My last week's column on the acquisition of a private jet by Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor generated an armada of responses. While an overwhelming majority of the responses condemned the new craze for that epitome of vulgar materialism, some ardent faithful saw nothing wrong with Pastors owning private jets. One 'gentleman' called to accuse me of jealousy and after a long lecture on scriptural matters, offered quite 'useful' tips on how to "start my own church and be successful at it". I was full of appreciation for his kind, even if unsolicited tips, but politely explained that we all have different callings and different gifts and that I did not feel that "I have been called" to pastor a church.
Below are some of the responses I received on that piece. They are selected to reflect the different perspectives in the responses received:
'I laughed and laughed reading through your captivating article. It is a pragmatic piece. You are a true nationalist, devoid of any kind of prejudice. In fact you have boldly said it all. Yes, as Karl Marx rightly put it, "religion is the opium of the masses". Keep it up, please. You have made Daily Trust's Thursday column a must-read'-(Mustapha Y. Musa, Damaturu, Yobe State, Text message).
'Adibe, what is your concern with Oritsejafor acquiring his own jet? Did he ask you for money? If you are idle so what? Stop making yourself a useful idiot. Get busy with your political nonsense write-ups. Go and do something useful.'-(Text message, no name - 08035896774)
'May God bless you for today's beautiful piece. I have shared the same view that Pastor Oritsejafor is not a voice of moderation and even reconciliation for some time now. I also hold the view that the President is belittling himself and his office by attending some of these functions like this one and the birthday of Alao Akala in Ibadan when he was Governor. I read you every week and you are unbiased.' -(Amb Sulaiman Dahiru, text message).
'Guilty verdict. Salam. Is anything wrong with private jets in as much as it is credibly a gift from church or mosque members? Mr Judge, are you jealous? Why can't you open your own church, even if in a rented room? May be the President can even come to the opening ceremony as he graced Mr. Oritsejafor's 40th birthday. Same for the Zambian pastor. I hope members will contribute without apologising. I can buy a Boeing for my Pastor. Can you? Mr Oritsejafor's hard-line views on national issues are another thing.'-(Text message, no name: 08067640044)
Your Thursday column in Daily Trust of November 15 is very true. The way our religious leaders display their lust for money is frightening. We need your type to say the truth at all times. God will continue to bless you.
(Text message, no name: 080396997797)
'I can only imagine the Pastor walking up the stairs to enter his jet in his very colourful attire grinning from ear to ear.' -(Ibrahim Omagbemi, text message).
If Nigerians, particularly journalists will shun ethnicity, religious sentiments and imbibe your principle our country could have been different from what it is today. (08038395104 - text message, no name).
'Mr Jide, your piece, "When Oritsejafor acquired his own jet" is interesting. But you don't have to drive your own idea as part of the story. What has the President got to do with the jet? Was it wrong of him to attend the birthday of the earthly leader of his religious faith? Give us facts. Thanks.' -(M. Manu, text message)
'Beautiful piece Sir. There is need to do God's purpose and not our own.'-(Nimrod, text message)
'Don't extend your myopic criticisms against President GEJ to the church and its leaders. Only the enemy of the Church faults Oritsejafor's stance on the killing of Christians.-(Mathy R, Kaduna, text message).
'Why can't people like you come out and contest for leadership positions in this country? Honestly the country needs people like you as leaders. Writing a column alone I think is not enough'. (Aliyu from Kano, text message).
'Error of judgment for Mr President to attend Pastor Ayo's thanksgiving service? This is an error of judgment on your part. Pastor Ayo is the President of CAN, Nigeria. Should the President attend if the sultan invites? Pastor Ayo talks on behalf of Christians in Nigeria. Should he be smiling and shaking hands with everybody while his people are being slaughtered?-(Evangelist Owojaiye, Kaduna, text message).
'A rich man's dog died on a faithful Sunday and he went to plead with the Pastor if there could be a funeral service for the dog. The pastor replied: "never! We can't hold such a service for an animal in the church. You can go to any other church down the street. They may be interested. Then the man said: "Will you accept a token of five million dollars for such a funeral?" The Pastor exclaimed: "Why didn't you explain that the dog was a Christian? We can even baptise it if you wish"'-(Text message, no name, 08022827215).
'Your article is apt. Please keep it up". -(Text message, no name; 08067742717).
'I buy Daily Trust because of your column. May God continue to bless your mind and may you continue to grow in wisdom and courage. Your write-up today on the selfish, money-conscious and completely misguided activities of our business-centre churches is the whole truth and nothing but the truth'.-(Nathaniel T Abu, Abuja, text message).
'Mr Jideofor Adibe, I like your articles. I enjoy reading articles on religion. Neither Islam nor Christianity is a religion of the Blackman. With the Blackman's level of religiosity, there is still no improvement in his condition except for those that own churches and their family. We should stop deceiving ourselves and should uphold the religion of our ancestors. -(Nandip Bukan Sidi, Lafia, text message).
'Religious leaders can acquire whatever they want but what is most discomforting is how our President is always at the right place at the wrong time. From snapshots of him shaking Otedola's hand during the probe saga, the Ribadu Report, Bode George's "thanks giving" etc. My advice is that Mr President should look before he leaps as he has all the apparatuses to do that before he leaps to another galaxy' -(Text message, no name: 08094687929).
'Materialism in the church has become disgraceful and alarming and contrary to somebody's opinion, the Catholic Church has been the guiltiest of this over the centuries. It's just so shameful of many of our pastors these days.' (Comment on the article on Daily Trust's website by one Ehi)
Thanks Jideofor for your write up. I also agree that the president should be careful about the gatherings he attends lest we continue to believe that his presence at such gatherings is an endorsement of such gatherings and what they do there. Meanwhile, I hope there is no poor man in Oritsejafor's church.-(Comment on the article on Daily Trust's website by one Val)
'I quite agree with you Adibe. Pastor Ayo and his Church Council ought to have thought of investing that money in a business enterprise, which would have gone a long way in providing employment for many of the unemployed, even among Word of Life Bible Church members.'-(Comment on the article on Daily Trust's website by one Julius 1951)
'Good write-up, the truth is that the CAN president should sell the jet immediately and invest the money into the economy to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youth like Dangote does. Or let them continue as we await the coming revolution which will not spare even pastors.'