Too often, Nigerians bother themselves with exotic and self-imposed ailments. One typical example is the beef over the luxurious lifestyles of the nation’s pastors or, as some say, pastorpreneurs. There are, for instance, reports of many among them cruising in self or church-purchased private jets. Of course, you don’t fly along on private jets without an expansive lifestyle to match. So, these men, or, properly, merchants of God, are the nearest you have to Indian maharajas under our African sun and in our modern times.
But one has to concede them a thing or two. They are at it as private citizens or merchants, Dangotes in cassocks, if you liked. Institutionally, no citizen is required to be a member of their congregation. The point is that their conjecture of having found a way to heaven is that, a conjecture. Their real genius in the matter is that they are commoditising this touted “private discovery” of making it to heaven.
In other words, making eternity or hitting paradise is just a product category. And their pulpits are thus forms of market stalls or aisles where these products – of making heaven, arriving paradise etc – are displayed. Like lawyers say, the fact of the display is only “an invitation to offer.”
That is, you are not forced to purchase and, even of your offer to purchase, may be refused by these holy men and hawkers of Jesus, etc. For all practical reasons, going to heaven, making paradise, etc, is just another product like Coca-Cola, Mercedes Benz, etc.
This is where the many, too many, fall into error. They just don’t know that all religions, whether it is Islam or Christianity or babalawoism, are all artefacts, products, or, if you liked, brands. That is a promise, as ace advert men are wont to describe brands. The only distinguishing line is that, while a Mercedes Benz car is largely a material brand, religions are their cultural and psychological equivalents. Of course, there is nothing otherworldly in this. We consult and pay our psychologists and trend or future watchers a kobo or more on need. So, paying your pastor or imam either by tithe or zakat is essentially a business transaction concluded.
More interestingly, you cannot in truth charge your pastor or imam for failing to deliver on his brand promise. First of all, heaven or paradise is too far away to be attested to as reality. Second of all, even if it is not, there is what marketers call buyer’s remorse. You can purchase an item at your local Shoprite, say, only to return home and feel the item is worse than shit. Well, as the law goes, the joke is on you. Caveat emptor.
Even worse, you can purchase, say, a fizzy drink or cigarette and like it, but, for all practical purposes, as the surgeon-general tells, it is hazardous to your health. However, you still feel high. Why? Because a cigarette killing you slowly is psychologically cool and welcome to your soul. That is, death by cigarettes, for many, is better than roughing it out in Nigeria. Nigeria is a miracle hell, one wag proclaimed. Ahiazuwa.
All these long lines are to hint a market or capitalist axiom. It is that a product need not do you any good. In fact, a product purchased by you can kill you, perhaps happily for you. There is little else cigarettes do. And the fact that cigarettes sell more than bottled water is a hint on the preferences of the Nigerian consumer. We are all the more elated to buy that that will kill us happily than that that will heal us painfully.
This last point is the spring of the second genius of pastors and imams. They know men prefer sweet daydreams to vanilla realities. So, they market you hot dreams, not wet reality.
And they have been so successful at it. So successful that they run around in private jets and live it out on Banana Islands. The moral is that nobody should envy them. Selling the gospel is not a restricted market. The best revenge you can give a David Oyedepo for living large and near his bankers is to open a gospel shop. The best revenge you can give the sultan or emir is to instigate a successful revolution of puritizing Islam and bequeathing eternal power to your sons and relations.
Immediately we all come to knowledge on this, then it is preposterous to ask pastors to lower their greed levels or to ask of emirs to live like paupers. They are not in the market – religions are a markets and market products – to deliver their services to you. Just like producers and hawkers of Mercedes Benz, Coca-Cola etc, these pastors and imams are in it for themselves primarily. If they are successful, it shows, private jets and all.
On the matter of their personal, not congregational successes, you have an option. The best you can do – on having buyer’s remorse – is to quit, not to whine and be stuck to the same church or mosque.
Understanding that church and mosque are businesses, whatever else they claim to be, should lead you to “opening and shining your eyes.” In other words, it won’t be too odd to recall Fela Anikulapo Kuti: “archibishop na miliki, pope na enjoyment, imam na gbaladu, eya eya.”
Thus, our real beef should be with government officials, our appointed servants, who live in unearned, unexplainable and even sinful luxury. And their list is long. It includes local government mayors to presidents.
First of all, these government men and their women are not operating in a market or a competitive performance reward environment. In other words, politicians are not private citizen entrepreneurs and should live no larger than common citizens. So, the question is indicated. In Nigeria, how do the common citizen commute the distances, for instance? The answer is by molue, literally and metaphorically.
This is the point. Since politicians are representatives – repeat, representatives, that is lookalikes of the peoples, that is what representative means by the way – they should one and all be jumping molue like the rest of the common populace.
And this is even more so since there are no records of substantial or any achievements by legions of these politicians – military or civilian – since 1970. So, on what basis are our leaders living it out on our expenses, on our sweat, as Arab Sheiks? If the dudes in Dubai are princes of luxury, at least Dubai is a cut of paradise under the Arabian sun.
But in Nigeria, what the hell do you have? There is no water, no road, no hospital, “no nothing,” yet these Nigerian government ‘pikins’ who should be jumping molue are flying it up in private jets. The other day, for instance, the daughter of a President had the escalated audacity to fly in luxury when she should be riding molue. Believe it, if she is granted the next chance, she would hop into an Air Force Alpha fighter jet just to go hunting for new lovers. Boy, things happen.
It is really a scandal that our leaders and family should be living like gods, while we live like hell, in a Nigeria that is an earthen prefecture of Hades. Today, only undertakers are in paradise in Nigeria. And the lead men of these morticians and undertakers are the Nigerian leaders.
To tidy up here, one can say in justice. The Nigerian who gives up on his right to question why presidents, governors, etc, live like kings and is asking why pastors live like princes is a barbarian. He has no understanding of the distinctions of governments and markets or in fact of modernity.
Oh, boy, next time you jump the molue, just look around if your local government major, your state governor, president and their other householders are about the same ride. If no, then start an hash tag, #PresidentsMustGoOnMolues. Ahiazuwa.
Insecurity in Nigeria?
When a section of the American policy community wrote a trend piece that Nigeria would collapse in 2015 or so, many said they were wrong. Their claims of American prognosis being wrong was based on the passage of time. After all, 2015 had come and Nigeria was still standing.
However, that is to miss the whole idea of trending a scenario. The point is that trend mapping only gives a rough and ready answer. Trend spotting is not a mathematical science. In other words, dates have meaning in future tracking only to the extent they are seen as guideposts, not measured out distances, in time or space.
The point is that, as things stand now, the American prognosis of the Nigerian future has come upon us. For all practical purposes, Nigeria is a security wreck. It is just waiting for the least spark and it may be Armageddon this time.
What is to be done? Decentralise Nigeria, security, police, polity, etc, as urgently as yesterday. That is the only way to have Nigeria well and running. All else is in humour. Ahiazuwa.