Ayo Oritsejafor, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) finally broke his more than 10 days silence on the controversy generated by the private jet given to him as gift about two weeks ago.
In an interview he gave on Monday, November 19, the usually fiery preacher was reported to have said he was not in a hurry to glory his critics with a comment on the matter. “I have no comment. I can’t be talking about such matter at this level. Please leave me alone over that matter. I can’t glorify anybody with a comment over such matter” he said.
The comment, expectedly did not escaped the notice of other ministers of God, many of whom found fault with it. One of them was Pastor Timothy Adekeye of Christ Apostolic Church (Mountain of Victory) in Ilasamaja Lagos. He told Daily Independent that in as much as Oritsejafor has a right to his opinion, that his statement on the matter was wrong. He said that as a representative of Jesus Christ, it was wrong to behave as if people and their opinion do not count. According to him, Oritsejafor “should remember that he ought to be a light of the world and salt of the earth, and as such a good ambassador of Jesus Christ.”
Reacting also to Oritsejafor’s statement, Chijioke Odom, the minister in charge of City of David Ministries in FESTAC Town Lagos, said it was unfortunate that Oritsejafor reacted the way he did. He argued however that the CAN leader had said enough already. His words: “By saying he would not glorify his critics with a statement, he has said enough already. One thing I find difficult to understand is the theological foundation upon which he is doing what he is doing. It is indeed incomprehensible to me.”
He went on to say that it was unfortunate that Christian leaders of our time would take action without considering what Christ would have done if he were around today. He went on to argue that Jesus went from place to place in those days on foot and doing good to all that came in contact with him.
According to Odom, the only time Jesus used a means of transport was during the time he entered Jerusalem to fulfill scripture, and that he did so with the cheapest means of transport at the time. Odom also reminded Oritsejafor of Warren Buffet who, though owned a private jet company, does not own a private jet.
Oritsejafor, preacher at Word of Life Bible Church in Warri, had received the gift of a Canadian-built jet (a 10-Seater Bombadier/Challenger 601 Aircraft), worth $4.5million, on that Saturday, November 10, from his church members. The gift was announced during his birthday in Warri, Delta State, which also marked his 40 years as a preacher. Incidentally, present during the announcement was President Goodluck Jonathan, who gave him the best of wishes. Since that Saturday when he received the jet, a huge controversy has followed the news.
On one side of the controversy were those who lined up behind Tunde Bakare, the preacher at the Latter Rain Assembly in Lagos, who used the opportunity to criticise the ostentatious lifestyle of some top preachers in the country.
Bakare, who was convener of Save Nigeria Group (SNG) protests in January, led the way in the criticism when he declared that religious leaders who owned private jets in the country would be first victims of a revolution that would soon break out in the country.
He said that when that time comes, that he would be among those that would go to his constituency (the Church) to ask such ministers of the gospel ‘where are you getting these private jets from? Where are you getting the money from?”
For his statement on the issue, many of his admirers described him as ‘a lone voice crying in the wilderness’ and one of few preachers in the country who have not ‘tasted the forbidden fruit’ of people in government to compromised their faith.
They considered it wrong that Christian leaders in Nigeria would be cruising in private jets, when many of their followers were steeped in abject poverty – dying of diseases and their children not able to attend schools.
While Bakare spoke the mind of many people – both Christians and none Christians alike – some Christian leaders instantly took him to task. One of them was Matthew Owojaiye, Chairman of the Northern Christian Elders Forum, who said that Bakare should be ignored.
Others that stood solidly behind Oritsejafor, insisted that he – as a servant of God – committed no wrong in receiving a jet as birthday gift, which would help in enhancing his work in spreading the gospel.
Another was Isa El-Buba, General Overseer of Evangelical Bible Outreach Ministries International, Jos, Plateau State, who claimed that Bakare’s criticisms amounted to blasphemy.
“There is nothing wrong for a preacher to own a jet. If people in the secular world can acquire jets for chief executive officers of big private enterprises, there is nothing wrong in giving gifts to a man of God of Pastor Oritsejafor’s standing. This is a man of God that travels across the whole world. He deserves what he has been given.”
Incidentally, while the controversy continued the usually bold and fiery CAN President had maintained an uncanny taciturnity that confounded many, leaving room only to conjectures as to what his response might be. It was that silence that he broke last Monday.