Sunday, August 15, 2021 12:00 pm
By Festus Adedayo
Recently, mercurial wealth-preaching Apostle Johnson Suleiman, General Overseer of the Omega Fire Ministries International’s incredulous preaching, where he illogically told his massive congregants that angels would immediately begin to credit their bank accounts as they heard his words, went viral. While Suleiman was at this magical feat, the congregants began to scream, ecstatic. Indeed, they claimed, alerts from angels began to land on their phones.
It reminded me of one day in the old Oyo State town of Ikire, when as a little boy, I ran into sorcerers who Yoruba of old called the alalupaida. Somewhere in the Ori-Eru area of the town was a mat underneath a palm frond-made tent stuffed with many bystanders like me. A man suddenly lay on the mat and a cloth was spread over him. By the time the cloth was pulled off, there laid a huge crocodile flipping its giant lips on and off. As bata drums began to crack their sonorous rhythms, the cloud suddenly started to thicken. Alarmed, the alalupaida concierge began to hurriedly unwind their magic, leading to the alalupaida-turned croc unrolling into a human being. If the rain had poured on him, he would have forever become a croc, I was told.
Last week, as the Suleiman video went viral, the melancholic voice of Israel Balogun rang on my phone. I was perhaps the first lawyer and journalist his mind could immediately race to for help. He had received a correspondence from Suleiman’s lawyer, a copy of which he sent to me. It was threatening to sue him for a viral video he had posted on the social media, alleging criminal defamation and cyber stalking.
Hampered by distance of where we both were, I talked to a Lagos lawyer friend of mine and gave Balogun his number. The Youtuber was subsequently arrested and whisked to the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and detained.
Here, I am not about to talk of the celebrated Marxian dictum of religion being the opium of the people or Jamaican reggae band of the 1970s, the Wailing Wailers’ notion of mind imprisonment. In their Concrete Jungle track, they sang, “no chain around my feet but I am not free.” I am talking about the imprisonment of the mind of Nigerians by religious Smart Alecs, Nigerians whom poverty has not allowed to reason out of the barbs of lack.
Lionized by his arrest of Balogun, Suleiman then took a swipe at condemnations that have trailed his “miracle money show,” and maintained that criticisms of this magical money-spinning were akin to insulting God. No one will dictate to him how to run his ministry, he said and maintained: “If you talk against miracle money, you are insulting God.”
While I don’t have any problem with those who willingly walk to Suleiman’s church in search for bailout of their distressing economic situations and their incredulous belief that angels credit their accounts, once the video of these sorcery and magic leaves his church and enters the realm where science and common sense rule, Suleiman loses any right to talk down on or seek alliance of his thoughts with the rest of us whose lives are not ruled by magic but science.
Inibehe Effiong, Balogun’s very brilliant lawyer’s submission is very apposite in this regard. He is waiting for Suleiman to have his day in court and an opportunity to subpoena those angels and the banks to provide the mother bank from where they forwarded the money to the congregants’ accounts. According to Effiong, “Since Apostle Johnson Suleman has the unparalleled grace and power of commanding angels to transfer miracle money from the Central Bank of Heaven to the accounts of human beings in commercial banks, I hereby restate my call for him to help Nigeria out of her financial woes by commanding his cash dispensing angels to credit the Federation Account.”
I do not see any difference between what Suleiman did in that magical money conjuration and what those alalupaida of old did. Since Suleiman’s world isn’t scientific but spiritual, he shouldn’t have relied on science to arrest the Youtuber or anyone for that matter. The angels capable of abandoning their spiritual realm to perform a physical bank transaction could also have arrested Balogun, couldn’t they?
*Dr. Festus Adedayo, lawyer, journalist, biographer and public affairs analyst, writes from Ibadan