Before launching his documented church sermons and synod addresses last week in a book titled Let the Nations Hear, Peter Adebiyi, Bishop, Diocese of Lagos West, for more than a decade used the pulpit to rave against military dictatorship and bad governance
The venue, The Hacen, was a ballroom of purple silk, yellow sashes and glittering chandeliers. In twos and threes, tastefully dressed guests strolled in, bathed instantly in the colour magic of the marquee. It was this vista that welcomed guests to the public presentation of the book, Let the Nations Hear, written by Peter Adebiyi, retiring Bishop, Diocese of Lagos West, May 31.
For those who had sat under his sermons and read his lips during the military years, it was a sizzling moment to capture, once again, the literary essence of the ‘NADECO Bishop’. Voluminous and styled in the unsparing language of the author, Let the Nations Hear is a biting commentary on a cocktail of issues tugging at the loins of the nation.
So, the review of the book, done by Akin Oyebode, professor of law, University of Lagos, Unilag, had guests sitting on the edge of their seats. Nods, sobriety and occasional clapping sessions pontificated the review. In between his analysis, Oyebode expansively quoted the author to the delight of the audience who could not wait to lay hands on the book. The reviewer, who has authored several books himself, was impressed but not surprised at the depth Adebiyi brought to bear on the issues of national and religious discourse. “His analysis is comprehensive and encompassing that it is a compulsory read for everyone. Written in fine prose and metaphoric sentences, Bishop Adebiyi has given us a peep into his incredible courage and ability to speak truth at the risk of his life and limbs.”
At a time President Goodluck Jonathan is insisting on the unity of the country, one pointed message from the Bishop is to stop playing the ostrich and face reality. Taking a long look at the state of insecurity and the spate of killings in the country, Adebiyi blurted: “If we cannot live together in peace, for God’s sake, let’s go our separate ways in peace.”
Has the Bishop given up on the country or is he trying to avert the Rwandan experience, where countrymen of Tutsi and Hutu tribes slaughtered each other in a grisly genocide? The Human Rights Watch had estimated the mass murder of about 800,000 people. The killings were the culmination of the ethnic competition and age-long rivalry between the minority Tutsi tribe which had been in political power for years and the majority Hutu tribe.
At the event, Adebiyi’s candour and sincerity of purpose was not in question. He had displayed his confrontational streak from the days of the military juntas, engaging them verbally and on the pages of newspapers to return to the barracks. With his book, the bishop weaves his secular calling of a social commentator around his clerical experience, even turning his acerbic pen on some clergymen for their “subversion of theology and transformation of the churches to miracle centres.”
That Adebiyi still loves his country is not in doubt. In his remarks, he referred to the book “as a collection of my sentiments. It reveals my mind and my concerns for a country that God loves so passionately but which has refused to reciprocate His love.”
Waxing biblical, the cleric alluded to Ezekiel who was transported to a valley brimming with dry bones: “God instructed Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones and a political restoration came to the land and spiritual restoration to the faith of the people. It is my hope that by reading this book, God will touch the hearts of all of us.”
The occasion was not without its laughs and icebreakers. Kunle Bamtefa, master of ceremonies, MC, and popular actor, made a drama of the recent name change pronouncement of the University of Lagos to the Moshood Abiola University, Lagos, by Jonathan. He said he and his fellow alumni from the University of Ibadan, UI, have started a special prayer session to avert a name change.
Oyebode took him on instantly. “I have it on good notice that UI might be changed to Rashidi Yekini University; but seriously, Jonathan does not have the power to verbally or orally overrule a statute. His lawyers should go back to school. Nigeria is not a banana republic. As I speak, I am in court; we are going to challenge this travesty by the President done without a recourse to the stakeholders of the university,” he said.
For a man of Adebiyi’s nature and stature, the personalities that graced the event were not a surprise. From all walks of life and different parts of the country, they defied their busy schedule to honour a man of God who has applied himself to the calling of nationhood. In the guest list was Babatunde Fashola, governor of Lagos State; Kayode Fayemi, his colleague from Ekiti State; and Christopher Kolade, former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Others are Bode Olajumoke, a serving senator, and Uche Ogah, chief presenter, among others.