Nigeria Losing Her Religion: A Nation’s Faith Unveiled in the Face of Covid 19

By Evon Benson Idahosa

I remember falling asleep at a Tuesday evening church service as a 9 year old child. I had a tambourine on my lap and as I fell to the floor, it reverberated thunderously throughout the hall, drawing the attention of everyone who had been attentively listening to the dynamic preacher-man.

I awakened to piercing stares and side eyes- particularly from my father- whose message I had disrupted. Every Nigerian child knows that stare, that glare that silently speaks a thousand words, cloaks you in debilitating fear and assures your quivering being that there will be consequences.

Needless to say, it was a quiet ride home and for the rest of the revival week, I was ushered to the front row where I forced my eyes open, humming tunes to myself to stay awake.

Saying that I literally grew up in church would be an understatement. Week long revival services, such as the one I reference above, were customary. I was also in the choir, went to Sunday school before church services on Sunday, Agape Force Children’s meetings on Saturdays, mid-week services and the occasional 6:30 am morning prayer services, followed by our home bible study with Auntie B. And because my father was Archbishop Benson Idahosa, there were no negotiations. It just was.

At the age of 10, shortly after the infamous “tambourine experience,” the truth of those messages became real and I earnestly became a follower of The Way. And so, as news began to sweep the globe of the novel Corona virus and its import, I found myself immediately turning to my faith as a source of comfort and peace. I also called my mother, who now heads CGMI, the global ministry my father left when he passed away 22 years ago. Her words of encouragement and the tone of her voice assured me that, as we like to say in Nigeria, ‘it is well.’ And it will be!

But for now, the pandemic continues to rage, as thousands succumb to its will. First China. Then South Korea. Japan. An epidemic. Then Italy, the UK, the US. Thousands upon thousands of cases were being reported and every day brought the reality closer to home. Then it became a global pandemic and as it stands, the WHO estimates that there are 719,700 confirmed cases globally, with almost 34,000 deaths.
On February 28th, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, confirmed its index case of the Corona virus which arrived the country via an Italian businessman.

As I write, Nigeria’s centre for Disease Control is reporting a total of 135 confirmed cases and two deaths, having conducted just several hundred tests, even though thousands of passengers have arrived from varying countries since the index. Self isolation has been deemed an advisory, not mandatory.

Nigeria has taken what some would consider drastic, yet in this writer’s opinion, insufficient and strikingly Western style measures to address what is likely to come in the absence of a miracle. In addition to finally closing her borders from international travelers, including Nigerians, schools have been shut down, civil servants are being asked to work from home, “social distancing” policies are being enacted and several states, including my home state of Edo, have prohibited religious, social and public gatherings of more than 20 persons.

In a country where over 90% of her citizens profess to be religious, most Nigerians are accustomed to turning to their faith in times of crisis. The corona virus pandemic is no exception. Many who had strayed from God are now repenting of their sins and brandishing the sign of the cross as they leave their homes. Others are praying for a “Passover,” as CNN and other news outlets flood us with “end of the world,” doomsday messaging. As a result, many of us are yearning to collectively gather to pray.

Whether the desire to collectively gather is buttressed by denial (“coronavirus is not here” — “the spirit of corona virus is dead in Nigeria”) or stems from a deep seeded longing for God to show mercy to a healthcare system that is wholly unprepared to handle the worst case scenario, the fact remains that Nigeria’s religious faithfuls are unaccustomed to missing gatherings for anything. Services are considered sacred times to commune with God and to be encouraged by the brethren. Others hang on to every word of their clerics who, in some cases, insist on serving as a religious crutch- intermediaries between their congregants and God.

Many believers who engage with God on a transactional basis come bearing tithes and/or offerings in the hopes that God will hear their prayers. (He hears them regardless).

As such, the prohibition on religious gatherings of more than 20 (which essentially translates to a prohibition of services in general) has resulted in many Nigerian believers losing their ‘religion,’ i.e., left bewildered as to how to make the adjustment to a God who potentially exists outside the four walls of their churches; to a God who speaks directly to them in God’s long forgotten voice. Who, precisely, are Nigerian believers without our religions and religious houses of worship?

Could it be that for the first time in a long time, Nigerian believers are being presented with a church-less opportunity to develop even more meaningful personal relationships with their God; to ‘lay hands’ on themselves and speak words of healing into their children from a God who has always heard them? Could this pandemic serve as an opportunity for believers to be what Murray Bowen describes as a ‘non-anxious presence’ to those who may be paralyzed by fear?

To this end, some larger churches are offering their services online. However, for the working poor who faithfully make up the backbone of most Nigerian churches, internet connectivity and/or live streaming of an entire service make that option impractical and/or unaffordable. They are the ones, who because they live day to day, cannot afford to practice social distancing, “stay at home” and for some, even “wash your hands,” because soap becomes a luxury when one’s ‘daily bread’ is devoid of the ‘daily.’ If our government does not step up to courageously seek support that is tailored to our unique realities and then provide that support to those on the margins, the import of the corona virus in our beloved Nigeria could be felt by generations to come.

As such, could this pandemic present an opportunity for churches to fill the glaring gaps and practically serve the last and the least in a manner that reveals who we profess to be as followers of The Way? Might this be an opportunity for the church to put our egos aside and creatively heed Jesus’ instructions to ‘feed my sheep’, to apply the Balm of Gilead, by serving those who will be most physically, mentally and economically impacted?

Practically speaking, could we convert our sanctuaries to temporary hospitals or food pantries where those in need can obtain essentials? Can we use the funds of those who have faithfully donated over the years to buy ventilators and personal protective gear for our hospitals and health workers on the front lines? Can we purchase hygiene products and distribute them to those who may be confined to their homes? This, I believe, is our mandate.

At the end of the day, my faith in God runs deep. It has guided my life since I was 10 and I prayerfully trust that we will get through this. But as the Nigerian Church temporarily loses her ‘religion’ and her faith is unveiled in the face of COVID-19, she is presented with an opportunity to reverberate thunderously and rise up to be who she professes for such a novel time as this. After all, in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ‘the church is the church only when it exists for others…not dominating, but helping and serving’.

Courtesy Ahmed Yahaya Joe

When salt losses its taste

By Ahmed Yahaya Joe


I do not know why the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) chose a day after President Buhari’s national broadcast on the Covid-19 pandemic to demand N1.1 trillion from the FG for the “revitalization” of the Nigerian university system. It is truly apalling with the current economic situation!


But then, this is Nigeria where any proof of life speech by the leader in standing position is breaking news. We are indeed a cynical federation! as ours is breaking news. While the periodic distraction that the national speculation on the whereabouts of Mr President might be temporarily strategic it has a cumulative effect in the progressive bastardization his political legacy in the long run. Being a president is not a call to be an expert. Rather it is simply being in charge which in an internet age is not a picnic.


The contents of President Buhari’s speech in overall context commendably covered all the relevant issues. That it was short on details is perfectly understandle. This is because unlike President Trump that briefs his nation daily on the pandemic, ours only addresses his national constituency “after hours and hours of rehearsals, which nonetheless unmasks his declining cognitive faculties” as his leadership template is apparently that of “presidency by absenteeism”




The world we live in is a global village. From Uganda, a young lady Kenyangi Bale tweeted at 7.58am Kampala time on March 27, 2020 just 2 days before President Buhari addressed us ” I know Ugandans deserve better. But, our president, Museveni has addressed this nation the 5th time in 2 weeks on the COVID-19 pandemic. You guys needs to visit Nigerian Twitter. They are looking for their president. He is no where to be found”.


Last night (Nigerian time) Mr Trump started his usual live briefing by announcing that the US Navy hospital had sailed into New York ready for medical battle. The former oil tanker was converted to a hospital ship in 1987 has 1000 beds, 12 operating theaters, a dental clinic, 4 X-ray machines, CT scanner, 2 Oxygen production plants, Optometry lab, 5000 unit capacity blood bank, daily 300,000 gallons fresh water plant, helipad and morgue. According to the US Navy, the hospital ship that is the equivalent in height to a 10-storey building and 3 football fields long was due to sail for New York in 8 days but when the Army Corps of Engineers was drafted in it sailed in 5 days.


Meanwhile, it took 35 days between when the first Covid-19 case was announced in Nigeria and when President Buhari addressed the nation. In India it took an Indian academic, Virologist Minal Dakhane Bhosale 42 days to develop an indigenous test kit. She unlike her Nigerian counterparts was not on strike, rather as soon as she finished her project headed for the maternity ward to deliver a bouncing baby girl. What is the difference in distaste between Mr President and ASUU?


Anyway soon after Mr. President addressed the nation a disturbing video started making the rounds on social media showing an obviously distressed Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, the CO of Operation Lafiya Dole apparently addressing, his boss the army chief.



“We have been met with very strong resistance – from more than pockets of Boko Haram. From every flank not less than 15 gun trucks were facing us. I’m standing here with Sector 2 Commander; the armed helicopter has just come to hover our air, the instruction I gave them was that anything they see moving they should engage because most of my gun trucks are not moving. Like I said earlier, the three battalions are fighting as deployed — nobody is running” He went on “But what we have here, I will give you some estimates. Boko Haram has fired more than a hundred mortar bombs at us; they have fired 80 to a hundred RPGs at us; in addition to eight to 10 gun trucks firing at us from all sides. We have not run, and the soldiers are not misbehaving or disobeying orders.We have casualties. I will come and see you in person on what we need to do. But we are not running. We lost about 20 MRAP tires here. We have changed close to 250 Hilux tires due to the terrain.”


According to a report that accompanied the viral video “Several wounded soldiers could be seen crying in the video while bodies of their colleagues was scattered all over location. Recall that Boko Haram recently ambushed troops in Borno and killed more than 50 soldiers during that attack”That such a highly classified communication is being circulated in the public domain is shocking. It however means the video was perhaps deliberately leaked by whistleblowers in service to alert the nation on the deterioration of affairs in the North East.
Nigeria’s security and military apparatus cannot afford to be distracted because elsewhere in the world either by hook or by crook according to the newspaper Times of Israel in its March 27 edition; “The Mossad intelligence service on Thursday helped bring another 400,000 CoronaVirus test kits to Israel from an undisclosed foreign location, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said. That was in addition to the roughly 100,000 test kits the spy agency brought to Israel last week. The PMO, which is responsible for the Mossad, said the intelligence service had imported the chemical reagents needed to perform approximately 400,000 tests. The swabs needed to carry out the task are being sourced both internally and from a number of foreign countries. The PMO refused to comment further on the matter, specifically on the country or countries that sold it the testing components, leading many to assume that it was a country that does not have strong or formal ties with Israel.


In another report in Blomberg.com dated March 19, 2020; “Earlier this week, the Shin Bet (Israel’s) domestic security service was authorized to use a technology developed primarily for counterterrorism purposes to identify who infected people may have come in contact with”
So on one hand, while in our country the military is besieged by a seemingly endless insurgency in others the armed forces and security are being used to assist a national effort in medical health care delivery. No doubt it is all about a coordinated leadership that has purpose and direction. Ours unfortunately is mostly about an “absentee presidency” If so what is the way forward? It is all about to be seen to be in-charge. Leadership is mostly about effective presence without actually saying much or being an expert. Just be there!


Law 16 of 48 Laws of Power recommends “Use absence to increase respect and honor. Create value through scarcity” There is however a caveat “Absence is dangerous – instead of fanning the flames, it will extinguish them. In the beginning, make yourself not scarce, but omnipresent. Only what is seen, appreciated, and loved will be missed in its absence” It is against this background that Law 6 is instructive; “Everything is judged by it’s appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing. Never let yourself get lost in the crowd, or buried in oblivion. Stand out. Be conspicuous, at all cost. Make yourself a magnet of attention”