OF PASTORS, POLITICIANS AND PENNIES
Author: Nkirote V. Laiboni
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 10/25/2007
If you are keen on making bags of easy money in Kenya, there are two things you might want to consider. The first is to become a preacher. The second is to turn to politics. If you are more ambitious, combine both professions. Pastor Pius Muiru, of the Maximum Miracle Centre, is running for president this year on a Kenya People’s Party ticket. Why not you? Despite their poor performance, Kenyan MPs are some of the highest paid legislators in the world. With the hundreds of millions of shillings that churches collect as tithes, these institutions continue to be banks’ major clients. Not surprisingly, the Church in Kenya is barely taxed or held financially accountable. Similarly, the amount of money that MPs pay as taxes is so minimal that the general position is that they are not taxed. With this in mind, one does not need more motivation to get into either profession.
Both professions require similar skills. Because they are people-oriented, you need to understand the inner workings of a human being. You must possess the three Cs: great communication abilities, charisma and a certain level of cunning. With time, anyone can acquire these skills. It is all a matter of observing and practising. So go out there and establish what it is that makes people tick. Develop an outrageous theory and see if you can make people believe in it. If you convince them and actually manage to get some money out of them, you are ready.
If you are leaning more towards religion, forget about theological training. You have neither the patience nor the time for academic pursuits. There are bills to pay, your children are starving and your wife is threatening to leave your broke ass. Also, forget about a profession in the mainstream churches. You will never become a millionaire if you choose to be a Catholic priest. Aim higher; become an evangelist and start your own church. Obviously, you have to start small. Begin by preaching on the streets of Nairobi. You can never go wrong with Kenyatta Avenue, Moi Avenue, River Road, Uhuru Park and Jivanjee Gardens. These are some of the busiest areas in the Central Business District. Don a suit, carry a well-worn bible and hire a side-kick to translate your sermons into Kiswahili. This last bit should not be difficult to do. Approach a chokora, a street boy, clean him up a bit and offer him the job. You do not need to pay him; just give him some crumbs and some ‘glue’ to sniff on and he will do as you say. Feed his addiction more than his hunger and you have him hooked – he will keep coming back. Do not feel guilty about using a poor, homeless teenager. It is all part of the bigger picture.
Timing is vital. So is presentation. Afternoons and evenings are the best time to work. People are more likely to listen to you after they have eaten or at the end of a day at work. In the evenings, stick to bus stops, where hundreds of people will be waiting for public transportation. As you deliver your sermon, be dramatic. Scream, jump up and down, throw yourself on the ground and wiggle around like a captured reptile. Let a few drops of saliva dribble down your mouth. Tell your audience that the Holy Spirit has touched you. Yes, indeed! When the spirit of the lord is upon you, you are no longer in control! At the end of your sermon, ask people to make contributions to the ‘church’. Kenyans are generally a religious lot and they have no qualms about giving a few coins to a man of God. You will collect some money.
If you are persistent, you will soon have a faithful following. A faithful following means a constant supply of funds, however limited. Once you have achieved this, it is time to move your ‘church’ from the streets to a more permanent location. Hire a room in the Central Business District. Like any other business, you will need to advertise your services. Ask your congregation to tell their friends about your new church. If you have to, print some flyers. Focus on attracting middle-aged women to your church. They are desperately seeking an escape from their marital problems. They are battling with menopause, and their children are grown up and do not need them anymore. What is more, their husbands are openly cheating on them with ndogo ndogos – those pretty young girls with pert breasts and firm bodies. Such women will be most generous with their time and their money. In exchange for a prayer or a sermon on unfaithful spouses, these women will give you all they have. They will donate their cars to the church and volunteer to do the books after the church services. Most important, they will tell their friends, who are going through similar problems, about your church.
Your church will need a name. When thinking of a name, draw inspiration from Brother Paul Pattni’s ‘Hand of Hope Church’ and Bishop Margaret Wanjiru’s ‘Jesus is alive Ministries’. Call your church something godly and promising like ‘The Harvest of Blessings’. You will also need a title: anything from ‘Brother’, ‘Sister’, ‘Bishop’ to ‘Doctor’ will do. Adding a title to your name will give you authority, and consequently make your cause seem more believable.
When preaching, use metaphors and vague poetic phrases. Talk of ‘light in darkness’ and ‘multiplication of blessings’. A successful evangelist relies on mass hysteria. Feed on people’s emotions. Call yourself a ‘messenger of God’, with powers that range from curing the ill to increasing prosperity. If you are feeling more motivated, follow the example of Lucy Nduta, an evangelist who was recently accused of obtaining 1.6 million Kenya Shillings and a car from HIV/AIDS patients by claiming that she could heal them through prayers. Your congregation will have to pay for such miracles, of course. Talk about ‘giving to God so as to receive from him’ (for blessed are those who give) and the ‘miracle of prayer’ (for if you ask, you shall receive).
As your success spreads and the number of your followers increases, you might want to think of restructuring your church. Open new branches in other locations and triple the number of services. Be unconventional: offer church services every day of the week. More services equals to more money. Do not be ashamed to flaunt your recently swollen bank account. Declare proudly how much you paid for your expensive suit, your new flashy car and your huge mansion in leafy Runda Estate. Link your newly-found wealth to prayer and belief in God. You are an example that God gives to the ‘righteous’. So ask the members of your congregation to double their tithe if they desire to be blessed with material wealth, like you. Do not feel remorseful that you have actually enriched yourself by using the members of your church. See how they look at you in admiration! They somehow fail to see the connection between their offerings and the increased size of your belly.
After you have accumulated considerable wealth, it is time to move onto bigger things: politics. Ignore those who say that the church and the State should remain separate. This is a fallacy. Those who make such utterances are illustrative of the devil’s intent to bring ‘servants of God’ down. The fact that you have such a large following in your church is indicative of God’s plan for you. Your congregation would form a loyal group of voters. It would be a shame not to represent them, at both heavenly and earthly levels. Anyway, you have a responsibility of making the government more ethical, more God-fearing.
To be voted into parliament, you will have to do a few unpleasant things like become a member of a political party, carry out political campaigns and hire thugs to rough up your competitors. This requires plenty of money. If spending money on political campaigns bothers you, think about your future pay-package if you get elected. Once you become a Member of Parliament, you will be paid more than your counterpart in Norway. Like your predecessors before you, your first order of business in parliament will be to increase your salaries. Never mind that you and your colleagues will spend your afternoons snoring in parliament instead of passing necessary laws. Never mind, also, that awarding yourselves extravagant pays will greatly hurt the tax-payer and the economy.
The progression from religion to politics should be natural for you. After all, you shall be in like company. Kenyan politicians are more concerned about advancing their interests than making a difference. Do use your position and your access to the public coffers to further enrich yourself. If you are ever caught with your hand in the public cookie jar, stick to this simple rule: deny, deny, deny! A committee of inquiry will be established to investigate your alleged corrupt practices but eventually, the matter will be swept under the rug.
Remember, life is hard for a majority of the Kenyan people. Faced with problems such as poverty, unemployment, and disease, daily living for most Kenyans remains a struggle. When experiencing hardship, one usually desperately seeks something or somebody higher to believe in, if only for sanity’s sake. Religion and to a large extent, political ideologies, provide an ideal escape. There are many empty souls, in the East African country, who are searching for deliverance.
Desperation can cloud judgement. Armed with charisma and confidence, religious and political leaders will make all sorts of promises and declarations. Desperate people can easily overlook the wrongdoings of their religious or political leaders. It is said that a fool is born every day. In Kenya, a fool is born every hour. There are thousands of desperate fools who are willing to believe almost anything. And there is nothing easier done than to part a fool from his money.
writer is a student at the University for Peace, Costa Rica. Write to the