In this report, GEORGE AGBA gives and expository details about reasons behind calls for the relocation of Aso Villa Chapel and the sham religiosity that had become part of the church in recent past.
In the past weeks, a lot of dust had been raised in the social media over reports that of a seeming plan by Aso Rock officials to relocate the Villa Chapel from its current location at the presidential villa. Some persons even claim that the plan is to demolish the church completely. The controversy continues to rage despite the fact that the presidency has come out to disprove the existence of such a plan.
The special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina had tweeted several photos on his Twitter handle to prove that the chapel was functioning. He also twitted his comment, indicating outright refutal. “President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) orders Aso Villa Chapel shut? There is no such thing. It’s only a rumour spawned by fecund imagination gone into overdrive. PMB respects freedom of worship”, the presidential spokesman stated.
It has been over a month now since this attempt to skew some religious sentiment against President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency started. Curiously, the chapel still functions. But it would require a personal visit to the president’s residence to be able appreciate a plan for its relocation. That is if at all there is any. The security risk and undue exposure the president’s official residence is subjected to because of the present location of the church augurs badly for a number one citizen of a country like Nigeria.
The chapel built and inaugurated by Obasanjo was designed to accommodate only members of his family and his close aides. For security reasons, Obasanjo built the less than 200 capacity church inside his official residence mainly to make the Sunday worship convenient for him, his family members and aides who are of the Christian extraction. Erected less than 50 metres to the president’s official residence, the cottage size building was intended to be a family size fellowship centre.
LEADERSHIP findings reveal that the president’s aides want the church relocated because under former President Goodluck Jonathan, the chapel was converted to a full capacity church it currently serves as at the moment. The massive influx of people has created a situation where there is now an overflow of people who, unable to get space inside, take seats fixed outside the chapel to accommodate them.
Apart from a handful of true worshipers who in keeping faith with the biblical analogy that they must God in spirit and in truth, there are still the great mass of other kind of worshipers who throng the chapel in search of material benefits in God’s name. It was gathered that under the immediate past administration, the use of the chapel was abused. Christians worshipers from different parts of Abuja abandoned their respective churches to attend Sunday service there.
Apart from the fact that some of these persons used the church for political reasons, there were others who were also attracted to the church mainly because of certain material gifts they get from the former First Lady during special occasions. Outsiders, including pagans and Hindus hide under the cloak of worship to lobby for contracts, appointments and other mundane benefits from the seat of power at the chapel.
Pundits believe that because it satisfied former President Jonathan’s conviction, this form of worship which encouraged the mixed multitude kept trending upward. Security aides who would have been in the right position to caution that this was not good enough for national security maintained sealed lips. Probably not wanting to be reprimanded for attempting to stop ‘faithful worshipers’, they watched helplessly as the chapel, which is very close to the president’s kitchen and bedroom was used as shopping ground for various interest.
And because the church shares very close walls with the residence, children who accompany their parents to the place often times overstep their bounds and dabble in the president’s private lounge. Of more serious security concern are the vehicles parked directly in front of the building where food items are currently stored.
These, according to LEADERSHIP checks, are some of the reasons why security aides to President Buhari say they are uncomfortable with the location of the church under the present administration. But their effort to convince the president to allow them relocate the chapel is becoming even remote because of the president’s indifference towards the matter.
Their worry is that since the chapel is not useful to the present occupant of the official residence, they are the ones at risk when the president and the entire first family are exposed to such vulnerability. The thinking is that under the present administration where the incumbent president has no business with those he sees around his official residence, anything can happen. It is more worrisome now that the Boko Haram sect has been dislodged from their camps and are on the prowl, seeking for the type of soft targets that will elevate their terror profile.
Besides, every Sunday morning, security personnel at the pilot gate
engage in the very arduous and strenuous task of screening the large number of persons who throng the villa to attend church service in the chapel. Most of the time, the security officials are said to be left with no choice than to clear persons with questionable character and identity for fear of being accused of depriving people from worshiping God.
It was also report that the children’s church was shut and some rooms converted to shops for storing food items. But this, LEADERSHIP findings reveal, is not true. When President Buhari moved into the residence, the children’s church was turned to a creche used by his domestic staff with a ban to put their babies.
During the Obasanjo and Jonathan era, the small private mosque attached to the residence was used as store for food and other items. It is a very small mosque built by former military president, Ibrahim Babangida for his family members and domestic staff. A ground of contention by the presidency officials who want the chapel relocated is that nobody comes from outside to attend the other mosque close to the president’s office during the Friday Juma’at prayers.
It was also observed that the number of persons who worship in the chapel after Jonathan moved of Aso Rock has reduced abysmally. Our correspondent who attended yesterday’s service in the church reports that only four out of the about 12 row of seats were occupied. The number of people worshiping in the chapel further reduced when it became apparent that Vice President Osinbajo who spends most of his weekends in Lagos does not worship there regularly.
Osinbajo, it was learnt lost enthusiasm in using the chapel when he discovered it was located inside his boss’s residence. There are keen observers who believe strongly that those insisting on maintaining the church in its present location are not rational. The thinking is that what constitutes a church is the congregation and not the building. If for the sake of convenience the place of worship does not suit the purpose, there is nothing wrong in relocating it.
The contention is that since Obasanjo deemed it fit to provide a church for a Christian president in the residence just as Babangida did for a Muslim president, the issue should be guided by common logic. The mosque and the chapel should be used successively, depending on who occupies the resident at a given period.
Rather from seen reason from this point of view, religious zealots are trying to overheat the polity by insisting that the current location of the mosque be retained when a change in government has redefined the tenancy of the official quarters of the president.