The founder and general overseer of the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries (MFM), Daniel Olukoya, has unreservedly chided his colleagues who gave inaccurate prophecies of the results of the 2023 general elections.
Mr Olukoya, speaking to his congregants on Sunday morning during a service held at the church’s headquarters in Lagos, tongue-lashed his peers who participated in several political forecasting which was a major feature of attention-seeking religious circles in the build-up to the elections.
Mr Olukoya noted that several of the predictions that were made in the guise of prophesying were wrong and that those who earlier attributed the fake prophesies to God were not mentally stable.
“God said, God said… yet you did not hear anything from God, it is madness.
“You see what happened in Nigeria during this last election that disgraced Christianity very well. This prophet will say this will win, this will not win… All were wrong. They call themselves prophets. Prophets of where? It is madness when you begin to say what God does not ask you to say,” he said.
In taking this stance, Mr Olukoya aligns himself with the likes of Abel Damina, the charismatic preacher of Uyo’s bustling city, who stands as a formidable figure within the fraternity of fiery Pentecostal preachers.
“The pulpit is the house of God, it is the pillar and the ground of truth,” Mr Olukoya said echoing a statement made earlier in the year by Mr Damina.
Their shared conviction lies in their unwavering refusal to exploit the political frustration that festers within the citizenry or harness the pervasive anxiety of the unknown to bolster their own influence.
Mr Damina, a resolute advocate for the church’s separation from the machinations of the state, remains a steadfast proponent of abstinence from politics. According to him, the trickery, manipulation, and permutations that come with politics could compromise the sincerity and moral compass of the clergy.
In the midst of a highly charged election, conducted within a society deeply divided along religious lines and fiercely contested by political heavyweights who sparingly refrained from exploiting religious sentiments as a campaign strategy, prophesying gained unprecedented prominence, marking a disquieting trend within the ranks of the Christian community.
It started with respected leaders such as Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), who in November 2022, despite the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) releasing the schedule for the elections, told his congregation that he had not heard from God whether or not there would be elections. The former lecturer did not say anything further than that but the statement was clearly vague and devoid of specific guidance or direction. It injected an unwelcome dose of ambiguity into an already volatile political atmosphere and rather served to heighten anxiety and exacerbate the palpable tension that gripped the political climate.
The deliberate vagueness of Mr Adeboye’s claim exemplifies how religious political forecasters in their best form merely straddle along the middle ground of uncertainty, positioning themselves in a way that their statements could potentially be only interpreted as right, regardless of the actual outcome. This calculated ambiguity allows them to navigate the treacherous waters of political predictions with a degree of insulation from the capricious nature of electoral outcomes.
Being keenly aware that offering definitive prophetic statements can carry significant consequences for their credibility within and outside their congregation, they can claim divine inspiration if events align with their insinuations and bolster their stature as spiritual guides. On the other hand, the claims are vague enough that they are able to preserve their reputation and influence when the situation turns out otherwise.
Some other preachers who have much less to lose than Mr Adeboye went all out and made all kinds of statements. In 2021, Paul Okikijesu, a minister of the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) said that God had ministered to him that there would be no elections in 2023. J.O. Afolabi Okiki-Jesu, a popular pastor with a large Facebook following also told his congregants that there would be no elections.
Popular prophet, Isa El-Buba, predicted that the candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, would win the presidential election, while others only said it was the church’s time to take over and were later directly or indirectly linked to working for the LP.
The prophecy that was popular and ridiculous in almost equal measure was from the lead pastor of iReign ministries in Lagos, Feyi Daniels, who said that President Bola Tinubu would be arrested on the day of the inauguration and the military would take over the government.
Clearly, Mr Tinubu’s recent celebration of his 100 days as president and commander-in-chief, as well as his recent controversial victory at the Court of Appeal’s presidential election petition tribunal – as some of his supporters might add – is proof that none of the prophecies were fulfilled.
The enduring role of religion in Nigeria’s national and political life is indeed a complex and multifaceted phenomenon. Despite the consistent disappointments faced by ardent followers due to inaccurate religious forecasting, faith continues to hold a prominent place in the hearts and minds of many Nigerians.
It’s uncertain whether recent events will mark a definitive turning point in the reliance on such predictions. The cyclical nature of new religious leaders emerging with promises of greater accuracy only to eventually face disillusionment from their followers suggests a pattern deeply ingrained in Nigerian society.
This phenomenon highlights the resilience of faith as a fundamental aspect of Nigerian identity. Religion often serves not just as a source of spiritual guidance but also as a means of coping with the challenges and uncertainties of life, including the dynamics of politics. The disappointments experienced do not necessarily lead to a questioning of the role and authenticity of religion itself, but rather prompt a transition to the next religious leader who offers renewed hope and conviction.
In this landscape, religious leaders continue to wield significant influence, even as their predictions fail. The enduring power of faith in Nigerian society underscores the need for critical reflection on the relationship between religion and politics, as well as the role of spiritual leaders in the public sphere. It remains to be seen whether a broader shift in perspective will emerge in the future, but for now, the cycle of religious leadership and prophecy persists as a defining feature of Nigeria’s sociopolitical landscape.