By Ameachi Ikechukwu
There is something about self-acclaimed men of God in Nigeria, whom I would rather call “gods of men”. They hallucinate in the name of prophecy. But that is not the problem here. People are entitled to their delusions.
What I find strange and utterly inexplicable is the equanimity with which men and women endowed by God with reasoning faculty gobble up such delusionary garbage with relish. Are they hypnotised and bewitched?
Could that be what Karl Marx alluded to when he wrote in the introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right that: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Or could it be that ours is the archetypal wicked and adulterous generation that Jesus Christ chastised in Matthew 12:39 for always demanding a sign?
Because our “gods of men” know about our insatiable quest for signs and wonders, they nourish the people on a diet of prophecies, signs, wonders and miracles.
These questions concentrated my mind on Monday, September 23 as I watched an old video of Pastor Tunde Bakare’s sermon claiming that God has anointed him the 16th president of Nigeria and the rapturous reaction of his congregants. “Take it to the mountain top, if you have never heard it before, I am saying it to you this morning in the scheme of things as far as politics of Nigeria is concerned, President Muhammadu Buhari is number 15 and yours sincerely I am number 16.”
The declaration instantly brought the church members to their feet with shouts of hallelujah so loud and animated it shook the foundations of the auditorium. Bakare was not done yet. “I have never said that to you before, I have never said that to you before,” he continued. “I make it plain to you this morning, I let you know it this morning, nothing can change it in the name of Jesus; he is number 15, and I am number 16. To this end I was born, for this purpose came I into the world.”
By this time, he had worked the congregation into a frenzy before declaring rather magisterially: “I have prepared you for this purpose for more than 30 years. That is why if he (Buhari) wants to run in 2019, I do not oppose, he is still number 15. It is when he steps out, that I step in. His assignment is that of Moses to take Nigeria to River Jordan but he can’t cross it. It will take Joshua to go to the other side and begin to distribute resources for the people of this nation.”
And that self-acclaimed Joshua who will take Nigerians to the Promised Land is Tunde Bakare, senior pastor and founder, Latter Rain Assembly. He is one of Nigeria’s most politically influential pastors and was Buhari’s running mate in the 2011 presidential election which they lost to then-incumbent Goodluck Jonathan. And Bakare loves throwing his political weight around.
In a country such as ours which is in a permanent state of politicking, with intrigues as official statecraft, your guess is as good as mine as to why the video suddenly resurfaced and who is behind it.
Rebroadcasting the video made from a Sunday sermon on February 18, 2018, is curious, particularly as there are rumours that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has run into troubled political waters. The coincidence is too uncanny.
Could it be that Bakare deliberately threw his 18-month-old prophecy into the troubling political mix hoping to profiteer from Osinbajo’s misery in Nigeria’s debilitating power calculus? Is it a plan to put Bakare in pole position to reap bountifully from Osinbajo’s political travails – particularly given the perception that the all-powerful and unforgiving Presidency cabal, the real powers behind Buhari’s throne, may engineer Osinbajo’s impeachment?
It will be sad if Bakare is plotting and conniving with those who want to disgrace Osinbajo out of power considering that the two ought to be kindred spirits. They are both Yoruba and Pentecostal pastors. But it will not be a surprise. The South-West political history is replete with such betrayals.
It is possible that God actually signed an irrevocable deal with Bakare that will see him enthroned as Nigeria’s president in 2023 willy-nilly, though we are not in a theocracy. Those who claim to have a direct line to God and are, therefore, versed in His inimitable ways and idiosyncrasies insist that since all power comes from God, He gives it to whoever He likes. So, it is possible that He has actually signed a pact with Bakare.
But since God does not lie and his covenants are immutable, if He has promised to lift Nigeria’s political diadem – the Presidency – to Bakare in 2023, then the idea of President Tunde Bakare is a done deal, a fait accompli whatever the people say.
So, why would anybody vote in 2023 if God has already decided who will succeed Buhari and that person is Bakare? In which case, casting a ballot against Bakare would be an affront on the supreme authority of God. Won’t that amount to what Catholics call a mortal sin that cannot be forgiven?
Bakare said he was born for that purpose and nothing, absolutely nothing, can alter his God-ordained destiny. Isn’t that too sweeping a prophecy to make? In the very likely event that Bakare does not become Nigeria’s 16th president, will that make God a liar? Or is it a question of onye kwe, chi ya ekwe (if one says yes, his personal god affirms), as the Igbo say?
Bakare claimed he has prepared his congregants for this purpose for more than 30 years. So, what are they expected to do when his presidency finally comes? Will it is a theocratic state and those he has been preparing for 30 years will be the chosen ones who will join him to run it? It will be quite an interesting era – having God’s kingdom on earth run by a man specially chosen by God even before he was conceived in his mother’s womb. But what if God did not make any promise to Bakare? Is it possible that he is dropping God’s name in a desperate bid to wheedle the politically unwary? If so, why would he do that? There could be two possible reasons.
First, religion, having become opium, literally, has become the problem in Nigeria rather than the solution to its myriad problems. Self-proclaimed men of God have radically transformed into gods worshipped by gullible followers.
Second, our collective amnesia. If not, those shouting hallelujah to Bakare’s claim to divine presidential anointing would have recalled his dubious prophecy in 1999 that: “Obasanjo is not your messiah, he is king Agag and the prophetic axe will come upon his head before May 29, 1999.” Simply put, these religious shenanigans thrive because there is no backlash.
Because of Bakare’s false prophecy, many feared that Obasanjo would never live to be sworn in as president. But the opposite was the case. Obasanjo governed for eight years. He even tried, unsuccessfully, to secure an illegal third term. And 20 years after, the man is still alive. However, Bakare is not alone in this business of merchandising politically-tainted prophecies. During Obasanjo’s first term in office, another “god of man,” Pastor Chris Okotie of Household of God, claimed that God promised him that he would be Nigeria’s president in 2003. He contested the election but made no impact whatsoever, and none of his followers ever asked him what happened, whether God had become a liar. He simply moved on. And they too. Okotie’s false prophecy was exposed in 2003.
In three and half years’ time, we will know whether or not Bakare is one of those prophets God talks about in Jeremiah 23:16-17: “Don’t listen to these false prophets when they prophesy to you, filling you with futile hopes. They are making up everything they say. They do not speak for me.”
Time will surely tell whether or not God had Bakare in mind when He spoke through Ezekiel chastising Israel’s dubious prophets thus: “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing … Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. They say, ‘The LORD declares,’ when the LORD has not sent them; yet they expect their words to be fulfilled.” (Ezekiel 13:3-6).