by Abimbola Adelakun
As a caveat, I must admit I have a certain aversion to prophets and prophecies. I also wrote a piece, ‘Nigerian Nostradamuses’, on this some years back.
To me prophets must be sadists of sorts. The Biblical narrative of Jonah, is an example of (I believe) an allegory; a commentary about prophetic psychology, it provides some helpful illustrative insight.
God instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh to prophesy He would punish the city’s inhabitants. After much drama, Jonah obeyed; the people repented and, God backed down.
It would have been a fairy tale ending except the Bible adds a twist: Jonah’s ego was dented that God didn’t give him the joy of being proved right — after spending three days in the belly of the fish and managing to escape being digested, his frustration is understandable — and he was angry enough to want to die.
Prophets ought to have some elements of this Jonah-ism ego-tripping in them and T.B. Joshua, a popular Nigerian prophet, cannot be an exception. He predicts frequently: from Nigeria’s poorly trained and ill-motivated football teams losing matches to Michael Jackson’s death.
On a Youtube video of his hit Christian channel, Emmanuel TV, he prophesied that a certain African leader would die a ‘sudden death’. The first prophesy was on February 5; another, March 18; and on April 1, he eliminated West African leaders from the possibilities. Excerpts had him say, ‘I am praying…
When it is too close and I cannot do anything about it, I will say it. But I’m still talking to Father but if I realise there is nothing I can do, I will talk…Before I come out to say something, I have been praying and praying.
God showed me but I am praying to see whether this can be changed…I see sudden death but this can be changed.’ The Malawian President, Bingu wa Mutharika, died exactly 60 days from the first prediction.
Joshua has the inalienable right to frame any prophecy; his seer venture has been profitable and, Ikotun, Lagos (where his church’s headquarters are located) is the better for it. The church’s magnificent edifice dwarfs other structures around and provides employment for a number of Nigerians and foreigners. My quarrel with this ugly situation is Joshua’s gloat.
Following Mutharika’s demise, an exuberant Joshua bragged the dead man wrote to him six days prior to his death.
A lot of questions here but the pertinent is: how did Mutharika find out that he would die via a prophecy? Since the content of the letter was not read out, how do we know what it said? What if it was even forged? (Worse things have happened in Christendom). What I find most reprehensible about the whole affair is that Joshua displayed the purported presidential signature in a live Sunday service.
That’s a grave betrayal of pastoral confidence. It would be a different thing if a journalist did that. What Joshua did amounts to triumphalism and sadism; an undignified use of a man’s death as a trophy and with such shocking tactlessness.
Given how much was at stake for Joshua, could Mutharika’s death not have been hastened to prove this prophecy at all cost? It is not beyond the realm of conjecture. Statesmen have been dealt the dark art of death-by-piecemeal through the ages.
Crassly, in the triumphant PR stunt, what Joshua didn’t say to his millions of viewers’ is that the VP of the country, who has since been sworn in as the new president, Ms. Joyce Banda, is one of his staunch devotees.
Ms. Banda, in a Youtube video posted in July 2011, praised Joshua for the miracle he performed on her husband who had suffered stroke, sometime in 2009. (Was Mr. Banda actually cured of stroke through medication or prayers? Given the Pentecostal-speak, she could be ‘claiming this by faith’ or deliberately skipped the part of the medical exertions that must have gone into his treatment!)
The Mutharika/Banda relationship mirrors the antagonism between Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar and the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan in succession to Umaru Yar’Adua after the latter’s death.
Like the bad blood between Obasanjo and Atiku, the Vice-President clung to her post moved away to form a new party. And like the Yar’Adua/Jonathan presidency, there was heightened tension before the VP ascended the office of president.
Couldn’t this woman, as VP, considering her fractious relationship with the president, have been the ‘God’ who ‘voiced’ this dazzling prophecy in Joshua’s ears?
Critically examining the prophesy itself, what is it about a 78-year old man dying that Joshua prayed relentlessly about? Why not pray to the same God to avert the death of children who died celebrating on Easter Sunday in Benue?
By saying he was praying to see whether this man’s death sentence could be changed, was Joshua not putting a catch with which he could manipulate his way out if no head of state had died? The famous trick of putting meat in your mouth and making it disappear — pyrotechnics.
One part of prophesies I’ll never understand is when someone says God told him a certain disaster is coming and people should pray. If I were God, I whisper to my prophet about a coming evil that can be averted and, he in turn announces it to a delegation of prayer warriors, and they come beg me to avert it, what does that make me? Narcissistic? Vain?
I know for gullible people, this ‘prophecy’ is another goal scored for Joshua. He gets that from time to time; when John Attah-Mills became Ghana’s president, he gave glory to Joshua, God and the electorate (in that order).
If Joshua and his God are not sadists, he should prophesy prosperity for Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, so that Americans can stop adopting their children to put up celebrity motherhood shows. It is bad we have African leaders who kowtow before a fellow man to hear ‘God’. If Paul the Octopus had been in Africa, its owner would have had an overflowing church by now.
While civilised countries and their leaders are looking to break new frontiers in knowledge and wellbeing, African leaders are turning towards superstition. Fredrick Chiluba, now late; Attah-Mills and Banda were ensnared in a black-hole of myopic servitude. Ms. Banda professes a 24-hour watch of Emmanuel TV on Sundays and given her overt superstitious disposition, I wonder what will become of her impoverished nation.
This piece originally appeared in The Punch