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Bonnke Great Gospel Campaign: A Harvest of Mixed Blessings for Afikpo

By Macnus Isu Oko Otu (aka Gani of Afikpo)

October 31, 2009

The Bonnke Great Gospel campaign in Afikpo has come and gone, leaving behind a plethora of mixed reactions.

No doubt, the gospel campaign was, indeed, great, if not the greatest in the history of gospel campaign in Afikpo. People demonstrated, like the Athenians in the days of Paul that they are highly religious. Shops were closed, homes were deserted, while all roads were flooded with human and vehicular traffic as the people trudged to the venue at the NYSC orientation camp, Macgregor College, Afikpo. With great expectations, people in search of spiritual rebirth and healing came from far and near. Both the young and the elderly trekked several kilometers to the venue reminiscent of the Mosaic exodus. Others who had the wherewithal boarded “Okada”, no matter the cost while the few privileged ones went in their private cars.

The same thing happened on the return journey. Of course some made the place their abode. The crowd was unprecedented and hopes were high. This might be more as a result of what professor Chukwu of Ebonyi State University call “euphoria of novelty!”

Before his arrival on Wednesday, 14th 2009, Pastor Israel Dan Ukor, Chairman, Bonnke Central Working Committee told a security meeting at the Afikpo north local government area council hall on the 2nd October, 2009 that evangelist Reinhard Bonnke had planned to visit Brazil on a gospel campaign but God told him to suspend the visit and go to Afikpo in Nigeria and bless the land and her people, which he obeyed as a servant of God.

The struggle to partake in this blessing was amazing. Almost every Afikpo person at home and in Diaspora made it to the venue. There were still others who came from different parts of the country and beyond for one miracle or the other. Throughout the five days it lasted, Afikpo was a Mecca of some sorts and everybody was happy.

This happiness was mostly exhibited by people who seized the opportunity to transact one form of business or the other. Of course, there were sellers of Bonnke T– shirts, caps, bags, pinups, food, drinks, etc. Curiously, the gospel campaign ground was also a market place and sellers were handsomely patronized as the teaching was going on at the podium. Watching the scenario, one wonders whether the sellers and buyers had come for the gospel campaign or whether they had only come to buy and sell. Surprisingly, it was allowed. But it was the same scenario that angered our Lord Jesus Christ at the temple in Jerusalem and he personally expelled the traders violently with a whip.

However, Macgregor College is not the temple at Jerusalem. Neither is Bonnke Jesus Christ. Therefore, we have a different environment, different personalities and different ages in history. After all, in most of our Christian churches, buying and selling outside or even inside the church is allowed. How time changes everything!

Obviously, the Bonnke Gospel Campaign attracted the good, the bad and ugly. Of course, gospel campaigns are organized for that purpose. Our Lord Jesus Christ supported this argument when he said “he that is well has no need for a physician (medical doctor) but he that is sick”. Yes, the gospel campaign witnessed quite a good number of “sick persons.” Most of them did not come to be healed but to demonstrate that they are enjoying their “sickness.” This category was seen on the dry grass in groups chatting and laughing as the man of God was preaching, some were busy playing “Romeo and Juliet.” There were still others who showcased their militancy by fighting one another while others arbitrated by flogging them with whips. It was a melodramatic scene. But it should be expected in such an assemblage of different types of human beings, most of whom saw the gospel campaign as a picnic.

More so, Okada riders were not left out. They might have received the greatest “blessing” as they smiled joyfully to the bank on daily basis. Their demonic speed throughout the gospel period was awesome. But why won’t they be on high speed? They know like every other person knows that “time is money.” And they did not want to miss any bit of it. They inflated their fares because the demand was high, damn too high and the people were willing to pay to be conveyed to and from the venue. From places like Ozizza, Unwanna, Amasiri and Akpoha to the venue cost between N1,000 and N1,500 depending on the strength of negotiation and in some cases, the Okada man carried between three to four persons with him making a total of four persons on one bike. Still people paid to take the risk. After all they were covered by the “blood of Jesus.”

My one time teacher at the department of political science, Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Dr. T. I. Ibezim told us in 1993 during one of his lectures on “African Political Thought” that Africans are incurably religious. This was precisely demonstrated by our people during the Bonnke Great Gospel Campaign to the point that those who, for reasons best known to them chose to stay in their houses, were looked upon as “evil men.” But are they really evil? What of those who attended the crusade but were engaged in one frivolity or the other. The judgment is yours!

In one of his opinions in TELL Magazine, Dare Babarinsa stated: “Nigeria is the most religious country and the least godly.” I agree with him. If we channel energy to virtue, Nigeria will be like heaven, the ideal state, which Plato talked about in his political philosophy – “the republic,” which he said exists only in heaven. But the most unfortunate thing is that we are a study in paradox; we are religious and at the same time, ungodly. Consider this procession of vices in Nigeria: corruption in high and low places, electoral frauds, ritual killing, assassinations, kidnapping, armed robbery, 419, human trafficking, buying and selling of babies, prostitution, examination malpractice, fake product, impersonation, certificate racketeering, drug trafficking and a host of other evils. When you look at all these in a highly religious society as ours, one cannot but question our sincerity.

Nevertheless, the Great Gospel Campaign might have changed the lives of many as charms, amulets; instruments of witch craft of occultism were surrendered in a big drum by repentant persons and set ablaze. Some might have equally received their miraculous healing. Of course, there were testimonies in that direction. But there was equally skepticism. One should expect such because it is possible for people to be skeptical. The bible used Thomas to show us that it is not a bad thing to doubt. I will not go into the story of Thomas and our resurrected Jesus Christ because it is a common story even in nursery school. But I will dwell more on this skepticism because some Thomases doubt the authenticity of the miracle performed or that were said to have been performed.

The argument rests on the pedestal that only those who are not known to them and those whose home could not be traced anywhere are the ones always healed when they have their next door neighbors who attended the crusade with their deformities (lame, blind, deaf, etc.) but were not healed. But is it possible for everybody to know who has been healed from such a crowd? I think it is only those who know their person who has been healed would know them and not everybody. And besides, there is no way every sick person would be healed. Only those who have faith receive miraculous healing.

More so, the skeptics argued that the slogan is always that every person would be healed. Why then does the slogan change when it comes to practical terms like “only those who have faith.” Nevertheless, is there any person who carried his problem which has been troubling him/her for a long time to the venue without the faith that he or she would be set free?

Another skeptic expressed worry over the advertisement of miracles in the media. He is of the opinion that people should not be told on air to come and be healed of any type of sickness, including HIV/AIDS. They should rather be told to come and receive the blessing of God. This is because, after their advertisement and the sick person go with all the hopes for a cure but at the end when they do not receive any healing, they get disappointed. And if you attribute their misfortune to lack of faith, they cannot but get more frustrated and may even die.

Be that as it may, the people of Afikpo still don’t understand why Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke who was sent specifically by God to bless them and their land should preach only once (the first day, Wednesday 14th October 2009) throughout the five days gospel campaign and left the rest of the four days for his associate, Evangelist Daniel Kolenda. More curious was the fact that by Saturday, 17th October 2009, Evangelist Bonnke had left Afikpo. He might have left Nigeria for the US, leaving Kolenda behind to complete the exercise.

One of the protocol officers told us (confidentially) as pressmen during the program on Saturday night that Evangelist Bonnke received an urgent call to return to America immediately but did not disclose further whether the call was from man or God. Of course, the same God that dispatched him to Afikpo to bless the people and their land would not retrieve him suddenly without him accomplishing his mission. It therefore stands to reason that he might have received the “urgent call” from man. Whichever, some people were not comfortable with the situation, especially as the congregation were not informed that the man of God who made them assemble in such large number had left without saying good bye.

Those who attended the crusade on the last day, Sunday, 18th of October 2009 because they expected a climax with Evangelist Bonnke himself taking the whole thing to its crescendo were obviously disappointed.

Afikpo people are known for their hospitality. They had waited to the last day to demonstrate their goodness to the man of God at least in bidding him farewell but were demoralized when they realized that Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke had left two days before and most of them did not hide their disappointment. Is it good? Was it right? The judgment, of course, is yours.

Nonetheless, the Afikpo 2009 Great Gospel Campaign has ended. Some are counting their gains while some are counting their losses. Definitely, those who transacted businesses made good sum as profit. The media (radio) made quite some money, Okada riders saved enough money for other investments, new friends were made and there was spiritual rejuvenation. On the other hand, some peoples’ crops were destroyed as farmland became improvised paths. Some spent so much money on transportation but got nothing in return, some sustained injuries from overcrowding and fighting and of course, one life was lost to a road traffic accident. The victim fell from a moving over crowded open pick-up van at the close of crusade on Thursday, 15 October 2009 and that was it.

Addendum

The rumor mills are rife at Afikpo. People are talking, including born-again Christians. This is coming on the heels of the just concluded Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke’s Great Gospel Campaign in Afikpo, the second largest town in Ebonyi state.

Strong reasons are emerging as to why Bonnke abandoned the great gospel campaign half way and jetted out of Afikpo. The rumor mill is awash with news that the great man of God left Afikpo in anger. This anger, the rumor claims, is as a result of the manifest lack of credibility exhibited by the Afikpo pastors who were charged with the responsibility of organizing the gospel campaign and thoroughly preparing the ground in anticipation of the arrival of Bonnke.

The rumor mill is intense with its claim that millions of naira was released to the organizers to keep the gospel campaign ground in order for the comfort of everyone and decorate all the nooks and crannies of Afikpo town, grade Afikpo roads that are impassable and take care of other things. But the millions, in the usual Nigerian, fashion, developed wings; so when the great man of God came and saw “Nigeriana” at a glance, he was disappointed. He chose, however, to keep it to himself. Obviously, there was nothing to show for the huge sum of money magnanimously released by this German-born Evangelist.

This rumor is deafening and the damage it is doing to the image of the Afikpo pastors is devastating. Is it true? Certainly in every rumor there must be an element of truth. The ball is now in the court of the pastors concerned to come out and dispel the rumor by refuting it or keep silent at a time silence is not golden enough and carry a perpetual stigma. Silence in law is consent –
Qui tacet consentire videtur.

Afikpo people are not happy that the most important guest in the history of their town left unannounced and unceremoniously. They deserve an explanation or the rumor mill will continue to fly, even beyond Nigeria.

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