By Joshua Ocheja
When the news of Bishop David Oyedepo cursing those that oppose President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election broke out, I wasn’t surprised with the manner it went viral on the social media space. In a jiffy, there were countless retweets, BBM broadcasts were ripping through phones. Facebook was abuzz with echoes of Armageddon. Even WhatsApp wasn’t left out of this frenzy. As usual, public commentators went berserk without verifying the authenticity of the news. Even some respected ones too.
The essence of this piece is not to refute the news that made the rounds because the media unit of the church has issued a press release to that effect, rather, it is to sufficiently x-ray the Bishop David Oyedepo that I know. Some school of thoughts have tried to create a correlation between religion and politics. But in my opinion, the combination of religion and politics is a recipe for chaos. And not until we separate these two, we will continue to experience tension in the polity.
To serve as an intro, Danoye Oguntola-Laguda, in his work titled “Religion and Politics in a Pluralistic Society: The Nigerian Experience”, said: “The need for political stability in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. Indeed, all segments of the Nigerian society are interested in the political future of the nation. However, this interest is approached from various dimensions.”
To the issue at hand, Bishop David Oyedepo is not a politician; he is a pastor, author, educationist and minister. He is the founder and presiding Bishop of Living Faith Church Worldwide (Winners chapel). The winners’ chapel network of churches is located all over Nigeria as well as in over 63 cities in 32 African nations, in Europe and America. He is the Chancellor of Covenant and Landmark universities. These are all verifiable facts.
On the faithful Sunday that President Goodluck Jonathan worshiped at Faith Tabernacle in Ota, Ogun state, media reports suggested that Bishop Oyedepo said “We will open the gate of hell on those who oppose you”. But how far from the truth can that be is the question begging for answers in my head. I was curious that I downloaded the church service video from Youtube. Glued I was to the computer that nothing else mattered to me at that point. I was waiting to hear “I will open the gates of hell on those who oppose you” and my wait was indeed fruitless. I watched again for the second time and the same result was produced. And then I wept for our country. How and when did we get it so wrong in our morals? I am pained by how we have decided to unnecessarily heat up the polity, damming the consequences at the same time.
This isn’t about Buhari or Jonathan. This is about our politicians, social media warlords, bloggers and others entrenched in the art of mischief for pecuniary gains. Bishop Oyedepo prayed thus: “I pray that God will grant President Jonathan the unusual grace to meet the demand of his office.” He couldn’t have prayed: “I will open the gates of hell on those that oppose your re-election”. These are two extremities without any hope of correlation now or in the nearest future.
The Bishop Oyedepo I know is a priest of God, a man of honour and unquestionable character. He is a man that has given hope to millions of people around the world. He is a man on a mission, a general in his own right, and a man that has never participated or encouraged interference between politics and religion. Reproduced below is what was actually said by Bishop David Oyedepo: “I only had an idea of the president’s visit just yesterday. It wasn’t there last Friday when we had the One Night with The king. So we are going to pray for our president… the generation of the Old Testament knew the value of blessings; they would even cry for it. Every blessing proclaimed upon you today must answer on your life. I like us to be on our feet and lift the president up to God. Whatever you desire to see God bring about in his life; bring about in our nation, begin to pray that prayer right now. Father, release your grace upon the president to manage the demands of his office. Release unusual grace in increasing dimensions, to manage the demands of his office.”
The Bishop David Oyedepo that I know won’t condescend so low to being involved in politics. As a fact the very foundation of the Living Faith Church Worldwide was built on a vision to bring liberation in all facets of human existence and not to condemn people to death by opening the gate of hell. Proponents of the “I will open the gates of hell” story need to rethink and re-strategize. The underlying motive behind the smear campaign is coated with politics vis-a-vis the coming general elections. Bishop Oyedepo doesn’t need to endorse the candidacy of any person for him or her to win elections. Since this is all about the elections, it should be on notice that President Goodluck Jonathan didn’t go to Living Faith church for endorsement neither has it been on record that Bishop David Oyedepo endorses candidates seeking elective positions.
And in any case, Bishop David Oyedepo is a soul winner, so the thought of “opening the gate of hell” doesn’t even arise in the first place. I think this campaign to smear his good works has failed woefully. Religion and politics are not in the same space. A word is enough for the wise and discerning. This is the Bishop Oyedepo that I know. What about you?
Ocheja is a member of Living Faith Church, Lugbe, Abuja.