Oct 8, 2014

The KGB Church in Nigeria

When one hears of KGB, the first setting that comes to mind is old Russia. The setting of the Kingdom of God Bible (KGB) Church is however, Foron Village in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State, Nigeria. The church was, arguably founded by late John Wash Pam, sidekick to Joseph Wayas at the Senate during the Second Republic between 1979 and 1984.

Sometimes in the mid nineties, the KGB church started at the Geosciences Auditorium Anglo-D in Bukuru, Jos-South, Nigeria. Two men, that included the late Senator and another man of comparative obscurity named Dung Kassa, came together and founded the church. Kassa was the church’s spiritual leader while Senator Pam appeared to be the financial backer.

 Senator Pam was mostly in Abuja, working at the Presidency under the administration of late General Sani Abacha. He, nonetheless, came around every weekend, making sure he worshipped at the church. As the saying goes, “the harder they come, the harder they fail.” General Abacha died suddenly. The ripples of his death changed so many things, with Senator Pam’s stint at the presidency ending. He, subsequently and permanently, returned to Jos.

Members of the church’s congregation were either Pam’s relations who often traveled from Foron, political allies or loyalists, or persons who just wanted to sit under the same roof with the senator and, perhaps, enjoy his oratory. With time, the senator decided to start a new branch in his Foron village to make things easy for his poor kinsmen. The Foron branch was meant to be the head branch. Things started getting out of hand when it became clear that Kassa was not going to head the main branch. The Senator brought a young and more educated man by the name of Andrew Dido to head it. Kassa then abandoned the branch he was in-charged of and started a completely new church by the name of The Triumphant Christian Bible Church.

The Triumphant Christian Bible church is located somewhere between the Fire Service and D. B. Zang junction, along the Bukuru Expressway. When I visited the branch, it was a half-done kind of building: just walls, no roofing. Inside of it however, a small shade of corrugated iron sheets resting on wooden pillars stood at the far end of the open building. I did go there a second time, on a Sunday and, indeed, confirmed that people do worship in the uncompleted building. The congregation was in the neighborhood of about a dozen worshippers.

On September 7th, 2014, I traveled to Foron and worshipped at the KGB Church. It was a small but decent building at the road diversion leading to Government College Foron. The size of the congregation of less than seventy showed that, though still small, it was far ahead of the Triumphant Christian Bible Church. There was glittering music band equipment to the right side of the pulpit and the floor was rugged from wall to wall.  It had an uncommon sitting format that saw men sitting face-to-face to the women. Between them was a narrow space that led to the pulpit. Members speak in tongues and their destinies could be revealed to the church spiritual leaders who often approached the members and reveal such destinies during a special prayer session.

The pastor, a Togolese by the name of Josue Tosa, led events. He preached on symbols of the word of god. He who spoke with an accent I thought was southern Nigerian, wore an old dull-white Chinese jacket that appeared well laundered.

It seems the founding of the KGB Church may have been, merely, to serve the personal needs and conveniences of The Senator. He was raised in the Church of Christ in Nigeria but as his life evolved however, he found himself getting ex-communicated by the church over his sudden decision to embrace polygamy. The wanton hubris usually common of wealthy and powerful people may have led him to feel insulted and subsequently chose to tow the line of British King Henry VIII by starting the KGB Church to accommodate his private interests.

Relocating the church from the urban Bukuru to rural Foron may be an indication the church hasn’t got any ambition of growing by the capture of a huge congregation.  Also, it is difficult to see how the scanty and poor rural laity of less than seventy mixes of men, women and children can raise enough money to sustain the fairly ostentatious life of Pastor Tosa.  The indication is that Tosa is more or less a staff in the late Senator’s personal payroll rather than the payroll of the church.

It is pertinent to note that the late Senator’s youngest widow hails from Edo State in the south of the country. Edo happened to be the home of the earliest Nigerian liberal preachers, preaching prosperity, with defiance. Among some of these preachers was late Archbishop Benson Idahosa, founder of the Church of God Mission International. There is, also, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of Christ Embassy.

As a young corps member in Benin back in 1993, I worshipped at the Church of God Mission International along Adesua Grammar School Road. It wasn’t a place for poor people and it was common to hear prayer lines like “give us the good things of life like air conditioners in our homes, BMW cars, huge pieces of meat in our meals - rather than the tiny pieces that are reminiscent of poverty…” Senior ministers of the church were highly educated and financially successful.

Liberal protestant churches are now all across Nigeria and pull huge populations of members. The phase of liberal Protestantism that is advance for the comparatively conservative Plateau Christian is however, doing away with monogamy. This is very aspect of the history of the KGB Church that inhibits its growth.

Oct 4, 2014

Nigerian Social Media Abuses and the Law

I have always been struck by the differences in social media usage between other countries and Nigeria. Each time one logs into Facebook to make comments about local issues that concern Nigeria, he notices insults flying up and down the pages. If however, he goes to an international social media webpage to comment, he notices the decency and guarded usage of words.

I was of the opinion that the difference was born out of ignorance, a comparatively poorer standard of education coming from modest educational resources here in Nigeria. Recently however, I have come to understand that this isn’t the case. It is not poor education or ignorance. Rather, it is more of a case of a weakness of the law. People know this and choose to abuse the judicial loopholes. Thus social media pages, particularly those of Facebook, are always littered with insults when it comes to the Nigerian space.

Some years back, a young man logged into Facebook and posted abusive comments against the Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido. The governor was traumatized and directed the young man to be arrested. So it happened. The only problem in this case was that acceptable legal procedures were not followed in the retribution of the young man. He was, rather, tortured. I am sure however, the option was adopted because the governor knew the Nigerian courts may not do something early enough, thereby allowing time for the issue to lose steam.

When Isaiah Balat, late senator from southern Kaduna died, somebody posted to say that the senator deserved what he got as he was the Arial Sharon of Kaduna State. At the time, I felt that the individual should have been approached by the law and made to explain why he made such a comment. When my dream President of Nigeria, Nasir El Rufai lost a son in an auto crash, somebody posted insults in place of condolences. The comments suggested that such a fate was well deserved. I also think that the man who made that post should have been made to explain it in a court of law.

If undeserved insults are deplorable in the real world, then they should also be in the virtual world. The virtual world is a medium of expression that is even more powerful than the real world. When such an insult is posted, it is damaging to the victim just as it would be in the real world. Furthermore, it travels far in the virtual world more than it does in the real world and we cannot treat the internet differently from the way the rest of the world treats it. About a year back, I learnt that the Nigerian National Assembly passed a law to handle cases of unwarranted social media insults against leaders. It was a brilliant footstep along the right bearing. The insults have, however, continued to pace their way along the footpath of ignominy. The implication is that the law has gone to bed and is sleeping ceaselessly or is even in comma. This is a reflection of what Nigerian has always been: a theatre of legal dormancy. It explains the situation we are in now: a climax of confusion where you have a fracture here and as you try to seal it, another one opens over there.

Jos the city of my birth and to which I am besotted, once built a reputation as the most embracing city across the country. Then somebody went too far and the police just said something like “well, the boy was having his fun.” The result is obvious and we know it. While Jos may still be embracing, one cannot walk without looking over his shoulder because there are now “no-go-areas.” Along this line, if nothing is done about social media abuses, it would grow into a monster, just as anything else does, in Nigeria, when it is not curbed at infancy.

People should be made to justify every vile comment that is directed at the innocent. 

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