The Oasis Reporters
December 6, 2018
The hell that came down on the great Bishop Oyedepo of the Winners Chapel on Tuesday, leaving him under attack from left and right, front and back, up and beneath is a great sign of things to come. The energetic man of God will now begin to thread gently, or he will be gentle for a week at least. And there are great lessons to learn ⎯or more appropriately, issues to thrash, or even some mess to clear from the Bishop’s temporary hubris, the thing that brought him down in the moment.
We heard that he accused President Buhari of being a clone that goes by the name Jubril from Sudan and his reliable source was traced to a publication in the Nation Newspaper. Commentators said the publication is a satirical piece by a certain professor Olatunji Dare. Critics say that the bad bele of the great man of God made him fall for a satirical post. So instead of him to have simply enjoyed a well fried satire on Jubril like an educated person would typically do, he only got himself burning in the oil inside its frying pan. That Oyedepo could not distinguish a mere satire from a news story is the first bucket of mess on our hands, most especially, as children of God. If Oyedepo, who claims knowledge of the scripture, who claims to have revelations from God could not tell that Dare was a satirist, how should we trust his understanding of the scripture and the revelations he gets from God?
First thing first. How can one know that God is not a satirist and that when he said ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son’, he had not meant ‘for God so hated the world that he left them to perish very well’? How can one know that when he says ‘you shall not die’, he does not actually mean ‘now is your death’ and when he says ‘put your trust in me,’ he is not only saying ‘my guy you are on your own’? Assuming God is not absolutely a satirist. God created man in his own image and Professor Dare is of God’s image. Now as an image of God, Professor Dare is a satirist, which means probably that satire is a part of God. How can we know those parts of the scriptures in which God meant what he said and those in which he was only being satirical? Where does the scripture that says ‘God is not a man that he should lie’ fall⎯reality or satire? And if ‘let us make man in our own image’ had been a satire, are we truly what we claim we are, images of God?
The inability of a foremost gargantuan of the Christian faith in the person of Oyedepo to understand man-made text is an insult on the credibility of religious faith and followership. For if a man can, boldly and with a ferocious conviction, misinform his followers about carnal things, it is only at a grave cost not to be concerned about the things of the spirit that come from the mouth of such a leader. The only thing that seems certain from this development is that all years of the ministry may have been devoted to spreading fake news about heaven in the name of the Good News.
Meanwhile, Professor Dare’s satirical piece, ‘‘Buhari’s Double’, is first of four different pieces under the general title ‘Matters miscellaneous’. In this satirical piece, I read between the lines that the professor has most certainly explored a subtle reference to the absurd in order to lampoon the Jubril story. There is a danger: what is absurdity in our country?
Is anything particularly absurd in Nigeria’s political experience? And could either appearance or factuality of absurdity serve as a veritable means to distinguish a credible story from an incredible one? Does incredibility really translate to impossibility in this country? Experience seems to show that the most incredible⎯even the deeply absurd⎯is the most possible reality (refer to physical combats in the National Assembly and in a couple of State Assemblies in the most recent time; the incredible financial and electoral frauds and others, the grave lies that have been told by officials of the present administration⎯ ‘impossibles’ that are driven merely by desperation). The danger then, is that a new reader of Dare may not⎯and justifiably has the right not to⎯notice the heightened sense of absurdity that forms the block of the writing, and thus, take the message as a news story.
And this exactly is what many who have lambasted Oyedepo would have done. They would have taken the message as a news story if they had not been told that it was a satire (a great number had already heard it was a satire before they read the work). The risk is greater with the piece being from a writer who one can easily trust by virtue of his status as an emeritus of a US University, writing in the Nation Newspaper! It comes like a testimony of a reliable and greatly dependable witness. As a matter of fact, the only thing that differentiates the Jubril piece from others that followed, like the stories on Fayose and unclaimed assets in Ado Ekiti (Vast Estates, Ghost Owners), the allegation of bribe taking by APC chair, Adams Oshiomhole after APC primaries (Between Givers and Receivers) and Goodluck Jonathan’s book (Gej is back) is background information.
The background information consists primarily of familiarity with news updates on those matters in the news and then of background familiarity with the Professor’s writing style. For instance, how should one interpret the piece on Fayose⎯ a satire with no fact, a satire with facts, or an entirely non-satire?
A writer too has a central role to play in this turbulent time of the war against the menace of fake news. The responsibility is not unconnected with the fact that there are different manners of readers in the internet age and their average capability and needs must be taken into cognizance by a writer not necessarily because he owes them the duty, but because he owes society the duty not to misinform. Satire⎯and generally every form of writing based on irony⎯ are essentially dangerous where readers are not of the same intellectual and artistic ilk. Where a piece is targeted at and can only reach a select group of readers, there can be assurance of less horrible misinterpretations, but in the world in which both the brilliant and the less brilliant, the greatly sound and perhaps the knowledge imbeciles have access to the same online platforms, a writer must be careful. It is not about the freedom of art but of what damage it can cause. If heightened satire was useful in the past, today it is a kind of liability, a small fire in the corner of a thatched house. It can burn down a whole heritage.
Oyedepo’s case may not be pardonable because of his stature but there are hundreds of readers who would fall for the ‘antics’ of the satire⎯even many among Oyedepo’s critics. Oyedepo is a scapegoat today. A writer, a very professional writer can very well originate fake news by virtue of his style!
Written by Deji Adesoye.