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Dr. Obadiah Mailafia On The Parameters Of A Failing State



Professor Ademola Dasylva At 70: A Labourer In The Vineyard
Professor Toyin Falola




Toyin Falola

Dr. Obadiah Mailafia On The Parameters Of A Failing State

Dr. Obadiah Mailafia

This occasion of the Toyin Falola Interviews featured as a guest of honor, the erudite scholar and accomplished development economist, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, to field questions on whether or not Nigeria is a failing state. We might agree that this is one query that sits securely in the minds of many a Nigerian, no thanks to the poor state of affairs in the nation’s economic, security, and governance aspects, which has won it the label of a failed state in some intelligent circles.

As it stands, even the very notion of Nigeria as a nation continues to generate dispute given the rising instances of crises developing along ethnic and religious fault-lines. According to some people, the rising expressions of loyalty to sub-national identities over any national sentiment that has characterized Nigeria’s slow but sure decline into utter chaos and predictable disintegration can be blamed on the nation’s arbitrary origins. Nevertheless, whatever problems Lugard might have visited on Nigeria through the 1914 amalgamation, there were periods in the nation’s development history when it showed great promise and competed favorably with the best economies of the world. How then has Nigeria fallen to such depths of socio-economic crises and severe insecurity?

The recent Toyin Falola Interviews provided the platform for stakeholders and concerned citizenry—in very uncertain and unsettling times—to participate in a discussion aimed at adequately identifying the Nigerian situation, how it developed, and the possible ways to come out of it. Thus, the interview opened with a welcome address and introductions delivered by the chief host and moderator, who also set the agenda for the day’s interview by presenting its theme: “Is Nigeria a failed state?”

Ms. Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, an accomplished media personality and the first interviewer, set the ball rolling with questions on why Dr. Mailafia would refer to Nigeria as a failing state when many others might call it a failed state; whether Nigeria as a corporate entity will survive, and if it deserves to; why the naira is failing so “precipitously,” and what can be done to bolster it; and how can meritocracy be taken seriously in the country to make it count?

READ ALSO: The Power Of Oral Tradition: Oba Kiladejo On The Role Of Women In Ondo History

In his response, Dr. Mailafia noted that the development of the concept of “failed states” has not yet been fully concluded, surrounded as it still was by controversy. He, however, went ahead, after some description of the deplorable state of affairs in the country, to elucidate that, as it were, Nigeria exhibits most of the identified symptoms of a failed state, including long periods of violence and the lack of state monopoly of the instruments of violence, the collapse of the economy and state institutions, widespread poverty, the failure of the state to deliver public goods, civil liberty, the rule of law, protection of human rights, and administration of justice. And that his decision to use the phrase “failing state” in describing Nigeria’s current situation was only due to his optimistic nature and some “residual nationalism.”

According to Dr. Mailafia, Nigeria cannot survive as a corporate entity based on the current trajectories of decaying infrastructures, poor governance, grand corruption, climatic changes, and lack of government capacity. And on whether the nation deserves to, he accedes that given the number of atrocities and bloodletting committed against innocents across the country, it ordinarily should not. However, the teachings and injunctions of his Christian faith make provisions for grace and redemption, but with one caveat: Nigeria must not continue to tempt fate.

Speaking on the falling value of the naira, Dr. Mailafia provided a historical account of the currency’s decline, from its days of advantage over the dollar till the present, where it is fast losing its value as a legal tender. These progressive stages of decline, he said, started perceptibly with the Structural Adjustment and currency devaluation of the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida regime and have been maintained by high inflation, the deficit in the balance of trade, lack of faith in the Nigerian system, misguided policies, and what he called “the dollarization of the economy.” He also alleged that vested interests have captured the country’s apex bank (CBN). To reverse this trend, a development strategy is needed, likewise a genuine interest in saving Nigeria.

Dr. Obadiah Mailafia On The Parameters Of A Failing State

Crisis in Jos as people were running to save their lives.

Concerning the restoration of meritocracy, Dr. Mailafia talked about the difference in the standards set for educational performance (cut-off marks) across the country’s regions. He claims that not only does this undermine the entire purpose of education, but it also affects service performance where underdeveloped and unqualified personnel occupy positions of public service. For him, instead of engaging in nepotism, the regions affected should invest in mid-way schools to help struggling students come up to par.

The next set of questions were posed by Dr. Lasisi Olagunju, a distinguished scholar and editor with The Tribune. These touched on Dr. Mailafia’s thoughts on the North exporting crises to other parts of the country, the reintegration of “repentant” terrorists into society; why as a contestant to the country’s top position he felt Nigeria deserved him and vice versa; what the next president of Nigeria should do regarding the country’s designation as the “poverty capital of the world,” the role of the North in the situation, and whether Nigeria should be restructured, dissolved, or if it should just be business as usual. In response, Dr. Mailafia conceded that the North is plagued by insecurity, featuring rampant killings by insurgents and terrorist groups like the Boko Haram and ISWAP.

READ ALSO: The Power Of Positive Difference: Dr. Obadiah Mailafia And His Nigeria

Furthermore, he pointed out the extent of social decay in the country, especially in Kano State, the high divorce rates, rampant drug addiction, large number of out-of-school children (Almajirai), and high levels of deprivation. According to Dr. Mailafia, the morally bankrupt elites have intentionally turned a blind eye to all of these social evils, choosing instead to perpetuate ignorance among the masses while attempting to drag other regions down to their level. However, he requests that the North must be looked upon with compassion and that any (new) administration intent on resolving these issues must first endeavor to look at the North with objectivity as the North is “deprived.” Additionally, such an administration must also reconcile the warring parties, return the out-of-school children to class, and employ more teachers to cater for their education, as the former has the potential of becoming a ready army in the hands of mischief-makers.

On the reintegration of alleged “repentant” insurgents, the guest of honor pointed out that there is nowhere in the world where that is obtainable, especially where such insurgents are integrated into the armed forces after just two weeks of rehabilitation. He alluded that this has adversely affected counter-insurgency efforts, with hostages being privy to sensitive information before they are executed. He also spoke against the practice of giving all such intervention attention to “repentant” terrorists while their victims are left to all manner of hardships. This, he said, was in very bad faith.

Addressing the question of his ambition to become president, Dr. Mailafia revealed that he tried to serve the nation and that it was up to the Nigerian people to decide if he was whom they wanted. He remarked that he was ill-prepared for the last elections he contested and also failed to gain the backing of certain “elders,” without whom one would be “on his own.” Nevertheless, the 2019 Nigeria presidential election candidate of the African Democratic Congress party promised not to victimize those who have attacked and killed his people should he be allowed to serve.

Reacting to the question on Nigeria’s designation as the poverty capital of the world, the former central banker and development economist agreed that with such levels—over 50 per cent of Nigerians (more than 100 million) living below the poverty line—of poverty, the situation truly deserves to be labelled so. He pointed out that this challenge has been exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread insecurity. Other contributory factors identified were those of prioritization and the failure to diversify the economy. Therefore, to turn the situation around would require a significant industrial revolution as the only way to employ the vast masses of unemployed citizens. There will also be the need for a comprehensive social transfer network to ensure resources get to those in need; empowerment of people, especially women; access to land and credit, with emphasis on agriculture; and support for Nigerian youths. He stressed support for the youths, explaining that “any nation that ignores its youths is digging its own grave.”

Coming to restructuring, dissolution, or “business as usual” for Nigeria, Dr. Mailafia stated that he stands for restructuring. Even if he does not subscribe to the idea of dissolution, he does not condemn secessionist voices. He explained that he believes Nigeria deserves another try because, despite the historical circumstances around its birth, the country was not a product of chance. He recalled that the peoples of the region had a long history of interaction before any British creation. According to him, Nigeria is worth fighting for because of what it represents to all long-suffering African people worldwide and for black people everywhere. For those who suggest business as usual, Dr. Mailafia called this a mistake.

READ ALSO: Dr. Obadiah Mailafia And The Nigerian Story Of Leadership Failure

The third interviewer, Prof. Iheduru Okechukwu, an experienced and widely published political scientist, asked a broad spectrum of questions that were anchored to Nigeria as a failed state and centered on Nigeria’s huge debt profile and who foots the bill; the condition of human rights and the place of the rule of law; if it were smart for the Nigerian diaspora to invest in the country; and if what happened to Jos was emblematic of a failing state, and whether it was reversible. Reacting, Dr. Mailafia noted that the issue calls for sobriety and retrospection. For him, he cannot tell what the loans are used for, citing the 1.3 billion USD loan President Buhari took in 2015 in the guise of rehabilitating the North-East, whereas there is no evidence of rehabilitation. He pointed out that if loans must be taken, measures must be put in place to ensure that such loans have a “calculated guaranteed return on investment;” otherwise, as he pointed out, these loans would be paid for by our children. He also highlighted the condemnable practice of project inflation.

Dr. Obadiah Mailafia On The Parameters Of A Failing State

On diaspora investment, Dr. Mailafia said this was critical to Nigeria’s survival and prosperity, given the delicate nature of its economy and the role such substantial amounts of remitted funds have played in the success of the world’s fastest and best economies, e.g., China and Singapore. He also explained that the Nigerian diaspora cannot help but send these monies as they all have dependents at home; moreover, about 70 per cent of the funds remitted are for family use and not direct financial investments. He, however, reiterated the importance of such remittances to the Nigerian economy and the need to devise better means of investing these funds to gain maximum social returns.

Reacting to the infringement of human rights and other freedoms, and why he should not be prosecuted for making unsubstantiated claims. Dr. Mailafia noted that “he who comes to equity must come with clean hands.” He pointed out that the Nigerian National Broadcasting Cooperation (NBC), which was dishing out rules, was embroiled in a corruption issue. He also stated that those concerned about “hate speech” mainly were against voices that contradict their opinions and interests.

Moving on to the human rights issue, the guest speaker avowed that though the human body can be killed, the truth cannot, and nobody can stop an idea whose time has come. As to why he should not be prosecuted for his earlier comments on the nation’s state, Dr. Mailafia responded that his comments were not made-up but were gotten from reliable sources he refused to mention for their safety. He confirmed that he has never recanted any of his comments because it is not his character to peddle tales and falsehood. He added that he only spoke up as a concerned citizen who could not sit back and feign ignorance about the widespread and relentless killings.

About Jos, Dr. Mailafia described the city as pleasant, with a temperate climate and hospitable people. He stated that the change in the city’s temperament resulted from the aggression inflicted on the people. This, he explained, was perpetrated through strangers who were imported into Jos and who have killed, evacuated, settled, and renamed whole villages. Another reason identified for the change of attitude in Jos is the prevalent indigene discrimination around the country, which Dr. Mailafia said the people of the state have been victims of, especially in Hausa-Fulani dominated states like Kano, Katsina, and Sokoto. According to him, these instances of aggression and discrimination against the people of Jos have transformed a peaceful and almost docile community into a relatively harsh one.

READ ALSO: Is Nigeria A Failing State?

Dr. Mailafia agreed that the Jos scenario is symbolic of Nigeria’s status as a failing state. He expanded that this is exemplified in the inability and possible lack of will by the state to check the widespread insecurity and killings in the country, emphasizing the cases of Benue, Southern Kaduna, and Niger State, where people have been killed, villages burnt, and vast chunks of land taken. The guest speaker closed with a prediction that the affected people will yet rise to reclaim their ancestral lands, no matter how long it takes. But, that as a man of peace, he advocates that this should be pursued in non-violent ways.

(This is the second report on the interview with Dr. Obadiah Mailafia on August 15, 2021. Well-attended, the number of live audiences was 1.3 million on six platforms. For part of the transcript, see Facebook Or YouTube:

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.


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How A Dull Student Graduated From University With A First-class Degree 



Edirin Onomuakpokpo

 How do you feel after making a first-class degree from the Nasarawa State University?

 I feel very elated, in fact it’s a dream come true. At the time I got admission into Nasarawa State University Keffi, a lot of students tried to discourage me, including some  of my course mates for being too serious with my academics, some of them even said “nobody will give you first class”. But after my first semester result at 100 level came out, I had 4.30/5.0. This was the moment that changed everything, I realized it was a goal possible to attain only if I put in more effort and work smarter. At the 200 level first semester, I already had a first class CGPA of 4.53, so I just kept on with  the tempo. Although faced with so many challenges, at the end graduated as the best student in my department with a CGPA of 4.59

What are you doing currently?

Currently, l’m serving my father’s land under the umbrella of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). It’s a privilege to serve, I must say and I’m using this opportunity to impact the students at my PPA and ensuring they get the best education in both practical and theoretical aspects of their studies.

 Judging by your name Emmanuel Edirin Onomuakpokpo, you are obviously from Delta State in the South-south. Why did you leave all the universities in the South-south to attend Nasarawa State University?

 After I wrote my first JAMB in 2017, Delta State University, Abraka (DELSU) was the first school to which I applied. My dad wanted me to go for medicine but unfortunately I applied for medical biochemistry instead because I didn’t hit the cut-off mark for medicine in my JAMB. However, I had 98/100 in their Post-UTME exam but yet was not given admission to study medical biochemistry. I could remember crying my eyes out that year, seeing my friends whom we graduated from secondary school together gaining admission to universities, I never wanted to sit at home doing nothing. May be it was actually God’s plan not to get admission then because medicine was never something I envisaged for myself. My drive had always been agriculture because I have always loved the idea of growing food and feeding the nation as a kid. So, studying an agricultural discipline would be to me a fullfiment of that dream. The next year 2018, thanks to  Engr. Uzoma Kenneth .K, a neighbour of ours at the time and a family friend who introduced me to the concept of agricultural biotechnology, he told me this was the future of modern agriculture and encouraged me to focus my attention there since I already had interest in agriculture. So that very year I researched schools that offer this course, to the best of my knowledge Nasarawa State University Keffi was the closest I could find. Proximity to the university was another advantage to me since we  resided in Nasarawa State. These and many other factors contributed to me leaving all the universities in the South and studying at the prestigious Nasarawa State University, Keffi.

What inspired you to attain that academic height?

Let me cut the long story short. I wasn’t always this brilliant and intelligent. There was a time I was called dull by my principal when I was in primary school. I struggled with my academics so much that my principal had to advise my mum to change my school because he couldn’t help my situation. This made my mum cry so much and I could feel her pains. After my mum agreed to change my school,  I was repeated and had to be in the same class with my younger sister at the time. The moment I will never forget was one fateful morning, I was seated at the back sit of the class writing  my exams, I think English Language, as I was focused on my paper suddenly I heard my name Emmanuel!! with a thunderous and aggressive voice, when I raised my head up it was my quantitative reasoning teacher Mr. Haruna. I will never forget his name. He called me out to the front of the class, and without first telling me the crime I had committed, he gave me a dirty slap. After which in an angry tone, he told me I failed his quantitative reasoning exam, that I had 16/70. I held my face with my hands, because I was very fair, the marks of his hands were visible on my face. I went home that day with that trauma and anger and told myself that never again would I be humiliated because of my academic performance. I didn’t just tell myself out of emotion, I backed it up with actions. Nobody was telling me to read my books, I told myself, I stopped playing too much and I began focusing on my books. The next term after the previous one the incident happened, I came second in class. This made my mum so happy . My dad was in Benin at the time, he had to send a bicycle for me as his present to show his appreciation of my performance. I was happy with myself too. From then on, there was this consciousness I woke up to that ignited my desire to become the best in everything I do. I was also inspired by my dad’s academic performance, Mr. Augustine A. Onomuakpokpo. He graduated with a second class upper. At the time I got into the university I told him I was going to beat his results. He challenged me to it and now I guess I won, all glory be to God.

 Did you envisage coming out of the university with that class of degree?

At first I envisaged graduating with a good grade, maybe second-class upper degree. But after my first semester result at the 100 level, I took a pen and wrote on a sheet of paper “l’m a First-class Plant Biotechnologist” and pasted it on my wall in my room. At this point I knew it was possible and waking up everyday to the writing on my wall, I became restless and heavy each time I missed out on my reading timetable because the man on the wall was the only thing I could see.

 What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

The challenges were numerous but the most daunting one  was  the issue of balancing my academic life, social life and spiritual life. I had to find a way to be active in all. To surmount the issue of socialization, when I got into the university at the 100 level, because of how pro-active I was in all things pertaining to student welfarism, I was made the course representative. This exposed me to interacting with students from different backgrounds, cultures and traditions. I had to develop leadership skills, listening skills and attentiveness to be able to shoulder the responsibilities of being a course rep and secretary general of the department. I was also very active in religious activities. During the 100 level second semester, I discovered that from 100 – 400 levels, there was no group dedicated to actively putting my school especially my department in prayers, so I formed one and congregated students to intercede for the department. I believe our prayers worked and God helped us. Although I was engaged with all these activities, I also ensured that only 20% of my time was given to them and 80% of the time, I was always on my books.

How  did your lecturers support you ?

I wouldn’t have achieved this great feat without the help of my lecturers. At this point, I’m proud to call them my mentors. They include Dr. Bello Abdulkarim, Dr. Muhammad Hassan Sani Loko and my very unquantifiably supportive supervisor Prof. J. C. Onovo. They saw the potential I was carrying, and they drew me close like a father would a son and constantly fed me with words of encouragement. Dr. Bello Abdulkarim and Dr. Muhammad Hassan Sani Loko would always admonish me and call me to order when they noticed I had derailed. University is a place filled with so many distractions, sometimes we may get carried away by activities forgetting the very reason why we are there. Having people like these was a blessing to me and I’m proud to say these were the people that encouraged me and pushed me beyond my self to bring out academic excellence in me.

 What is your plan after your youth service?

 My plan after my youth service is to get a fully funded scholarship in Canada, USA or Europe,  to further my academic career in order to gain advanced knowledge in scientific research especially in the area of biotechnology,  genome sequencing, environmental conservation, plant breeding and genetics,  and bio-resource engineering. So that with the scientific skills acquired from this programme, I would be able to positively impact  the Nigeria agricultural sector and the world at large, to help combat the issue of food insecurity and to proffer solutions to plant-related issues using biotechnology.

 What advice do you have for  students who desire to graduate with a first-class degree?

My advice is simple, make your academics your priority and exclude unnecessary distractions and put God first. Have a CGPA goal for each semester and remember each time you fail is an opportunity to reinvent yourself to  do better the next time you try.

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Toyin Falola Interviews To Hold Panel Discussion On Languages And Archives In Knowledge Reproduction About Africa



The Toyin Falola Interviews has scheduled a discussion with distinguished panelists, Professors Ngom Fallou, Ghirmai Negash, Abiodun Salawu, and John Mugane, who will be sharing their expertise on “Languages and Archives in Knowledge Production About Africa”.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

5 PM Nigeria

10 AM Austin

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Pentecostalism In Africa (1) 



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

Of all the things that have happened to the African continent in the past decades, the growth and expansion of Christianity and Islam have been one of the most impressive. This deep commitment to faith is not totally removed from the natural gravitation toward hope and positivity. Against the background of declining opportunities, many Africans have found solace in religion and the promise of a better life. If things don’t work well on Earth, the afterlife offers more than a promise.

Within the enormous growth of Christianity in Africa has been the steady rise in the popularity and expansion of Pentecostalism. The socio-economic, religious, and political nuances of the rise of Pentecostalism will be one of the subjects of the Interview with a preeminent figure, Apostle Professor Opoku Onyinah, on February 4, 2024.   

Pentecostalism on the African continent dates to the early 20th century, with the earliest movements such as the Apostolic Faith Mission, Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal Zionist Movement (all in South Africa), l’Église Harriste (in Côte d’Ivoire), Christ Apostolic Church, morphing from Precious Stone Society, and the Apostolic Church (all in Nigeria). Some would argue that I may be confusing some of these churches with latter-day Pentecostal ones.

Pentecostalism took off during the colonial era, heavily influenced by the American Pentecostals, including but not limited to William Seymour (who wrote the Apostolic Faith newspaper that sparked the influx of Pentecostalism into the continent), Lucy Farrow, Paul Marty, and Julia Hutchins. Like all successful expansions in history, the Pentecostalist movement came to Africa at a time when the environment was fertile for its growth. Some would also argue that Pentecostalism was homegrown.

The African people were subjected to colonialism, and in seeking a way out, they found hope in the core ideals of the new movement — grace, salvation, an afterlife, spiritual empowerment through the Holy Ghost, healing, and wonders — promises that held liberation for the people and freedom from the shackles of the second-class citizenship that colonialism offered them on their soil.

The case has often been made in favour of classifying religion as a social concept. This classification does not seek to discredit the divinity that any of the religions claim. However, it is a way to argue that religions belong in the human society, by humans; as much as cultures and civilizations belong to the human society. A point of note in the argument for the classification of religion as a social concept is religious syncretism. Just like any other human social phenomenon capable of influencing and being influenced by other phenomena, religions and religious denominations and factions influence and get influenced by other religions and religious denominations, and Pentecostalism is not an exception.

Pentecostalism has witnessed several cultural adaptations and syncretism. Religious worship among Christians is subjected to personal perceptions and subjective interpretations of the divine. A Christian can only offer worship in the best way he can conceive in his mind who his Creator is. He can imagine the wonders of the Creator. Therefore, as the Pentecostalism movement grew in popularity across and spread across the African continent, it was influenced by several indigenous African belief systems and practices. 

The result has been a dynamic interplay of Pentecostal Christianity with traditional African spirituality, giving rise to unique, Afrocentric expressions of faith. One of these unique, Afrocentric expressions of faith is the upbeat mode of religious worship among Pentecostal churches. This upbeat mode reflects vibrant and lively music, energetic dancing, loud prayer sessions, and an insurmountable belief in the intervention of divine forces in terrestrial affairs.

Furthermore, the communal nature of African societies, influencing the people’s strong belief in and connection to their ancestral heritage, has made the belief in and war against ancestral curses, “village people”, and witchcraft popular elements in the Pentecostalism practised in the African continent. From the earliest years, prayers of war against witches, wizards, and enemies formed an integral part of churches such as the Christ Apostolic Church and even served as one of the biggest factors in the swift growth and expansion of African Pentecostal churches.

I stated above that Pentecostalism has been one of the fastest-growing phenomena on the African continent. However, it is vital to note that Pentecostalism’s growth has not only been about the founding of several churches and the expansion of such churches across Africa and other continents. Beyond its spiritual dimensions, Pentecostalism has highly influenced the social landscape in Africa. The swift growth and expansion of Pentecostal churches, the construction of mega-church buildings, and the management of several church-owned operations have also meant that these churches have become large employers of labour, with thousands of members earning their living through church operations. Some of these large Pentecostal churches own printing presses, primary schools, secondary schools, and universities — some of which have gone on to be ranked among the best institutions on the continent. 

These large-scale operations have afforded people access to education and employment, two of the most critical elements in any society. Furthermore, donation and support outreaches are an integral part of the existence of many of these churches. There is no denying the level of influence Pentecostal churches wield in society, from the grassroots to the elite strata, especially as their large sizes mean they can always boast of members in every industry and at every level. The brotherhood approach of these Pentecostal churches means members are quick to identify and help each other. This, often called “being favoured”, is a case where members of mega Pentecostal churches belonging to the elite strata of society find placement for their fellow church members at government parastatals and institutions, multi-national companies, and other companies. 

The founding of mega Pentecostal churches and the construction of grand worship centres have also been instrumental in the construction of healthcare centres, road networks, and housing structures. Furthermore, several African Pentecostal churches have been involved in the organization of large-scale empowerment programs, especially for women and youth, and community development initiatives, including serving as pressure groups to influence government policies. 

In saying that Pentecostalism in Africa has experienced immense growth, I am also saying that while globalization has become increasingly realistic with the increased connectivity of people across the globe, Pentecostal churches in Africa have tapped into the advantages of technology to bring their operations to a global audience. Several Pentecostal African churches — such as The Redeemed Christian Church of God, the Christ Apostolic Church, The Apostolic Church, United Family International, Church Doxa Deo, CRC Church, the Living Faith Church, Deeper Life Bible Church, and the Church of Pentecost — have established a global presence spanning hundreds of countries, influencing the diaspora community, and contributing to the global Pentecostal movement. 

The introduction of satellite television networks played a crucial role in the expansion of African Pentecostal churches into the diaspora. As members of these African churches relocated to other countries, they sought the need to continue in fellowship with their churches and founded branches in their new locations, getting an easy connection to the headquarters through the internet, satellite television, and transnational networks. African Pentecostal churches in the diaspora do not only impact global Christianity, but they also play an unmistakable role in the shaping of the religious experiences of the African diaspora, serving as a haven and a new family for new immigrants and positioning as centres of cultural preservation, spiritual solace, and community building.

Although there has been immense growth and expansion within the Pentecostal movement in Africa — with an undeniable socio-economic impact — there are deeds and developments among Pentecostal churches on the continent that leave room for criticism and questions. 

To properly explore Pentecostalism in Africa, it is vital to examine some of the critiques that have been levelled against Pentecostal churches on the continent. The first and perhaps biggest concern that has been brought up in the wake of the growth of Pentecostalism has been the commercialization of spirituality, a phenomenon that has manifested itself through several dimensions. There have been cases of churches categorizing spiritual problems and assigning financial costs to each category for members seeking deliverance. 

There has also been an emphasis on tithes, offerings, and giving back to the church, sometimes overly emphasized at the detriment of the giver, who may not be financially buoyant but must succumb to the pressure and belief in the promises of manifold blessings and the multiple returns on every token given for every token given. 

Several Pentecostal churches in Africa promote the prosperity gospel, which has seen their leaders rank among some of the wealthiest spiritual leaders in the world. The theological concepts of the prosperity gospel emphasize material wealth as a sign of God’s favour, sometimes elevated as the core of a church’s message, thereby ignoring the possibility of members seeking wealth, including through financial misappropriation, fraud, embezzlement, and other crimes. 

Over the years, doctrinal controversies have also rocked the Pentecostal movement in Africa, sometimes threatening to disrupt the movement and tear it asunder. Although Pentecostal churches on the continent share some common beliefs revolving around salvation through grace, healing, and some other concepts, there are stark differences in some of their doctrines, with some churches accusing others of peddling heresy. The doctrinal divergence in the African Pentecostal movement has sparked theological debates, including spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, the role of women in the church, and what constitutes holiness.

Pentecostalism in Africa has come a long way, and by all indications, it shows the potential to grow in leaps and bounds. It is, therefore, with utmost pleasure that I invite you to join us on the next edition of The Toyin Falola Interviews, where we will host Apostle Professor Onyinah — a scholar of excellence and a leading theologian in the field of African Pentecostalism.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

5:00 PM Nigeria

4:00 PM Ghana

10:00 AM Austin CST

Register and Watch: 

Join via Zoom:


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