The Pepper Dem Ministries like every ideological group is not perfect. First, the biases of the group blind them to some important considerations thereby fetching them opposition. Not justifiable but true. Also, with particular regards to the group under consideration, there will be some members of the group who may not fully grasp the cause that is being championed and will represent it wrongly. There could be more reasons resulting in the imperfection of the group but these two serve the purpose of my article so I will keep it at these.
Given the way the group started, one did not need a prophet to tell that these two conditions will be their bane. Members of the group had not sat down to discuss the agenda, they did not plan to form the group, they did not work the details out and ask themselves the important questions. Like, how do we tackle this, from what angles, which approaches do we use, where do we start from and where do we go from here? The Pepper Dem Ministries just happened.
In all the places where the group has told the story of how it started, it was always that they connected on Facebook. There were SIMILARITIES in their thinking and they bonded over those similarities. They had not met before (but for this, some of them would not have met at all), they did not know each other and they did not know the backgrounds each person was coming from. Although there were similarities, nobody knew what fueled the other’s passion for the cause.
This was (and perhaps is still) dangerous for the group because on social media, people bond over things easily with some not even knowing or understanding the full effect or reason for the things they are bonding over. I describe it as shallow or fleeting bonding. Was that the case for the Pepper Dem Ministries members?
The repercussions of the way the group started have been ominous. A couple of times you see members wade into areas and issues that anyone who understands the cause will cringe at. Examples that quickly come to mind are the comments on lesbianism and society regarding women as lazy. Both statements were made on radio – Class FM and Joy FM respectively. Also, one would notice that until recently when the group created social media handles, each member carried the campaign on their Facebook timelines in their own way and based on how they understood it. There was no regulation – no unified message. Sadly, although there is the Facebook page now, quite a number of the members still prefer to use their own timelines as mouthpieces for the cause. Bad, I submit.
I was concerned about this and asked Efe Plange when I interviewed her for The FB Magazine about how they are handling supposed group members who are misrepresenting their message (Read the interview here). In her response, she disowned any such members stating, “The very few who still don’t get it, I’m afraid, are not proponents of the agenda. And that’s what gives me great joy!”
In the light of these, I offer some recommendations. As soon as possible, if the Pepper Dem Ministries wants to continue this cause (which I believe they want to), they must go back to the drawing board and think through the cause thoroughly. Several feedbacks have come in so far. They need to consider them, take the ones they deem fit and properly chart a course for the cause. There must be an agreement on what exactly they are addressing, how they are doing that, what tangible results they want to see and what are their timelines.
I acknowledge that they are already doing this. This week, the group released an official statement spelling out their journey so far. Nevertheless, they need to take it a notch further and set up structures. Quite urgently, the group needs structures with regards to communication and public engagement. They must appoint members of the group to speak on their behalf. All of them may be eloquent but not all of them are communicators. Communication and public relations require specific skills but not all the members of the group have these skills. Therefore, I strongly advise that they do not send the whole squad to the next studio they will be invited to.
Additionally, if possible, they must find a way to determine who is a member of the group. This campaign is largely on social media. They cannot control what people are saying under or in their name. Anyone can say anything and it will affect the group. That must be checked by whichever means possible. The danger of introducing official membership is that it will make the group look elitist (isn’t it looking like that already?). However, if they want to control the narratives of the group, they must have a way of checking who is speaking in their name.
One of the refrains of the ministry is that they are not doing evangelism where they are converting people and counting numbers but I disagree with that. If they want people to buy into their agenda, they must be able to say that they have been able to get so, so and so to start thinking differently. Just putting the message out there and getting people to talk about it is not enough (for me). If all they have people doing is disagreeing with them, then I do not think the cause is making an impact. Also, if they already have people who align with them supporting them, it also does not imply impact. I believe the end game should be people saying, “Oh, wow! I never thought of it this way”. That’s the kind of reaction that spells impact with the t properly crossed.
Talking about the reaction towards the group and their cause, this is another critical area the group should look at. I classify the reactions I have seen in two. There are those who think the idea of flipping the script is utter nonsense! They won’t have any of it. For these people, there isn’t much the group can do about them or the group needs to hold a forty day fast and pray to ask God to change their hearts.
On the other hand, there are a people who seem to buy into the ideals of the Pepper Dem Ministries but are not happy with the group’s modus operandi. These people must be listened to. I understand that some of the people are not communicating their disagreements rightly. Nonetheless, Pepper Dem Ministries must listen to them. Why? These people have nothing to lose.
Also, not all the suggestions about approach are the best but then again, not all of them are rot. I know the group is firm on not using “submissive” or “humble” means to put their message across but they must differentiate between being persuasive and being “cowed into” (animal metaphor?) submission. To be persuasive is to be convincing, effective, cogent, compelling, potent, forceful, eloquent, impressive, weighty, influential, sound, valid, powerful, strong, effectual, efficacious, winning, telling, plausible and credible. This is the route I perceive they should take. Some members of the group must also check their diction and tone. Sometimes, they come across as attacking and it does not help their cause at all.
My last thought on this matter is about the people who descend into the gutters when the subject of the Pepper Dem Ministries comes up. I refer to the people who resort to name calling and insults as their response to the agenda of the ministry. They are reprehensible people and must not be tolerated in any space where this discussion is held. For me, whichever side you are on; whether you do not agree with the group or you agree with their ideology but disagree with their method, put these insult-mongers in their right place. Do not condone them. Their actions are unhealthy and vile. But more importantly, the members of the ministry must learn to ignore people like these. They should not descend into the gutters with them. When people go low, Pepper Dem Ministries should go high.
I wish the Pepper Dem Ministries well in this campaign.