By Nduka Uzuakpundu
â€œNot everyone who says to me, â€˜Lord, Lord,â€™ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.â€
What may, ultimately, culminate in a religious crisis of a monstrous proportion is gradually brewing on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, especially the Ogun State stretch, which is a vital economic route that links Lagos with other parts of the country. Until the advent of Pentecostal churches and other wild branches of the Cross, it was almost, always, an easy and pleasurable drive on the expressway. It was possible, in those halcyon days,Â to drive on the congestion-and-pot-hole-free road from Lagos to Benin City in two hours; Warri or Onitsha, three; Port Harcourt, a little over five; Ibadan, 50 minutes and Ijebu-Ode, 35. Then, there was a slogan: â€œbreakfast in Onitsha, lunch in Lagosâ€ by some ambitious transporters, who â€˜jettedâ€™ between the two commercial cities. That was between the late â€™70s, when the dual carriageway was constructed, and the early 1990s. It was estimated, back in 2009, that about 37, 000 vehicles, carrying about 743, 000 persons and goods worth N450 million, plied the expressway â€“ daily.
On both sides of the road were dense rain forests. Once, in a while, acephalous corpses dotted the expressway. Some said that they were products of ritual killers. They were pointers, some others said, to the fact that the expressway was a famished road. There were, itâ€™s true, lonely human shelters â€“ the fore-runners of todayâ€™s ambitious houses and offices. But all that has changed, with costly effects. The astronomical soar in the countryâ€™s population and the ever-pressing need for new human shelters have opened the Lagos-Sagamu end of the expressway to individual and corporate developers. As industries are springing up, so, too, is a muscular vehicular traffic. The serene, rural wild, for which the area was once known, is now a good instance of an innocence lost â€“ irretrievably. Take, for instance, the fact that each time there was a major, crowd-pulling, Cross gathering within Kilometre 30 and 59 of the ever-busy expressway, itâ€™s such that â€“ somewhat inexplicably â€“ both sides of it are virtually blocked to the extent that vehicular traffic becomes agonizingly slow.
And, over the years, because of the notoriety that the Cross gatherings have gained, most commuters â€“ who know when they take place and attract a gargantuan crowd of Nigerians and foreigners, who stubbornly think that their ultimate redemption, â€˜deliverance from witches and demonsâ€™, and expected â€˜miraclesâ€™ rested with a clique of self proclaimed man of God â€“ either go through the Ijebu-Ode-Ikorodu road, Epe-Ijebu-Ode road or Sagamu-Abeokuta bush lane en route Lagos and vice versa. The intent is to avoid being trapped, for as long as nine hours â€“ it could be more â€“ on a two-kilometre stretch, for as long as a particular Cross gathering lasts.
This development is the tyranny of a minority. Why should the organisers of such Cross gatherings subject commuters to occasional mental agony and psychological torture â€“ all in Godâ€™s name?
Itâ€™s in the long, time-consuming traffic jam, caused by the Cross gatherings, that many of their victims â€“ individuals whose vehiclesâ€™ engines become faulty, and so have to park them somewhere and take another means of transportation, fast, so as to avoid being late to their destinations â€“ in the honest expectation that they would come back to meet their vehicles the way they left them â€“ or those who, because of the same long, time-consuming, traffic jam, end up in the hands of criminals, who rob them violently of their belongings. Add a visible number of the sick, who die â€“ while being taken to hospital by good Samaritans â€“ because they could not get there early enough to receive crucial medical attention.
But, as it may well be argued, the congregation of relatives, friends or good Samaritans, in whose loving and caring arms well over a legion of the sick have died, in seasonal, agonizingly slow, time-consuming traffic jam, on the particular stretch of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, should stop complaining: didnâ€™t they know that free, efficacious medical care was given to the genuinely physically-down, in the numerous, ultra-modern hospitals inside one of the expansive worship complexes run by dissemblers and workers of iniquity, whose activities have caused so many deaths and economic losses? Inside the complex, there is a legion of what is called â€œPrayer Warriorsâ€, who, it is claimed, possess unfailing, spiritual powers that could heal the sick. The visionary organizers of a certain stubbornly, offending Cross gathering said that they built the ultra-modern hospitals and had resident prayer warriors, who had special, spiritual healing powers, not only in fulfillment of their corporate social responsibility (CSR), but, as well, to serve as compensating features for whatever offence their religious activities were certain to cause. Itâ€™s their argument, still, that in the past twenty-five years, their religious gatherings had discouraged fatal accidents, on account of excessive speed by lawless motorists, who had thought that the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was another Formula One turf. And why not! They also posited that those who refused to join them in worshipping Christ, in their vast complex, would always be incurably sick or get caught up in the agonizingly slow, traffic jam about which they complain â€“ with impotent rage, though.
But seriously, Christ is certainly not happy that there appears to be an unholy alliance â€“ a conscious conspiracy, as it were â€“ between the remorseless cheats and coldly calculating workers of iniquity, who organise such Cross gatherings that cause so much agony.
Truth is that those who genuinely worship Christ are ever cautious to cause unnecessary discomfort to their fellow human beings, because, Christ did say, somewhere in the synoptic gospel according to Matthew, â€œdo unto others, what you would like them do unto you.â€ Thereâ€™s a curse on the offenders by a congregation of victims of their religious activities. The misplaced arrogance of the organisers of the offending Cross gatherings would seem to have been steeled, lately, for, as one of the leading pastors of the offending churches told this writer: â€œVice President â€™Yemi Osinbajo is a member of our church.â€ It was quite irresponsible of him, though, to have linked law-abiding and God-fearing Osinbajo with the gargantuan lawlessness on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Besides, members of the Crescent are not happy. A legion of them, who have, on many occasions, fallen victims of the notorious, church-programme-induced traffic congestion on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, told this writer, after Jumaâ€™at service, at Tom Jones, on Lagos Island, on August 5, 2016, and at the Lagos State Secretariat Mosque, Alausa, on August 19, 2016, that they saw the development as sure to cause, in the near future, a religious conflict.
Â It promises to be a miraculously ferocious Holy Ghost fire that would consume Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, who lives 382 metres, somewhere off the expressway â€“ where religious lawlessness is regnant â€“ in Ogun State, for evading tax, even after fasting for 40 days and 40y nights â€“ in opaque solitary confinement â€“ and receiving Holy Communion, during a combined service, in Prophet Brother Jeroâ€™s church. Itâ€™s an unquenchable Holy Ghost fire that would â€“ with a miraculous touch â€“ burn Prophet Brother Jero to ashes â€“ for plotting to claim ownership of the mushrooming places of worship that are now a common sight â€“ in the name of expanding his church and â€œwinning a multitude of clean, heaven-bound souls for our Lord Jesus Christ.â€ Amen, somebody! And because Soyinka has, stubbornly, refused to execute the contract awarded him, on his birthday, in 2014, for the expansion of a certain notorious section of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Holy Ghooooost fire! And, again, because cautelous Prophet Brother Jero has conspired with some corrupt government operatives and fake town-planners to erect â€“ with â€œtigritudinal attitudeâ€ â€“ gargantuan churches, where combined services are, often, held â€“ in areas designated as strictly residential â€“ and, thereby, causing gargantuan nuisance to Soyinka, whenever heâ€™s busy crafting his usually toxic, Prize-rigging, opaque plays and fictitious Bastille notes â€“ rebarbative works, all; and because they are likely to congest the traffic of words in the readerâ€™s brain, they are never read by such brilliant characters as Adedayo Ojo, â€™Gbenga Oni, Nkoyo Toyo, Inatimi Spiff and â€™Bayo Onanuga â€“ Holy Ghooooost fire! Itâ€™ll be a miraculously ferocious Holy Ghost fire that would surely consume Soyinka, in a similar manner that he stodges pigs Â â€œ. . . without gastronomic optionsâ€, and Prophet Brother Jero for his famed, openly lecherous conduct, which led to his being nabbed, when he was comfortably â€œclasped between the two fleshy thighs of a . . .â€ Delilah, during a recent women-only vigil. Alleluia, somebody!
A congregation of students of English Language, Theatre and Communication Arts, federal and state Directors of Arts and Culture, well-known actors and actresses in Nollywood and members of Radio, Television and Theatre Arts Workersâ€™ Union (RATTAWU), led by Sunday Omobolanle (alias â€œPapi Luweâ€); all members of Sports Writersâ€™ Association of Nigeria (SWAN), led by Tony Ubani (alias â€œOutrageâ€) and popular humorists, under the captaincy of handsome Atunyota Alleluya Akporobomerere (osare, omagarhen!); they all chorus, in defeaning unison: â€œHoly Ghooooooost fireâ€ â€“ against Prophet Brother Jero for conspiring with Soyinka to have the National Stadium and Teslim Balogun Stadium, at Surulere, Lagos, the Agege Township Stadium, the National Theatre, at Iganmu, Lagos; the test cricket pitch, The Arcade, the old National Assembly complex, all at Race Course and Campus Square, on Lagos Island, the International Trade Fair complex on Lagos-Badagry Expressway, the numerous warehouses and premises of once-thriving industries that have been forced to fold up, on account of openly hostile government policy, converted to gargantuan churches. Amen, somebody! For causing so much nuisance in neighbourhoods, where live the aged, the infirm, pensioners, et al, in form of excessively loud noise â€“ in a flagitious breach of a legion of extant laws on noise abatement, Holy Ghooooost fire!
Â Such places of worship that were built with the dirtiest of capitalist and worldly ambitions, would, surely, collapse, because, according to a genuinely aggrieved, regular victim of the muscular, jet-speed-of-a-snail traffic jam on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, whoâ€™s also a father of three girls, and lives in Lagos â€“ Sheikh Sakrudeen Ibn Mahmudh, 49, â€“ â€œthey lack clean spiritual content.â€ Many more churches would collapse, he prophesied, if they were not erected â€“ and, genuinely, so â€“ for the glorification of Christ. Well over a legion of church structures would fall flat like the walls of Jericho â€“ certainly not mosques, used by peaceful, law-abiding and tax-paying Muslims â€“ whenever predaceous birds like hawks, kites and lammergeyer fly over them â€“ with a gargantuan loss of local and foreign souls, if Soyinka and Prophet Brother Jero stubbornly refuse to sow a seed, or insist on robbing God. Amen, somebody!
â€œWhen the Holy Bible said in the book of Psalms, chapter number 127, verse number 1, that â€˜Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build itâ€™â€, Ibn Mahmudh pointed out, â€œthe over-abundance of crises in most churches, today â€“ including leadership and succession, embezzlement and misappropriation of funds, sit-tight syndrome, failed marriages, on account of infidelity by hypocrites, cheats and fraudsters, vicious gossip, rumour-mongering concerning why some churchesâ€™ members no longer visit their pastors for fear of being drugged and raped or sodomised and, amongst others, collapse of supposedly church-owned, multi-storeyed buildings â€“ are persuasive evidence to that effect. Many more marriages will be sundered, because Christ did not nod at them or send any so-called anointed man of God to represent Him, when such marriages were contracted.â€ Amen, somebody!
Â And yet, Soyinka and his accomplice â€“ Prophet Brother Jero â€“ insist that all is well. Really! Soyinka and his god-son â€“ Prophet Brother Jero â€“ will, surely, not escape severe punishment, for their stubborn refusal to speak in tongues and for making a false prophecy, not so long ago, that, very shortly, the price of crude oil would plummet to three dollars per barrel â€“ instead of praying, fervently â€“ as do prayer warriors â€“ so that the productâ€™s price would soar, astronomically, to a new height of, say, $190 per barrel â€“ and, so, ease the country out of recession. Amen, somebody!
Â And thus spake Ecclesiastes (Dr.) Reuben Abati of Christian Amalgamation of Nigeria (CAN):Â â€œSoyinka is clearly a part of the problem in that, since the past three decades of the rot, rust and forced ripeness on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, he has elected to maintain a conspiratorial silence, because, firstly, it suits his stubbornly opaque â€“ if inevitable â€“ gawk at the eschatological and twilight zone; secondly, because whatâ€™s happening on the expressway is in keeping with Prophet Brother Jeroâ€™s vaticination concerning his pot-hole-riddled, prize-winning work â€“ The Road.â€
Â And thus spake â€™Lekan Ogunbanwo, the General Overseer of the Pentecostal Faith of the Nativity (PFN), in response: â€œFor Soyinkaâ€™s opaque, conspiratorial silence on the rot, rust and forced ripeness on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Holy Ghooooost fire! For Soyinkaâ€™s stubborn insistence that the rot, rust and forced ripeness on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway are not only true manifestations of The Road, but, also, some conclusive evidence of the gargantuan corruption in Nigeria of today, Holy Ghooooost fire! The Holy Ghost fire â€“ Okechukwu Ifionu speaks of conflagration â€“ should consume Soyinka now, before the refulgent and glorious sun finally goes down on him â€“ for linking Christian religious programmes with bad roads, muscular, jet-speed-of-a-snail traffic jam and near-bottomless corruption. Amen, somebody!â€
Many church structures that would survive the looming blood-and-fire crisis on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and elsewhere, would be flattened, in later years, by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) â€“ if their pastors insist on aiding and abetting kidnapping, bank robbery, stealing of the countryâ€™s crude oil and selling it to foreigners, rapery and snacking on human flesh. Alleluia, somebody!
Â Furthermore, in the blood-and-fire crisis that is to come, a legion of the corpses of fake and parasitic pastors would litter the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway â€“ at the expensive price of causing yet another version â€“ a New King James Version â€“ of an unusual, time-consuming traffic snarl â€“ for their insisting, with a touch of hubris â€“ against the pronouncement of Christ â€“ that man must live by bread alone. Amen, somebody! The fleet of bullet-proof vehicles owned by such fallen pastors would be impounded by the children of the genuinely poor and converted to taxis for the masses. Their private jets would be set ablaze because they are cursed objects of ill-gotten wealth, in which no one, henceforward, should fly, for fear of a certain crash and gargantuan loss of life. Their lavishly-furnished mansions, bungalows, duplexes and commercial housing estates would be taken over by those whom the Holy Bible refers to as â€œpoor in spiritâ€, who, in turn, would convert them to government-approved crÃ¨ches, nursery and primary schools â€“ solely for the children of their class. Amen, somebody! The wardrobes of the fallen parasitic pastors and fake bishops would be looted and their contents sold â€“ as would their fabulously expensive yachts â€“ in a transparent manner â€“ to the happiness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) â€“ and their proceeds gladly donated to motherless babiesâ€™ homes. All that, said Ibn Mahmudh, would be the beginning of a combined legion of the anointed poor and the meek inheriting the Earth as written in the synoptic gospel according Matthew, chapter number 5, verse number 5. Amen, somebody!
If the security agents â€“ the Police, State Security Service (SSS), the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), etc. â€“ are thorough with intelligence gathering, they are most likely to find out that patience and tolerance, on the part of believers in the Crescent, are about to snap. And, just in case, the looming blood-and-fire religious conflict may be one too many for Nigeria â€“ amidst todayâ€™s deep recession, economic sabotage in the Niger Delta region, Boko Haram terrorism in the north-east and post-Biafra war agitations.
Â Nigeria has been lucky to have survived the Biafra war. The on-going lawlessness and flagitious breach of the fundamental rights of a crushing majority of tax-paying Nigerians â€“ including the followers of the Crescent â€“ as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN), on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, may trigger off an Armageddon-like conflict. And even if Nigeria survives it, â€™tis far from certain that her make-up â€“ as a resilient, federated nation-state â€“ will ever be the same again! Amen, somebody! As religious suspicion and intolerance â€“ in the post-bellum era â€“ sink their roots, fear and anxiety would reign â€“ almost supreme. It may well become quite compelling, then, to exit the Nigeria of today, because an influential and sweeping mass would have come to see as no longer sustainable what is called â€œThe Nigeria Projectâ€.
Â The impending blood-and-fire religious conflict, further, promises to be self-inflicted â€“ and not a case of conspiracy by some foreign powers, who know, full well, that a peaceful Nigeria, so vastly blessed with human and natural resources, would soar â€“ almost inexorably â€“ in terms of sustainable human development â€“ in that the security agencies would have little alibi that, in the past three decades, they were not aware of the lawlessness of those who had always claimed that they were worshipping Christ at a certain area of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Amen, somebody!