Promise Adiele – Convener, Third Force Movement
Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka’s “The Trial of Brother Jero” relives the activities of Brother Jero, a fake prophet who refers to members of his church as customers. No doubt many self-styled prophets in Nigeria, in their private moments, refer to their gullible audience as customers. In the play, Jero’s motive for becoming a prophet ranges from a morbid desire for materialism to acquiring fame and social relevance. He starts his church business from the beach with a few converts. However, as the play progresses, the dissimulation and canard in his heart are revealed. In writing the play, Soyinka was instinctively prophetic, warning Nigerians to be wary of the proliferation of churches and the emergence of fake prophets in the new country, those who will speak when God did not speak and pathetically lie to remain in business. With the present realities in Nigeria, Soyinka couldn’t have been more Delphic. Today, prophet and prophecy are grossly misconstrued due to the activities of charlatans like Brother Jero. For some inexplicable reasons, fake prophets draw large followership, those who have resigned to fate to be deceived by morally decrepit and frustrated tricksters.
The general idea of prophets and prophecies in our part of the world is established in religion. When we hear of prophets and prophecies, we quickly think of pastors and other self-styled spiritual mouthpieces. Some of these people masquerade as prophets, engaging in spiritual superfluities to enrich their pockets. It is a culture in Nigeria for prophets, genuine or fake, to make pronouncements at the beginning of every year. Some prophets and pastors are known for fake prophecies, yet they do not care. Their names are synonymous with guess-work which emanates from their vile intuition. Even when all their prophecies of the previous year do not materialize, without shame and honour, they still have the debased impetus to pollute the social space from their raunchy, disarrayed moral ecstasy at the beginning of the next year. Unfortunately, a deluded populace, those without direction or any iota of spiritual conviction follow these fake prophets ignorantly even in the face of advertised falsehood veiled as prophecies. The failure of these prophecies to come to pass has raised many questions among the informed and enlightened. Are the proponents of fake prophecies called by God or are they businessmen who, in their bid to remain relevant, manipulate familiar social dynamics and engage in amateur analysis of future realities? In thinking about fake prophets, a very offensive prophecy comes to my mind. “Buhari is the messiah Nigeria is waiting for”. Today, events in Nigeria either validate or void that pronouncement.
Fake prophets are a great disservice to the country because they presumptuously steer the attention of the gullible to slippery slopes of illusion while obliterating the inevitable paths of reality. In their hoaxed, guttural voices, they bellow their convictions, which many times are either politically motivated or are items of privileged information. Sometimes, the prophecies are the obvious realities we face daily. Now, let me try my hand on prophecy. “In 2021, God told me there would be lots of traffic on Lagos roads. Again, God told me that there would never be a steady power supply in Nigeria. God told me that nepotism and poverty will increase in Nigeria. Many women will get married and have babies this year. ASUU will call off their strike. The government will disappoint again, and then ASUU will return to strike. Many people will buy cars and build houses this year. There will be many road accidents along the Benin-Ore road due to bad road. Many people will be kidnapped in Nigeria this year due to insecurity. Nigeria will borrow more money to develop the Niger Republic”.
Can the above humble submissions of mine be considered as prophecies? These are present realities which we all know. Yet, when some people mount the pulpit and vomit more pedestrian submissions, people pay attention and applaud. These fake prophets have done more harm than good to our polity, therefore must be called to order. They cannot continue to beguile and mislead the populace while overseeing their business enterprises. I lost hope in the New Year conjectures from these so-called men of God since none of them foretold COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of 2020. Could it be that God did not reveal it to any one of these people who claim to wine and dine with Him daily? Could it be that God deliberately wanted to unleash suffering on the world, therefore concealed the future from humanity? An informed mind can make predictions based on hindsight. But to hide behind the façade of religion or spirituality to make such pronouncements is inconsistent with good behaviour and responsible disposition.
I believe in prophets and prophecies. When my younger brother was born, a prophet told my mother that he would be a lawyer. My mother had replied that she would prefer the baby to be a pastor in the future. The prophet insisted that God spoke to him and it shall come to pass. Today, the full-grown young man is an accomplished lawyer. That is a genuine prophecy. The Holy book is replete with how God spoke through men and it came to pass. Our traditional societies are redolent with prophecies from essences and mediums that came to pass too. Indeed, the spiritual realm offers options as a place of regeneration and as a place of potentially destructive, hostile energies. In pre-colonial African societies, the natives maintained a healthy relationship with gods and other spiritual essences which served as their guardian, companion, and oracle of divinity. When man faced the prospect of war, he consulted the gods for insight and advice. When famine ravaged him, he consulted the gods for a solution. The gods looked into the seeds of time and foretold the future. It was the same practice in the Judo-Christian tradition succinctly captured in the Bible.
In Ola Rotimi’s “The gods are not to Blame” the people of Kutuje, as was their custom, invited Baba Fakunle to consult the gods through the Ifa prognostic divination procedure to find out the future of the first child of King Adetusa and his wife Ojuola. After consultations, the oracle announced that the newborn baby would kill his father and marry his mother in the future. Therefore, the gods advised that the boy should be killed to avert his evil mission on earth. Eventually, the gods were proved right; the boy, as King Odewale, eventually killed his father and married his mother.
In Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, when a lion roared around the Capitol with strong wind and storm, Caesar ordered to know the mind of the gods regarding the strange events of the previous night. A beast was offered as a sacrifice to the gods, but the heart was not found. The gods warned that it was symptomatic of an impending tragedy, therefore advised that Caesar should not step of his house the same day. However, Julius Caesar, consumed by his sense of grandeur, disobeyed the warnings of the gods, stepped out of the house and was brutally murdered by the conspirators.
Many instances abound in history and in folklore that proves the gods were always right in their dealings with humanity. Also, many instances in the Bible demonstrate that God was never far away from His people. Unfortunately, the scenario is different today. With the confusion associated with prophets and prophecies, it appears that God is no longer speaking to his people. It also appears that our traditional mediums are sufficiently polluted, therefore, they do not give us accurate prophecies or predictions. God spoke through prophets in the Bible and it came to pass. What then has happened to our prophets today? Could it be that the spiritual highway is polluted so that fake prophets vomit inaccuracies and falsehood while pursuing inordinate objectives? Why are our current prophets not able to convey accurately the mind of God in Nigeria’s economic and security quagmire? Is there no prophet who can ask God what we must do to divest ourselves of the unenviable paraphernalia of poverty which has turned us into a ridiculous race in the comity of nations? Is there no prophet to tell us what we must do to conquer the intractable Boko Haram? Can God not find an appropriate spiritual channel to tell us what we must do to halt the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic? Can God not find a suitable channel to tell us what we must do, whether to restructure and continue to exist as one country or disintegrate, every man to his chosen country?
Of a truth, it is only by the principle of grace that Nigeria still exists. However, any principle stretched to the full, generates internal contradictions that will destroy it. In the face of uncertainties in this country, what then should be the position of all the prophets in our land? Until God finds a suitable channel to address us, for now, let us accept that existing prophecies are only abstract embodiments of humanity’s conflicting, warring impulses, therefore, should be ignored.
Dr Adiele teaches in the Department of English Mountain Top University firstname.lastname@example.org
Daily Times Nigeria
January 6th 2020