The Church involvement in the carnival of Chief Bode George's release: Matters arising
By â€˜Niyi Egbe
The news was in the air. Chief Olabode Ibiyinka George was going to be off the hooks, having served a two year jail term for reasons all too well known. Ordinarily, nothing ought to be amiss over a prisoner coming to roast. It should be a pensive situation. Not so in this case. To be fair, release of this ex- convict deserved attention. This is a big fish whose conviction gladdened the heart of the man on the street. Trust the motley crowd, they expectedly and readily shouted - crucify him; crucify him. This is what they did in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, even where at loss as to the innocence or culpability of the person in question., the persistent request was crucify him; crucify him. For the ordinary man on the Nigerian street, the conviction of this big man was soothing balm.
Chief Bode George's case naturally had the beleaguered Nigerian curious. What would be the end of this adjudged case of impropriety in the high places? What would be the fate of this chieftain of the ruling People's Democratic Party - Africa's elephantine party? The dramatic persona was a man of no mean repute â€“ the former Deputy National chairman of the party in the South West, the hotbed of Nigerian politics. Would pin din pin allow the man go to jail? Mind you, this is a man of timber and calibre, some say nowadays, a man of oil and gas would have been the appropriate description. This chief strategist of the party along with his kinsman Baba Iyabo facilitated the "success" of the party in the southwest, to the effect that the party almost had a clean sweep of the area in the 2007 Nigerian general elections but for that stubborn brat and kill-joy - Comrade Bola Ahmed Tinubu who put up resistance â€“ Naira for naira â€¦!
It's history now. No thanks to the enemies of progress - the civil society and related pressure groups, and the cooperation of an aberrant - deviant judge,Justice Olubunmi Oyewole , our beloved Chief was given the Baba Iyabo treat, he spent his full sentence!
Having lost at the court, friends, associates and admirers of this great man were poised to make a show out of his release. They were set to say: "shame to you, wicked judge and to you all enemies of our friend and mentor". The jail term notwithstanding, we would not allow you dampen his spirit. Trust my in-laws; they came in flamboyant dressing, pomp and pageantry to welcome home the man. There was music in the air, traditional praise singers - the shekere and gan gan men were thankful. For them, this was a day the heavens had made. Not only did they have their daily bread, their pockets were lined with much stuff to cater for their dear wives and children. Their prayer â€“ "God punish those who say that there be no celebration of the release of Chief Bode George, God punish them indeed!".
Many were taken aback by the decision of Chief George and his group to commence the celebration from no other place than the house of God! By Jove! What meanest this? For some it was the height of insults. A common crook heading for the holy place? What impudence or is it nonsense and ingredience - apologies to late Chief Eleyimi of the Village Headmaster TV series fame!
Many wondered and queried, shouldn't this man have simply buried his head in shame, having disgraced his family and Christianity? Even where this sinner attempted mocking the church, shouldn't the church simply have told him: No please, we have no room for you, simply go and sin no more? Not so on Saturday February 26, 2011 AD.
Bode George appeared determine to conquer that day. He was quite radiant â€“ mind you, all animals are equal, but some are more equal. This prisoner was a very important one indeed. Certainly, this VIP had valuable input to the planning of this eventful day. He was radiant, was pensive and appeared calm except for momentary agitations when the sermon was being made.
That day he had former President and PDP national stalwart, Chief Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo, Ogun state governor Chief Gbenga Daniel, Minister of Defence, Chief Adetokunbo Kayode, his colleague in the Environment, John Odey, several party big wigs and thousand of party faithful all to welcome him back to life and society.
The Nigerian society was curious, why would The Church of the Lord, the Anglican Communion and its head church the Cathedral Church of Christ. Marina - Lagos, kowtow to such slime request to desecrate the Lord's altar? Was this another testimony that money can do anything? What explanations would they have for entertaining a man who had brought the Lord's name to shame? Would the church not be jeopardizing even the modest achievements being made in the war against corruption in the land?
Thanks to my business savvy brother, Chief Raymond Dokpesi and his broadcast crew of Africa Independent television, we saw the live telecast of the event. I should seize this opportunity to thank him for making good money out of IBB. No doubt his station AIT, have had a fair share of the national cake. Please keep locating his ilk, and get us back our common wealth.
The preacher that delivered the day's sermon made my day when he impliedly requested Chief George to go and sin no more. He counseled him to make out time to reflect on the documented wrong he had done and not be carried away by the praise singers, lobbyists and political jobbers that were there as if to "show solidarity". The priest also betrayed an irony - he was a mere secondary school boy in his village in the late 80s or early 90s when Bode George was the governor of the old Ondo state â€“ how humbling! The Priest made a stout defense for the church in allowing Chief George to hold the thanksgiving there. His reasoning, firstly, Chief George is a member of the church and it was appropriate to receive back even an errant son. Secondly, where should we have expected him to go - the Okija shrine and thus further wander away from the redemptive cross? The priest was not done, he made it clear that the church was financially okay and certainly was not in desperate need of Chief George's resources. When it came to thanksgiving, another priest followed his drift with explanations that the offering would be deployed to a social course. From experience, I can count on the Anglican Church for accountability. However, I have kept pondering â€“ where were senior priests, when a whole titan like Bode George came to worship? Were his sins so putrid that they would smear their cassocks? We need explanations please.
Chief Bode George's case is another of those conflicts of the role of the church in handling seemingly errant members of society. The church for instance counsels against sex outside wedlock, but what role should the church play where a teenage girl or mature damsel put to bed and there is this cultural request that the baby be welcome to earth with prayers and a little fun fair? Should the church pour venoms on those sinners or seize the opportunity to counsel? What should the church do to a repentant polygamist who in his twilight is repentant and wants to atone for his misdeeds? What does he now handle the women in his life, some of whom are past attraction to other men, been already used and worn by the now penitent sinner? What should a priest do when an armed robber comes knocking and confesses â€“ I just killed and is demonstrably repentant. Should the priest after prayers simply hand him over to the police? How about a man or woman after knowing he or she had HIV actually decided to fell as many people as possible and now for conscience sake is remorseful? Should the priest invoke the Law of Moses and have those who killed by the sword also die via the sword? Or a young church worker lady comes and confesses to the priest, Pastor, I just had an abortion, I now repent of my sins. Should the priest announce her suspension and wade off potential suitors of this errant but repentant young damsel, with a great future ahead of her? The conflicts and puzzles will never cease.
Thinking it through, I reason that the church was right in entertaining Chief George and his friends. Who knows, the message of the priest may have touched one or two of the politicians who are professional in debilitating our good land. It is certain that a greater proportion of the throngs of people condemning Chief George are those who have skeletons in their cupboards. If the Lord Jesus would ask those who were sure they had not sinned at all to cast a stone against Chief George, not one of them would. I bet, not even the late Tai Solarin would be able to cast a stone at him.
The Psalmist King David knew better when he queried: if the Lord would number our iniquities, who would stand? Also, the submission in the Epistle of John - 1John 1:8 "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
For Chief George, it would pay to reflect when the hurly burly is gone. Whether you like it or not, the law of the land has it that you are a felon. You may receive a state pardon, others may deceive you or you can harden your heart against the facts that led to your conviction. Be sure that you may outwit man, but your conscience is there to attest to whatever wrongs you did. And for those who are out there frustrating our efforts at having a corruption free society â€“ my prayer is that your sin will find you out sooner than you would expect.
Finally, our dear chief, heed the counsel of the priest. It is apt: go and sin no more. Put the past behind and forge on. Hear the revered Apostle Paul : "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" - Philippians 3:13 â€“ 14
By EGBE Adeniyi Ainoje
February 28, 2011
Niyi Egbe is a media practitioner based in Lagos, Nigeria