by Obinna Akukwe
Ahead of the 2015 presidential polls, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan had dumped his erstwhile close friend and business associate ,Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor in favor of the President of Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel), Bishop David Oyedepo, as the arrow head of support for his re-election battle among Nigerian Christians.
Bishop Oyedepo was among the prominent pastors who attended a meeting last month in Abuja with resident Jonathan where the clerics vowed to give the president the votes of the Nigerian Christian Community.. In the said meeting efforts of some pastors from the war ravaged zones of the north to draw the attention of the president to the state of insecurity in the north was overshadowed by the fatherly voice of Bishop Oyedepo, who asked those present to concentrate on the forthcoming polls.
Bishop Oyedepo has also successfully mobilized church members and pastors to pray for the corporate existence of Nigeria and the protection of President Jonathan and his immediate family from arrows of darkness.
There is also an unwritten marching order which suggests that Bishop Oyedepo is favorable to Jonathan’s re-election and pastors under the ministry have surreptitiously started toeing the line.
It was an over grateful Jonathan that came to Cannan land Otta to worship two weeks earlier and thank the Bishop for all the prayers and spiritual support from him and his congregation. Sources within the Villa told our reporters that President Jonathan believes that a church with over 4 million members with lots of admirers like Winners Chapel is of more political asset than the gallivanting Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), whom they believe has lost his political value due to the numerous scandals especially the South African Arms Smuggling scandal..
President Jonathan had also enlisted the support of popular pastors like Paul Enenche, Paul Adefarasin, Uma Ukpai among others in the fight to defeat Buhari. Uma Ukpai has promised to do all within his power spiritually and otherwise to ensure that the South East churches where he has tremendous follower-ship bows down to Jonathan.
The strategy of the president’s campaign team with lots of input from Femi-Fani Kayode, was to use the tremendous goodwill of these pastors to ensure that Christians vote for Jonathan,and also to ensure that Christians reject any post-election violence in the event that Buhari loses the election. Part of the strategy was to link Buhari with plot to Islamize Nigeria and also portray Professor Osibanjo as stooge with no electoral value. The plot also includes portraying Buhari and the opposition party as sinister and calling upon Nigerian Christians not to allow Buhari to turn the nation into another Turkish experiment whereby a once predominantly Christian nation became an Islamic state.
Pastors and priests under CAN and PFN have alleged that the N10 billion naira budgeted by the presidency to induce pastors to coerce their members to support Jonathan’s re-election have been hijacked by few ministers who call all forms of spurious meetings and collect their signature to justify the huge billions collected. Many of them spoke with the Director General of Igbo Mandate Congress (IMC) and Director of Media of General Assembly of all Igbo Christian Organizations and Ministers (GAAICOM), Rev Obinna Akukwe on conditions of anonymity claimed that they are yet to receive their own share of the over N10 billion naira budgeted for pastors and priests through the President’s goodwill. They promised a showdown with those they claimed collected money on their head and refused to give them their share.
The General Coordinator of GAAICOM, Apostle Dr PCJ Macjossy told The Director General Igbo Mandate Congress, Rev Obinna Akukwe, and leaders of IMC that it is wrong for pastors to fleece Goodluck Jonathan of billions of naira in the name of support for his re-election. He promised to convey an emergency meeting of church leaders to address the issue of financial inducements.. Though voicing support for Jonathan re-election, Apostle Macjossy believes that collecting billions for vote is anti-Christian.
Archbishop A. A Nwodika of Throne of Grace Mission told Rev Akukwe that though he will personally vote for Jonathan it is wrong for pastors to be induced to support a particular candidate. He said that ” Christians should vote either ruling or opposition party as their conscience permits them”.The Archbishop decried the influence of Money among ministers and warned that ”only the gospel of peace and repentance can save Nigeria”. In his reaction another Enugu based cleric’ Bishop Tim Obidike said that though he heard rumours of money sharing, he has not been given a dime and that ” I will vote my conscience in the elections and I am too principled to be swayed by monetary considerations” He also condemned the attacks on Bishop Oyedepo and said that ”the statements attributed to him during Jonathan’s visit to Canaan land is untrue and that the Bishop only prayed for Nigeria”