I Went to Nigeria and Could Not Find a Born-Again Christian
Written by Phil Tam-Al Alalibo
In spite of the thousands of churches populating that fruited plain called Nigeria; one is hard-pressed to find a true born-again Christian in that country these days. I wonder if they have all participated in a silent rapture that is yet to be announced to the rest of the world. Just a few days ago, I read an interesting newspaper article that was captioned – “Nigeria Still Sinful In Spite of Many Churches.” This is very ironic as one of the most religious countries, at least, according to survey, doubles as one of the most sinful countries on earth. Why is this the case? For a country that appears to be deeply religious on both the Christian and Islamic axis, a country that boasts of thousands of churches and mosques, a country that sends thousands to Mecca and Jerusalem for hajj and pilgrimage each year for spiritual purification and renewal, the level of moral decay, corruption, assorted vices and mores is indeed frightening.
On my recent trip Nigeria, I noticed that every neighborhood had a Bible-believing church casting out demons and converting souls for the kingdom. This could not be evident anywhere else than in Port-Harcourt, my home. At every turn, there is a church and members are clapping away in divine jubilation and in Episcopal expectation. In fact, just a few yards from my family home, I found, and this is new, a Redeemed Christian Church of God with members praying all night through loud speakers; and on the other side of the house is another church with the same zeal and flare. Also in the mix, across the street is a mosque with its aged loud speakers mounted strategically on the roof, permeating the silence of the night. In fact, if residents of the area do not repent and ask the good Lord to forgive their sins, they have no one but themselves to blame for what excuse would they tender on judgment day for the absence of their name in the envied Book of Life?
While at home, I went to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in more than five years. This is a good friend who in secondary school was a fervent Christian while the rest of us were knee-deep in worldly escapades stewing in our fleshly desires. He was so holy then that we all thought he would be taken in the same manner Elijah was taken to the heavens in a chariot without experiencing death. But he was not taken and went on to be a successful businessman, still keeping the faith. As we went out to a restaurant for dinner in his car, we were stopped by awful looking officers (or were they monsters) of the Nigerian Police Force. They came around and informed us that we were obstructing traffic as we briefly stopped so I could purchase some music CDs from a street vendor. Even before I could ask them what they meant by their frivolous charges, my friend, the holy one, had already pulled out some naira notes and handed to the officers with these words, “Take this to arrange yourselves for the evening.” At this, the officers immediately cleared a path for us in the crowded street almost molesting some innocent pedestrians in the process.
Shocked at this unexpected ungodly indulgence in solecism and solemn depravity, I asked my friend why that was necessary. His response summed it all and belies the depth of moral atrophy that pervades the land – “In Nigeria, this is how we survived. We bribe and pray for forgiveness.” He was not the only one bribing and praying for forgiveness – everyone was bribing, including elders, deacons, pastors and all manner of born-again Christians. The country is awash in so much corruption that the born-again Christians are finding it very difficult to stay above the fray. Even though we all know that the power of the Lord is sufficient even in the astringent Nigerian situation, born-again Christians in Nigeria would need a special turbo-charged power from the Lord to walk the narrow path. Thus, for the born-again Nigerian Christian, the option is very clear – you either bribe or you pray and most are not reaching for their knee pads.
On my way from the airport in Owerri to Port-Harcourt, we were overtaken by a church van filled with pious-looking-heaven-bound-singing-and-clapping members with the name of the church boldly written across the sides. It appeared they were headed for a religious function. But just a few miles ahead, we were all stopped by police officers at a famous check-point; the van was immediately in front of us. When it arrived at the check-point, the driver without saying a word to the officers pulled out naira notes and gave his offering to the uniformed ones. When I informed the occupants of my vehicle of what had just transpired in front of us, I noticed that they too were busy preparing their offering for the officers and could care less about the “sins” of the occupants of a church van. And those in our vehicle were also professed born-again Christians of high repute.
A fire and brimstone spewing Nigerian friend in Ohio was telling me just a few weeks ago that she had no choice but to bribe when she visited Nigeria recently. She explained how custom officers detained her at the airport because she refused to part with some dollars. At first, she thought she could win the battle by threatening to sue them; but when she realized that in Nigeria threats of lawsuits are not effective as they are in the US, she was forced to go the famous Nigerian way and prayed for forgiveness afterwards.
Nigeria, in this regard, is hell on earth. I wonder how any born-again Christian can live in that country and still keep the faith daily with the Lord. Nigeria presents a true test of Christianity and faithfulness to the Lord and anyone who makes it to heaven from that country deserves to be rewarded with a thousand crowns of gold and a seat right next to the Almighty even if they did not lead a single soul to Christ while on earth. For this to happen, however, the born-again Christian in Nigeria must not interaction with society, he/she must remain at home at all times (with no TV or newspapers, only the Bible and gospel music) to avoid the numerous iniquities of the Nigerian humanity. Even so, the walls will eventually speak and demand bribe for the protection offered from a nefarious society, after all, were the walls not made in Nigeria by Nigerians?
I once heard a joke on the Nigerian situation well couched in a famous song that had been slightly altered to reflect the iniquitous disposition of our society. The song goes;
All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
All things wise and wonderful
And Nigerians ruined them all
In addition to ruining them all, the temptation for born-again Christians in Nigeria is abundant and manifest in all directions and in all spheres of human endeavor; bribery, lies, blackmailing, avarice, greed, violence, sexual immorality in high places and among the clergy. Even those born-again Christians fleeing the country are caught in one lie after the other at Western Embassies and those who make it out severely compromise their faith by involving themselves in shady activities to survive in their new countries.
I heard of the case of a high-standing born-again Christian who went to the American Embassy to apply for a visiting visa. He had indicated on the application that he was married with three kids and was leaving them behind as assurance of his return, whereas, he was as single as they came. But on the day of his visa appointment, failing to do his homework properly, he forgot to take along his marriage as well as birth certificates of his ‘children’ as proof of their existence and his lies caught up with him earning him a one-year ban from applying for an American visa.
On Fridays and Sundays, one often sees Moslems and Christians in mosques and churches all throughout the country, praying to Allah, God, singing and meditating; but with all these prayers knocking down innocent flying birds and planes on their way to heaven, the country is sinking deeper in the abyss of evil – child ritualists everywhere, professors sexing young pretty girls for grades, film directors demanding sex from aspiring female actresses in exchange for roles, human and drug trafficking, embezzlement of state funds, corruption of unimaginable heights, prostitution on the rise, ‘babalawos’ in great demand more than ever.
It appears that the same people praying are the same people bribing, stealing government money and relishing in unabashed sexual immorality – Abacha prayed, did he not? But he died in the bosom of two sinfully beautiful chocolate-skinned Indian prostitutes. And Obasanjo, did he not tell us that he is a born-again Christian of the Pentecostal variety? And now we are hearing that he has canal knowledge, as alleged, of his daughter-in-law, Mojisola, an accusation he is yet to refute in public. How about Reverend Jolly Nyame, the former governor of Taraba State, who is currently standing trial for embezzlement of billions of naira; a reverend?
The most vulnerable are the young, single and beautiful born-again Christian ladies who must live in Nigeria while they wait to transit to heaven. How would they survive in such a sinful country where sex is the currency for advancement? They must commit fornication (or bribe) if they are to be admitted into the university, and after admission, they must continue to oblige their professors for good grades and academic favors. After graduation, yet again, they must commit fornication to gain employment or favorable posting in the National Youth Service. One would be hard-pressed these days to find a young female graduate of a Nigerian university who has not been sexually violated, if not by the professors, by male students under the guise of offering them protection from cults, secret societies, etc. If such a graduate exist in today’s Nigeria, she certainly deserves a Nobel Prize in the category of “sexual purity.”
Lest I be misconstrued and in spite of the title of this article, I should note well that there are true men and women of God in Nigeria who are keeping the faith even in such perilous circumstances, but their numbers are diminishing and this is not good for Christian-dom. Perhaps, in a befitting comical twist that underscores the Nigerian religious imbroglio, someone reminded me on this visit after I had asked a zillion questions about born-gain Christians and the sinful Nigerian society that in Nigeria; (and Nigeria alone) there are three types of Christians – the ordinary Christian (OC), the born-again Christian (BAC) and the “true” born-again Christians (TBAC).
Confused and alarmed at this new Nigerian religious parlance that presented an intriguing insight, I asked what the differences were among the three groups. He explained carefully and I listened with great attention as this had pricked my curiosity; members of the OC group are those who were born into Christian families and therefore Christians by birth, but not by salvation or personal knowledge of the Lord. They attend church only twice a year, on Easter and Christmas and they bribe and commit sin freely, without guilt. Members of the second group (BAC) he labored to explain, are those who have graduated from the OC group and have been saved. They bribe and commit sin, but immediately pray for forgiveness. And members of the third group, he continued, are those who stay true and faithful to the Lord even in the sin called Nigeria. When I asked in jest which group he belonged to, he confessed that he was card-carrying member of the BAC group, having been recently demoted from the TBAC group.