Preaching, Power, and Private Jets in Nigeria by John Campbell

A brief clip in Sahara Reporters brings to mind the wealth and influence of a group of Pentecostal preachers in Nigeria. The outlet states that Apostle Johnson Suleiman, a televangelist and the head of Omega Fire Ministries, recently acquired his first private jet. In addition to congregations all over Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa, Omega Fire Ministries has twenty-five in the United States and five in Canada. It also has a presence in Europe and Asia. 

Johnson Suleiman’s new jet apparently puts him in the company of Bishop David Oyedepo, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, and Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, all of whom also have private jets. Bishop Oyedepo, head of the Living Faith World Outreach Ministry (also known as the Winner’s Chapel) is commonly regarded as the wealthiest preacher in Nigeria, with an estimated personal net worth of $150 million. His fleet of four jets includes a Gulfstream V, which cost $30 million. In addition to Nigeria, he has congregations in sixty-five countries, including in the United States. Pastor Adeboye is Head of the Redeemed Christian Church of God which claims some 5 million member; his denomination has branches in Dallas, Tallahassee, Houston, New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Pastor Oritsejafor, also a televangelist, is the head of Word of Life Bible Church. His church in Wari is said to seat thirty-five thousand adults and seventeen thousand children, and it has congregations in the United States. 

In all cases, it is unclear whether the jets are the personal property of the clergymen or whether they belong to the denominations which they head. In any event, the jets are evidence of the wealth of Pentecostal churches in Nigeria. Of the clergy cited by Sahara Reporters, the denominations they head have slick websites and can received contributions, pledges, and tithes by credit card or Paypal. It is difficult to pin down how many adherents each denomination has, but it is clear that their numbers are large.

Clergy have not been shy about participating in politics, and some actively endorsed the candidacy of Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Christian, in the 2015 elections, which he lost to Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim. Bishop Oyedepo called on President Buhari to resign the presidency because of alleged Fulani attacks on Christians in the Middle Belt. Given the growing salience of religion in all aspects of Nigerian life, the influence of such clergy is highly significant.


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