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Have our preachers gone mad again?

This year is going to be a blast! Wait. Did I say that out loud? You know, these days, one has to be careful what…

This year is going to be a blast! Wait. Did I say that out loud? You know, these days, one has to be careful what he says because there is someone out there dishing out tickets to hell.

Aspire to be a footballer, and you will go to hell. Aspire to be a comedian, make people laugh for a living, and you, you know, hell has got you. No laughing matter there. Use social media, make up your face and sister, you are going to hell. This, dear reader, is according to the woman known as Mommy GO.

Since the New Year, Mommy GO has been trending, for among other things being a preacher, Kung Fu maestro, and a woman capable of renewing her virginity nightly, as she herself advertised. Her name is Olufunmilayo Adebayo. She is the gap-toothed, goggle-wearing preacher who has provided much-needed comedic relief to Nigerians to the extent that they have made memes and musical remixes of snippets of her colourful, proclamations.

Whatever the case, Nigerians love Mommy GO. Who wouldn’t love a person who, apart from the constant reincarnation of her virginity, has the ninja assassin skills to touch a man and cause his breath to cease, not in a romantic way, in case your mind is still there?

Of course, some people have taken her proclivity and ran with it. It is now rumoured that she had condemned people with perky breasts to hell. Tall people too. Those clips I have not seen and the evangelist, who was recently interviewed by the BBC, said not everything that has been attributed to her have been said by her.

The thing is; many things are funny about Mommy GO’s preaching and grand proclamations. There are also many things quite disturbing about them. What is on exhibition, from her is a strain of radicalism, not one that professes violence on others— her Ninja-assassin boast aside—but one that inhibits people from living to their full potential, one that encourages people to otherwise themselves, exclude themselves from society and inevitably, consider all others hell-bound demons wasting the time and resources of the heaven-bounds.

Where have we seen this trend before? Well, in many instances. Maitatsine, for instance, Shekau, for instance. Like these people, Mommy GO declared herself a “revivalist” who preaches “old message.”

What the leaders of these sects all have in common, apart from the audacity to categorically condemn people to hell, is an unbridled fervour in their devotion to their idea of God or how he should be worshipped and the obvious signs that they are not, well, not OK upstairs.

A friend made a Facebook post about this woman possibly being a little bit unhinged. I commented to the effect that she might not be a little bit unhinged but a lot. What she displays in these clips bear a striking resemblance to the signs of mental dysfunctions noted in other extremist leaders.

First, there is that element of narcissism these preachers display. In the way she talks about her virginity, for instance, and the way she talks about her murderous competence, there are reminders of how Shekau talked about himself. Anyone, who has seen the Shekau clip in which he rants, “Ni ne Shekau in baku gane baaaaa?” (I am Shekau if you don’t realise it.) In which he goes on this absurd, frankly embarrassing singing with his name, “Shekau kakakau, kauwuwuwuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!” and then fired some shots in the air.

Anyone who watched that clip, which should still be on the internet, would see a man dangerously unhinged and most likely high on his ego and an unhealthy amount of drug. It is simply not normal or rational behaviour.

The second common feature about these radical preachers is their default approach to any idea opposed to theirs or even calls for a re-examination of their views. “Oh, You don’t agree with me? You are going to hell.” If you convince your followers that anyone disagreeing with your views is hell-bound, it justifies your followers’ hatred towards them, and would inevitably justify any violence meted out to these people. Maitatsine used the same methods, which was how he got his moniker, the one who curses. If you do not submit to his ideas then you are “accursed.” It builds on the hubris these funny characters exhibit. The irony is that if God was that radical a being, He would have, to use a biblical expression, smitten the world.

The third is an obsession with virginity. Much has been said and written about “the promise of 70 virgins” for jihadis—most of it has been a misinterpretation of Islamic text. But no one can deny that jihadi groups have been obsessed with the idea of virgins and being rewarded with virgins in the hereafter. It has driven many gullible men, and women, who like Mommy GO, believe there is value in a nightly transformation into a virgin.

It is not only a religious thing but it is now a pop culture as a matter of fact. There may be no data to justify this claim just yet but the obsession with aphrodisiac in all parts of the country is a testament to a yearning, one that religious figures are keen to exploit. It is not going to end well.

Recently, the government of Kano State has been in a courtroom drama with one Sheikh Abduljabbar, whose interpretation of Islam and proclamations have caused his mental health to be called into question.

What these episodes have demonstrated is that the loose regulations have allowed people with questionable mental health to preside over religious affairs, often unchecked, even when it is glaring in their ideas.

While religion has always featured prominently in the social and political life of the country, even if in practice it has been more performative than pious, its administration and preaching have often been left to all comers, like a teenage Pantami calling for blood, or the paedophiles molesting children in churches and sexually exploiting women under the altar of the divine. And despite several violent conflicts inspired by religious zealotry and the preaching of faith charlatans, the government has still not seen it useful to ensure more regulations in this vital area.

Mental health, on the other hand, has been the most neglected sector in the country, despite estimates by WHO projecting that around 25 per cent of the population, equating to over 50 million people suffer from various forms of mental illness.

A mix of the two is a dangerous combination that has continued to create needless deaths and hatred amongst the people of the country. No one wants a draconian, or George Orwell’s 1984 kind of government, but absolutely no one wants to be murdered by religious zealots inspired by the preaching of a loco. If Nigeria is going to become the country it is destined to be, it must find agreeable ways to regulate who preaches in the country and what kind of ideologies they preach. The saying that politics is too important to be left in the hands of politicians is just as true for religion.

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