Offering time..!

Casmir Igbokwe

Published Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008

 

Perhaps, the Presbyterian Church, Ijeshatedo, Lagos, may still be wondering why it chose to honour Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, recently. Usually, at such ceremonies as this, the organisers expect their special guests to make some financial contributions. That is part of the Nigerian culture. But what did the church get from Maduekwe?

 

An admonition to stop asking government officials for money. He reportedly advised, “The time has come to reform the church and take back the house of God from the god of materialism.” A statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mrs Boade Akinola, further quoted him as saying that an invitation by church leaders to government officials to give money was an invitation to steal. He expressed his appreciation for the honour and reportedly commended the church for doing so without expecting any monetary returns.

 

Many Nigerian Christians will likely dismiss the minister as a stingy man who has denied God His entitlement. Though they believe so much in tithe, in sowing of seed, many of them do not sow that seed from the bottom of their heart. They do so with great expectations of a double reward from God.

 

The popularity of tithe now is such that even the orthodox churches, which hitherto downplayed it, don’t joke with it anymore. Recently, for instance, I was in one Catholic Church in Lagos. The parish had scheduled the following Sunday as tithe Sunday. And so, the officiating priest devoted his sermon to payment of tithe and sowing of seed. He came down hard on the parishioners for not giving enough to God. According to him, he has taken time to study what usually comes into offertory box every Sunday. His study shows that N1000 note is a rarity in the box. You can see two or three N500 notes. N200 and N100 notes may be between five and 10 pieces while N50 and N20 notes may be up to 20 or a little more than that. But the majority of the money comes in N10 and N5 denominations.

 

The priest charged, “How can you be giving God N5? Each time I visit any of you in your houses, you offer me nothing less than a bottle of malt. Some of you will buy juice or wine and even beg me to take it. If you can do that for me, why can’t you give God something better?”

 

He also did not spare those who come for special thanksgiving with a roll of tissue paper and in some cases, two or three cartons of bottled water. I have also wondered why such people join in chorusing “Na wetin you give us papa, naim wey we dey give you so.” Could it be that tissue paper is what God gave to them?

 

Nigerians will always be at their cunning best to beat societal expectations, especially in this season of harvest and bazaar; wedding and burial ceremonies; end-of-year reunions and so on. This week alone, I have close to 10 events to attend. Christmas is also around the corner. The other day, a relation of mine who is a secondary school student visited. He bought clothes for my two daughters. When he was leaving, I settled him in appreciation. Last Friday, he came again and bought clothes for my son. I had no option but to reward him handsomely again. Talk of ingenuity of Nigerians!

 

Not that helping people or donating handsomely to good causes is wrong. But the source of income of people making such huge donations should be clear and verifiable. In advanced countries, wealthy individuals make donations for worthy causes. And people can attest to their credibility. Society has a way of rejecting any donor who is not clean.  

 

In our own society, those who are morally bankrupt take to crime because they want to meet many demands. They want to be the highest donor at their party’s fund-raiser even though they may not be remitting as much tax to the government as they should. They want to buy the latest jeep even when they cannot afford such a luxury. They want to give their family season’s treat.

 

We can preach against corruption till eternity, but with this type of culture, it may never be eradicated. Have you ever wondered why Nuhu Ribadu, the hunter of corruption, has become the hunted? When he was the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, he made himself a nightmare to corrupt politicians and swindlers. For this effrontery, they plotted against him. They tried, surreptitiously, to whittle down his powers. Nigerians cried foul. They sent him to the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru in Jos just to sideline him.

 

They attempted many other tricks including demoting him from Assistant Inspector-General of Police to a Deputy Commissioner of Police. Finally, they removed him as the EFCC Chairman and appointed Mrs Farida Waziri in his stead. Yesterday, at the graduation ceremony of Senior Executive Course 30 of the institute at Kuru, the powers that be crowned their perfidious efforts by preventing him from graduating with others. Does this depict a nation serious about fighting corruption?

 

Maduekwe’s action may be unpopular in Nigeria. People may scoff at him for not giving something back to the church that honoured him. But if every Nigerian will learn to cut his coat according to his cloth; if every citizen will stop pressuring government officials to commit financial crimes; if every government official will learn to be prudent, salvaging Nigeria may still be possible.            

 

We need to change our value system desperately.

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