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The blindness of privilege: Pastor Paul Adefarasin and his call for an exit plan BY Chika Unigwe


Paul Adefarasin

Pastor Paul Adefarasin of House on the Rock – a man whose net worth is estimated to be about $50 million (although he reportedly said a few years ago that he was a billionaire)- told his parishioners to make sure to have a plan B out of Nigeria because “these people are crazy.” His wife, he said, was busy sorting out their plan B.

Ah! ‘To be wealthy na good thing oo.’ Folks, the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth. It is access to a viable plan B, and the options that come with it. The opposite of poverty is privilege. And you know what they say about privilege being blind? If you have it and you don’t pay attention, you assume everyone else does and if they don’t, then it’s their fault.

The cavalier manner in which Adefarasin threw out the advice of a plan B is evidence of his privilege-induced blindness. Also, one could argue that for someone who (together with his pastor-wife, Ifeanyi) preaches fervently and forcefully about faith and belief and “not listening to the lies of the enemy” and against despairing, his comment seems both hypocritical and deeply marinated in despondency. It is either he has very little conviction in what he preaches or he thinks that the situation is so dire that hope is practically impossible. Neither option is a good one for a man of the cloth.

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To be certain, Adefarasin’s talk of checking out of Nigeria isn’t something that started today. The exodus has been ongoing for as long as I can remember. Those who are old enough to, may recollect the Andrew-I’m-checking-out ad. on TV in the 80s which tried to discourage Naija citizens from abandoning the country. The pastor hasn’t said anything other Nigerians – especially those who can afford to- haven’t said. Even those who can’t afford it dream of it. Just trawl through Naija Twitter. Folks want better lives, folks want access to all the things people in developed countries take for granted; they want security. Not everyone wants to stay and fix the country.

But Adefarasin speaks from the pulpit. And not just metaphorically. His voice is a megaphone, and as a pastor, he ought to be a professional optimist, a peddler of hope. He also, by virtue of his calling (vocation), ought to be a bit more sensitive. He ought to be aware that plan B isn’t within everyone’s reach. As folks say, check your privilege. ‘Abi’, Pastor Adefarasin hasn’t heard of people dying in their bid to reach Europe? Bodies dumped in the Sahara? Per a 2021 The Migrant Project report, “There have been numerous official reports of hundreds of corpses being found in the Sahara.

The number is likely to be higher, but nobody knows, because the desert is so large and has no roads. Many migrants’ bodies become buried in sand and are never found.” There are various reasons for the deaths including heat and starvation, but sometimes people are murdered. The report quotes an eyewitness who said that the car he and some other migrants, including two Nigerian women, were travelling in from Niger had a breakdown. When the driver asked all the passengers to alight and push the vehicle, the Nigerian women refused. “(They)said they were women and the sun was hot so they should be excused. The driver stabbed both of them to death.” A filmmaker friend of mine made a documentary years ago about Nigerian prostitutes deported from Italy. A couple said they travelled by road through Niger ( where they had to sleep with men for water and bathing soap) to Libya and then the hazardous trip by sea to Italy. This perilous journey was their plan B. They were lucky to make it alive. Adefarasin hasn’t heard of Nigerians being held as slaves in Libya? Or being tortured in Algeria? This is the reality of the exit plan he is very casual about for some of his fellow citizens.

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Adefarasin has a range of countries to choose from – US, Canada, UK (where his church has a branch), and Germany (where his mother-in-law is from). He has an abundance of options. He could literally close his eyes and stick a pin anywhere in the world and be able to relocate. He can also work out of anywhere. He could hold his church services via Zoom. He needn’t even work at all should he choose not to. $50 million? Dude is made.

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Unfortunately, his wealth and the power that comes with such stupendous wealth also seem to have disconnected him from the realities of the average citizen of the country he lives in. He does not understand what it is to be an ordinary Nigerian, stuck in a system that frustrates you but having no option other than to stick it out. Staying put and working where you can, to make a change, if not out of patriotism, then out of a dearth of options.

To leave or not to leave is Adefarasin’s prerogative. People have been migrating since time began. What is, in my opinion, very important for him to do – and he has no choice in this since he is a pastor, a shepherd of sorts- is to cultivate the sense of empathy that would make him appear less haughty and less isolated from those that he tends. And to be guided by the question, What would Jesus do/say?