By Bamidele Johnson
It is an awful thing to be denied the chance to be offended and expand to the size of a Lagos BRT bus, inflated with outrage, when it is your sole purpose in life. This is my reading of social media responses to the latest video starring Bishop David Oyedepo, proprietor of Living Faith Ministries Worldwide (alias Winners Chapel) who, a few years ago, starred in the blockbuster Iâ€™m a witch for Jesus.
Reactions to the latest video on Facebook, haven for people whose sole purpose in life is to shop for grievances, have been beyond belief. It is almost like the Bishop had burned down a crÃ¨che or sexually assaulted pregnant women. Of course, the Bishop, an otherwise lovable chap, would never do either of these. Savagely slapping a presumed child-witch cannot entitle you to the attention of International Criminal Court prosecutors. Witches, by definition, deserve to be slapped for fun.
What he did, during a recent church sermon, was to sound like he believed the raging narrative that President Muhammadu Buhari is dead and the cabal in Aso Rock was resourceful enough to find a look-alike and sound-alike – Jibrin from Sudan- to rule the country, run against Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP) and a raft of â€œinsurrectionistâ€ presidential candidates.
The basis of his belief, expressed with all authority, was no more than a satirical piece from the pen of The Nationâ€™s Dr. Olatunji Dare, a maestro of the genre, whose fame the Holy Spirit hid from the Bishop while reading out the piece to his audience as though the words were from the Bible.
Oyedepo clearly does not like being a citizen of a country ruled by a Sudanese. I wouldnâ€™t like it either, especially if I owned private jets, two universities and have rock-star following.
His opposition to a Sudanese Commander-in-Chief did not go down well with supporters of President Buhari and even some of the Presidentâ€™s critics. They responded with a nuclear blast of disapproval in a way grotesquely disproportionate to the alleged offence. Career grievance shoppers sank their teeth into the matter and remain unwilling to let go. I also joined in, shortly after having one bourbon, one scotch and one beer-a trinity that puts me in the mood for a brawl even if I am the only one in the room.
In all of this, only a few people have thought that Dr. Dare should get the blame. After the liquor cleared, I became similarly persuaded. Dr. Dare, in my view, deliberately wrote to test if the Bishop had immunity against the spirit of misapprehension. As it turned out, the Bishop had none. But even then, his piece is an opportunistic stick-up, a fact the preacherâ€™s critics are unwilling to acknowledge. The man of God does not deserve the industrial quantities of vitriol currently flowing his way. It does not matter if he regularly claims to be under the direction of the Holy Spirit. There are certain things that should be considered beyond the ken of preachers even if they have degrees or Higher National Diplomas in Architecture, are the author of a thousand books, own primary and secondary schools as well as universities. Expecting the Bishop to know the difference between an opinion piece, a satire for that matter, and a fact-based new item is unfair.
This is a man familiar, presumably, only with the Bible, which he takes a la carte. His trade requires him to pick from the Bible only items that suit his message of breakthrough, miracles, deliverance, anointing oil, mantle and every other feel good things he hawks. It is the same skill he has applied to the piece he read and took as ammunition for whatever war he is waging. That should not make him a candidate for crucifixion even if his comprehension of satire is newspaper stand-level.
Anyway, by the time you must have finished reading this, you will acknowledge the fact that Oyedepo has succeeded in raising public awareness for satire as a genre, increasing the fame of Dr. Dare, who should be mightily chuffed; showing that non-factual newspaper writings-in the hands of skilled users-can influence even those who pray before sitting on the water closet and showing that bragging on the pulpit is nothing just that-bragging.