In an exclusive interview granted the Saturday Newswatch last weekend, the founder and presiding priest of the Evangelical Church of Yahweh Primate Theophilus Olabayo unveiled key components of his predictions aka prophecies for 2014. The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English as “a statement that something will happen in the future, especially one made by someone with religious or magic powers” – is still treated by a good majority of people with considerable awe and trembling.
So what’s so significant about the prophecies of one man of cloth? The answer can be found in the awe and respect with which many of his admirers treat Primate Olabayo’s media-hyped annual predictions. In a Hobbesian state such as Nigeria where life is fast and furious and gruesome an overarching quest for some form of assured stability has seen hard-pressed citizens make a beeline for religious houses and traditional oracles.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t many – even in Christendom – who believe that the age of prophecy has expired. Stretched to its logical end, it would seem that members of this school of thought would agree with English medical doctor and writer Thomas Fuller that prophecies are largely the products of logical deduction. “He that would know what shall be,” intoned Fuller, “must consider what has been been.” What this means is that astute public affairs analysts and savvy commentators have been known to aspire to be called prophets simply because they seemed to be spot-on with their predictions!
Both 18th century English writer and historian Horace Walpole and one-time British Prime Minister Winston Churchill even added a humorous and cynical dimension to the argument. Walpole held that “Prognostics do not always prove prophecies – at least the wisest prophets make sure of the events first,” while the irrepressible Churchill quipped that “I always avoid prophesying beforehand, because it is a much better policy (and far safer!) to prophesy after the event has already taken place.” But then if the event has already occurred it no longer qualifies for a prophecy going by its definition.
Those who believe in prophecies aver that they represent a vital aperture through which the plans and agendas of God for mankind can be accessed via chosen vessels called prophets. Being a somewhat religious nation there is no doubt that if it were possible to take a census today those who share this view will constitute an overwhelming majority.
The nation was embroiled in a feeding frenzy in 1983 when the same Primate Olabayo prophesied that the name of the candidate pre-ordained to win the 1983 presidential election in the Second Republic was written in the Bible – not even adherents of other faiths were spared! When it turned out that the name listed was ‘Shamgar,’ it generated all kinds of reactions of apocalyptic proportions. Chieftains of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) gleefully reminded anyone within shouting distance that the only candidate whose name was closest to the highly coveted ‘Shamgar’ was Shagari.
The mood in opposition party camps was one of despondency and forlorn hope. In a bid to revive the spirits of their supporters and take the bite out of Olabayo’s prophecy, the campaign offices of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) issued press releases informing Nigerians that the baptismal names of their principals – Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Rt. Hon. Nnamdi Azikiwe – were Jeremiah and Benjamin respectively and that these names were equally to be found in the Bible! But the key question was whether other names besides ‘Shamgar’ were to be found in the referenced Judges 3:31 (and 5:6). The only person who could clear the air and douse the burgeoning tension was Olabayo himself, but he declined to do so when contacted by journalists, saying instead that “On the Book of Judges I stand”!
Prophecies Olabayo outlined in his 2014 Book of Prophecies include the following: Bamanga Tukur will be eased out as PDP chairman and given an international assignment; a failed attempt to impeach President Goodluck Jonathan; worse type of terrorism imminent (even as Jonathan is reassuring the nation that Boko Haram will soon be a thing of the past); emergence of a northerner as president should elections hold as scheduled in 2015; abortive attempt to kidnap a South-west governor; creation of state police; flood of the highest order; mass defection to the All Peoples Congress (APC); and death of two prominent obas.
Olabayo also warned that Jonathan can only insist on contesting the 2015 presidential election at the risk of losing his life. He went as far as advising the president to “mellow down so that he will not be made a sacrificial lamb…(and should) be prayerful to survive between now and 2015.” Olabayo equally warned the PDP against rigging the coming elections. “PDP think they have a joker (federal might?) but that joker will fail them. If they attempt to rig this (2015) election there will be anarchy in the country.” Not yet done, Olabayo claimed that corruption has so eaten deeply into the nation’s fabric that God is now set to judge the political elite. “An angel of God is going to cleanse the nation once and for all… (and those adjudged guilty) will either be dead or end up in prison.”
To underscore the point that he is a prophet of no mean order, Olabayo reeled off several prophecies he claimed to have been fulfilled. They included the deaths of Nelson Mandela, Prof. Chinua Achebe and Chief Bola Ige, as well as the Arab Spring Uprising. I, however, stand to be corrected if I am wrong, but isn’t it the same Olabayo who prophesied the electoral victory of then-Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 US presidential election, only to start mumbling about unintended interpretation of the signs when then-Texas Governor George W. Bush emerged the winner?
I also equally the prophecy of a ‘fiery’ pentecostal pastor to the effect that then-President Olusegun Obasanjo would not only succeed in his re-election bid, but also would die prematurely in office! Such ‘misfired prophecies’ are certainly going to provide considerable solace to Jonathan’s camp to sneer at Olabayo’s latest prophecies, more so when there are a million and one other ‘prophets’ willing and eager to furnish counter prophecies that constitute sweet music to the president’s ears!
What it all boils down to is how the various prophecies ultimately play out. “Study prophecies,” 17th century English writer and scholar Sir Thomas Browne advised, “when they are become histories.” By my position in the body of Christ, I never comment one way or another when someone says God has spoken to him because I wasn’t there when it supposedly took place. But the fulfilment of all prophecies is the hallmark of a genuine prophet.
And the Bible is replete with God’s harsh words and punishment for “foolish prophets who follow their own hearts and have seen nothing and yet claim to have been sent by me” (see Jeremiah 14:14-16 and Ezekiel 13:1-16, among many scriptures). We shall not have to wait too long because 2015 is just around the corner.
The roundtable with Tiko Emmanuel Okoye, firstname.lastname@example.org 0805-410-3468 (sms only)