I’ve been fantasising a bit today about Pastor Mensa Otabil, founder of the International Central Gospel Church. He’s been celebrating his 50th birthday today and I’ve been thinking about the man, his ministry and his impact on our society.
Very few will challenge the assertion that Otabil is one of the wisest men in the country today. He commands a lot of respect – even from non-Christians – and he is a man of exceptional humility (compared, at least, to other church founders in Ghana).
He runs a global church and he has thousands of followers yet, he is one of the very few church founders in this country who have refused to take on the title of ‘Bishop’ or ‘Archibishop’ or any title higher than pastor.
His sermons have touched many hearts, inspired the downtrodden, changed lives and even influenced how people vote. Some die-hard members of the ruling party, NDC, think that his sermons about leadership (and its failures) broadcasted on radio stations across the country, contributed to their party’s defeat in the elections that brought John Kufuor to power. They are right. Otabil’s preaching threw a lot of light on the ineptitude of the Rawlings administration and fed into the clamour for change in 2000.
His critics say he didn’t criticise the Kufuor administration as much as he did Rawlings’; that he treated Kufuor and his men with kid gloves, helping them to get away with wanton corruption and indecent ‘grabology’. They may not be wrong.
But take it or leave, Otabil is an exceptional man (of God). He is unlike no other. He’s a man of great vision and what he has achieved with his life and ministry will hardly be lost on even his most avowed critics.
Whiles other pastors were spending good money building temples – a demonstration of their opulence – Otabil built a university. Whiles others were wasting church funds on luxuries and the latest fashions, Otabil set up a scholarship fund for the needy in his church. Whiles others fleeced their congregation with the deceitful message of prosperity (“give and it shall be given unto you”), Otabil was telling his followers that manna will not fall from heaven if you don’t set your heart and mind on doing something for yourself.
He has this ability to deliver his message without sounding preachy and as bigoted as many other pastors are. And that’s why his messages are listened to by many people who do not attend his church as well as Muslims and atheists alike.
Recently, he spoke about the nation’s need for “generational thinkers” – people who will think and act in such a manner that the benefits of their deeds will be felt by several generations to come. Unlike other pastors who preach virtue and practice vice, Otabil’s words match his every deed. And for that he’s earned the respect of many. He is, indeed, an exceptional and an exemplary leader.
I think he’s the sort of leader this nation needs to steer us from the muddle of wretched underdevelopment and hopelessness to a path of growth, enlightenment and opportunity for all. I wish Otabil will become president of Ghana one day. He will care for the nation as much as he’s cared for his congregation. His vision will go a long way to help fulfil the original mission of our forebears – to show the world that the black man is sensible enough and capable of managing his own affairs.
If wishes were horse, I’d sit Otabil on one for a majestic gallop to the Castle. I have no doubt that he would make a very fine, sensible president – if only he will run and win. But he won’t run. Even if he runs, he most probably won’t win. What a pity? Otabil is one of the best presidents we will never have. But that shouldn’t stop me from fantasising, should it?