When A Bishop Becomes A Vigilante – By Francis Doku

THE basic definition of a vigilante is someone who “punishes law breakers personally rather than relying on legal authorities” to carry out the concomitant punishment prescribed by law. Simply put, therefore, it is a person who takes the law in his or her own hands to exact punishment for an offence committed.
A whole lot of vigilantism happens on daily basis across the length and breadth of this country where people who feel offended mete out severe punishment to the offender. This is especially rife when a purported thief is ‘arrested’ by the public; they are beaten, maimed, burned or if lucky turned in to the police if they are still alive.
The practice worries right thinking members of the society but little could be done or is done because people complain about the inability of the police to effectively handle reports about criminality that are brought to their notice. The downside of this culture is the tendency to mete out punishment to innocent people.
Many people were appalled and dismayed at the brazen nature by which a reverend minister took the law into his own hands to mete out punishment to a radio presenter he deemed to have insulted him on an Accra-based radio station this week.
The news of Bishop Daniel Obinim who happens to be the founder and leader of the International God’s Way Church storming the radio station to beat up a presenter and his panelists was as disturbing as it was surprising.
Earlier on, the news had been making rounds that Bishop Obinim had been accused by one of his junior pastors of sleeping with his wife. An allegation he was reported to have substantiated on an Accra radio station, although he sought to correct that it happened five years before and not as recent as was being reported.
On Monday night, a radio programme on Hot FM that discusses religious and other related issues and hosted by Ntim Ketekyere decided to take on this issue for discussion. While still discussing the issue Bishop Obinim stormed the studio, in the company of two other people, wielding a pinch bar and they meted out merciless beatings to the host and his two panelists and everybody else in sight.
Later reports in the press and corroborated by the police would indicate that the host of the programme and his guests were treated at the hospital and discharged, giving credence to the fact that they were severely beating.
Indeed the storming of the Adabraka-based station was not only to beat up those who had the effrontery to discuss his story but also to destroy a good number of properties and equipment at the station and thereby rendering the station off air.
The Bishop together with his two accomplices, Pastor Kofi Akwetey and Pastor Kingsley Baah Ameyaw, were arrested and arranged before an Accra circuit court charged with conspiracy to commit crime, unlawfully causing harm and causing damage to private property.
They were however bailed with a sum of GHC50,000 with a surety to reappear in court on August 30, 2011 to answer for the charges leveled against them.
My beef with the bishop has nothing to do with what he was reported to have done with the wife of his junior pastor as that is between him, his wife and God. The beef I have is the courage he had to think he could go to radio station to beat up whoever it was who was misrepresenting his story to the public.
Yes the most annoying thing in the world is for people to be talking about you without having the full facts. Yes it is even worse when people have the facts and yet they twist it to make you look stupid in the eyes of the public. Yes there is no such a thing as painful as being maligned by people you consider yourself to be superior to.
However, there are rules in a democratic society to correct any such depiction of you by broadcasters, reporters and or their panel of discussants. Bishop Obinim could have written a rejoinder to the station and insisted that they present his side of the matter or to retract or he could have appealed to the National Media Commission for an action and or go to court to get a ruling on the case.
What he did was a shameful affront on freedom of speech and a disgrace to the faith and to his chosen vocation as a minister of the gospel of Christ. Those who have followed my writings would have realized that I try hard to stay away from issues of religion because I do not like to talk negatively about a man of God, but issues like this begs you to come out with all guns blazing.
Talking about guns brings me to a question a friend said yesterday morning. Can anybody imagine what Bishop Obinim and his posse would have done if they had a gun or two in their hands? How many casualties would we have had on our hands?
This also brings me to the point that radio stations need to beef up their security as increasingly individuals and state institutions have become so impatient that they have had to storm their premises to either apprehend people or beat them up for something they might have said.
Some radio presenters in this country can get under your skin with their uninformed and biased approach to issues, they do it to politicians, academics, pastors and all manner of people. But we cannot say that because of that everyone should go to the studio with pinch bars, crow bars, cudgels and other implements to beat them up.

When all is said and done vigilantism is as bad as any social canker, but it becomes worse when a bishop throws his cassock down and becomes a vigilante.