‘So, you’re not Number 16?’ (the sad tale of Christian ‘prophets’ and the 2023 elections)
By Femi Olugbile
A little over three years ago, there was a video trending in the social media. It showed a famous, outspoken Christian pastor addressing his congregation at Sunday Service.
The pastor was a man with a magnetic personality and a powerful, totally convinced way of delivering his message. On this day, the message was so fiery it had many in the audience jumping to their feet.
‘… In the scheme of things as far as the Politics of Nigeria is concerned, Muhammadu Buhari is number 15, and I am number 16 … Nothing can change it, in the name of Jesus… When he steps out, I step in…His assignment is to take Nigeria to the Jordan, but he can’t cross it…It will take a Joshua … to begin to distribute resources…’
On the 29th of May 2023, the real ‘Number 16’ was sworn into office as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in a stately, dignified, and emotionally charged ceremony watched live all over the world. It was, of course, not the preacher in question.
It is not to be assumed that the man, mortified, has slunk off to a corner to hide his face and seek forgiveness from Jesus for calling his name in vain. Nothing of the sort. He is still hugging the airwaves, still delivering electrifying sermons with as much conviction as ever, and still pontificating on the salvation of Nigeria and his role in it. Concerning any previous prediction that has not come to pass, the policy is ‘No Retreat, No Surrender’. His followers love him despite this, or even because of it. Every Sunday they lap up his passionate deliveries avidly. Incidentally, he contested in the Presidential Primaries of one of the major parties. It was all over the news that, like other contestants he paid one hundred million naira or some such humongous amount for the nomination form. Unlike others, so the story went, he had not a single delegate at the party’s convention. His campaign for votes, such as it was, consisted of sending text messages to other party members. Irrespective, when he returned home from the convention, he was received like a hero by his Church members at the airport, with much joyous singing and drumming.
The catalogue of ‘prophecies’ with a political bent that have failed to materialise in Nigeria is long. Covid 19 was a scam, according to ‘Pastor Chris’, a man who is supremely eloquent, and blessed with healing hands, in the eyes of many. The excavation works that were going on in Lagos and environs during the COVID lockdown were a surreptitious move by government to lay infrastructure for ‘5G’, an evil development from the very pit of hell.
‘Pastor Chris’, a man who likes to dress sharp and use the latest gadgets, probably has 5G on his iPhone nowadays. There has been not a word of apology, or retraction.
The 2023 Presidential elections in Nigeria appear to have stirred a frenzy of prophecies from Christian ‘seers’ within and outside the country. The excitement generated by the visions, widely disseminated in social media, is comparable to the frenzy of Pentecostal Christian pastors as President Donald Trump approached elections for a second term with shaky prospects. Famous televangelists with millions of followers pronounced confidently that they had heard from God that Trump would win the elections by a landslide. Trump, not known to be a godly man by any description, saw the value of this and played along, allowing them to lay hands on him. He even employed a lady to be his official coordinator of such godly prophetic activities at the White House. The lady is famously reported to have said, following a ‘vision’ she had, that ‘angels from Nigeria’ were coming to battle for Trump against the mongrels.
The only thing left to say about the Trump ‘visionaries’ is that rather than retract and apologise for their false ‘visions’, they simply doubled down and marched on. Many of them will be coming out of the woodwork with fresh visions, undoubtedly, if Trump succeeds in winning his party’s ticket for another run at the White House.
Majority of the prophecies and visions concerning the Nigerian elections of 2023 spoke of spectacular developments after the voting, and hair-raising drama concerning the candidate who would ultimately be sworn in as President. The visions and proclamations were invariably in tandem with the ‘prophet’s’ political preferences, and, in many cases, their ethnic affiliations. Some were total and unshakable in their certainty.
‘I decree on this altar that XYZ will never be sworn in as President of Nigeria’.
‘We will close down our Church if XYZ is proclaimed President,’ said another.
‘The person who comes third in the election, not the first or even the second, will be the one to be sworn in, the Lord said to me’.
The redeeming counter-poise to the ‘visions’ came late in the day.
‘Nigeria has chosen its President. That fact may not be to the liking of some, but God’s will is different from the will of man.’ These words, or words to that effect, were the only utterances from the country’s preeminent Pentecostal Pastor, who had been quiet through most of the drama, only speaking recently, urging his flock to pray for peace and positive developments in the new dispensation. Even with that tepid rebuke, several voices among the fired up flock rose to condemn him and query his authority.
His calm voice may not be enough to repair the damage done to the image of Christianity in a multireligious society by men, and women, who have ventilated their moral exclusiveness and narrow prejudices, attributing the ‘visions’ to ‘God’.
Will there be humble apologies and repentance offered to God for calling His name in vain? Or will the ‘prophets’ simply double down, like Trumpian televangelists, spewing bile and extremist, self-righteous hate into the minds of their vulnerable and generally youthful flocks, further alienating and polarising society, and poo-pooing the possibility of a new, better future for Nigeria, in the name of God?
Only time will tell.