By Ibe Pascal Arogorn
Every nation or group of nations has its own tale to tell. Knowledge of the trials and struggles is necessary to all who would comprehend the problems, perils, challenges, and opportunities which confront us to-day.
What the Living faith general overseer, David Oyedepo said on Friday about the Nigerian’s govt plans to regulate the social media came as a bump to me. As public speaker and head of his congregation, he should have applied prudence and discretion to certain comments especially on the freedom of speech.
According to Oyedepo, “It unconsciously robs people of their future by robbing them of their time — no time to think; no time to plan; no time to programme.”
“This generation may lose her heroes to social media disaster. Here is one creeping serpent that is eating up the destinies of many individuals.
“We must wake up from our slumber to deal with this monster. Young people, beware! Addiction to social media is like addiction to drugs. It can render a whole destiny useless.
“This social media saga has eroded the substance of destiny of most youths today. What is supposed to be a plus has suddenly become a major minus, because everything of value delivers through investment of time.
“Suddenly, we are faced with a generation on the wrong side of history; the honour of this generation has been wiped off — chatting all day with no time left to think, plan, programme and engage productively in the pursuit of any task.
“Many youths spend less than 10 to 20 percent of their time on their tasks per day. They can never match a generation that spends 70 percent to 80 percent of their time on their tasks.
“We must devise means to put a check on free access to social media, particularly those that are not adding values. Life is a race. Everyone should get on the track, ready for the run of their lives.”
In 2019, the preacher had said it was archaic to attempt regulating social media.
However, in May, Oyedepo said the excessive use of social media has made many lose focus and rob them of their destiny.
What focus can a Nigerian youth lose to social media? Nigeria that is currently marred by afflictions, debacles and exigencies can’t give Nigerian youths breathing space for opportunities.
The best place for a Nigerian youths to seek opportunities is on social media.
Over 120 million Nigerians are online, according to the Nigeria Communications Commission. Seventy percent or over 80 million of them are young, between 18 and 35 years. If this group of young Nigerians were a country, they would be the fifth populated in Africa, just behind DR Congo with 89 million citizens. For most of them, the internet, especially social media, is where they live and work. Their lifestyles and work are woven round, recorded, influenced, amplified and facilitated by and on the internet. This army of young Nigerians is talented and hardworking. For example, a study of Africa’s internet economy (it’s estimated to be worth $180 billion in 2025) by Google and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) revealed that Nigeria with 83,609 software engineers is number three among top-ten African countries, behind Egypt (86,599) and South Africa (118,541). However, this crop of Nigerians doesn’t live and work online alone, but they also use it as a means to voice out their concerns about their country.
Young Nigerians are dissatisfied with the government. Only 14.7 million of the 40 million-active youth population are employed according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics. They are angry that the country with so much potential is so poor, insecure, has a large poorly educated population, and lacks opportunities for their enormous talents and energy. The figures released by the country’s statistics office this year revealed that over forty percent of the population is living in extreme poverty; other sources like the Brookings Institute say the numbers are more. Nigeria ranks third on the Global Terrorism Index, just behind Iraq and Afghanistan. Terror-related activities claimed 1,245 lives last year alone and kidnapping for ransom has reached an all time high across the country. At 10.5 million, one in every five out-of-school children is in Nigeria.
Their anger stems from the belief that the Nigerian state’s dysfunction holds them down and puts them at disadvantage with their peers globally. For example, Nigeria’s Next Generation, a report by the British Council and Harvard School of Public Health revealed that most of its young people end up living less-productive lives. The report states that, “A Nigerian only produces more than he or she consumes for an average of 30 years of their life, compared to 34 years in Indonesia, 35 years in India, and 37 years in China.”
OYEDEPO IS EVER READY TO PROTECT HIS BUSINESS
When the Company And Allied Matters (CAMA) bill was signed by president Buhari in 2020, the cleric clamored vigorously for the bill to be amended, stating that that the bill was Antichrist in mature.
Is the church an enterprise? Yes. Is the church a place of spiritual alliance with the creator? Yes. Naturally, the church as an industry should be detached from incorporeal control. Both must not be conflated. There is the tabernacle of God, which no mundane or terrestrial order has power over, and there is the venture of mammon which must submit to the laws of the land. Caesar must be given his due. The righteous one, Jesus Christ, said so.
Bishop David Oyedepo, the redoubtable preacher, took umbrage against the government over a section of the recently signed Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) which warrants the Corporate Affairs Commission to suspend the trustees of an association or a religious body and appoint an interim manager or managers to coordinate its affairs where it reasonably believes that there has been any misconduct or mismanagement, or where the affairs of the association are being run fraudulently or where it is necessary or desirable for the purpose of public interest. By implication, the law regulates religious and charity organisations.
Venting on the law, Oyedepo accused the government of jealousy. He said he knows the “prosperity of the church is making them jealous”. I think, this is mammon speaking.
Hear him: “The church is God’s heritage on earth. Molest the wife of somebody and you will see the anger of that person. The church is the bride of Christ. You know how a strong man is when you tamper with his wife. The church is the body of Christ. We are under obligation to give warnings to wicked rulers so we could be free from their blood.”
“The church works on the pattern delivered by God not the pattern of man. Government has no power to appoint people over churches. This is a secular nation. The church is the greatest asset of God in this country. Please be warned. Judgment is coming. The Lord says I have been still but now I will arise. Anybody that is in this deal is taking poison. This will never work. I am waiting for a day when anybody will appoint a trustee over this church… You can’t gag anybody. We own this country together.”
Nothing can prevail against the church of God – not even Hades. But we must situate and contextualise the “church” in Oyedepo’s cadence. The “church” here according to Oyedepo is some behemoth or unwieldy corporation. I doubt if this is the church Jesus the Christ meant and established.
Over the years, the church industry in Nigeria has carried on as an agency defiant to secular laws despite earning its sustenance from worldly pursuits. Some barely even pay tax while running publishing firms, hospitals, schools, restaurants and other businesses. If I am not mistaken, Pastor Tunde Bakare is one of the few clerics who established businesses distinct from their spiritual vocation.
Things have fallen apart and the centre cannot hold anymore. Under the watch of President Buhari, Nigeria has gone from being a failed state to a dead one. There’s no conscience at Aso Rock. There’s no conscience at the National Assembly. There’s no conscience at the States’ Houses of Assembly and Government Houses. And there’s no conscience in the judiciary.
In fact, there’s no institutional conscience. The result is a society groping in the dark, a nation at a crossroad, a people thrown into unprecedented hardships, and a confused youth force whose future is at stake.
Although Nigeria has habitually been plagued by bad governance and corporate ineptitude, it has never been this bad. Nigerians have never been divided along ethnic and religious lines as they are today.
The tension in the land is palpable with another civil war seemingly imminent. There’s anger, there’s anxiety, and there’s age-long resentment. While innocent and unarmed protesters are arrested, tortured, and brutally murdered, terrorists and bandits are forgiven and even rewarded.
From endless protests to incessant arrests and extrajudicial killing by the Nigerian police, it’s not rocket science to figure out that the future of Nigerian youth is under serious threat. Their future is now looking bleak, thanks to a government that lacks vision and sound judgment, a government founded on lies and deceit.
Oyedepo should use his position to agitate for freedom of the social media not the other way round.
Well, I don’t blame Oyedepo who thinks backing social media regulation is favorite to the Nigerian youths.
He is backing the denial of opportunity of Nigerian youths by the federal government.
With this act, Oyedepo is an enemy to the Nigerian youths.
Ibe Pascal Arogorn, a journalist, writer and public affairs analyst, writes from Onitsha Anambra state.