By Tunde Asaju
Check this glossary of terms – full body slam, choke hold, choke slam, hip toss and you would be forgiven for thinking of the dangerous exploits of professional wrestling. You are wrong. These are the ‘deliverance’ moves of the latest rave in miracle land, Chukwuemeka Ohaenemere Odumeje, aka Indabosky Bahose, aka the lion. Odumeje is the founder of the Onitsha based Mountain of Holy Ghost Intervention and Deliverance Ministry also known as the Land of Freedom.
The liquid metal, another of his monikers roars, like a true lion and his supporters’ clap, prance and dance. I never envisaged writing about this comic, but when a murderously invisible virus locks down the world, comic relief becomes a legitimate distraction from the aura of mortality and morbidity. As they say in Nigeria, politics is important but religion is more importanter. The Liquid Metal as Odumeje addresses himself is the east’s contribution to a burgeoning industry that begs for regulation. Instead it is left to thrive on its own whims. The danger is in the way people lap up on any diet of illusion to the suspense of reasoning and concrete action.
Megalomania dressed in the vestige of religion is a danger to any society. Properly managed to know its limits and bounds, religion could be a force for good; left unhinged in the hands of characters with obvious mental health traits it could wreak incalculable havoc as anyone who knows the origin of Boko Haram and other such sects know. Clerics compete with science over a pandemic. One religious leader believes the protective lockdown is a calculated attempt to asphyxiate the growth of his brand of religion and openly challenges it. Political actors taking decisions for the best interest of the public are vilified as insensitive. These people, who expected rivers to flow with corpses as predicted are now openly angry that only a few deaths have occurred.
Governors fight a losing battle with faith healers peddling unverified and non-verifiable data of phantom patients they have discharged with their healing prayers. Some made advanced donations to the pandemic fund in the hope that they could make more money from peddling oil, ornaments and other paraphernalia on unsuspecting people. Religious leaders are leading the rebellion against measures taken in public good. Mobile courts have responded with slaps on the wrist in the fear of weaning the masses from their opium. A traditionally untrusted government is fighting alternate religious leaders using the mass media to undermine efforts at containing a virulent virus. These deviants pressure government to hands off their multimillion-dollar non-taxed businesses.
Last week, Ofcom, Britain’s broadcasting regulator sanctioned a Nigerian group for using its media to undermine its efforts and counter science with hocus. It threatened sanctions. Odumeje is a rising star in this firmament. For now, the Indabosky Bahosee is preoccupied with a duel with some those he calls idol worshippers. He has asked for two corpses and a showdown in a stadium where whoever resurrects the dead becomes the real deal. This is a world where religious 419 connives with fraudsters to scam innocent citizens. There are no takers to the challenge yet, but the cauldron is boiling.
Obviously, Nigerians venerate their dead and would not like to surrender them to official burial that denies the dead of their proper burial. Covid19 deaths are now very rare. People are dying of ‘mysterious illness’ that may make us candidates to global lawsuits if they spill over. We should ask China. Odumeje’s ‘service’ could count as any owambe party where currencies become petals tossed at his feet. It would be interesting to find out how much these currency abusers pay as taxes and what legitimate business they do. Not many legitimate Nigerian millionaires would splash their hard-earned cash with such wanton abandon. The old Central Bank once warned us against abusing the Naira a veritable national symbol. Odumeje’s disciples either did not get the memo or were granted divine exception. It is hard to pinpoint where Odumeje stands. He hardly reads from any scriptures, dances azonto, highlife and any other music that catches his fancy including the famous secular stumping on the devil!
Apparently challenged in the mesmerizing antics of his peers, the war makes no pretense to motivational speaking, as he is barely coherent. As his entry music plays, Odumeje basically jumps from the upper level of his ‘church’, performs some acrobatic moves which seem to signal to his followers it’s time to make the money fly. He is generous sometimes to allow members help themselves to the cash as long as they do not touch his holiness. A stampede follows! In a recent skit, the liquid metal who is a war, a fight even went to the wilderness to fight Covid19. It is evident that where the state fails, people turn to dogma and reason flies through the window. Indabosky Bahose’s WWE moves are entertaining; the shame is that Nigeria has become a fertile ground for pranksters masquerading as religious ministers. One wrong move in a fit of delirium and we’ll have something worse than Boko Haram in our hands. The big question is, are we ready to allow these tares to grow with and kill the wheat?
-Tunde Asaju, multi-lingual journalist and social critic, writes from Canada. He posted this piece on FB