Liquid Metal (you know who), with the first word rendered as “riquid” in exclusive Anambraspeak, is considered a cartoon character by mainstream Pentecostals. That assessment of Pastor (?) Chukwuemeka Odumeje is one only an insentient Christian will dispute. To be fair, the pint-sized Odumeje, with a string of dramatic monikers, has done everything humanly possible to project himself as the parody of a parody. Yet, his followers blatantly refuse to cotton on.
It takes Olympic-standard credulity to retain the belief that a guy, who calls himself names unknown to the Bible (Indaboski Bashose, Seple and War-in addition to the aforementioned Liquid Metal), is a Christian preacher. His sermons (if they can be called that) feature his aliases more frequently than “Omogbolahan Ayinde” in K1’s songs.
Even by the colourful standards of today’s Christianity, Odumeje is way-out, if not legit bonkers. Yet, he is followed with devotion, I think, by many afflicted with platinum idiocy, which is required to continue to congregate at the feet of a Christian preacher given to extra-biblical practices and utterances. He once told his followers that pastors are free to disagree with God. His repertoire of theatricality includes getting into fistic brawls with supposedly demon-possessed humans to show his presumed powers and WWE-inspired exorcism technique marked by body-slamming purported demoniacs.
Despite finding a formula working for him, Odumeje is yet to “blow” beyond his Anambra base. He is, for example, not readily quoted like the Oyedepos, Adeboyes, Sulemans and Ibieyomies. Unlike those A-listers, he’s super-rustic. His church also does not appear to have an address that Tier A politicians have in their compendiums. Indaboski’s grammatical incompetence, notably marked by stuff like “he have money”, is hardly tolerable beyond market trader circles. Sartorially, he earns no marks with his preference for ill-fitting and improperly buttoned shirts atop skin-tight trousers in garish colours. Whatever PR machine he has behind him, I believe, will need to have its engine replaced to get him into the big time, given these deficits plus his unremarkable physique.
Where the others are deemed high street brands, Odumeje is viewed as an obvious counterfeit; something like a Versace passed off as Vernsace, Tommy Hillfiger as Hillfinger or Christian Dior as Christian Dayo. A few preachers with sparse education, like Odumeje has, have managed to flatten some of these deficits. One example is the late TB Joshua, whose halting English and unorthodox ways many found off-putting.
Still, I do not think there is much to choose between Odumeje and the big timers, especially as it relates to the demon-heavy, seed/first fruit-oriented and prosperity teachings. A common practice within this fold is the laying of hands, a practice that sends worshippers into spasms and gets them toppling over. I have seen this in parishes of churches headed by the big hitters. I am, however, yet to see the portion of the Bible that indicates it as an expression of spiritual experience.
A Youtube video of Oyakhilome is the model of the genre. It shows the preacher jabbing his finger at his congregation in his church auditorium, with almost everyone, apart from him and the cameramen, collapsing as he was saying:” Take it; the power of the Holy Ghost!” Oyakhilome is a big-timer who, I think, has been helped by his movie star looks, likely pricey suits and polished accent of a pre-boarding airport announcer.
The lucre-happy Oyedepo, whose love (most likely at first sight) for tithe, seed sowing and everything in between has pushed him into attributing the Biblical Job’s ordeal to failure to tithe (something the Bible does not say), is no less heretical than Indaboski’s bizarre claim that pastors can disagree with God. Adeboye also famously claimed that non-tithers will not end up in heaven. Both men’s approval ratings, curiously, are sky-high. Indaboski’s is not. The PR machine behind them, even in spite of their carousels of pretend-prophecies with horoscope-level accuracy (a staple on the circuit), is monstrous.
That they are better educated than Indabosky must be of help. Adeboye is a PhD holder, for instance. They do not dress down like Indaboski, with Adeboye’s famous devotion to local tunic, French suits and native attires adding to his mystique of being serious-minded (as a PhD holder should be) and understated. Oyedepo’s ensemble of lab coat-like jacket, red bank cashier tie and a naval officer’s white pair of shoes, I am surprised, has yet to be imitated. But in it, I think, his followers see purity, power and style, if not humility.
It is actually difficult to accuse a man who described himself “as dangerously wealthy,” a claim global corporations will not make, of humility. The fact that not one follower of Jesus Christ became “stinkingly rich” (as we say), on account of following Him, is lost on him and his followers. Indaboski ‘s description of himself as “The War” and other self-promoting sobriquets as well as challenge to a duel of miracle dispensing hardly suggest humility. Yet, he gets a bad rap. Jet-owning Johnson Suleman would brag if he did as much as read a newspaper, in addition to generally using his pulpit to vend non-scriptural garbage as sound doctrine. But he is better regarded than Indaboski, who does the same thing. Perhaps, it is not what you do, but how you do it; not what you say, but how you say it.
That brings me to Ibieyomie, a man who escaped my attention until he anointed himself as Oyedepo’s sandbag/artillery bearer against Daddy Freeze’s offensive against the former. Ibieyomie recently declared his desire to be the richest preacher of his time. I have a suspicion that his declaration is unlikely to sit well with Oyedepo, who may think the divine warrant handed to him to scoop up every cent on the planet is about to be challenged. That, however, is less significant. What is? Had Indaboski made that claim, mainstream Pentecostals would have whooped with scorn, dismissing him as a stand-up comedian. If he had dared say he was prophesying (the go-to word for personal wishes packaged as divine revelations) into his life, as Ibieyomie did, he would have been branded a frigging con. Indaboski’s methods are not inferior. They have not just benefitted from cutting-edge marketing, a challenge faced-to some extent by the late Joshua who, until he died and his philanthropy publicized, was considered no better than a shaman.