By Chukwuemeka Otuchikere
The standard for knowing a true prophet, according to scriptures, is one whose prophecy certainly comes to pass. Many self-styled ministers of the gospel now go around selling prophecy to gullible parishioners who, in desperate search for solace appear to cling to any straw of hope offered.
The Nigerian state has her fair share of modern day Simeon the Sorcerer who erroneously thought that the power of God is for trading with carnality. Men like these can go to any length to concoct prophesies at the drop of a hat. Most irritating is the end of year frenzy of prophesies freely churned out to despondent and desperate congregants who think that clairvoyance is one of the fruits of the recreated human spirit. More so, some have converted their pulpits to unveil insights and revelations that even angels are not privy to all in the quest to be perceived as having a hot-line to the throne room of God. Many are made to look ridiculous as they utterly miss the mark in accurate prophesies, thereby validating the scriptures that the secret things indeed belong to God.
As the years progressed, these men have specialized in spinning yarns out of stories within the scriptures, using a very fertile imagination, many times drawing parallel between happenings in the twin kingdoms of Judah and Israel and transposing such incidents to modern day Nigeria. They hold the congregation spellbound week after week with what can be termed old wives tales but not quite so. They pose as experts at decoding hidden mysteries locked within scriptures to suit their whims and caprices, vacillating between real and unreal, natural and supernatural, and creating a maze that is intricate as it is intriguing.
Often times, they tweak scriptures out of context to suit their desires all in a bid to manipulate the masses. Mesmerism has gradually crept into places of worship as these ‘supermen’ cannot be held accountable even by the Christian brotherhood as they project this ‘first among equals’ personae making them really untouchable and unaccountable even in matters of exegesis. This culture has become pervasive in most Nigerian Church organizations as the overseers create a special, extra-ordinary relationship with the creator different from that of ‘a chosen generation, a royal priesthood and a holy people’-a title reserved for all believers.
We now hear titles like ‘man-of-God’, servant of the Most High, etc. all in an attempt to distinguish the office of pastor or shepherd. Now titles such as ‘Major and Minor’ prophets are reserved for the ‘very special elect’ of God. Prophecy and the prophetic is a highly abused aspect of the gift of the Spirit. Every minister now claims to be prophetically gifted to impress people and gain following. Some are even forced to ‘manufacture’ prophesies. Like scriptures rightly predicted, in these last days, men will be more interested in titles than trying to please God.
Pastor Tunde Bakare (PTB) no doubt, a seasoned preacher, the leader at Citadel Church, the new name for the popular Latter Rain Assembly, has himself, metamorphosed into what may be termed an authentic advocate for good governance within the Nigerian political space. Postulating on the politics of the land takes about 25% of his teaching time on the average, in most sermons. However, embedded in his various sermons is the line that a divine mandate is on him to become Nigeria’s 16th president after number fifteen, being Muhammadu Buhari. Curious as this may sound, he appears really determined to actualize this divine mandate.
This eloquent Christian cleric, who claims to have practiced Islam in a previous life, has not hidden the fact that he has a direct line to heaven and has heard clearly from the Almighty concerning his presidential mandate. He had attempted a joint presidential ticket with the then General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB) in 2011 but failed to clinch the plum prize. I am tempted to ask the cleric why he did not follow the prescribed pattern of asking: ‘should I pursue, overtake and recover all’. As typified by David in the scriptures.
Recently, PTB has drawn the irk of the Igbo globally, who think that PTB is trying to set them up against the Hausa-Fulani community when he tried to recreate the last moments of the highly revered Prime Minister (PM) Tafawa Balewa, who was assassinated in Nigeria’s first coup d’état. Many people are asking why now? PTB sermonized on a particular curse that was alleged to have been pronounced on the Igbo race by the dying PM Balewa, drawing analogy to Israel in the Bible cursing his firstborn son Reuben, who defiled his couch. In his narrative, Bakare posited that the coupists (who, for certainty, nobody could tell their real identity at this time) had fed the statesman alcohol and de-turbaned him (the height of disrespect to any devout Muslim) and in the process the PM pronounced a curse that has stood between the Igbo and the Nigerian presidency. In his word, according to Bakare ‘none of your tribe will rule this country’ the narrative given by PTB was very detailed even as he sounded authoritative like a man who had a ringside seat at the scene. The truth is that PTB was only eleven years old when that coup occurred and any information he has was simply hearsay, yet he was screaming to the rooftop like he witnessed what transpired between the PM and the coup plotters.
How he manages to think that such a tale is believable is surprising. Congregants and viewers on national televisions watched aghast as PTB claimed he was going to break this ‘all powerful’ curse that has remained for five decades. He held everyone spellbound; the Igbo community could not stomach such affront, as their race was openly being maligned right before the world as the cursed race; the killers or murderers of the late Balewa, a label that can easily incite the northern youth to another orgy of killings targeted at the Igbo in northern Nigeria. The big question is, why speaking of this curse now? Mr. Bakare has been a pastor for almost three decades why is it only now he suddenly realized he had the power to break ethnic curses? It is very curious, to say the least that finally, it is within his power to liberate the entire Igbo race from this perennial curse that had lingered for decades.
For many of us from the Igbo ethnic nationality, it is both shocking and sad that PTB can stoke the embers of tribal hate and at this sensitive time in our history, trying to exhume bodies that were better left buried for national peace and progress. A few, who had criticized Bakare, ascribe his version of the coup scene story to a typical beer parlour tale and wonder what the motives of the clergyman may be coming at this critical point in history when the Igbo are telling Nigerians that it is their turn to take up the office of presidency five decades after the civil war ended.
Majority of Nigerians feel that equity and justice may require the Igbo to be considered for the top job of president. Whichever way it rubs on the personal ambition of Pastor Bakare, it still does not stop him from testing his popularity at the polls. Obviously, unlike ancient Israel, nobody is going to turn up with a vial of oil and spill it on his head. He is going to have to slug it out at the polls like the rest of the pack.
There is absolutely no need to create unnecessary bad blood between the Igbo and other Nigerians who may share common fraternal affinity with the late Prime Minister. As a leading clergy in the land what people like us expect Pastor Bakare to preach at times like this, is true reconciliation, reintegration and reconstruction, rather than delve into exorcism and breaking of phantom curses. This erudite, very outspoken highly respected and one of the leading lights of Nigerian Pentecostalism cannot be bought with a price otherwise one could have imagined that it was a deliberate ploy by a political adversary to tarnish the hard earned reputation of peace loving people of Igbo land.
One becomes more curious as to what could have inspired such a sermon aimed at painting the Igbo race with the brush of hate and wickedness. The collective action of a mixed multitude of soldiers has been erroneously tagged ‘an Igbo coup’ a label that some Nigerians find convenient to retain, even when many writers have written that that first coup was never an Igbo coup as other tribal men played key roles both in planning and execution of the ill-fated coup. It has become an axiom in Nigeria that the only bad coup is a failed coup.
It is the time for all Nigerians of goodwill and faith to team up and let the Igbo know that they equally have a stake in the destiny of this nation, for fairness, equity and justice, to reign. It is finally the turn of the Southeast.
Otuchikere, can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org