There is a booming industry in Nigeria: predicting the future. A joint venture mainly of segments of the Christian church and the lazier segments of journalism, it is not exactly new, but it is enjoying renewed patronage and vigor.
The Christian chieftains involved in this industry seem to think it is they who drive the market. They err: somewhere, at about the same time every year, lazy editors are sending out even lazier reporters to publicity-seeking pastors and obtain their predictions.
Some of those pastors do not wait: having learned a thing of marketing that is not contained in the Holy Bible: they distribute bulletins that appear to be aimed at capturing the headlines.
There are two varieties of these predictions. In the first, the prophet claims that his predictions have come from God. In the other, he attributes them to “visions”.
To be clear: as a Christian, I know that the Holy Spirit grants to certain persons the gift of prophecy. I do not know how prevalent this gift is among the children of God. I have always marveled at the lesson of Jesus’s resurrection, at the point where the disciples asked him if the kingdom would be restored to Israel.
As close as Jesus was to them, and even as he was telling them they would shortly become his witnesses in Jerusalem and to the entire world, he was blunt in his response: “It is not for you to know the times and seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.”
He could have, but he did not satisfy that specific curiosity, perhaps because it might have had the effect of distracting them from their mission following their imminent empowerment by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost days from them.
Today, on the contrary, there seem to be many “prophets” and “pastors” of the Nigerian variety who imply God’s confidence, and broadcast rights to His calendar, especially for Nigeria. The result is an outbreak of “authoritative” predictions every time January rolls around.
The first problem is that some of the “revelations” are in direct contradiction with other “revelations”. This is a contradiction in terms because unlike humans, God does not lie and He does not contradict himself.
For the 2015 presidential election, for instance, some pastors said God had told them Mr. Goodluck Jonathan would retain the presidency.
One of them specifically declared that there was “no vacancy” in Aso Rock. “God has revealed to me that there may not be elections…God further informed me that the South West geo-political zone should be very careful so that the region would not be thrown into another era of wild, wild west because I saw political assassinations everywhere…God has revealed to me that if at all there is going to be presidential election, it will be inconclusive…”
He was supported by another pastor who, revealing what God had told him, said: “Jonathan is going to win the whole elections and there is no doubt about it.”
That pastor declared that the opposition was not the dream party God had in mind to defeat the PDP, which would not crumble.
Well, we did have a conclusive presidential election in 2015. Mr. Jonathan was trounced. The PDP did begin to crumble. Furthermore, it is impressive that the South West has proved to be the country’s most stable and peaceful area since the early 1960s. Where, then, did those prophets obtain their prophecies?
The second problem is that most of these “predictions” are often couched in the most generalized language by the prophet, and written in abominable language by the prediction-peddling journalists, thus opening wide the doors of debate, doubt and deniability.
When a prophet says, “Some families will trace the beginning of their generational blessings to this year,” or another says of football in Nigeria, “If our club sides play very well they might win a cup,” are these really prophecies?
Third, given the long laundry list of prophecies some prophets try to get off their chests, they give the impression that God sat down with them for a long time. But read the story, and many entries are no more significant than a citizen’s everyday political fear or hope.
Fourth, some of these prophets often appear to be clearer about events in their own political and ethnic arenas. Recently for instance, an Igbo pastor pronounced himself having been “spiritually crowned for the nation and the world and was sent on a special mission for the glory of God.” He called himself a chosen prophet whom the Igbos should seek.
“The truth is finally here, but Nigeria finds it difficult to believe, the nation refuses to recognize the presence of the anointed saviour of the world because of tribalism.”
And then he warned President Muhammadu Buhari to release Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the so-called Indigenous People of Biafra “with immediate effect, otherwise the heavens will strike.”
Fifth, for some reason, no two prophets ever seem to see the same thing or receive the same prophecy. As God is the very definition of consistency, what are we to make of this?
Sixth, it seems that these prophets are never wrong. For instance, one of those who predicted Mr. Jonathan’s triumph in the 2015 polls returned for 2016 with a 47-point dissertation stretching from Akwa Ibom to Zimbabwe. None of them related to his erring prophecies.
“Nigeria will rise again and the future of Nigeria will be restored,” he said. “And her image and dignity shall be restored. In my vision, I saw a group of young men wearing boots preparing and when I asked God he said it's the future of the next generation that are coming to take over 2024.”
I cannot conclude this brief exploration without mentioning, by name, the widely-known Pastor TB Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), who is in my view the subject of this season’s most remarkable prophecy.
That prophecy comes from the remarkably lucid and blunt Moshood Fayemiwo, the Spiritual Leader of the non-denominational Jesus Christ Solution Center in Austin, Texas.
Dr. Fayemiwo, who admits he has neither met TB Joshua nor been to SCOAN, believes that Joshua is one of those “religious racketeers and charlatans…using demonic powers to bamboozle, hoodwink and beguile the people.” He calls SCOAN ‘The Synagogue of Satan.”
In his article, “Prophecies And Predictions For T.B Joshua And The Synagogue of Satan (2015-2017)," he announces a book he has written on this subject, as directed by the Holy Spirit, and prophesies that by next year, SCOAN will be no more.
Nobody can be clearer or more direct than this, not just in prophecy, but in focus. ‘Gifted’ prophets are splashing their prophecies in all directions, and there may be unintended competition to splash further and faster than the nearest church leader.
The questions are: do these annual “shocking” revelations serve God’s purpose? Do they rally the faithful to be better citizens? Do they encourage Nigerians to stop being spectators in the critical affairs of their country and become active participants in the quest for justice, equality and fairness? Do the pastors lead, or merely preach?