Strange things start happening around every election season — politicians go out into the streets to hawk groundnut or are found at roadsides struggling to eat the choking apparatus known as roasted corn.
As we inch closer to the 2023 general elections, crazy things have started happening again — we have a 102-year-old that’s contesting for the president’s seat and career politicians who swear they’ve changed because they joined new parties. And on top of all that, we’re now fully in the territory of mixing church business with politics.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) recently created what it calls the Office of Directorate of Politics and Governance. The main goal of this office is engaging members willing to be involved in politics. The church will “mobilise support” for such members “when required,” and every level of the church from zone to parish has to appoint a provincial officer to coordinate political activities.
What does that even mean?
RCCG’s parishes grow like grass across Nigeria — there’s one for every stone throw. This kind of grassroots reach means a mobilisation of this scale, obviously for the 2023 elections, can’t be waved away. While explaining in more detail what the office will do, RCCG’s spokesperson, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, said church members will be sensitised, especially to register for and collect their permanent voter’s cards (PVC). He also said the church won’t support any political parties, but support its members.
The Osinbajo question
The RCCG’s move has been widely interpreted as laying the foundations for the expected presidential run of current vice president, Yemi Osinbajo. Before he was inaugurated as Nigeria’s Number 2 in 2015, Osinbajo was a pastor of the RCCG. That identity was a significant selling point for why he was on Buhari’s ticket.
Even though Osinbajo hasn’t officially stepped into the ring for the 2023 presidential election, him running seems as inevitable as a raunchy game of truth or dare at a Nigerian house party. So, when the RCCG says it wants to mobilise support for its church members that are interested in politics, most people are really just picturing Osinbajo as the target beneficiary. It’s like when a shy teenager goes to a pharmacy to buy condoms but also buys diarrhoea drugs to cover up.
Dele Momodu doesn’t like cheating
You may remember him as the founder of Ovation Magazine, and the man who has pictures with literally everybody on earth, but Dele Momodu is also running for president. He’s also a member of the RCCG and doesn’t like the church’s political mobilisation plan, dramatically describing it as “an invitation to Armageddon”.
Momodu’s biggest concern is that the church will face a moral crisis if it drums up support for Osinbajo on religious grounds. The aspirant also seems to think the party will have a crisis of choice picking between him and Osinbajo. He wrote a really long essay, but the summary of his message to the church was:
It’s the classic tale of the middle child not getting enough parental love.
RCCG’s broken record
Even though the RCCG didn’t mention Momodu’s name when it released a statement after his public essay, it was clear who was being referred to as “someone in sincere ignorance”.
The church has insisted that the political mobilisation is not to serve the interest of anyone in particular. Rather, it’s a logical response to the growing interest of its members in politics and governance.
The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) has also backed the RCCG’s move and called on other churches with national spread to do the same.
What’s the RCCG endgame?
Using the church’s infrastructure to set up an official political mobilisation organ may be strange to Nigerian politics, but the country is no stranger to mixing religion and politics. This just appears to be the next evolution of that love affair. Whether it’s Osinbajo’s horse to ride remains to be seen.
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