The other day, my brother was really upset and was going on and on about why he was tired of Nigerians not being able to wrestle themselves from their new colonial masters, Daddy pastors, and take control of their lives. I let him finish and gave an analogy.

Slavery didn’t end officially in some North African countries until very recently. When this happened, these countries passed a law requiring every single person who was holding slaves to release them unconditionally, and never make any attempt at ever re-ensalving them again.

So everyone set their slaves free and slaves went their ways to make new lives. But a surprising thing happened. One woman returned to her master and asked to become a slave again! Everyone was aghast. Why, they asked.

The woman said she couldn’t cope with or manage freedom. All her life she had always been given food, water, shelter, and all her other needs. She had always been told what to do, what to wear, where to go and when to go. She had never been responsible for anything all her life. If she misbehaved her master took responsibility. If she excelled, her master took credit. Now that you ask her to begin to look after herself, how would she do it? How and where would she look for work and money and start planning her life? Just how?

Let us return to Daddy pastor. Reverend King burnt some of his church members alive and some died in the process. His church still stands till this day. He runs the church from prison and his lieutenants would die defending him. There are churches all over the place where people are commanded casually by their pastors to eat grass. And these are the ones we see on the electronic media. There are cases of pastoral physical, psychological and sexual abuse, financial impropriety, greed and exploitation on a scale that is totally unimaginable. Yet every week these churches continue to be filled to the brim with congregants lapping up every word from the mouth of their leaders with almost no secondary reflection or resistance.

The brand of religion these days is such that the pastors have absolute control over the lives of their followers. He is the final arbiter on how who they marry, when they marry, what to do with their income, how they relate with their spouses, how they raise their children… virtually every aspect of their lives. Disobedience to him is disobedience to God. He is the final authority on every aspect of their lives. To the extent that many of the congregants have now lost their own independence and freedom of thought as well as their own decision making skills. Even decisions relating to careers they have spent their lifetimes cultivating! Gradually their lives are taken over.

This is may not necessarily be a problem if the man of God remains reasonable and sensible. However, a day would always come when the autocrat would miss a major step. Or a major life changing event like COVID-19 would show that the pastor has never really been more than an ordinary man like the rest of his congregation and the believer would have to move on.

This is where the problem is. Where would he go? How would he begin again. He has never really developed his independence of thought or code of living. His pastor has always been responsible for all of that. How would he determine what is right and what is wrong? How would he navigate his social and cultural environment? What other information and life skills has he developed apart from the ones his pastor dishes to him daily and which he regurgitated with gusto every time he is challenged?

In the end, even if his pastor commits murder in broad daylight, he is going back to him next week. Because he can’t manage his freedom. He can’t manage being responsible for his own life. He has not trained himself in acquiring the necessary information and the necessary critical skills needed to navigate the daily and existential struggles that he would face from then henceforth.

So after COVID-19, our churches will be full to the brim again. It is true that COVID has shown that all the pastors who have ever claimed to heal diseases miraculously are proven liars. It is true that they themselves know it. But it is not for them that the churches will be full again. It’s just that their followers cannot manage or cope with their new freedom and the associated responsibilities.

Religious slaves will always need their old masters again. Because it frees them from all responsibilities.