Special Report: Are Nigerian Christians Set to Stop Paying Tithes to Pastors?

A certain man in Nigeria who has no prominent stand in Christianity has sparked a national debate via his social media account, Instagram.

Daddy Freeze

Ifedayo Olarinde, an On-Air-Personality in one of the popular radio stations in Lagos State, Cool FM is leading a movement to ‘enlighten’ the over 98 million Christians in Nigeria about what he regards as the hoax behind the payment of tithes to churches.

Tithing, which is supposed to be 10% of one's earnings is followed by mostly Christians with the belief that it guarantees ‘heavenly blessings’ and failure to pay it will amount to robbing God which could attract a curse.

Daddy Freeze through his “Free the Sheeple” and “Free Nation” movements has sparked critical thinking among Christians by constantly juxtaposing his personal views with the Holy Bible as well as socio-economic conditions of success of European and Asian countries where religion isn't a key factor.
Tithing which was well-pronounced in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible has created an economic imbalance in the church with some Christian clerics religiously milking members of their congregation while they bask in opulence according to Daddy Freeze, a half cast whose father hails from Nigeria and mother from Romania.
"If your spiritual father flies a private jet or drives a G63 and you enter a bus/okada, you are not a spiritual son but a spiritual bastard.

"In the book of Acts chapter 4 from verse 32, it is clearly explained how the believers (apostles and the converts alike) shared the offering.

No one lacked, because when houses and fields were sold, the money was distributed to everyone EQUALLY, as they had need!" Daddy Freeze said in one of his campaign messages.

The payment of tithes and offerings in diverse forms has been linked with the proliferation of churches in Nigeria. Every street in Nigeria has about one or two churches with varying sizes. As of today, Nigeria has over 23,000 registered churches and several unregistered ones. The Redeemed Christian Church of God alone reportedly has about 34,000 branches all over the country. The Churches numerically overshadow the scanty presence of factories even in the financial hub of Nigeria, Lagos; as Nigerians hope "manna" might fall from heaven again in the form of unmerited favour and grace like its being widely preached in Churches.

"The truth is that tithing as presently practiced by many churches, especially the so called Pentecostal or Evangelical churches, is unscriptural. Take away tithing and the attraction and motivation to be the founder and president of an ‘international ministry’ would disappear" a pastor and former presidential media aide, Reno Omokri wrote in his article backing Daddy Freeze.

Also a popular Lagos and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana has severally decried the activities of the churches for promoting the unequal distribution of wealth in Nigeria.

At a public forum, Falana said;

“Let us take advantage of the internet to start raising serious issues about our future, the black man is in trouble. We have more pastors in Nigeria than any other countries in the world. In fact, the latest Forbes Magazine showed that out of the 20 richest pastors in the world, about 9 or 10 came from Nigeria. Yet our people are getting poorer. The poor (here) have attended mission schools built by the catholic and Anglican schools, hospitals.

But what are our churches (present churches) giving us? They say they are promising to build churches in every street."

"It is only in Nigeria where you can take money from the church, money contributed by poor members of the congregation to go and set up a university that members can't attend, can’t send their children to. It’s against the rule of God and the laws of our constitution" he also reiterated on another occasion.

In fairness to the churches, some have been engaging in developmental social responsibilities across the country. The head of the Redeemed Christian Church of God - Pastor E.A Adeboye and his wife built a rehabilitation centre in Epe, Lagos State for youths overtaken by drug addiction. Another church in Lagos equipped 20,000 kids as they returned to school and the same church trains and equips unemployed youths in at least 11 different vocations. The training runs three times every year and must have trained about 5,000 entrepreneurs since its inception. Others have donated patrol vehicles to the police, fixed some major roads, established hospitals, given scholarships to brilliant students, offset huge medical bills of the poor, funding of orphanage homes amongst other enviable feats.

It has been a roller coaster for Daddy Freeze as he has come under intense attacks on social media with his Instagram account which has over 122,000 followers hacked multiple times by agents of Nigerian pastors according to Daddy Freeze who has refused to be cowed by intense public pressure.

One of the followers of Daddy Freeze on social media

Suddenly, he has become a thorn in the flesh of some pastors who have directly or indirectly made him a topic of discussion on the pulpit. Some television stations namely TV Continental, Linda Ikeji TV (online TV) and HipTV among others have also debated on the tithing issue.

The daring opposition to tithing which is being credited to Daddy Freeze was originally started by a pastor at Healing Wings, a Pentecostal Christian fellowship in Lagos and public affairs analyst, Femi Aribisala in an article titled “Every pastor who collects tithes is a thief” dated 7th of May, 2013. He later resurfaced again in the media on the 4th of October, 2015 with another insightful article on the topic titled “Beware of Tithe-collectors” and recently “Don’t Persecute Daddy Freeze: Tithing Today Is A Scam” published on November 12, 2017.

Daddy Freeze’s messages on tithing started getting adequate audience on social media after one of the wealthy pastors in Nigeria and founder of the Omega Fire Ministries, Apostle Johnson Suleman was accused of being in a romantic relationship with one Canada-based Nigerian lady, Stephanie Otobo on whom he reportedly lavished money including another actress, Daniella Okeke. The issue is still a subject of litigation till date. 

Nigeria is a country with about 110 million people living below the poverty line of a $1.90 per day but ironically, it is the home of seven of the richest pastors in the world who have drawn a large chunk of money from their followers in the name of tithes and offerings. Threats of curses and strong emphasis on giving have technically coerced church-goers to dip their hands into their ostensibly empty pockets.

Seven Nigerian pastors have made it to the list of top 20 richest pastors in the world and their estimated net worth in the latest release by Forbes.
General Overseer of Living Faith Church, Bishop David Oyedepo tops the lists of Nigeria pastors in the fifth position in the world ranking, while Pastor Enoch Adeboye occupies the sixth position.

See the list below including their net worth:

1. Bishop David Oyedepo (Living Faith Church) - $150 million.
2. Pastor E.A Adeboye (Redeemed Christian Church of God)- $130 million
3. Bishop Ayodele Oritsejafor (Word of Life Bible Church) - $120 million 
4. Chris Oyakhilome (Christ Embassy International, Believers Loveworld) - $50 million
5. Prophet T.B. Joshua (Synagogue Church of All Nations) - $15 million.
6. Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo (Kingsway International Christian Center) - $10 million.
7. Chris Okotie (Household of God Church) - $10 million.

The question now is; how well has religion helped in making Nigeria a better place following the entrenchment on good values in members?

For the fourth consecutive year, Nigeria has failed to rise in Transparency International Corruption Perception ranking. TI, which released its 2016 report on the 26th of January, 2017, ranked Nigeria 136 out of 176 countries. However, while the organization scored Nigeria 26 per cent in its last report, it scored the country 28 in its latest report. Majority of Nigerians are either Christians or Muslims with both factions preaching holiness to their members. Even the minute traditional religion doesn’t encourage stealing or bribery.

According to the World Poverty Clock (A non-governmental organization in Vienna, Austria) Nigeria’s struggle with overpopulation will be a problem now, rather than in 2050. Nigeria will by February 2018 overtake India as the country with the most people, 82 million living in extreme poverty.  82 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty will amount to 42.4 percent of the country’s population.  Nigeria’s population in extreme poverty is rising by 5.7 people per minute and that in DRC by 3.6 people per minute. The rest of Africa is reducing poverty by 4.7 people per minute.

How has tithing opened the floodgates of heaven to unleash blessings on the millions of Nigerians following the doctrines? Is religion indeed the opium of the masses as defined by political thinker and philosopher, Karl Max? These are critical questions being shied away from by pastors benefiting from their interpretation of the bible.

The Christian belief system in Nigeria is set for a revolution as the Roman Catholic Church experienced in 1517 with a recalcitrant egghead, Daddy Freeze coming in form of Martin Luther to challenge some archaic doctrines that have further impoverished the people.

Part of the talking points raised by Daddy Freeze is that countries with the most stable economies in the world namely Finland, Switzerland and Denmark don't even have a low record of 100 Churches all together. Asian giant, China which is the 2nd largest economy in the world behind the United States of America practices Buddhism. China has over the years drawn an economic plan to liberate millions of people from poverty. Humanoid robots are currently being designed in China today based on the premise that economic prosperity might discourage people from taking up blue collar jobs; hence, the need for robots. Again, according to Daddy Freeze, the beautiful city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates which is one of the most sought after travel destinations in the world was built by unbelievers who only had a vision for the former desert region.

Has the book of Malachi 3 verse 10 in the Holy Bible which has been described as the favourite passage of some pastors been able to liberate Nigerians from the shackles of scarcity of basic needs? The most successful blogger in Africa, Linda Ikeji who is being touted as a stinking millionaire has revealed she doesn't tithe. The 5th richest man in the world and co-founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg has been described as an atheist who only admitted vaguely in recent times that he believes in religion.
"In the last 3 months Facebook made a profit of $4.8billion. Who did Mark pay tithes to?
“If Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg paid tithes, their pastors would be listed on Forbes”
"Tithes don't guarantee wealth or blessings, don't be fooled, the only person blessed by your tithe is your PASTOR." Daddy Freeze posted on his Instagram page.

The debate for and against the payment of tithes has continued with the General Overseer of RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, Apostle Johnson Suleman, Pastor Yomi Kasali and a host of other established clerics urging Christians to continue in the act of tithing for their own benefit. Pastor Reno Omokri, Pastor Femi Aribisala and a host of others have thrown their full weight of support behind Daddy Freeze with strongly worded articles which most clerics have refused to challenge with rejoinders. Nollywood actress and singer, Shan George has also taken side with Daddy Freeze's camp to launch subtle attacks at Nigerian pastors.

Daddy Freeze is currently having a field day disseminating his teachings through Instagram and challenging individuals with contrary opinions to an open debate. With the present popularity of Daddy Freeze, it’s only a matter of time before majority of believers back out of the payment of tithes. Many are holding up to the belief that salvation is all about "personal conviction". Therefore, those that believe in tithing should continue and those who don't, shouldn't discourage others from paying since they are not being compelled to.
There is a projection that payment of tithes across Africa could reduce if it fades away in Nigeria. This is based on the premise that Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa. A real force to be reckoned with in the black continent. It was on the basis of this that Patrick Lumumba, a former Director of Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission in October, 2016 said:
“Africa is behind because Nigeria has not realized her potential. It’s time the leaders rise up because one in every five Africans is a Nigerian.”
A major inference that could be drawn from the different interpretations of the Holy Bible by diverse authorities is that the great book is highly subjective. 
This could be likened to philosophical parable – ‘Elephant and the Blind Men’ from the ancient Indian subcontinent which entailed when some six blind men were asked to come feel the body of an elephant with their hands and tell their observations.
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About Osahon

I'm a journalist and a Political Scientist undergoing a doctoral programme focused on media, democracy and governance in Africa. My mission is to uphold the role of the media as the 'fourth estate of the realm' and also tell the Nigerian Story to the world. You can contact me on smile2georgex@yahoo.com Phone number: +2347053302356.
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