In Nigeria, charlatans commit atrocities in the name of god – The Sun Nigeria

From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

Bishop Tony Marioghae is a Nigerian missionary based in the Philippines and the Senior Pastor of The Evangelical Ark Mission (TEAM). In this interview with Saturday Sun, he lamented the gullibility of Nigerians with regards to religion. This, he insisted, is why some “charlatans” take advantage of the people in the name of God.

How did you find yourself in the Philippines?

It was the act of God that took me there. Nothing happens by chance. I believe that I was ordained by God to go to that nation to fulfil my divine destiny. I was born into a family that is respected and cherished by many people in my locality. My father was once a local government chairman and my uncle, the late Archbishop Michael Marioghae, was also into politics. He was a Commissioner for Lands and Survey in the Midwestern State of Nigeria. So, as a child growing up, I desired to occupy a bigger public office, at least, the governor of my state. But God had other plans for me. After my university education and the mandatory National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), I found myself in Brunei, a country in Asia. And from there, I proceeded to The Philippines.

What about the church you pastor in The Philippines?

I pastor a church (congregation) called The Evangelical Ark Mission (TEAM). It’s a multi-denominational, multi-racial apostolic and prophetic revolutionary believers’ network. It was commissioned by God to equip people for maximum productivity in every spectrum of life. It has the mandate to evangelise and disciple nations of the world. We have a mission to transform people and nations through the Word of Faith. Our practical approach to the scriptures, facilitated through books, magazines, social media, television, radio, audio and video online messages, has empowered millions worldwide, thus raising multidimensional champions everywhere.

Do you have branches beyond The Philippines?

We have in different parts of The Philippines and other continents of the world

What’s your assessment of religion in Nigeria vis-a-vis how it’s being practised?

You cannot transform a nation through hypocritical religious practices. Change can only be achieved through personal spiritual conversion and conviction, dictated by an honest relationship with God. The kind of religion we practise in Nigeria is like no other. I have personally observed the abuse of religion and how it is used as a tool to manipulate and enslave people in Nigeria.

What is your ideal religious practice?

The ideal religion produces light in every spectrum of life. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, the reverse is the case. When criminals donate money to religious institutions, it does not glorify God. This only shows how corrupt we are as a nation. Religion is sacred and must be used to spread godly ethics and moral values.

Are you suggesting that many Nigerians are being misled by religious leaders?

Every religious leader is a shepherd and the state of your flock is determined by the kind of food you give to them. Look at the kind of prayer points some people make in Nigeria. You hear things like: “God bless me, kill my enemies, do this and that for me.” These are self-centred prayers with negative impacts. Many of these religious leaders are wallowing in ignorance and inability to properly interpret the Scriptures. Some would want you to believe that if you follow God, your blessings will come instantly. But they never tell you that God rewards hard work. This approach is wrong. The Scripture makes it clear that a lazy man must not eat. Besides, there’s nowhere in the Bible that states that God blesses people blindly. God said that He will bless the work of our hands. Therefore, religious leaders should teach our people how to compete in the 21st century, how to build economies and nations, and also to let them know that there’s dignity in labour.

What is the place of education, exposure and knowledge of worshippers in fighting the activities of “fake” religious leaders?

Education and knowledge are essential tools to fight religious abuse and slavery. Some of our brothers in the North have been brainwashed by religion and turned into killing machines. God is not in the business of producing terrorists. Any religion that propagates the doctrine of terrorism is not of God. Illiteracy, ignorance and intolerance are responsible for religious violence.

Are we being overzealous regarding religion in Nigeria?

Obviously, there seems to be a Nigerian version of Christianity and Islam. Some of the actions we take in Nigeria in the name of religion cannot be recorded in countries where these religions originated from. Obviously, some of those actions are actually propelled by ignorance. For instance, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) or Qatar where they practise Islam, there’s respect for other faiths and their opinions. From all indications, religion can be described as opium because it doesn’t make one think but believe. Faith doesn’t analyze a command. Regrettably, we have used religion as a destructive tool in Nigeria, a tool of retrogression, hence Nigerian religious institutions in foreign countries are often referred to as African cults. The type of religion we sell to the world is not appealing, and that’s, perhaps, why foreigners don’t subscribe to our religious practices. Apart from Dr. Sunday Adelaja who pastored the biggest foreign church in the world, no Nigerian had done that. But my ministry has surpassed that record. I’m currently an African with the biggest foreign congregation. Our membership is probably half a million. TEAM membership consists of different races of the world. Many Nigerian churches abroad are doing well. But most of their members are Nigerians and few Africans. If you can’t sell what you believe to others apart from your people that means you are selling a product with questionable content. Cultural acceptance of what you do is proof of the mandate that God has given to you. Jesus mandated us to go into the world and preach the gospel.

Are you suggesting a law to regulate religious practice in Nigeria?

Not necessarily a law. But we must adopt policies to regulate the excesses of religious institutions. Religious leaders should head these agencies. This is to create order and prevent “vultures” from invading religious institutions. Too many charlatans are committing unimaginable atrocities in the name of God. We must stop this impunity.

Are you looking forward to returning to Nigeria soon to possibly participate in transforming the system?

Yes, and very soon. I intend to build and run an ecumenical centre that would be useful to all faiths. It will be a research and resource centre where people can visit and acquire knowledge that would help them in their spiritual lives.

You recently spoke to journalists on the state of the nation. What necessitated that?

For years, I have watched in dismay the carnage in our great nation, Nigeria. We can no longer condone the culture of impunity, corruption, division and religious violence unleashed by the internal and external forces of retrogression to undermine the purpose and destiny of Nigeria. According to the scriptures, evil thrives when good people do nothing. This is the time for collective progressive action. We all have a part to play.

What do you mean by that?

We have moved dangerously closer to the precipice of disaster due to our poor political choices. If we do not get it right this time, we will face calamities and the ignoble fate of failed nations. We must develop the moral willpower to overcome our challenges and ugly past to achieve prosperity for all. Freedom can never be attained without sacrifice. The road to freedom starts from the mind; we are all products of our dominant thoughts. Therefore, we must promote ideas and principles that enhance our potential and discourage conspiracy theories and falsehood which promotes division.

How do we achieve this?

To achieve our development ideals, we must use the supreme power of democracy to fire bad leaders and hire competent ones through the ballot box. Your vote is your power to steer Nigeria towards greatness, success and development with a new paradigm shift. Nigerians should reject politicians who appeal to their worst instincts and embrace the ones with Godly character and principles. I am talking about leaders with patriotic zeal to build the nation and restore hope to our people. The rise of Nigeria is the glory of the black race. When Japan, China, Singapore and Dubai developed their nations through vision, hard work and political discipline, the West took Asians seriously and invited them to the community of developed countries to determine the fiscal direction of the global economy. Sadly, despite our vast mineral and human resources, Africa is at the mercy of exploitative international economic institutions due to the fiscal indiscipline and shortsightedness of our political leaders and policymakers. Africa is blessed with over 30 per cent of the world’s mineral resources and 60 per cent of the world’s arable land. Yet poverty remains high.

How did you meet your wife?

I met my wife in Brunei in 2004. She was a professor there while I worked as a missionary. Our courtship was very short. We married that same year and relocated to the Philippines a year later. We had our first daughter (Tehilah) in 2005. And a year later, we had another daughter (Deborah). Our children are presently residing and studying in Canada, with outstanding academic records.


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Publish date : 2022-08-05 23:50:58
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