While Israel’s economy has been boosted for many decades by pilgrimage visitors, especially Christians from around the world, Nigeria appears on the world religious tourism map because of its thriving Pentecostal churches.
From Living Faith to Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) to Christ Embassy and Synagogue of All Nations, Pentecostal churches have seen significant growth in recent decades in Nigeria.
Bode Onitiri, a business lawyer and public analyst, said the political awakening of the Pentecostals in recent times is necessitated by the need to fight back, especially the inequitable representation in political leadership and the persecution of Christians in the north of the country and also to remind religious bigots of Nigeria’s secularism.
“By all standards, the Christian and Muslim population is equal and the Pentecostals want this equality and freedom to be reflected throughout the country, especially politics and that is why they are now encouraging their members to join politics so that their voices are heard and also to influence policies in the right direction,” Onitiri said.
Joshua Itagema, a former leader of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), said that although CAN is the umbrella body for Christians in the country, it has not been as engaging and confrontational as the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), the umbrella body of Pentecostal Churches in Nigeria.
“During the five years Ayo Oritsejafor, Founder and Senior Pastor of Word of Life Bible Church, Warri, Delta State, served as the President of PFN, the church confronted the government on several issues. He brought activism to the NFP and the government listened. Since then, the influence of Pentecostals has grown steadily,” he said.
Tunde Bakare, founding pastor and serving overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly; Chris Okotie, founding pastor of Household of God Church International Ministries; Jerry Gana, a Pentecostal layman and former Minister of Information under President Olusegun Obasanjo, among others, has been the standard bearer for some political parties in presidential elections in the recent past.
Yemi Osinbajo, pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, is the current Vice President of Nigeria.
Also Read: Why the Church Needs to Focus More on the Message of Redemption – Taiwo
“Nigeria’s Christians, especially the Pentecostals, are coming out in droves to join politics like never before. I will not be surprised if Deeper Life, which seems to be the most conservative of the Pentecostal churches in Nigeria, will soon allow members to join politics because there is a change of mindset on the part of the church in Nigeria while its existence is threatened by extremists in the north,” said Nkuma Kalu, a retired cleric.
On February 28, 2022, the RCCG created the Office of the Policy and Governance Directorate, with the aim of helping to rally support from members with political ambitions, and also asked its branches to appoint an officer provincial at all levels for the new department. .
While the new office came as a surprise to many, RCCG media and public relations officer Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi said it was not a surprise as the leadership needs to sensitize church members to a active political participation.
“This would not have happened in the 1980s and even the Catholic Church with all the strength of its members and its European roots could not find the courage to float and support a political platform. I think Pentecostals have realized the mistakes of early church avoidance of politics and are determined to correct them. They can do it because they have numbers, money, influence, social media, whatever they need,” said Hassan Ogeyi, an activist with a Muslim interest group from ‘Okene, Kogi State.
Continuing the decision of the RCCG, the PFN encouraged Pentecostals in Nigeria to obtain their Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) before the 2023 general elections.
At its National Executive Council meeting on June 16, 2022 in Lagos, the NFP declared June 26, 2022 PVC Sunday across Nigeria.