Obazee’s bloodied nose
JIM Obazee, the sacked Executive Secretary of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, is the latest victim of the pretentiousness and vicious vindictiveness that permeate the Nigerian political landscape. Quite honestly, I find it difficult to understand the sound and fury over a simple case in which a President exercised his power to hire and fire as he deems fit. We tend to forget that we operate in an environment in which our ‘big men’ relish seeing victims of their dangerous power games not just bruised but also battered and dehumanised.
If in doubt, ask ousted Senate Leader, Muhammed Ali Ndume, how jolted on learning about his removal whilst he stepped out to say his prayers. Of course, he was promptly replaced by the same man he betrayed to clinch the post some time ago, Senator Ahmed Lawan. Anyway, that’s an aside. It should be pointed out that the craze to wield power arbitrarily did not start with President Muhammadu Buhari; neither is it going to end with him. In the last 17 years of Nigeria’s democratic experiment, it should be clear to us that not many of our politicians care for an evolution into a sane society where treachery is not the lingo of political relevance. Even in few instances where some leaders were presumed to be benevolent, these vestiges of arrogance and demagoguery were never in doubt.
How could anyone expect that a common Obazee would be saved the ignominy of normal exit in a country where leaders shamelessly wear their epaulettes of ego with triumphal imbecility. With this feeling of self-importance and invincibility, should it surprise us that quite a number of these persons wield power with reckless abandon? When you start fiddling with a combustible opium called religion especially in a country where religiosity is placed above our Lord’s gift of common sense, you should expect to be consumed in the hot stew.
For, if we must tell ourselves the truth, not one single Nigerian leader had ever downplayed the role that religious faith played in his emergence, appointments of aides and even in dispensing favours. Some would say politics and religion are strange bedfellows. That is a lie. Even in advanced democracies, religion plays a pivotal role in the leadership process and policy formulation.
The only difference between what is obtained in advanced democracies and ours is the existence of strong institutions which make it manifestly difficult for the political leadership to exploit their faith for selfish reasons or curry political favour in the foreseeable future. And this is the point where I disagree with those who argue that Mr. Obazee’s sack has nothing to do with his decision to implement FRC’s lawful mandate to regulate the activities of religious bodies in the country. On paper, the FRC may pride itself as an independent body. But, in reality, it is nothing other than another paperweight agency under the firm control of an all-powerful Presidency.
If Obazee had come to grips with the fact that the FRC can only bite with the active support of Aso Rock, he wouldn’t be the sacrificial goat of the high-wired politics that saw him dancing alone in the open square. Religion is a tinderbox in Nigeria and the wise tries as much as possible to tread with informed trepidation when dealing with it. Obazee should have known that there are laws in this country that are formulated to be implemented in the breach. No doubt, one of such laws is the FRC’s subtle, even if bold attempt, to subject the financial activities of religious and worship places to standard accounting practice, reporting and auditing by classifying such as Non-Governmental Organisations.
In addition to this, the FRC, in its wisdom, also believes that heads of these religious bodies and civil society organisations should comply with its directive a maximum 20 years’ reign and that such should not be turned into a family business where the fortunes are handed over to close relatives like wives and children if the founder dies or retires. Personally, I do not see anything untoward in a duly established body exercising its assigned responsibilities.
The FRC, which operates under the Ministry of Industries, Trade and Investment, is saddled with responsibilities of “setting and promoting compliance with standards for accounting, financial reporting and auditing in Nigeria. It also regulates the practices of professionals involved in financial reporting and promotes good practices in financial reporting and corporate governance.”
Perhaps, the FRC wouldn’t have taken the bold step to dabble into the leadership and financial records of churches if its Governance Code 2016, which has now been suspended following the sacking of Obazee, has not listed worship places (church and mosques) as NGOs. It was for that reason that one of Nigeria’s respected clergy and General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, vacated the post for someone else while announcing his headship of the fold worldwide. Ordinarily, this event would have gone unnoticed but for the insinuation that there was more to the FRC’s governance code than just a simple case of making worship places to comply with requisite accounting principles. Of course, highly influential members of the church, which boasts of millions of worshippers, did not take Adeboye’s sudden exit lying low.
In less than 48 hours after what was initially said to be in compliance with the biblical admonition of giving unto Caesar’s what belongs to Caesar, the pendulum of change turned 360 degrees backwards as Obazee was fired in addition to an immediate reconstitution of the FRC board. Obazee, the hunter, was hunted out of his seat! It was a twist of fate which the men of faith, who read the hand of God in the matter. celebrated with pomp and panache.
Some have even labelled Obazee, said to be a pastor, an angel of the devil hired to frustrate the good works God has been doing through his representatives on earth. Of course, this must include the band of mega rich pastors that dot our landscape! While I agree that matters of spirituality are deeper than what ordinary mortals like me can easily fathom, I would like to be properly educated on why most of the powerful clergymen that spoke on the issue were virulently against the FRS’s request that their books should be made available for the regulatory body to examine. This, by the way, is not an attempt to defend Obazee and the allegations of vendetta made against him. It is more about speaking the truth to the spiritual forces bestriding the churches today.
What is wrong with the churches setting examples on probity and accountability? Christians need to ask themselves salient questions about the way the affairs of the churches are being conducted. Do our leaders exemplify the simple tenets of living that Christ lived, died and rose for? Is it right for founders of some of these worship places to incorporate such organisations with their spouses and children as shareholders? How about those who invest the congregation’s offerings in different kinds of Ponzi schemes to make profits that end up in private accounts? Is pastoral calling really a family affair in which the father must hand over the headship of the church to his children or wives? Clearly, we do Christianity no good when we tar the Obazee saga with the brush of anti-Christ or the argument that some forces are bent on Islamising Nigeria through the FRC.