DR. MENSA OTABIL QUOTE
“I hope that as we celebrate this story, and I like how it was put earlier that it’s a revolution and it’s really a revolution. We have to battle, we have to fight, we have to wrest the destiny of our nation from incompetence and from people, who have determined to run us to the ground.
“We have to wrest the nation back and control it as citizens of this country and that is the challenge I want to put to you. You have to dare to dream to take our nation back…”
There is no doubt that we have advanced a number of major arguments similar to the one Dr. Otabil, the founding pastor of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC), recently made at the launch of a book, titled “Dare to Dream on Albert and Comfort Ocran’s Springboard Roadshow.” What is however troubling with his somewhat controversial remarks are its intellectual vagueness, lack of ideological focus, and dangerous oversimplification of what, we believe, should have otherwise been an intelligent provocation. We however agree with him in substance.
We can only say that much based on the limited reportage of his launch speech. Even so, the fact remains that effective technocratic management of a state is not as simple a task as managing a church or congregation. All one needs, fundamentally, to executive the task of congregational management are liberal exegetical quotations from the Bible, the gift of public oratory and charisma, knowledge of human psychology and of experiences, a semblance of eidetic memory, and a gullible audience, for, if it were not necessarily so, most aspiring and career politicians may decide to opt for a place among the increasingly corrupt, hypocritical, anarchistic, and opportunistic elitist clergy.
We make the foregoing argument as a generic statement of rhetoric probability. That means there could, in fact, be more variables that go into the task of congregational management than our self-limiting argumentation may seem to portray. But that is not necessarily the focus of this paper. What is rather important to us at this moment is the idea that Dr. Otabil is a Ghanaian citizen and therefore has the right to speak his mind when he sees the leadership of the country taking an unpatriotic and dangerous detour from progressive or visionary thinking. This is very important.
In other words like every Ghanaian voter, Dr. Otabil is within his rights to exercise his freedom of conscience, of association, and of speech. Unfortunately, he has been as much guilty as most Ghanaians of the high crime of partisan politics. What probably distinguishes Dr. Otabil from the average Ghanaian are his rhetorical sophistication, intellectual Machiavellianism, and his subtle ability to dissemble his chameleonic ideological coloration under the thick cloak of his convenient political commentaries.
This is not to say he is not within his rights to identify ideologically with a particular political party. It is to rather say he cherry picks the occasions to suit the convenient projections of his partisan political commentaries. Our primary contention is that whatever he is saying about the state now was the same under the John Kufuor presidency. It is as though influential and charismatic public figures, such as Dr. Otabil and like-minded ilk, are just beginning to gain back their lost patriotic vision and voice after having expectedly gone ideologically and emotionally blind and mute during President Kufuor’s kleptocracy and his gross mismanagement of public resources.
Yet again the Bible does not regulate or control the commodity prizes of cash crops, minerals, oil and gas, and so on in the international market. Indeed, unlike the latter-day hypocritical saints and apocalyptic prophesiers, Jesus Christ may have grasped the full spectrum of the complexity of secular politics when he said: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Our cursory understanding of this verse loosely points to the concept of the separation of church and state. But does this verse undermine or negate the injunctionary authority of the clergy in matters of political discourse? We do not necessarily believe or think so.
Why? Because we do not see the injunctionary subtext of the political versifying of the separation of church and state as a necessary question of categorical finitude. In other words the versifying elasticity of Jesus’ statement, we loosely understand, is one that was aimed at a quest for compromise between the machinery of state and the place of the church in a secular setting. In fact if Christian citizens of a state are obliged to pay tax, then, it either makes practical sense or it does not beggar belief why one cannot claim that they also have every right to assert their political voice in matters of political discourse, for, after all, their taxes contribute to the running of the machinery of the state and the remuneration of public office holders and their families.
On the other hand the statement may also appear to elevate secular politics above spiritual matters of religion. Still Dr. Otabil makes it look so simple. For instances, do Ghanaian churches pay taxes? Is it not the case that the president and hundreds of public office holders do not pay taxes?
THE MODERN CHURCH AND SECULAR POLITICS
The point is that the modern church and the state are more alike than dissimilar in their attitude of organizational politics. One indoctrinates its gullible supporters to choose it at all times over other political parties, the other indoctrinates its supporters to choose God over Traditional African Religion, Satan, Islam, Buddhism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, Bahá’i Faith, and so on. What is more, one uses the Bible, the other a secular or public Bible called constitution. Both the leaderships of the state and of the church believe themselves to be inordinately smarter than the gullible people they lord over.
Both the leaderships of the state and of the church believe themselves to be placed where they are by the same God, thus making this God an overseer of political corruption and religious corruption. And both continue to sell snake oil to their gullible followers just as the Catholic Church of old sold “indulgence” to their gullible faithful! Finally, one collects taxes, the other offertory and tithes. Even more distressing is the fact that some of our politicians use some of these taxes to enrich themselves, while these latter-day pastors, prophets, preachers, evangelists, and overseers equally enrich themselves from and feed fat on offertory and tithes.
Regrettably also, these wicked politicians and selfish pastors, prophets, preachers, evangelists, and overseers live large while the secular masses and churchgoers for the most part live largely at the mercy of ignostic transcendentalism and ignorance. That is to say, these corrupt and self-seeking pastors, evangelists, prophets, preachers, and overseers have one major thing in common notwithstanding all the above: Unbridled acquisition of material wealth and privileged enjoyment of earthly paradise, while they, particularly church leaders, liberally preach the virtues of Christian eschatology and prosperity theology to their gullible followers.
Whether one goes to heaven or hell is political and business in the modern church today, so it is with the “sale” of holy water and privileged prayers. This is part of the major problems celebrity preachers like Dr. Otabil conveniently fail to touch as a result of the inconvenience of their political discourses.
Finally, he should tell us why Obinim, the Yahya Jammeh on the Christian right, can turn into every sort of animal under the sun while he cannot. Obinim’s spiritual amorphism is difficult to explain as it defies the logic of physics. It is a shame Dr. Otabil cannot do this. Here is what Obinim says to his colleagues in the Christian clergy:
“Some people say they have never heard of a pastor who can move into the spiritual realms and then turn into different animals. I was waiting to hear from at least one other pastor that he also has that special anointing to also turn into animals or other things, but I have realised that in this country, I am the only one. I am unique; I am one in town…”
PEOPLE: GET UP, STAND UP
Peter Tosh and Bob Marley seemed to have captured the rhythm of political morality, a point of view that may have evaded the present-day churchgoer (See their track “Get Up, Stand Up”):
“Preacherman, don’t tell me. Heaven is under the earth. I know you don’t know what life is really worth. It’s not all that glitters is gold. Half the story has never been told. So now you see the light…Most people think, Great God will come from the skies…But if you know what life is worth, you will look for yours on earth. And now you see the light, you stand up for your rights…”
Likewise, both parts of Mutabaruka’s “The People’s Court” make a similar philosophical and political argument in behalf of the deprived masses. In effect, Bob and Tosh are conscientizing the masses against their doctrinal indoctrination by the corrupt and self-seeking clergy, which already has and still is amassing material wealth on earth while conveniently preaching to the masses to look beyond this sick planet for their spiritual comfort. These clerical hypocritical lies would cause Bob Marley to sing the following words on the track “Talkin’ Blues”:
“I, I’m a gonna take a just-a one step more. ‘Cause I feel like bombing a church. Now, now that you know that the preacher is lying…”
THE HYPOCRITICAL LIES OF THOSE ON THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT
Pastors Obinim, Owusu Bempah, and their ilk are known for their prophetic and theological charlatanry. Yes, the hypocritical lies of a preacher made the world-famous lyrical anarchist Bob feel like bombing his church, much as he employed the radical lyricism of “Ambush in the Night,” “Crazy Baldhead,” “Small Axe,” “Revolution,” “Them Belly Full,” “Real Situation,” and “Burnin’ and Lootin’” to register his righteous indignation at politicians and political corruption, knowing full well the propaganda churned out by those on the American political right who claim to embrace compassionate Christianism but abhor abortion, what Steele Pulse’s calls “legal murder” on the track “Wild Goose Chase,” yet goes around the world bombing children and adults into irrecoverable vapor!
Against this backdrop, liberation theology to the likes of Dr. Otabil becomes part of the normative paleontology of the exegetical, doctrinal, theological originalism of first-century Christianity. Yet they relish the social prestige that comes with privileged identification with their favorite political class, as Dr. Otabil, in many occasions, has demonstrated with his subtle and not-so-subtle identification with the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and its leadership.
Unfortunately Dr. Otabil’s favorite political party is not in power. We therefore have no doubt in our minds that Dr. Otabil could be doing the bidding of Führer Akufo-Addo, possibly through Lawyer-cum-MP Samuel Atta Akyea, the former’s cousin and Dr. Otabil’s personal and ICGC’s attorney, as well as through Ken Ofori-Atta, Führer Akufo-Addo’s cousin.
It is generally believed that Dr. Otabil was once the Board Chairman of Ofori-Atta’s company, Databank. Further, both Atta Akyea and Ofori-Atta are members of Dr. Otabil’s church. In doing so therefore, the latter conveniently loses the patriotic and moral traction that comes with political neutrality and moral maturity in matters of progressive nationalism and political discourse. Where was Dr. Otabil when the Kufuor presidency through the state monopolized business by giving out juicy contracts to his cronies and political benefactors? Where was Dr. Otabil when massive political corruption and nepotism characterized the Kufuor presidency? Why has he suddenly found his lost-lost moral and political voice?
Men such as Dr. Otabil can no longer hide behind the psalmic injunction “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” to perpetuate their pastoral autocracy, even as they conveniently indulge in Machiavellian politics, prosperity theology, and jaundiced political commentaries for self-seeking and self-aggrandizing reasons!
Ghanaweb. “I am one in town—Bishop Obinim brags,” Daily Guide. February 16, 2016.
We shall return…