power in 2023, he said, “President Buhari should better plan well and hand over (power) to the south. If the north wants to take over, this country will collapse. There may be no Nigeria again if the President tries to hand over power back to the north. After Buhari, northerners should forget about leadership in the coming political era. The spirit of the Lord asked me to say this because they have what it takes to plant a northerner. Buhari should remember that Nigerians trusted him when he came in (2015) and he should remember that one day, he is leaving that place.”
In April 2021, Mbaka also criticised Buhari over the spate of insecurity in the country. The priest stated that it was wrong for Buhari to ‘maintain grave silence’ despite the widespread killings in the country.
He said, “I know people will say, ‘Mbaka, did you not pray for Buhari’? Did Samuel not anoint Saul? What are you talking about? Am I the creator of Buhari? God created him, (and) Nigerians trusted him because he had done well sometime ago. But now, how can people just be dying?”
Mbaka also stated that it was worrying that the President could remain silent despite the mindless killings in the country. Calling on the National Assembly to impeach Buhari if he failed to resign over increased insecurity in the country, he said, “Nigerians, why are you crying? We are crying because our leaders have failed us woefully. Let me tell you, if it is in a civilised country; by now, President Buhari would have resigned.
“The leaders have made the youth to suffer. It is time for civilians to make the leaders suffer. Enough of this rubbish. Most of the reasons you come here for prayers are not prayer projects. These are things the government should supply. To feed, pay for house rent, and even import products from abroad, taxation has doubled, and the international community cannot come to Nigeria to invest anymore.
About a month after the statement, it was rumoured that Mbaka was arrested by officers of the Department of State Security Service. This unconfirmed report led to protests in Enugu, as his supporters took to the streets to demand his release.
The cleric later came out and said the DSS was not involved in his disappearance. Mbaka said he was kept incommunicado by his Bishop and ordered not to make public statements for a month.
Bishop Matthew Kukah
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Matthew Kukah, is another staunch critic of the Buhari regime. Kukah had been under fire on many occasions for speaking up against the government’s lackadaisical attitude towards the issue of insecurity.
In December 2020, the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum had called for Kukah’s arrest and prosecution for alleged treasonable felony. AYCF’s National President, Yerima Shettima, said Kukah was inciting a coup against a democratically-elected government.
Kukah, in a Christmas Day article, had accused Buhari of nepotism, adding that there would have been a coup if a non-Northern Muslim had become President.
He added that the north had not been spared by the socio-economic and political woes that had enveloped the nation. He said, “Against the backdrop of our endless woes, ours has become a nation wrapped in desolation. The prospects of a failed state stare us in the face with endless bloodletting, a collapsing economy, social anomie, domestic and community violence, kidnappings and armed robberies, among others. Ours has become a house of horror, with fear stalking our homes, highways, cities, hamlets and communities. The middle grounds of optimism have continued to shift and many genuinely ask, ‘What have we done to the gods’? ‘Does Nigeria have a future’? There is enough hate and bitterness to go round. We need to pause, reflect, pray and be honest and courageous in facing tomorrow.
A year later, in December 2021, Kukah again lamented the level of insecurity in the country. While speaking with journalists in Sokoto, the Catholic bishop said two issues bothered him about the present administration. The issues, according to him, are the loss of lives, and appointment to positions out of favouritism and nepotism. He also stated that Buhari’s regime did not have the ability to manage diversity.
In July 2021, the senior pastor of Citadel Global Community Church, Pastor Tunde Bakare, dared President Muhammadu Buhari to come after him, adding that it was time for him to wage war against the Buhari regime.
The fiery preacher also stated that he would no longer pay visits to the president whom he once supported and ran with as a vice presidential candidate in 2011. According to him, he had visited the president on several occasions to advise him on national issues, but he claimed the president often failed to heed his advice.
He said, “The country’s security architecture even worsened (such) that we cannot sleep with two eyes closed. It is so bad but God is not asleep. Some of my friends criticise me that I was one of Buhari’s supporters and I had to tell them that I openly supported this man in 2011 but I am not saying I’m not seeing him again. He is someone I visit sometimes and advise him on what to do and he will listen but once I leave, there is nothing to show for it. Later, I started staying back in my house.”
He added, “I am not interested in meeting you any longer; no more visits. Now, it is war because Nigeria must be set free. I dare you to come after me since that is the usual style now. You might have done it to others. You are about to learn a lesson if you touch me. If you know what I have done in secret, bring it to the open. I dare you to come after me if you can. I worked with you; I worked for you; I supported you to get there (where you are). When I talk now, I have a smelly mouth.”
Bakare also argued that injustice and lack of equity were responsible for calls for secession. He said, “We must realise that what has given rise to the agitation is lack of justice and equity. When there is justice and equity, agitation will die down. How can you be expending so much energy on (Sunday) Igboho and (Nnamdi) Kanu? Igboho and Kanu are not Nigeria’s problems. Nigeria must (be) restructured, and no one can stop that.”