A few days ago, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and one of Nigeria’s most respected Christian leaders, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, noted in an interview with a global news network, Al-Jazeera, that he bought a private jet to aid him in his work as the head of the church.
“When you have to oversee churches in 160 countries, you can’t do that on a bicycle,” Adeboye was quoted as saying in the interview.
With that statement, the pastor confirmed that he is among prominent Christian leaders, including the vocal President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, and the head of the Living Faith Church Worldwide, Bishop David Oyedepo, who claimed to have acquired private jets for similar purposes.
But Adeboye’s defence ignited reactions from many Nigerians across the country. A few minutes after the interview was broadcast live on television, it went viral on social media. In no time, the acquisition of private aircrafts by the nation’s top clergy became the subject of yet another heated debate nationwide.
While some people rose in support of Adeboye, others challenged his admission on the grounds that there was no moral justification for acquiring a private jet in a country riddled with poverty, with many church members among the poor.
Yet there are people who do not only reason with Adeboye on the size of his congregation they also believe that circumstances in the Nigerian system makes owning a private jet by a man of his status a necessity. They cannot imagine a figure like him going to queue at the airport for a plane that may not come two hours after schedule.
Besides, they believe that rich members of the churches that usually provide money for the aircrafts. This is apart from the fact that some other pastors around the world, including American preachers, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn, own jets Yet dissenting voices are also loud and clear.
The debate continued on Monday online. A reader named Toni Daramola wrote, “There must be a business plan worthy of emulation from the Catholic Pope.
If you argue that the air traffic in Nigeria is unpredictable, which is true, then our pastors should use their enormous influence to set things right. I hate to criticise Pastor Adeboye because I admire him a lot, but it is not justifiable to own and maintain jets when majority of the followers are very poor. I don‘t know how anybody can justify that. Pastor Kumuyi has a similar ministry with churches worldwide and he queues at the airports and flies commercial airlines. It is just not morally right. We have become a laughing stock among enlightened folks. God help us in Nigeria.”
But he was countered by one Bassey Kelvin, who was clearly opposed to the criticism of the Christian leaders. Wondering just when it became the duties of the pastors to assume the responsibilities of Presidents or other political leaders, Kelvin said, “You say what you absolutely know nothing about. Do you follow these pastors about to know if or not they talk to these leaders about their ways?”
Still, Pastor Adeboye had a few supporters even in this forum. One of them, registered as Billyonaire, rose to his defence, in response to a preceding comment that Jesus Christ did not own a single private in His own time.
Billyonaire said, “Jesus did not have overseas membership, Goddamit. Our pastors have millions of members in over 160 countries. How many members did Jesus have? Jesus needed a boat and a donkey and he used them. There was no jet then. I am sure he would have got one, if he could afford it.”
A few months ago, the Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah made a similar observation.
Speaking against the backdrop of the presentation of a private jet to Oritsejafor by members of his church, Kukah, had noted that the acquisition of private jets by Christian leaders diminished the moral voice of the church in the fight against corruption.
He had said, “The stories of corrupt men and women being given recognition by their churches or mosques as gallant sons and daughters and the embarrassing stories of pastors displaying conspicuous wealth as we hear from the purchases of private jets and so on clearly diminish our moral voice.
“Unless we distance ourselves, we cannot speak the truth to power. We cannot hear the wails of the poor and the weak. We should not be seen as playing the praying wing of the party in power.”
Also in his reaction to the subject, Lagos-based lawyer, Fred Agbaje, said that though the Federal Government could do nothing to stop Christian leaders from acquiring privates jets, it could help check the trend by ensuring that then planes were not used for commercial purposes.
“The government can also impose heavy taxation on such aircraft to discourage others in the future,” he said.