Monday, 26 October 2009

Archbishop Peter Akinola: Devil’s Retarded Advocate!

With the recent election of The Rt. Rev. Nichols Okah, the Bishop of Asaba and the Archbishop of Bendel as the new Primate and Archbishop of Nigeria, the controversial years of Archbishop Peter Akinola is gradually coming to an end. He will formally step down in March, 2010.

If not for anything, Akinola would be remembered in the history of the Anglican Church of Nigeria and worldwide as a controversial figure who devoted much of his primacy dividing instead of building the church of Jesus Christ. In fact his tenure epitomised corruption, bigotry and evil in the name of the church and God as well as the use of the bible to justify these vices.

His eight years as the Primate and Archbishop of Nigeria has been an eight years of divisive ministry, divide and rule theology, wining and dining with the rich and corrupt officials of the state as well as playing a very active and complicated role in supporting the Government of Nigeria in annihilating the rights of the people in the name of defence of culture and theology.

During his tenure, Akinola collaborated and meddled with the conservative Anglican Church of the United States formally known as the Episcopal Church to hit the final nail on the coffin of human rights abuse and violation in Nigeria. Akinola’s ministry is simply very controversial hence the relief with which both the conservative and liberal Anglicans heralded his departure describing it as a good riddance to bad rubbish.

To know the manner of man Akinola is we need to look at his background. Archbishop Peter Akinola was born in 1944 to a Yoruba family in Abeokuta of Nigeria. His father died when he was four and due to financial pressures Akinola had to leave school early. He learned carpentry and at twenty he had a successful furniture business and finished high school by distance education. He studied at a Nigerian Anglican seminary and was ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Church of Nigeria. Soon after ordination, he pursued further studies at the Virginia Theological Seminary.

Returning to Nigeria at the beginning of the 1980s, Akinola was assigned to create an Anglican presence in Abuja the new capital of Nigeria. In 1989 he was ordained bishop of Abuja and in 1997 the archbishop of Province III of the Church of Nigeria, consisting of the northern dioceses of Nigeria. In 2000 he was elected the primate of the Church of Nigeria.

Akinola was given the National Award of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) in December 2003 by President Olusegun Obasanjo and in 2006 he appeared on TIME magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people in the category of Leaders and Revolutionaries. However, in 2007 TIME suggested that he "has some explaining to do" in relation to his support for legislation criminalising "gay...organizations" and "publicity, procession and public show of same-sex amorous relationship through the electronic or print media physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise".

Same year, the ThisDay Newspaper of Nigeria gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award, stating in its citation: "Called a bigot by some in the Anglican Church, his attitudes nonetheless represent a deep-rooted conservative tradition in African Christianity that is flourishing and growing." But he has been criticised by other sections of the international press, including the right-leaning London, United Kingdom-based Daily Telegraph which in an editorial on 23 March 2007 characterised him as one of the "extremists" who "hijacked" conservative Anglicanism, and as "a deeply divisive figure" who has "defended new Nigerian legislation that makes "cancerous" (his word) same-sex activity punishable by up to five years imprisonment."

As a result of this and allegedly due to his increasingly collaboration and collusion with the then government of Nigeria, Akinola was voted out of his position as National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in June 2007, and replaced by a Roman Catholic Archbishop, who polled 72 votes to his 33 votes. Other alleged reasons for losing the election was as a result of criticism of his high handed leadership style and failure to confront Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo as other Christian leaders had. Subsequently, his candidacy as Vice President was also rejected by the General Assembly of the Christian Association of Nigeria. Akinola is a married father of six.

From the above it is now possible to put into perspective the picture of the man called Archbishop Peter Akinola. Archbishop Akinola headed the Anglican Church in a country reputed to be the most corrupt in the world. Nigeria is the second largest producer of oil in Africa and the sixth largest in the world, but about 70 percent of its over 145 million population live in abject poverty. There is a massive decay of infrastructures. There is no motorable road, no potable water and the educational system is very epileptic as a result of incessant industrial actions by the Nigeria Union of Teachers due to the inability of the government to pay them. Crime and violence are rampant in the whole of the country and security of life and property is not assured.

In fact Nigeria is reputed to be one of the most violent countries not only in Africa but also in the world. Armed robbers abound everywhere while internet scam is fast becoming a religion. Healthcare eludes majority of the population while those in the Niger Delta, an area that produces the majority of the wealth of Nigeria lives in a type of poverty that is unprecedented in the history of the world. Their water is polluted and therefore fishing which is one of their main means of livelihood is now a dream. This is also the case with Agriculture in the area. The Niger Deltans cannot farm anymore because the oil drilling and refining activities in the area have polluted both the water and land to the extent that agriculture is no more feasible.

In Nigeria of Akinola, where he is heading the largest Anglican Communion worldwide with about 18 million members, corruption is enthroned and worshipped. Nothing works there except through bribery and corruption. Corruption is so rife in the nation that today those who man the government are just square pegs in round holes. Lazy and half-baked stupid students are given admission to study in the best universities in the country not because they merit it but because their rich parents know somebody they can bribe to get the admission. The end result of this is the production of half-baked graduates and idiots who eventually joins the bandwagon to continue adding to the woe of the country.

This is a nation where hardwork, handiwork, merit and the best are not eulogised and rewarded. It is simply a dog eat dog country where hardwork is overlooked while corruption and corrupt official are elevated, promoted and given both state and church honours for using stolen public wealth to fund local and church projects. In Nigeria, unemployment is a very big problem; however it is only for the poor people. Sons and daughters of the rich and well connected are automatically assured a place in the labour market upon graduation despite the fact that it is glaringly clear that they are square pegs in round holes.

In a nutshell, nothing works in Nigeria. It is a failed state waiting for a burial and the poor masses are bearing the brunt of the whole sleaze. People are dying daily because of hunger and diseases. More than 3.5 million Nigerians live with HIV and AIDS and out of this number less than 250 thousand have access to the government-funded Anti-Retroviral Therapy and most of the lucky ones are the sons and daughters of the rich, the mighty and the well connected. The poor are simply left out to die in bits and pieces. The maternal and infant mortality rate is still very high in the country despite efforts made by other nations poorer than Nigeria to reduce theirs to the barest minimum. Even at that, the healthcare is still not accessible and affordable for the poor to take advantage of. In fact the rich and the well connected have got automatic access to the health care system and do not pay farthing.

This is in a nutshell the picture of Nigeria and that is the place where Archbishop Peter Akinola was until this new election the Primate of the largest Communion in the Anglican Church and was at one time leading the Christian faith. From the above picture, one would begin to wonder and question why despite all these evils and corruption, Archbishop Peter Akinola chose to ignore them and rather focussed all his energy and attention to fighting the homosexuals in Nigeria. Without mincing words, the reason for that is because Archbishop Peter Akinola despite being an ordained Anglican Archbishop is nevertheless of the same stuff and quality with the people he made his friends and surrounded himself with during his tenure as the Primate and Archbishop of Nigeria. Ejusdem generis! These people are the rich, the mighty and the corrupt. His primacy is therefore not for the people he was called to serve, but for the rich and he did his best to be on their side and serve their interests.

These are corrupt people, very corrupt and loathed by Nigerians; but they are the people Akinola chose to surround himself with and minister to and because of this, there is no way Akinola could fight corruption in the country because fighting corruption would mean fighting his own friends, well wishers and constituency. A man does not bite a finger that feeds him. They are corrupt bunch and so is Archbishop Akinola. He is corrupt and an embodiment of corruption and exactly what Nigerians loathe in corrupt people. However, knowing that he is corrupt and being the leader of not only the Nigerian Anglican Church but also the Christian Association of Nigeria, Archbishop Akinola is expected to perform; at least to make his name heard round the world as a performing Archbishop and Primate. Bearing this in mind then, it was therefore natural for him to fight something and make his name heard and the victims naturally became the homosexuals in Nigeria. The gamble gave him the popularity and the fame he wanted by all means. It is therefore because of this that he used all his power and might to fight the homosexuals in Nigeria even to the extent of allegedly conniving with the then President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo and the Nigeria Police to have some of them detained illegally.

As I noted earlier, Akinola colluded with a lot of people in the fight, harassment and unlawful detention of some Nigerian homosexuals. Two of the parties he colluded with are very crucial for me to point out here. They are important because they played a very formidable role in the atrocity. The first is the conservative Episcopal Church of the United States who financially gave Akinola the energy he needed to fight and the second is the then President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo who through the abuse of his office as the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria facilitated the persecution and detention of the homosexuals.

Through the non-stop funding from the Episcopal Church of the United States Archbishop Akinola allegedly did ground work well and came up with the notorious Nigerian Same Sex Prohibition Bill. As erroneously thought, the bill never originated from the Nigerian House of Assembly. It was allegedly the brainchild of Archbishop Peter Akinola. He allegedly took donation from the conservative Episcopal Church and therefore must act. He acted by smuggling the bill to the House of Representatives and made it appear as if it originated from the house.

Part of the expectations of the bill was to punish severely whoever is canvassing for same sex marriage, promoting it, sponsoring it or taking part in the marriage either in Nigeria or abroad and to punish severely homosexuals who exhibit their sexuality with punishment of up to five years in the prison. The bill also proposed to criminalise "Registration of Gay Clubs, Societies and organizations" and "publicity, procession and public show of same-sex amorous relationship through the electronic or print media physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise", on penalty of up to 5 years of imprisonment. The proposed legislation was formally challenged by the United States State Department as a breach of Nigeria's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In a well rehearsed drama the Anglican Church under the Primacy of the ambitious Akinola in September 2006 quickly organised a conference and issued a message after the bill was formally introduced and read in the House. Precisely the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria shamefacedly issued a Message to the Nation on the homosexual issue saying that the: "The Church commends the law-makers for their prompt reaction to outlaw same-sex relationships in Nigeria and calls for the bill to be passed since the idea expressed in the bill is the moral position of Nigerians regarding human sexuality."

“The idea expressed in the bill is the moral position of Nigerians?” Does that include mine too? Of course mine is not included because I could not have been so stupid to deny others their rights in the name of God. Nigeria is made up of about 145 million people with a huge number that does not identify with any form of religion, culture or movement. I am therefore surprised how the Anglican bishops came to that conclusion. Akinola and his bishops therefore played on the emotion, weakness and ignorance of the people and that is evil.

The speed with which the bill passed from the House of Representatives to the Upper House, the Senate was unprecedented in the history of Nigerian democracy and part of the reason for that was because of the interest President Olusegun Obasanjo had in it. President Olusegun Obasanjo and Archbishop Peter Akinola came from the same town of Abeokuta in Ogun State of the South West of Nigeria. Therefore both of them saw the bill as a personal issue and there is no way President Olusegun Obasanjo would have denied his request to pass the bill into Law. They are brothers and profess the same protestant faith and therefore that deal must be cut and it was neatly and mafiosily cut hence the quick movement of the bill which unfortunately met a sad fate due to the international pressure from the European Union and the United States who kicked against it on the premise that the passage of the bill into law would violate seriously the rights and freedoms of the homosexuals in Nigeria.

President Obasanjo would also not have said no to the deal because there was an alleged covert agreement by both to keep mute on each other’s affairs and excesses. For instance it was because of this covert agreement that Archbishop Akinola refused to speak out and challenge Obasanjo on the monumental corruption that took place during his tenure as the President of Nigeria. Archbishop Akinola was the Primate, the Archbishop of Nigeria and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria throughout the tenure of Obasanjo. In fact, it is alleged that Obasanjo played a formidable role in these elections as well as the completion of the National Ecumenical Centre of Nigeria which was laying dormant for over sixteen years before the election of both Obasanjo and Akinola. In fact the launching to raise the money for the completion of the project was a listing of ‘Who Is Who’ in the annals of Nigerian corruption circus.

They were all invited and they all honoured the invitation because of the fear of Obasanjo who is notoriously known as a vindictive person. Those invited included heads of multinationals, embassies, media, oil companies etc and they all honoured the invitation. They have no option. Obasanjo takes things like this serious and declining the invitation means opposition to him and that could make you to be out of favour with the government and his juicy contracts.

However, the most interesting part of the whole saga is the choice of President Olusegun Obasanjo by Archbishop Akinola to execute the dirty project. Obasanjo in the first place is a notorious sinner by the Christian standard which Akinola used as a basis to justify the persecution of the Nigerian Homosexuals. Obasanjo is a serial polygamist and is a very weak man when it comes to something under the skirt. I am therefore surprised of this choice by Akinola as the person to John Baptise his evil intentions. Recently there was a widely publicised story of Obasanjo’s son seeking the nullification of his marriage on the ground that Obasanjo allegedly had a carnal knowledge of his wife. Well that is Nigeria for you and Archbishop Akinola is an honourable and holy man of God.

Akinola is known for being notoriously silent when evils are taking place and if he chooses to act, he prefers taking the side of the rich and the evil. For instance Archbishop Akinola is very well connected with the Ibru Family, the owners of both the Oceanic Bank and the Guardian Newspapers of Nigeria. The Ibrus are Anglicans too and actually left the Guardian Newspapers to the disposal of the Anglican Church of Nigeria for the use of propagation of faith and intentions of Archbishop Akinola and his cohorts. Every Sunday the ‘Guardian on Sunday’ has about 6 pullout pages called the ‘Ibru Centre’. The Ibru Centre reports about the activities of the Anglican Church of Nigeria and the actual centre located in the Delta state of Nigeria is a multimillion Ecumenical Centre under the auspices of the Anglican Church of Nigeria. The centre’s conference and retreat centres are always and often used by the Nigerian Anglican Bishops for their meetings, retreats and deliberations.

As I pointed out earlier the Ibru family owns the Guardian Newspapers of Nigeria and the Guardian is a modern slave ship of the Nigerian media. Workers are hired and fired at will. In fact they have to be in probation for up to five or six years without pay or benefit before they are either confirmed or dismissed. I was a witness to this. I worked with the Abuja Bureau of the Newspaper and was actually a witness there when two seasoned journalists who have put in over 12 years of hardwork together were just sacked like that. The Ibrus are western educated family, very prominent Anglicans and well connected to Archbishop Peter Akinola. Akinola is aware of this practice because he has an eminent place in the newspaper. In fact Akinola is a de facto member of the Editorial Board of the Guardian Newspapers. When I was covering religion for the Guardian, there is no way under the face of the earth you could write a negative story about Akinola or the Anglican church and what still baffles me today is the reason for Akinola’s silence in the face of all these evils and the reason he chose to fight the homosexuals instead of his corrupt cohorts.

Archbishop Akinola being very close to the Ibru’s family is also very close to the Oceanic Bank of Nigeria. The bank is at the moment in a very distressed position financially. In fact the Managing Director of the Bank Mrs. Cecilia Ibru was recently taken into custody by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria for allegedly mismanaging and swindling the public fund in the bank. I am yet to figure out why Akinola’s friends and cohorts are the corrupt and the rich and why after seeing all these evils he devoted his primacy to fighting people who are going about their business loving instead of being part of the monumental corruption taking place in Nigeria.

In fact, I gathered from a very reliable and an authoritative source that on the alleged instigation of Archbishop Akinola, one of the foremost homosexual rights activist and eight others in the country were unlawfully detained by the police and thoroughly beaten. Archbishop Akinola cannot deny this because the activist in question is a prominent Nigerian Anglican. President Olusegun Obasanjo was also aware of this. One of the victims was so lucky because after his release and on the advice of an agent of the State Security he fled the country. In fact the State Security was actually after him for the second time to deal with him thoroughly before the whistleblower saved his life.

The story of Archbishop Akinola is therefore a complicated one and his primacy of the Church of Nigeria and the Presidency of the Christian Association of Nigeria a disaster which brought humiliation to the Nigerian Christians. He was more of a politician, a dubious and divisive figure than a Christian leader. This was very apparent to other Christian leaders in the country and it was precisely because of this that he lost re-election as the President of Christian Association of Nigeria to Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja on June 17, 2007 with a wide margin of 72-33.

Now that Archbishop Akinola is retiring, the question on everybody’s lips is the direction his successor Archbishop Nicholas Okah would follow. In actual fact, the new Archbishop is not going to be different. For the money to keep coming in from the conservative Episcopal Church, he has to take the same stand as Akinola or even a stronger one than him. The stronger the stand that he takes, the more the money that will flow in for him. However the bad news is that he may not be able to bark and shout like Akinola. He lacks what Akinola took for granted; at least he has no kinsman as the President of the nation at the moment and that could be a serious minus on his side. The Muslim president is not interested in what happens in within the Nigerian Christendom. Also the fact that the international community is seriously watching Nigeria is the more reason he may not make no new impact.

But for sure he is definitely taking over from where Archbishop Peter Akinola dropped the baton because Akinola while in office took his time to groom his cohorts not excluding the new Primate. Though the new Archbishop is not of the same ethnic group with Akinola, Akinola who is a notorious tribalist appointed more bishops from his ethnic Yoruba group than from elsewhere. He also created new more dioceses in his ethnic south west than elsewhere. The record is there for consultation and confirmation.

The best part for new primate to follow would be to toe the part of peace, reconciliation, cohesion, tolerance, accommodation and respect and gather all God’s children together so that nobody is left behind because of his sexual orientation.

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