Nigerians are said to be amongst the most religious in the world, it is therefore no surprise that the RELIGION INDUSTRY is about the most widespread here, with little or no regulation of their activities whatsoever (not like there’s anything that can be done about it, except there’s evidence of criminal activity involved, with witnesses willing to testify), while the founders, pastors, general overseers make a killing from the numerous untaxed contributions that accrue to them via the church businesses over which they superintendent. The trend amongst Christians has also been copied by their Muslim as well as Jewish counterparts, nay even the traditionalists and practitioners and followers/”seekers” of Eastern religions and sects, with opulent worship centres and the extravagant lifestyle of clergy of the religious organizations and sects.
A growing number of clergy have now ventured into what seems the most profitable of the arms under which they could minister- the PROPHETIC MINISTRY. It is not by accident that Prophets and Prophetesses have become an ever growing number in Nigeria’s religious sector seeing that the country possesses the sine qua non for such to germinate, being a very religious space plagued by ills ranging from the physical to spiritual to socioeconomic, even to the superstitious, cutting across all strata of society regardless of level of exposure, education, enlightenment and/or wealth.
Before the advent of the Abrahamic religions (and Eastern religions and sects much later) to Nigeria, diviners and soothsayers held sway, and they still do to some extent. It would appear that much of what was obtainable back then, as at now, is what has been copied by most of todays’ prophets and prophetesses, with many sourcing their gift and power of divination from the aboriginal but crediting foreign gods with and for their prowess. Even the holy books of the imported religions tell of false prophets passing off as genuine ones with consequences of their actions written for the edification of the adherents of the religions or faiths.
The proliferation of prophet(esse)s has made it difficult to tell the genuine from the charlatans, especially as there seem to be no let up in the legion of Nigerians requiring their services to surmount one problem/challenge or the other. The lack of understanding about what bad times/evil days/adverse conditions presupposes, meeting with the main tool (FEAR MONGERING) at the disposal of those who claim to have the power to foretell the future (for which the hoodwinked are held captive) makes the union one that is difficult to break, as most (wo)men wish to as much as possible live a meaningfully prolonged life, devoid of “evil days” if they can help it.
It is not unexpected that we find this situation in societies like Nigeria, where the dead are hardly ever thought to have died by natural causes, even when the deceased was very old and had translated to the great beyond while sleeping. Evil days or Adverse periods are interpreted as attacks and never as something as natural as with “night” following day (Good times) and vice versa. The fear that someone, an enemy is responsible for the ills that befalls the person is usually at the root of the helter-skelter that many have found themselves in today. The more reasonable ones, may even consider that the enemies aren’t humans but spirits, and even if “man” acts out against the one, he must have been compelled to do so by the malevolent spirit possessing his/her soul, so they respond by attacking the malevolent spirit in ways they deem the most effective. Others postulate that the enemy is the man or woman they suspect in having a hand in their misfortune, and for many who live in the city, they would usually suspect that this enemy is located in their ancestral homes in the village or some obscure location they had once lived or even their next door neighbour, and this does not preclude the wealthy, as even they can be sold to such beliefs and are great spenders when it comes to perfecting their acts to demobilize the “darts” from perceived foes. To be fair on some people, such thoughts were not what they grew up with, but by associating with prophets or fearful people who then take them to charlatans, had come to live that fearful life, of always looking behind their shoulder because of some “word of prophecy” spoken into their lives. Some of these prophets tell them that the origin of most if not “all” of their misfortunes is from their homes, some even go as far as mentioning very close family members as the mother, father or siblings of the one who had come to seek help and enquire of the way forward.
It is true that the way of men is wicked, the thoughts of men, who can even decipher? But the fact is that most times, it is in the best interest of the charlatans parading themselves as prophets that people under their spell be suspicious of everything, if they must remain in business. To the hoodwinked, after their encounter with this lot, only a few things will pass their suspicious gaze without question. A bird, like a Crow cannot be black for no just cause, worse still when it comes to perch on a tree branch by their window, old women are automatically witches (and in many places have paid the ultimate price, for having the “luck” to live long enough as to be appear withered and unkempt, and buried all or some of their children), all cats are witches in animal form, and cockroaches scaling the wall at about the time they are about to open their door smirks of something sinister, requiring the invocation of “Fire” of the “Holy Ghost” to destroy or consume, when the one can easily knockoff the pest if (s)he’s not a fan and ensure the surroundings are kept clean henceforth to forestall the embarrassments roaches cause when in company of friends on a visit, amongst others.
Most Nigerians rather than go to the hospital to have their health conditions diagnosed and treated opt to see prophets for succour to their ailments, and I have seen a few Nollywood movies, especially of the Yoruba arm (National Association of Theatre Arts Practitioners, NANTAP as they are known by), where even medical doctors are portrayed as asking patients whose medical conditions were said to have been found to “defy” medical solutions, to seek the help of unorthodox healers (which may not be too bad, as even the Chinese healing art isn’t orthodox but works wonders, and is well documented, but the African traditional healing art, apart from being largely undocumented involves invocation of spirits and all whatnot to make potions “effective” and efficacious), or visit prophets who can help them find the origin of their ailment.
Many are the troubles of a (wo)man, but usually for any particular time, there is one that overshadows all, for instance most women in Nigeria want to get married and it becomes problematic if they can’t find a man to marry them as the proverbial “biological clock” continues to tick, and they either continue to reduce their age or keep it static every year during their birthday celebrations; or they are able to get married either early or later but are finding it difficult to conceive, or the man after studying couldn’t get a job, or couldn’t father a child with his wife, or couldn’t make a headway financially, or become sickly with chronic illnesses like a stroke following from improperly managed High Blood Pressure, or seeking visas at foreign embassies to migrate from the hell that most Africans consider their countries to the “promised land” that’s the west etc. Some who are pregnant go into a fit because they had just been told that they can only go through a caesarean section to have their baby and they be like that is a one way ticket to the great beyond, and begin to seek help, spiritual and temporal, against medical advice not to attempt to have the baby via natural means (for which some have come to harm, sometimes leading to loss of lives, either of the mother, the baby or both during or after delivery, in places like churches or with Traditional Birth Attendants, TBA’s); or people afflicted with cancers diagnosed in the hospitals but refusing further treatment after their prophet or prophetess confirmed that it is an “attack from home” and providing them alternatives by offering prayers, fasting (even when it isn’t medically advisable to so do) and the use of so called “elements” to help rid them of their scourge.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that there is a place for the spiritual in everyone’s life. It is important that people be encouraged to find such spiritual paths, and develop personal relationships with their MAKER. Most times prophets claim they act as intermediaries between men and their God, but on careful observation one will find that they do the exact opposite, by not only separating and distancing both sides but in fact constituting themselves as THE GULF or “hedge” between the two, because of what they stand to gain, which most times is financial, amongst other perks. Only a few of them are willing to dispense the truth which many of their “clients” (who pay a one-off registration and per-visit consultation fees in some cases to see the prophet/prophetess/soothsayer) wouldn’t even want to hear in the first place, sometimes when they do they conjure it with a “Fear Factor”, which they will then claim they have powers to upturn.
It would have been better if the activities of these prophets end just with praying for their clients, even if it also includes preparing potions that contain substances that may be poisonous and injurious to the body system, at least many of that could be taken care of by the body, or in worst cases the victim may be taken to the hospital for detoxification, and may then learn never to entrust his/her life to the care of such people, but many times they go further to make these unsuspecting help-seekers go through some of the basest indignities in their quest to “aid” their clients, citing passages and examples in the holy books or elsewhere, and where some of these don’t even exist, explain them away as analogies. Most times the ones who seek these help are women, and the tales have been all but nice since they have been falling into these traps leading to a destruction of their families and other things they hold dear, when news of what they did to get what they wanted got out. Even our film industries portray some of these events, as with the priest/prophet/diviner bathing a
woman in all her naked glory at night beside a stream in a remote village or outside of cities, to even video leaks of women who in their search for a child have sex with so called prophets while chanting words of prayer between ecstatic moans, to situations where they were actually raped. Even men are not left out, as it has become common knowledge that the men responsible for the pregnancies of some mad women roaming the streets had been men who had to fulfill the rite of having intercourse with such mad women as prerequisite to have their financial life turn around for good, and all these and more undignifying acts are performed besides the huge amounts that they part with to the pleasure of the prophets and prophetesses, who may continue to milk them at will because of the information they possess and can use to blackmail their victims should there be a falling apart. Unlike the prophets you will find in the religious books living austere lives, these ones live lives of affluence, while concocting newer and ever deprecating methods to put down their fellow man just so their source of income suffer no leak or downtime, in their quest to replace their oracle status to that of a God.
If their activities are even limited to individual clients, maybe it wouldn’t be much of a source of worry, but they then extend it beyond that. Interestingly, most are “prophets of doom”, preying not just on the “fear” of a few individuals, but that of countries, targeting mainly the rich that haven’t decided to look their way, always quick to add to their CV prophecies of theirs which have come to pass when the subjects they ministered to failed to heed their warning (even somewhat, celebrating the deaths of presidents and leaders of and in countries which they had predicted by playing back tapes of such prophesies made within the confines of their churches in time past). Some even go to the extent of predicting the result of football matches to the delight of pundits and stakers at betting and pool joints, like THE ALMIGHTY could be interested in football, just so they can be seen and known to be able to foretell the future. And should you attend their church for the first time, especially with an air of affluence, you will catch their attention and the prophecies, visions and dreams of that day, not just from the head alone, but also of the “workers in the vineyard” aka “sons and daughters of prophets” will be of you, and any others just like you, for patronage sakes. You will understand this better, if after several visits you become a routine member and turn out to be not as wealthy as they thought, then messages for you will come in trickles as they turn their attention to the new “catch”, though for you, the work will be to rescue you from your doldrums with elongated fasting periods that only you will have to undergo, unlike the wealthy whose “fasts” they will undergo on his/her behalf for a handsome fee.
What they (claim to) see most times is usually an aspect of ones’ life over the huge complexities and intricately woven web that constitutes that person’s life, even if the part they reveal has some truism in it, their ability to convince their clients of the veracity of such claims has tact that even the Oracle at Delphi in ancient Greece can only envy. The fact that they can reveal that one will not die from the HIV/AIDS one has been infected with doesn’t mean the one won’t be hit by a car the next day, and die from injuries sustained from the accident, for instance. Reminds me of the case of the rich man who approached a prophet on what to do to live well into old age, and after the visit banned any travel by air henceforth for him after the prophet told him he could only be killed in a flying object, but died from drowning, after the car he was being chauffeured in skidded off the Third Mainland Bridge into the Lagos lagoon below.
The truth is, if the attitude of people in Nigeria and societies like it, towards bad times or evil days do not change from what it is today, to understanding that as good comes, so does evil, and they are both natural, as two sides of a coin, as Ying and Yang, and they both mould us into the men and women we should be, with the experiences meant to help us in future as we career through lives, prophets and prophetesses and the charlatans (especially commercial prophets) which form a great bulk of them will continue to decide the way many people live their lives, and if you feel you couldn’t be bothered about the activities of FALSE PROPHETS/PROPHETESSES, just hope that someone that is lord over you, as leader or ruler, even of your country isn’t at the end of a string pulled by the likes of these.