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Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

versión On-line ISSN 2412-4265
versión impresa ISSN 1017-0499

Studia Hist. Ecc. vol.46 no.3 Pretoria  2020 



Nigerian Pentecostalism, Alternative State, and the Question of Accountability



Benson Ohihon Igboin

Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria




The debate on the status of the Nigerian state has been controversial, but it portends more towards a failing state, because it has low to very low levels of state capacity. Most state institutions do not have the capacity to inspire socioeconomic confidence in the citizenry. Coupled with prevailing insecurity and the inability of the state to address it, many people find an alternative source of hope and confidence within Christianity, and particularly an African Pentecostal state-like formation that makes its leadership a multinational and cross-regional political leadership of a sort. While the political leadership of the failing state would be examined as the main cause for thriving Pentecostalism, there remains the question of accountability on both sides of the spectrum; especially as both concern the same citizenship, whom I will argue are cheated both ways, and yet somehow hold ambivalent attitudes towards accountability. Since there is little attention devoted to demand for accountability at both state and alternative state levels, this paper will do a contrastive analysis of both leaderships and show that the issue of accountability remains unresolved at both ends.

Keywords: Pentecostalism; alternative state; failed state; over-spiritualisation; nationalism




The emergence, spread and proliferation of Pentecostalism have remarkably affected world history and particularly the history of Christianity. As the centre of gravity of Christianity has shifted from Global North to Global South, Pentecostalism has witnessed significant transformation from a tiny population to a flourishing one (Hanke and Von Sinner 2017, 594; Iwuchukwu 2018, 43). Although the events of Asuza Street (1906-1909), Los Angeles, have been arguably regarded as the origin of global Pentecostalism (Yong and Alexander 2011), there are other origins within Africa that perhaps were not directly influenced by the former (see Igboin 2017; 2018a; Kalu 2008; Paas 2016; Wariboko 2014). Olufunke Adeboye (2018) argues that care must be taken in tracing the origins and history of Pentecostalism to the events of Asuza Street, because such attempts affect identity-framing. She posits that there are many African individuals who displayed full manifestations of Pentecostalism without recourse to the Asuza Street revival. As such, due recognition should be given to these independent origins in the overarching discourses of Pentecostalism. Even though Pentecostalism has been vehemently and controversially criticised for lack of systematic theology (Yong 2018, 91-91), its impact on its followers and societies is immense (Constantineau and Scobie 2018, 1-2). Chai (2018, 117) refers to it as the metaphor of the elephant in the room or the elephant touched by the six blind men. African Pentecostalism's influence within African Christianity and sub-Saharan frontiers cannot be overemphasised. African Pentecostalism has become a powerful force that cannot be ignored in socio-economic and political discourse in Africa (Asamoah-Gyadu 2013; 2020; Lindhardt 2015, 1; Wariboko 2012; 2018).

In Nigeria, Pentecostalism, generally conceived, started blossoming in the universities after the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), when the country started to experience a new phase of developmental, social, political, and security challenges. The continuous despair the people felt about governance was cannon fodder for the expansion and proliferation of a Nigerian Pentecostal movement (Abodunde 2016; Marshall 2009). I argue that as the state continues in its failure to meet the cores of its responsibility, the citizens' faith continues to shift from government to the alternative state for succour and security. However, I argue that the citizens who are also members of the Pentecostal state, demonstrate the same attitude of not demanding accountability, which makes leadership at both ends to cheat them.

This article is divided into four sections: the first gives a trajectory of the socio-political development of post-colonial Nigeria. It argues that there are no significant differences between the military and civilian regimes. The second part reviews the cardinal thrust of state-building and the Nigerian situation. It lays out the three cores of government responsibility, and argues that Nigeria has not sufficiently met them. The gaps created by these cores are the precursors for the continuous flourishing of Pentecostalism as an alternative state. The third part examines African Pentecostalism as an alternative state in Nigeria, and assesses Pentecostal formation within the secular space in Nigeria. In the fourth section, the paper raises the issue of accountability at both secular and Pentecostal leadership levels, and the attitude of their citizens. It suggests that citizens and members should cultivate a critical mind and regard accountability as both an existential and ultimate responsibility.


Trajectory of Post-colonial Nigeria

Nigeria got her independence from Britain on 1 October 1960. The hope of the new nation was soon dashed, as corruption and ethnicity, among other factors, led to coups and counter coups which eventually led to a three-year civil war: "Africans killing Africans for reasons that were probably unfathomable. It was as if Nigeria, a newly-independent country with rich resources and a promising future, had somehow turned upon itself, driven purely by 'tribal' hatred" (Bird and Umelo 2018, 7).

Until 1999, the better part of post-independence politics was determined and dominated by the military, the consequences of which on the development of the country have been documented (see IOM 2016). In fact, civil rule did not usher in the envisaged prosperity for a country that had long been locked in a military psyche. The brutality and disregard for human rights that greeted the return to civil rule made it difficult to distinguish between military regimes and their civilian counterparts. Many retired military generals and former heads of state still hold on to power. This is what El-Rufai (2013, 390) refers to as "the theory of second comings." In El-Rufai's (2013, 390-391) words:

Obasanjo, who ascended to the presidency the first time because his predecessor was assassinated, did a decent job for the most part. ... He organised acceptable elections, handed over power and then retired to his farm while enjoying international acclaim for being the first African military head of state to voluntarily hand over power. . He also went broke in the intervening years. . As military president, he reportedly did a few things to prepare for life after retirement. . Twenty years after, once he came back as an elected president, one could safely speculate that the thought may have crossed his mind that he did not adequately take care of himself the first time around. . I see this pattern in many people-career civil servants, cabinet ministers, presidents, and governors, very decent in Nigerian standards the first time out, but who, if they get a second chance, decide to take the fullest advantage, and then we see abusive acquisition on a large scale. This is the essence of my theory of second comings.

The same applies to the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, who had had a stint in 1983-1985 as head of state. Under Buhari, Nigeria is described as "fantastically corrupt," and now the "headquarters of global poverty" (Adebayo 2018). Even though Buhari promised to deal with security challenges, especially the ones posed by Boko Haram, the facts on the ground have shown that Boko Haram is waxing stronger and more devastating in its attacks on the sovereignty of the country. In fact, the Global Terrorism Index has also rated Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen as extremely dangerous terrorist groups (Igboin 2020). However, while El-Rufai sees Obasanjo's second coming as an opportunity to corrupt and abuse office, Obadare (2018, 38-39) views it thus: "it should be noted that his 'second coming' (in more than one sense), coincided with a marked rise in the socio-economic and political power of Pentecostal Christianity in the country." This political and Pentecostal-state relationship is what we intend to examine in this paper.


Cardinal Thrust of State-building and the Nigerian Situation

Although one cannot wholly argue that there are no areas in the country that have done well, the overall assessment and expectations, however, do not suggest that the country has much to celebrate-except for most politicians who by virtue of their privileged positions have always seen the country as a glorious one. In this section, I would like to consolidate on the brief history given above in a manner that elucidates whether the country is a strong or a weak one.

Three broad cores of state obligations are prosperity, security, and popular representation. These cores have elicited increased interest in research on failing or failed states since the end of the Cold War. Scholars are not unanimous on definitions; few agree on what clearly explains whether a state has failed, is failing, or is regarded as strong. Analysts have argued that a state is failing if it refuses or is incapable of providing minimal security for its citizens. For failed states, there are issues such as political instability, limited access to essential services, deficient popular representation (or its non-existence), and gross lack of socio-economic prosperity. Hanna Kassab and Jonathan Rosen (2019), for instance, have shown how corruption has weakened state capacity to act as it ought. They argue that the Nigerian state has become fragile as a result of institutional corruption and entrenched ethnicity. In addition, there is also evidence of state-sponsored violence against its citizens in order for the rulers to stay put in power, and other upheavals that challenge state capacity to respond promptly and appropriately (Silander and Janzekovitz 2012, 39-40).

According to Silander and Janzekovitz (2012, 40), there are certain characteristics that define weak, failing states. "An inability [of a state] to provide a reasonable level of living standard leads to a capacity gap that often promotes internal conflict where socioeconomic injustices are expressed unequally by ethnic or tribal differences, religious intolerance, or class divisions." In other words, provision of prosperity by the state is a pre-requisite for peaceful co-existence and development. The Nigerian situation suggests that the rise of security challenges, as mentioned in the preceding section, is a consequence of socio-economic injustices and outright poverty. Ayu (2015), for instance, argues that though many people have concentrated on the religious and political factors responsible for the rise of Boko Haram, the economic poverty and injustices in north-eastern Nigeria, the theatre of Boko Haram, are critical to its rise and continuous recruitment of radicals into its fold. Ayu further explains that the Lake Chad River, that has been the mainstay of millions of citizens in the 1970s, has almost dried up, and is thus unable to sustain the economic activities and survival of the citizens who depend on it for their existence. Without economic prosperity, a state is bound to face a violent struggle by the citizens. Nigeria, as I mentioned earlier, has been declared the headquarters of extreme poverty; the most dangerous place to raise a child in the twenty-first century (Bada, 2019; Karasz, Moore, and Yeginsu 2017).

The second core is security. When a state lacks the capacity to monopolise the use of force against internal and external threats to its security, there is a "security gap" (Silander and Janzekovitz 2012, 40). Although Nigeria may not be directly experiencing external threats, the various internal armed groups, which it has not been capable of dealing with squarely, demonstrate a security gap. Again, we make recourse to Boko Haram. Boko Haram is no longer considered and treated as merely an internal armed group in Nigeria; it has linked up with international terrorist groups where it receives some sort of support to carry out its activities. For the past 10 years, the group has been effectively carrying out its disastrous activities, except in some cases of reprisals (Igboin 2019). "In a conflict that has no easy answers and no solution in sight, Boko Haram is already and will remain one of Africa's enduring legacies" (Zenn 2018, vi). Zenn (2018, iii-iv) adds: "Nigeria, once considered as the Giant of Africa, has seen its influence in West Africa reduced because of the insurgency. Not only has the government underestimated Boko Haram, and lost or been denied access to territory by the insurgents, but Nigeria's ability to serve as a security guarantor in the region has deteriorated." The case of Leah Sharibu-a minor abducted by a faction of Boko Haram since 19 February 2017-remains a concern and still demands government attention (Opejobi 2019).

As Boko Haram continues to wreak havoc in north-eastern Nigeria, Zamfara state in the north-west is experiencing security challenges in the hands of armed bandits previously regarded as cattle rustlers, but actually recently revealed to be fighting over the mining of gold. Thousands of citizens have been reportedly killed by these bandits, despite the fact that a 1 000-man troop of soldiers was specially commissioned to deal with the situation (Adetayo 2019). The attackers have continued to kill and abduct citizens and demand money for ransom (Gusau 2019). In Kaduna state, north-central Nigeria, kidnappers have overwhelmingly taken over a swath of the road between the state and Abuja, the Nigerian federal capital city. Not only are the kidnappings regular, but they are also carried out in broad day light, obviously challenging the security agencies' capacity. The height of this crisis was when the Kaduna state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, physically went into the bush "chasing" kidnappers (Egbas 2019). Plateau and Benue states in the same north-central area have been inundated with frequent attacks by Fulani herdsmen, killing thousands of people, especially farmers and taking over their lands. In fact, the spokesperson of President Buhari, Femi Adesina, recently told the depressed citizens that it is better for them to give up their ancestral lands than die in the hands of the Fulani herdsmen (Aziken and Agbo 2019). In the south-east, south-south and southwest, kidnappings and ritualist attackers have been on the rampage without adequate response from government security forces and agencies. This has led to the formation of regional security agencies, like Amotekun, in the south-western states.

The third core obligation of the state is popular representation. In the preceding section, I hinted that Nigeria returned to "its own kind of democracy" in May 1999. Apart from the 2015 general elections, all other presidential elections ended up in the Supreme Court because of alleged electoral malpractices and violence. Even the February 2019 general elections were marred by inveterate violence and widespread electoral malpractices. One characteristic of a weak state, with particular reference to representation, is that it uses the power of coercion against its opponents "in order to secure its political base" (Silander and Janzekovitz 2012, 41). Legitimacy of government derives from free and fair elections in a democracy, and any elections that fall short of it will definitely lead to a "legitimacy gap" (Silander and Janzekovitz 2012, 41).

Where there is a legitimacy gap, citizens are not able to participate in government policies and processes or anticipate a response to their needs and wants. Ordinarily, citizens should be able to feel safe, expressing their views and opinions without harassment. Nigeria's government sectors at various levels have continued to lack legitimacy, other than the one forced on the people. Since it is more profitable politically to keep the citizens perpetually divided for effective exploitation, various political leaders have not missed the opportunity to play the ethnic and religious card. Larkin and Meyer (2006, 319) expressly state it thus: "religion has never been something outside of state structures, but is profoundly intertwined with them." In specific regard to Nigeria, Ogbu Kalu (2004, 246) argued that state power is "central in promoting religion; thus, control of the centre of the federal government remained a cardinal goal."

Katongole (2017) tends to disagree with the failed-state theory in Africa. He argues that violence, banditry and chaos are part of nation-state politics in Africa, and as such African states cannot be regarded as weak or failed on that basis. According to Bill Berkeley (1998):

A widespread misconception of the post-cold war era is that ethnic conflict is a byproduct of "failed" states. Rwanda represents the opposite: a state-albeit criminal- that was all too successful in mobilizing along rigidly hierarchical lines from the top down, from the head of state and his ruling clique down to the last village mayor, making possible the slaughter, mostly with clubs and machetes, of hundreds of thousands in barely three months.

The import of this is that violence is "normal" rather than the exception in nation-state politics in Africa. However, he observes that unknown to many, deaths caused by citizens' own government, technically called "democide" account "for six times more deaths ... than by war, rings true in many parts of Africa, and calls for pause in the optimism for a transition to democracy, peace, the rule of law, and the protection of human rights in Africa" (Katongole 2017, 26). According to Katongole, from the observation of nation-state political development in Africa, it can be safely concluded that:

... political violence in Africa does not reflect failure or weakness of the state, but is somehow wired into the political imaginary of Africa's modernity. The force of this realization is to shift the conversation of politics in Africa from the preoccupation with technical solutions to make politics work to an engagement with the imaginary of nation-state politics in Africa. (Katongole 2017, 27)

Although the goal being canvassed by Katongole is germane-to reinvent visions and imaginations that are capable of sustaining a modern Africa politics-it cannot be said that a government fighting its citizens is not immoral, to say the least. The thrust of much political violence, which Katongole has argued to be normal, is for political power retention (Onimhawo and Igboin 2008). As I have argued earlier, one of the characteristics of a weak or failed state is the deployment of force against internal opponents for securing the incumbent political base. The strength of a government or its military is not when it uses its might on its citizens. It is a ploy to enforce legitimacy on those who have seen a legitimacy gap. Thus:

... failed states have very little, if any, state capacity. The danger for weak states is that they may succumb to internal and external pressures where state capacity becomes so degraded that the state is in danger of failing or even totally collapsing. (Silander and Janzekovitz 2012, 41)

Even though one cannot categorically say that Nigeria has collapsed as a state because of the features we have enumerated above, it is safe to argue that an increasing number of her citizens are losing faith in its capacity to secure lives and ensure socio-economic prosperity. The three gaps-capacity, security, and legitimacy-are increasingly evident, despite enthusiastic denial by the state. The near-total absence of prosperity, security and representation is critical to the argument of patriotism and confidence in the country. As human beings and citizens, prosperity, security and representation are minimal needs expected from a government. When they are not present, the citizens will also look elsewhere, hence the concept of an alternative state, to which I briefly turn to elucidate within the frames of African Pentecostalism.

African Pentecostalism as an Alternative State in Nigeria

Although what has been regarded as classical Pentecostalism concentrated almost exclusively on personal salvation, Holy Ghost baptism, divine healing and dispensationalism, African neo-Pentecostalism (broadly conceived in contemporary Christianity), has gone beyond these theological streams (Wacker 2001, 61). This does not obliterate the fact that the origins of Pentecostalism appear to be associated more with economically, politically and socially deprived and exploited persons: a "people being in the world while simultaneously cut off from it" (Felix-Jager 2015, 45). Those who embraced it initially were not the highly placed individuals within society. Ishaya (2011, 149) elaborates thus:

Pentecostalism at the time widened its perspective to include a focus on social and economic situations worldwide and more specifically in the areas of establishment, including Nigeria. ... The widened perspective coincided with the appearance of worldwide increased capitalism of Thatcherism and Reaganomics of the late 1970s to the late 1980s which were at top gear, culminating in the fall of the Soviet Union and the flourishing of global capitalism. The message from the Pentecostal pulpits began to include promises of prosperity. In addition to the warning that "you must be born again," sermons now included that "God is not poor" and "His followers are not expected to be poor." And thus, a shift in Pentecostal thought, style and teaching became apparent that had been long in the coming.

In furtherance of this shift, Comaroff (2015, 232) adds:

Shifts in the nature of this state might well be implicated, then, in the kind of boundary breaching that comes with late modern Pentecostalism. . There has also been a widespread popular impetus, in the early 21st Century world, toward redefining the role of religion in the civic order; a widespread effort to recover a sense of authenticity and sovereign authority in the world. All this implies thoroughgoing structural transformation. Indeed, there is much to suggest that the character of contemporary faith is integral to a reorganization of core components of capitalist modernity as a social formation, a world-wide process that has specific implications for postcolonial Africa. This shift has involved an intensification of some signature features of modern society, and an eclipse of others, a process made manifest in the changing ethos and institutional form of liberal democracies across the world. These changes vary in local manifestation, and so, too, does the nature and impact of religious revitalization.

Thus "given the history of Pentecostal growth at the economic margins," it is no surprise that Pentecostalism has to address economic disequilibrium and political deprivation (Johnson 2017, 80). More often than not, Pentecostalism is heavily criticised for its proliferation and concentration on prosperity teaching, a teaching some people consider to be heretical (Akiri 2019; Conger 2019). Almost every nook and cranny of Nigeria, especially the southern parts, is decked with one Pentecostal church or the other. From the names some of them bear, and the themes of the programmes they regularly organise, one can deduce that they are providing an alternative solution to the crunching economic hardship that has come to define the country. This is without prejudice to the fact that many of the Pentecostal churches and leaders, particularly the neo-Pentecostal ones, are out to dubiously milk their members (Igboin 2013a). In this vein, Mboya (2016, 17) argues that such wholesale condemnation of Pentecostalism for its material prosperity preaching "denies it the theological analysis it deserves." He points out that the rise and spread of Pentecostalism can be understood from the prism of the "North American socio-economic culture," which is packaged, marketed and exported globally. With the charismatic display of powers, more and more people became "converted" to its fold. "In Africa economic deprivation and health-related problems may be two chief drivers of prosperity Gospel. ... Evidently, the people of Africa need a message of hope that addresses issues of healing and material needs" (Mboya 2016, 19). For Mboya (2016, 29), while the gospel as a whole is met for the liberation of sinful humanity, with particular reference to Nigeria, many Christians have been "lured into the forays of prosperity Gospel because of extreme conditions of suffering due to poverty and diseases."

As generally believed, Pentecostalism's overarching message is prosperity in its entire dimension; security against physical and spiritual forces is also a popular teaching. Many of the preachers teach that enjoying prosperity hinges on bountiful sowing of seed (Amanze and Shanduka 2019; Walton 2012). Wariboko's (2012) taxonomy of prosperity teaching in Africa shows that poverty is conceived as a spiritual ailment, and covenant with God is needed to break the jinx. Yong (2012, 15) articulates the view that over-spiritualisation of reality does not answer the question of accountability, which is a result of human choice. The emphasis and the belief in Pentecostal prosperity economy have not had a corresponding global "renewal economics." Amanze and Shanduka (2019, 128) argue that there is "no concrete evidence that the theology of prosperity is making the African people richer and healthier than ever before, many people get excited and are convinced by the promises made by the preachers of prosperity gospel." Although "there is evidence that the prosperity gospel has produced a number of very rich pastors in Nigeria," "the theology of prosperity does not bring prosperity to the masses at all," and indeed contributes "towards the poverty of the African people by propagating ideologies that are founded on ungodly principles of accumulation" (Amanze and Shanduka 2019, 136-137). They conclude that "the answer to Africa's economic woes ... lies in ... the wise management of Africa's natural resources ... accountability, hard work, absence of corruptive practices and transparency of its leaders" (Amanze and Shanduka 2019, 137-138). However, Dena Freeman (2012) underscores the point that economic development cannot be divorced from religion, particularly the African Pentecostal brand. African Pentecostalism is not only replacing NGOs, but also providing critical economic stimuli to overall development. Babatunde Adedibu (2020) emphasises the fact that even though there are criticisms against Pentecostal leaders, the Redeemed Christian Church of God has apodictically demonstrated a connection between African Pentecostalism and development. Olufunke Adeboye (2020) highlights the challenges that African Pentecostalism faces in its efforts at development.

Amadi (2013) opines that, what is puzzling, is that despite the moral decadence that has come to be associated with many Pentecostal leaders, which ordinarily should be repulsive, more people tend to flock towards them. However, in African religious space, metaphysical powers are believed to influence physical or existential space, and once the former are addressed, there is bound to be positive change in the latter. However, how the much-promised existential change would happen has not been sufficiently addressed by the Pentecostal leaders. He raises a normative question: morally questionable Pentecostal leaders ought to have lost followers, but instead, their congregations seem to grow numerically. Why would church members blindly support and defend their morally reprehensible leaders? The reason is not far-fetched: it has to do with the promise of liberation from the excruciating socio-economic suffering and general insecurity citizens are experiencing. Members' hope is raised as these leaders preach divine intervention in both their existential and metaphysical problems, rather than pay attention to their own morally questionable lives. In fact, African neo-Pentecostal concentration on church growth in terms of numbers without spiritual and moral growth has become a matter of concern. Such teachings that border on salvation, sanctification, holiness, purity and so forth, are increasingly becoming a rare emphasis in sermons (Igboin and Adedibu 2020; Quampah 2014).

Furthermore, Rio, MacCarthy, and Blanes (2017) argue that Pentecostalism flourishes not only because of the economic downturn of the people, but also because of its elastic conception of evil, which has to be dealt with. Evil is not just a metaphysical phenomenon that should be engaged intellectually, it is anything that stands against one's success in life. As such, spiritual battle as well as physical antidotes must be engaged in to remedy the situation. Evil may manifest in witchcraft, persons, government, systems, and so on. As long as a particular thought or action does not align with the progress of their members, many Pentecostals believe that evil is at work and therefore must be fought through spiritual warfare. At the level of the physical, many Pentecostals have set up critical economic and political outfits to address the suffering of their members-they give out employment to hundreds of people, engage in national politics in order to influence policies, and so on. They argue that in Nigeria, the growth of Pentecostalism is a result of poverty and inequality that the country is experiencing, and people's aspiration to overcome them and achieve prosperity in all other ways possible.

Igboin and Adedibu (2019) argue that evil is ubiquitous in African Pentecostalism; the Pentecostal leaders' recourse to evil creates almost a permanent fear and constant insecurity that will only be resolved and dealt with as members continuously engage in spiritual warfare. The sense of insecurity is so suffusing that it covers almost every aspect of the members' lives, creating suspicion, and sometimes, immobility. Relief comes as members worship together and praying violently or militantly against the forces of insecurity, evil and enemies that manifest in many forms. Indeed, the higher the sense of insecurity, the higher the sense of religious communality and worship: "Prayer houses were another religious option available to those looking for protection and security" (Burgess 2008, 152). Burgess explains how socio-economic, political and security challenges, particularly in south-eastern Nigeria during and after the Nigerian Civil War, resulted in the growth of Pentecostalism.

In order to address the exclusion in political representation and participation, "Pentecostal movements are egalitarian, communitarian, and even nation-like, with a focus on unity, close integration of members and, in ideological terms, at least, egalitarian structures of leadership" (Rio et al. 2017, 18-19). This kind of political theology thinks of a contrastive parallel to the secular political ideology that births and fosters injustice and oppression. In conceiving its political theology, Pentecostalism is actively engaged in setting up an alternative state, though one without a physical military. Thus:

... the church is a ... community that derives its identity by contrasting itself with societal instantiations outside the church and that offers a way of living alternative to the world system, rather than one in which the church is a liberating community that seeks social justice by and large through the agency of the liberal-democratic state. (Stephenson 2009, 75).

This form of contrastive politics is borne out of the realisation that the church cannot effectively manipulate the power structure of the secular politics for its advantage, especially in a multi-ethnic and religious country like Nigeria.

The idea of Pentecostal nationalism, as a political theology of alternative state formation, stemmed from the colonial and mainstream church's domination of both political and ecclesiastical order in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. The churches during colonialism protested against cultural and political oppression, both in symbolic and radical ways (Anderson 2015, 58). It was the African independent churches that first mooted the idea of independence, thus forming an alternative church consciousness, which also contributed to the struggle for political independence. The post-independence Nigerian Pentecostal churches in the course of time also became dissatisfied with how the various governments were administering the entire country. This resulted in the contrastive political structure (Vaughan 2016).

Meanwhile, Burgess (2015) and Obadare (2018), amongst others, have elaborately shown how Pentecostals in Nigeria have become actively involved in secular and partisan politics. They analysed the transformation of Pentecostals' other-worldly concern to this-worldly involvement, especially in politics. Their main interest lies in the development of a relationship between secular politics and the theological class, and how Pentecostals' active political participation is a kind of political representation and participation. In fact, the much-needed political legitimacy for regime stability is being sought from Pentecostal leaders as exemplified by President Obasanjo, late President Musa Yar 'Adua, President Goodluck Jonathan, and even to some extent, President Muhammadu Buhari. The latter, being referred to as a fanatic Muslim, had to doff his religious cap for Christian bloc in order to win elections in 2015.

The point not addressed by Burgess (2015) and Obadare (2018) is that while the Pentecostals are actively involved in secular politics, they do not lose sight of their own "Pentecostal state," where the Pentecostal big men act as presidents. McCauley (2015, 325) characterises the emergence and growth of Pentecostal big men as a failure of the traditional system. As long as this failure continues due to weak political institutions, Pentecostalism and its nuances will be relevant as an alternative source of security. "The dysfunction of African politics created pressure for a new sociopolitical approach, to which ... charismatic Pentecostalism [is] particularly well suited. In the post-independence period, corruption, mismanagement, and general political failure came to define much of African politics. In that context, charismatic Pentecostalism offered a plausible social alternative" (McCauley 2015, 325). Moreover, Kalu (2018a, 36) elucidates the characteristics of the African big men thus:

The big men in politics usually act as patrons, and their interests and obligations directed "first and foremost, to their kith and kin, their clients, their communities, their regions, or even to their religion." In order to maintain his status and service the network of clients, the big man must draw resources from the state; and in the process deny the state of resources that could have been invested in improving society's overall welfare. ... The big man amasses so much personal fortune that he becomes a sort of outlier in terms of wealth and privileges. ... He is revered by many and enjoys undue privileges from every angle. . The typical African big man is not subject to the same rules that guide every other citizen.

Kalu (2018b) argues that the African big men emerged principally after independence; they conceived of independence as an end in itself rather than a means to an end. Rather than build structures, the African big men built a personality cult and became idols to be worshipped by the citizens. This accounts for the long years many of them ruled their states after independence; acquiring and maintaining personal wealth to the detriment of national development. Aniche (2018, 236) adds: "Africa's 'big men' have been deeply involved in competitive looting or primitive accumulation of the national treasury." This partly led to the failure of states in Africa. Pentecostal big men syndrome then developed as an alternative to the breakdown experienced by the traditional system. A more pungent cause for the rise of Pentecostal big men is the weakness/inability of government to address problems of social needs of citizens. He observes that in the alternative institution created by Pentecostal big men, they are addressing the failure of the state in the socio-existential realm. This means that despite the criticisms against Pentecostalism in its excessive materialism, there is a sense in which the wealth is used to assuage the suffering of citizens of the state and members of the church-the alternative state. He states:

Viewing charismatic Pentecostalism as a new form of big man rule in Africa builds on those literatures while preserving the traditional pre-eminence of patron-client exchange in African politics. Rather than explaining one type of impact (such as pro-social community outreach) or another (such as the reliance on occult forces and self-aggrandizing prophets), the argument for Pentecostal big man rule highlights the shared incentives of elites and masses that generate both positive and negative sociopolitical outcomes. In a shared embrace of the Holy Spirit, Pentecostal leaders and their followers nevertheless operate in an informal institutional setting where critical needs must be met. (McCauley 2015, 326)

From the foregoing, three core issues have been highlighted that have continued to give vent to Pentecostalism. They are: socio-economic, security and legitimacy issues; issues we have argued earlier are preponderant to defining the status of a state, and in this case, Nigeria. In other words, the challenges that the state has been unable to adequately address, are the very impetuses for the flourishing of Pentecostalism. In forming an alternative state, many Pentecostal leaders are very much aware that their estate-the city of God-is within a secular state. This is one reason why we describe it as a "state without an army." Despite this, the Pentecostal state formation permeates almost the whole secular space within the country, creating provinces and regions, which are Pentecostal-geo-political zones headed by appointed representatives of the Pentecostal-president-founder or overseer of the denomination. The Pentecostal-geo-political zones have strongly cemented inter-ethnic "citizenry." Moreover, the Pentecostalpresident, more usually in a big denomination, has political and diplomatic citizens and relations in trans-state and trans-nations. This mega-structure also gradually defines a shift from a "humble egalitarian fellowship to a bureaucratic church under an authoritarian personality" that makes accountability somewhat difficult (Ukah 2008, 6).

What is intriguing is that although the secular government may have its citizens living in trans-national spaces-the diaspora-the Pentecostal-president has "citizens" within and outside the secular state of operation. This can easily be observed in the number of national flags stationed in a denomination's headquarters, which show the nationals that have become "citizens" of the denomination, the alternative state. These trans-national "citizens" also actively participate in and adhere venerably to the Pentecostal-president's directive or declaration. Interestingly, Pentecostal citizens tend to obey the rules and regulations of the Pentecostal-president more than their national presidents and laws. Loyalty or patriotism to the Pentecostal-president and the Pentecostal state is more voluntary, ardent and total than towards the secular state.

For instance, although many people may not pay attention to this, David Oyedepo's reference to himself as "the President of the David Oyedepo Foundation (DOF)" and "also the President of the Living Faith Church Worldwide a.k.a. Winners Chapel International" ("About the President": depicts the characterisation of the concept of Pentecostal-president. The church has "citizens" in over 50 countries and a headquarters that seats over 50 000 worshippers at Ota, Ogun state, Nigeria. Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, is also addressed as the "President of Christ the Redeemers Ministry" ( Staff, 2019). The church has a presence in 192 countries of the world, and Adeboye, like Abraham, is referred to as "the father of many nations" ( Staff, 2019), which expresses the multi-nationality of his influence and Pentecostal presidency.


State, Alternative State, and the Question of Accountability

Accountability is not only an ethical demand, but also a legal one. In its legal mode, the laws of the state require both leaders and citizens to account for their actions. This is one critical function of the judicial system in any nation. Where the judicial system is independent and truly acts as the bastion of hope and justice for the citizenry, accountability is demanded and obtained from both leaders and the led. Accountability and justice in this sense go hand in hand. To be accountable is to be susceptible to account for flouting legal demand. Accountability means that an individual is punished or rewarded when his or her actions are weighed against extant principles or laws that govern a society (Shoemaker 2011; Smith 2012). On its ethical side, De Gruchy (2002, 98) argues that accountability should relate in this regard more with its theological mode, since both ethical and theological nuances have both existential and eschatological implications. According to him, "acknowledging accountability for faults and dealing with alienation and estrangement is fundamental to the creation of a reconciled and reconciling community." Adedibu and Igboin (2019) also espouse that accountability has present and eschatological dimensions that cannot be underestimated by Christians and citizens. Despite the gratuitousness of forgiveness when genuinely offered, the ultimacy of judgement cannot be underplayed because "there can be no perfect justice unless we think in eschatological terms about the ultimate reign of God's righteousness" (De Gruchy 2002, 202).

Lack of accountability in governance is pervasive in Nigeria. Many scholarly works have, however, been devoted to accountability bordering on leadership with insignificant attention to the role of followership in accountability or calling leadership to account for its actions. In a democracy, citizens have the onerous task of calling leaders to account for their decisions and actions. This is one of the functions of civil societies. It has been observed that many civil societies in Nigeria have either abandoned their responsibilities or have become enmeshed in the same accountability problems. Many reasons have been adduced for followers' negligence in demanding accountability-illiteracy, poverty, fear (Ogbonna, Ogundiwin, and Uzuegbu-Wilson 2012). In addition, Yacob-Haliso and Agbaje (2018) argue that the lack of accountability in Nigeria is due to the status that the big men unduly enjoy. Since they live above the law, they do not account to anybody, despite the plethora of infractions.

In addition, ethnic and religious bonds have made it difficult for citizens to concertedly demand accountability from their leaders. As a result of ethno-politics that binds leaders to citizens, citizens from a particular ethnic group have more often than not tended to defend their representatives in government when asked to account for their stewardship. According to Igboin (2018b, 6), ethnicisation of corruption in Nigeria is one of the serious challenges facing the fight against corruption. The effect of this is that the citizens do not only lose and remain cheated, but they also compromise their right to demand accountability from the leadership that has employed a divide and rule strategy to keep them mute. On the basis of religious subscription, followers practically leave everything to God (Igboin 2013b).

Followers resort to prayer; they keep mute and suffer in silence rather than to ask questions. Both secular and Pentecostal leaders have exploited this to undermine the followers. In fact, most Pentecostal leaders teach their members to unquestionably obey civil and spiritual authorities, even in the face of crass suffering. Christians are taught not to be involved in politics, labour unions and other bodies that may call government to reassess its policies. Kumuyi (2019), one of the classical Pentecostal and holiness Nigerian preachers, teaches that government derives its authority from God and as such, to criticise government is to criticise God. According to him: "Don't attack the president of the country whether in words or in the newspapers or through internet. . If we are to honour governors in the states, how much more the pastors." The Pentecostal pastors also use scriptures like "do not touch the anointed one of God," "do my prophets no harm" and "no authority except by God" (1 Chron 16:22; Rom 13:1) to keep the members and citizens subservient. These verses have been interpreted and applied in ways that occlude the Pentecostal-presidents from interrogation, even when there are obvious reasons to do so.

In the Pentecostal state, members as citizens have also not been too keen on accountable leadership. One of the reasons why there is an avalanche of criticisms against Pentecostal leaders in Nigeria, is lack of accountability. Critics believe that so much money comes into the churches, but some leaders do not account for it as they extravagantly spend it on themselves and family members. For instance, when one analyses the criticisms that are trailing the payment of tithes in Pentecostal circles in Nigeria, one comes to appreciate the fact that they are geared towards accountability. In other words, there are hardly any strong theological arguments against paying tithes, but the (ab)use is what is being called to question. More starkly, the critics seem to ask: Why would members who contribute the money be neglected while the leaders live fabulously?

There is a shift in Pentecostal commitment to accountability. Just as the neo-liberal politics affected secular economies and impacted on the church as a whole, so did Pentecostal commitment to accountability shift from other-worldly to this-worldly. The focus on the mundane and cosmetic values has been posited to be one of the reasons why some people leave the church. In other words, when the spiritual is sacrificed on the altar of cultural interest a spiritual vacuum is created, which the former cannot fill (Drane 2000, 36). This shift, as Ishaya (2011, 149) noted, is obvious in neo-Pentecostal abandonment of messages on being born again, sanctification, eternity with God and responsible Christian living. Today, many neo-Pentecostal churches in Nigeria hardly teach such ethical doctrine as sanctification or holiness, simply because they believe that "hard" messages may make them lose "clientele." Such messages are argued to mean jettisoning accountability in the church (Ayantayo, Adedibu, and Igboin 2019; Igboin 2018c).

Wariboko (2018) advances more reasons for the lack of accountability in what Obadare (2018) refers to as the "Pentecostal Republic." According to Wariboko, African Pentecostalism is not democratic, tolerant, or pluralistic, but supports and largely exhibits authoritarianism. Its structure of command is top-down and any violation is immediately resisted or viewed as disobedience to constituted authority or even God. "There is no pure space in which to stand and speak about the democratic potentialities of African Pentecostalism" (Wariboko 2018, 387). African Pentecostal philosophy of power is based on a unitary system that supposedly draws its legitimacy from God. This legitimacy referent has been an instrument used by the Pentecostal-presidents to dictate what should or must be done in their "territory." This thinking appears to follow the logic: since God is not accountable to anyone, they, the Pentecostal leaders, cannot be accountable to members. The unquestionability of this logic has resulted in enslavement of the membership as Pentecostal citizenship, and it continues to fuel corruption, dissatisfaction, oppression and dehumanisation within the Pentecostal Republic.

Gula (2010) argues that one effect of the lack of accountability is church growth; church growth in this sense does not relate with numerolatry (excessive interest in numbers or worship of large numbers), but the essential spiritual values that separate Christians from other people, especially in character. According to Gula: "Accountability is a way of doing justice to the community. It recognizes the ties that bind us to one another and that we are responsible to others for what we have been given to assume our professional role and community" (Gula 2010, 37). Unlike what many Pentecostal leaders preach, Gula implies that both leaders and followers are accountable to each other. This, for him, is why the church is an organic community, and different from any other body. Demand for accountability is, therefore, the responsibility of every member of the church community. For instance, the church in the Wilderness demonstrated a pattern of accountability that is worth emulating today: "Here is an inventory of the materials used in building the Tabernacle of the Covenant. Moses directed the Levites to compile the figures, and Ithamar son of Aaron the priest served as recorder. Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, was in charge of the whole project, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. He was assisted by Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, a craftsman expert" (Exod 38:21-23, NLT). Relating these verses to audit and accountability, Austin and Steelman (2004, 20) posit: "Auditing practices existed even in ancient times. Bezelel, as 'CEO,' and Oholiab, as 'manager,' gave account of all materials to the 'auditor' or 'gatekeeper' Ithamar-an independent source with no direct ties. It was Ithamar who then needed to bring the 'audit' to Moses, 'chairman of the board'."

Explaining the shift that has taken place in both secular and spiritual organisations, Austin and Steelman aver: "... the growth and profits brought forth an 'invincible attitude' that lifted many 'above the law'" (Austin and Steelman 2004, 29). At both ends, followership loses as they are the ones that pay taxes to the state and tithes to the alternative state. The leaders of both state and Pentecostal state gain and enjoy unquestionable access to commonwealth while the followers, because of their acquiescence, continue to lose and yet "literally" give to the former. It is thus apparent that "For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away" (Matt. 25:29 The Woman's Study Bible).



I have argued that the Nigerian state is weak and thus appears unable to fulfil the three cores of state responsibilities, namely: socio-economic prosperity, security, and popular representation and participation. Although it has human and natural resources that would have made it a strong and prosperous country, Nigeria has continued to produce inept and corrupt leadership, which practically recycles itself and perpetually undermines the progress of the state. This weakness has resulted in huge patronage for Pentecostalism, which in the course of time, has inadvertently formed a kind of state that earns respect from its members. We also argued that the issue of accountability has been taken with levity by the followership or citizenry in both secular and spiritual spaces. The neglect of accountability has empowered and emboldened leadership to continuously exploit the followership at both ends. The teaching of unquestionable obedience to corrupt leadership, which followership has imbibed, is itself theologically questionable. As such, it is suggested here that citizens have existential and ultimate responsibility and duty to demand accountability at both secular and spiritual spaces, since they are those who contribute to the commonwealth that they are being perpetually prevented from accessing.


Autobiographical Note

Professor, Religion and African Culture. Department of Religion and African Culture, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria.

Academic Associate of the Research Institute of Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa.



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