By Ugoji Egbujo
Our prophets are coming again. This is their season. The big one who is also called a Primate has given it to Saraki. He has a huge prophetic reputation but statistics show he is not better than a mere pundit. He gets it right not more than half of the time. He is sure Saraki would win in 2019, but would rule for four years only. We must give him credit for courage. Because in Nigeria, prophecies, when they are prophecies, are naturally vague. Often times we hear inanities like—many people will get married. Every December, we will get many lists from the big prophets. They will contain the coming of natural disasters like floods and wild fires. No one in their congregation has summoned the irreverence to tell them that these natural disasters have become part of the global calendar. After such a prediction, when the hurricane season comes, they will dust up their books of prophecies and wave them at us. And their fawning followers will sing alleluia to them and they will smile the smile of true prophets.
So I doff my hat for the primate who reigns in Okeafa, Lagos. He has prophesied Saraki and prophesied his relatively short tenure. I don’t know if anyone mentioned to him the breadth of Saraki’s ambitions. Because even humble President Jonathan, who was born into shoelessness and who never aspired beyond being a commissioner in Bayelsa found the lure of a second term too irresistible. And not even ill health has dissuaded a seemingly self contented Buhari. I worry for the Primate.
But I have often wondered why our prophets still bother to make any prophecies at all.
An aspiring prophet in Ekiti told us that he saw it, that Buhari would die in office. He took out front pages of the newspaper to announce his prophecy. While Buhari was sick, he conjured the death of the old man and claimed he had mortuary pictures of a president in a vegetative state. This aspiring prophet wasn’t deterred by that disaster. He later prophesied his own ascendancy into Aso Villa. He said, ‘God said.’ Recently, he prophesied the victory of his deputy in the Ekiti governorship elections. And to help that prophecy when it appeared doomed, he rushed to the states broadcasting station after the elections to announce false results declaring his deputy victorious. But he shouldn’t be blamed. A more experienced prophet, who sees from Edo, had made same prophecy. But perhaps with a clearer vision and better experience in prophetic risk aversion, he revisited the prophecy and announced that the Fayose’s deputy wasn’t praying as much as his opponents and that things were changing in the spirit world. When the prophesy nose dived, he had an ejection button.
Our prophets are restless. They dish too many prophecies. Sometimes, a single prophet will produce 50 prophecies with many of the prophecies insanely contradicting themselves. When any prophecy on their list comes true they gloat. When any falls flat they bring in equivocation to assist them. They never find remorse when their prophecies crash. When those accidents happen, the congregation cringes but the bumbling prophet simply feigns a prideful righteous indignation that leaves the public wondering whether it was God who let Himself down. But how can it be God? Yes, God can change his mind without consulting his prophet. But when you have one prophet in Ibadan shouting Atiku, Atiku and another in Okeafa, Lagos claiming he saw Saraki then at least one of them must be learning the trade. God cannot author confusion.
One of our biggest prophets announced that Hillary Clinton would win in 2016. He said God told him it would be a woman. All polls had given it to Hilary Clinton. Why he wanted to milk glory from what looked like common knowledge baffled me. But surprisingly Clinton lost. And that made that trite prophecy a calamitous gamble. But the prophet didn’t blink, he showed no remorse. He simply babbled on and retained his huge reputation. He said we mis-understood him.
I can understand why our legion of careful prophets is growing. The internet doesn’t forget. And the social media is unforgiving. But perhaps these ones have some compunction. Perhaps they will lose sleep if their prophecies fail. So they fill their prophecies with a thousand caveats. They literally leave a hundred windows for escape. They are the ones who may still possess sense of shame. So they trade exactitude for some integrity. Such a prophet could have delivered the primate’s prediction of Saraki with an emergency exit. He could have said: “ If the PDP presents Saraki and Saraki keeps his hands clean then he will surely win in 2019.” So if Saraki loses he would simply say, he didn’t keep his hands clean.
I had wished one other big prophet had left such a window for himself in 2014. But who knew it would get to this. In 2014, the Malaysian Airline flight MH 370 went missing. This prophet had announced that there would be plane crashes. So once the plane crashed, he took the limelight. Then he announced that the plane was at the bottom of the sea ,near Indonesia. He seemed certain of the location. We all thought that, with the whole world involved, the plane would be found in no time. But months passed and the plane couldn’t be located. The prophet mocked the search crews whom he said should have come to him rather than waste their time with location devices. We thought our prophet had noticed an opportunity to astound the world. But this man who had the coordinates of the missing plane at the bottom of the ocean looked away. When it seemed the search team was making progress, the prophet returned with a new prophecy. He announced an imminent discovery of the plane. The plane is still missing till today.
The easier and more common prophecy in Nigeria is the variety that tells of impending calamities. They are usually delivered as warnings. The would be victims are named and asked to pray to forestall the evil predictions. The prophets don’t put themselves in a cage. If it doesn’t come true then someone prayed hard. Most times, the same prophet has to be hired to do the fasting and praying, to prevent his prophecy. The business of prophesying of doom is a lucrative and booming industry. It now thriving on a commercial scale. But the death of the profession would come from another group of reckless prophets.
Once upon a time we all saw the Naira falling freely. But a few prophets couldn’t get a grip of themselves. They sauntered in and announced that it would plunge to great depths of 600-900 naira per dollar. When we saw the PDP in the valley of the shadow of death at the Supreme Court some over zealous prophets rose and announced the coming of a new mega party which would win in 2019. These commonsense predictions now called prophesies do the most damage to the already endangered profession. Because when they fail they leave these senior prophets looking not like apprentices but like charlatans, mere rogues.