Since the highly respected leader of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, stepped aside last weekend from the office of General Overseer of the church, and appointed the Assistant General Overseer (Finance), Pastor Joseph Obayemi, in his place, tongues have not ceased wagging on the propriety of the policy of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) that led him into that decision.
It was a huge surprise to many reading that leaders of religious institutions, alongside leaders of charities and other non-governmental organizations, have to leave their positions after staying 20 years in office, or on attaining the age of 70. In addition, they cannot hand over to members of their families.
This regulation, which ostensibly aims to keep the affected institutions on the path of good governance, will apparently wreak havoc on the existing leadership structure of many church organizations, many of whose founder/leaders have been at the helm of their affairs for over 20 years. Among the many churches that are likely to be affected by this regulation, if it stays, are the Living Faith Church Worldwide (Winners Chapel), led by Bishop David Oyedepo; the Mountain of Fire and Miracles, led by Dr. Sam Olukoya; the Deeper Life Christian Church, led by Pastor Kumuyi; Bishop Mike Okonkwo of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM); and a host of others.
Pastor Adeboye, however, resigned only as head of the church in Nigeria. He still remains the global leader of RCCG Worldwide and will continue to coordinate the Holy Ghost Services and the church’s other critical national programmes. A pastor and human rights activist, Pastor Olu Adegboruwa, has since revealed that the churches challenged the policy in court when it was introduced some years ago but the courts overruled them.
Nevertheless, it is good that President Muhammadu Buhari has seen the wisdom in staying off the matter of leadership of religious institutions, such as churches. The Federal Government, on Monday, suspended the implementation of the Corporate Governance Code of the FRC. He also relieved the Executive Secretary of the agency, Mr. Jim Obazee, of his appointment. He was replaced with Mr. Daniel Asapokhai.
The federal government apparently reacted to the uproar against the policy, which was interpreted in many quarters as an attempt by the Buhari government to suppress churches and Christianity in Nigeria by forcing their most vibrant leaders into retirement.
The sack of the FRC boss, is most likely in view of the fact that the supervisory Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah, had written and directed the now sacked FRC boss, Obazee, not to implement the policy, but he possibly had other reasons for wanting it implemented.
Mr. Enelamah said the suspension of the Corporate Governance Code would subsist pending a detailed review, extensive consultation with stakeholders and the reconstitution of the board of the FRC.
The swift response of the government to the implementation of the Corporate Governance Code against the explicit directive of the supervising Minister of Trade is in order. Although the limitation of the number of years in which heads of banks and other corporate organizations can be in office to ten years, is okay, to ensure good corporate governance in the organizations, there should be no need for such in religious institutions, whose leaderships are supposed to be determined by God whom the churches were set up to worship.
I see no need for the government to interfere in church leadership and administration. The government simply has so many assignments on its hands that it is yet to complete, so, why seek to take on the additional responsibility of regulating church leadership?
Although some church leaders may have contributed to the initiation of this law in the first place by their administrative styles through which they lorded it over their institutions for decades, charging huge fees in schools set up with church funds, and operating more like feudal lords, rather than religious leaders who are meant to serve the people, I see no reason for the government intervention in the matter of church leadership.
This is largely on account of the fact that churches are voluntary institutions, and no one is bound to be in any church if he cannot stomach the leadership style of its General Overseer.
But then, the religious leaders in question should deepen participation in church administration and carry their fellow leaders in the church along. They should eschew the “leader takes all” style of leadership and realise that they have a responsibility to ensure good governance in their churches. They should do this to reduce the agitation for them to step aside from within their co-leaders. Certainly, if the ambitious administrative rats in the upper echelons of church leadership in some churches did not call out to the rats in the Financial Reporting Council, the Council would have no reason to seek to subject church leaders to tenures of office.
Let the federal government face its many challenges and do all it can to fulfill its promises to Nigerians and leave church leaders alone. Wetin concern agbero with a strike by airline pilots?
This Corporate Governance Code is one that is best ignored by church leaders. It is unfortunate that Pastor Adeboye, who apparently followed the directive of the Bible to obey leaders in authority, succumbed to this needless code. Let other church leaders ignore it or await its implementation by any government that would try to knock its head against a wall by trying to enforce such a needless law. Chikena.