Attn. Ho Police: of ‘anointed luggage’, fear and panic sermons

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari
Attn. Ho Police: of ‘anointed luggage’, fear and panic sermons
Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

The front page headline of last week’s Spectator weekly, “Anointed trunks, chop-boxes for sale”, was a pointer once again that the superstitious nature of many Ghanaians make people easy prey for confidence tricksters of all sorts, notably religious ones.

“Anointed trunks”! “Anointed chop-boxes”! So the metal trunks and the wooden boxes which boarding school students put their provisions in can now be turned into holy objects?!

Unbelievable? Laughable? Ridiculous?

In my view, the answer is yes to all three above. And two more descriptions come to mind: sorrowful and bewildering.

How on earth could anybody believe that luggage items such as trunks and chop-boxes, can be ‘anointed’ to ward off evil?

Yet, apparently, to some parents and guardians in Ho, Volta Region, it’s neither unbelievable, laughable, nor ridiculous.

According to the report under the above quoted headline, in The Spectator of last Saturday, September 22, there are people in this country who believe that trunks, chop-boxes and even pillows, cups, spoons and towels can be ‘anointed’ to protect users from witchcraft!

The following is the abridged report, filed by the paper’s dynamic and enterprising reporter, Alberto Mario Noretti:

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“Frantic parents and guardians are trooping to the Pure Oil Ministry in Ho to buy ‘anointed’ trunks, chop-boxes and pillows for their children and wards in senior high schools.

“This follows persistent and terrifying dawn sermons on a local FM radio by the ministry, which claims that witches in Ho have now occupied trunks, chop-boxes and pillows sold elsewhere.

“The Founder and Head Pastor of Pure Oil Ministry, Apostle Richard Dollar, claims that those items bought from his church would make students brilliant and also offer them the opportunity to travel abroad after their secondary education.

“He threatened that students who did not buy trunks, chop-boxes and pillows from his church were likely to become drug addicts and wayward children.

“Public outcry has been mounting in Ho in recent times over the exploitative messages from the supposed apostle who often issues curses and threats of death to anyone who questions the validity of his strange messages.

“During the latter part of last year, for instance, the ‘apostle’ went all out on air marketing ‘anointed towels’ and ended his sermons by saying ‘if you say bad things about me, you will die’, to the loud and clear hearing of this reporter.

“The Spectator has been monitoring the Pure Oil Ministry’s pastor on air for some time now and often heard how he sold ‘anointed’ cups and spoons ….

“Some Ho residents, unhappy with the questionable messages and activities of the …Ministry, described the head pastor as a charlatan, who exploits the poor and ignorant for money.

“At dawn on Wednesday, The Spectator again heard some elders of the ministry on air claiming (that) students who used trunks, chop-boxes and pillows bought from their ministry would excel in their examinations, no matter the standards and quality of teaching in the school they attend ….

“Now some people in Ho are calling on the Municipal Assembly to take a firm stance to regulate the activities of some churches of dubious origin operating in the municipality at the expense of the poor and ignorant,” the newspaper report concluded.

This is the kind of story that some of our papers publish gleefully from the foreign media under headings such as ‘Odd News’.

What is even more disturbing than the lurid claims of ‘Apostle Dollar is that apparently there are people who believe him.

After all, if he wasn’t sure of getting some clients he would not be buying airtime on the radio station to sell his outlandish claims. If there were no buyers, there would be no sellers!

Why is it that such obviously deceptive, anti-social messages are allowed on our airwaves? He allegedly even has ‘church elders’ who are his accomplices.

It is encouraging that some people in Ho are calling for the ‘ministry’ to be sanctioned, but is anybody taking notice? Can it be that the Ho Police are not aware of the “terrifying sermons”?

Given the alleged threats and menacing tone of some of the ‘Pure Oil’ sermons, undoubtedly causing some amount of ‘fear and panic’, is there no way that the police can take action? Are the “curses and threats of death” not grounds for, at the very least, an invitation to the police station for cautioning?

However, it must be said that it’s not only in Ho that such unscrupulous ‘religious’ practitioners operate freely. The torrent of crude, commercialized messages, direct sales pitches which pass for sermons on some of the radio stations at dawn is highly alarming.

Recently, an extremely harrowing video clip was posted online showing a traumatized, wailing infant being subjected to callous mishandling.

She was being dragged by the hair and thrown about like a ragdoll by a ‘preacher’ while three others danced around her and the congregation of the unidentified church looked on. I reported it to the police, but their problem, I was told, was how to locate the church.

This virtual ‘free-for-all’ is one more reason why there should be collaboration between the body that allocates radio frequencies, the National Communications Authority, and the body in charge of ensuring responsible media content, the National Media Commission to check such abuses.

Bearing in mind some of the ‘religious’ radio and TV programmes, there is compelling reason why Ghana needs to revisit the idea of a Broadcasting Law and put one in place as soon as possible.

Furthermore, as the existing Bill was drafted ages ago, it needs updating to take account of the expanded broadcasting terrain and the stupendous Information and Communications Technology advances of recent years.

Nobody wants a return to the bad old days of restrictions on the media. But clearly the country needs a guiding hand for the broadcasting arena. It can’t continue to be ‘anything goes’! It shouldn’t be just a matter of stations giving their platforms based on a client’s ability to pay.

As the Noretti report shows, the vulnerable need to be protected from the activities of religious conmen using people’s faith to take advantage of the ignorant, the gullible and the naive.

And well done to Mr Noretti. It’s the duty of the media to shine a light where there is darkness, particularly to alert the authorities to situations which call for action to protect the public.