Aféfétifé, asìtirífùròadìye transliterated to mean “The wind has blown, we can now see the rump of the hen”. With the successful inauguration of the next administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the coast is clear to name and shame the prophets and nay-sayers who prophesied and foresaw darkness and gloom on this day. Some had even predicted that Peter Obi, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party would be arrested before the inauguration and that Tinubu would not be sworn in. Obi is walking free, and May 29 has come and gone. A new president has been inaugurated, and we are all living witnesses.
This piece is intended to speak truth to all concerned and not to denigrate any individuals or institutions. The showmanship, brinkmanship, parochialism and acts of gangsterism that greeted the 2023 general elections were quite unusual and disturbing. Since the return to civilian rule in 1999, electioneering seasons are often marked with some virulent activities which have become synonymous with electioneering. But 2023 was kind of peculiar. It was good to see increased awareness of youths but then the rascality of some ethnic bigots brought some dangerous dimensions to the election.
The 2023 general elections stood out from all others since 1999. Whereas there were two major contenders in all other elections, this year’s election had three. The results of the elections, as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), are a clear departure from previous ones. Unlike the previous elections where the winner had a landslide, this year’s election results showed a clear departure from the norm. This result had the three major contenders showing strengths and impact across the country.
Religious clerics seem to now have a permanent place during the elections. This is not unexpected. After all, religion plays a powerful role in politics, and the relationship between the two is dynamic. Although Nigeria is a secular state on paper, the governance of all 36 states cannot be separated from the religious views of its people. Governors and their deputies are given religious considerations before they are accepted by the people.
Prior to his inauguration in 1999, a pastor had ‘prophesied’ that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo would die before D-Day. Many had feared that he would die and not become the president. Baba was not only sworn in, but he also completed two terms totalling eight years. Obasanjo is still very much alive today, making a falsehood of that ‘prophecy’.
It is sad that clerics have proliferated prophecies and predictions during elections just as they have continued to raise laziness and false hope among their worshippers. Men and women who should protect the sanctity of the pulpit have commercialised the same with the perfidy of the god of mammon. Today, an institution that prides itself as the city set on a hill has desecrated that status and descended so low to become a cesspit of commercialisation. With the scandals that trail the “men of God”, one cannot but wonder if these men were really of God, or of their belly. It is not surprising that they have become the butt of comedians. “Some of them were not called by God, but they are the ones that called God”, comedians now aver.
As the custodian of theology and divinity in any religious setting, pastors are arguably more important than the pew. The pew looks up to them for what the Lord says. In the polity, pastors are citizens and are entitled to support anyone that they may choose to. But when a cleric gets emotional to the system and uses the pulpit to openly support or go against any political party or candidate, his fatherly role is called to question, as you can be sure that his congregation would have a mix of party faithful. I doubt if there is a church whose members all voted 100% for the same party/candidate. With this, religious houses should desist from electoral shenanigans, and be mindful of the political diversity of their congregation. Anything else outside of this cannot be of God.
Followers of different faiths are first and foremost citizens, who are obligated as legitimate electorates. At the moment, the Nigerian constitution neither forbids the pastor, imam or herbalist from approaching politicians nor politicians from seeking their support. On moral grounds, however, appeals for endorsements must respect the dividing line between faith and flagrant partisanship and avoid the potential schism that may arise from such partisanship.
The commercialisation of prophecy has become merchandise. Sadly, this has done more harm than good to our well-being as a people. And it is fast becoming a permanent feature during election seasons. The bulk of these “prophecies” are mere calculated predictions and projections. Many have become the butt of entertainment and jokes when they turn out fake and untrue.
For sincere children of God, receiving “prophecies” from God is not an issue; it’s the fulfilment, modification or outright cancellation. This can be compared to an iceberg. The dangerous part is not what you see, it’s usually the part beneath the water surface. For a prophecy, the risky part is the response of the receiver of the prophecy and the ultimate decision of the Almighty, which oftentimes is without the consultation of the prophet that earlier delivered the message.
The Bible records persons who received messages from prophets, sought the face of the Almighty, and they were reversed. That may have been the same for some of these prophecies that have “fallen to the ground”. Today, many clerics have become sudden social media sensations with their prophecies about the elections, thereby fueling sentiments and acrimonies towards or against some candidates. Their delivery of God’s message is showmanship. And for some, it is just the ranting of their personal sentiments against certain characters of the political class.
Mixing politics with religion is as volatile as it is dangerous. I found it preposterous and shameful how clerics without restraints openly expressed alliance and disdain for and against candidates during the last elections. For wisdom sake, and for the preservation of their office and the pulpit, ‘men of God’ should maintain neutrality, at least in public. More so, they should minimise unnecessary comments on what no man fully understands. It is no longer news that the virtues of simplicity and honesty are lost on many clerics. While we decry the absence of such virtues among the political class, it is sad to know that our religious leaders are fast falling short of simple morals that define a healthy society.
We live in a society where public officers, including pastors, believe that their actions are beyond public scrutiny. In fact, some of them live with that false impression that they are “special”, hence, above the law. It is shocking how many of them could engage in such blatant insensitivity to the uniqueness of the Nigerian society? If politicians choose to err, must pastors also choose the same path?
Perhaps, it’s high time that religious denominations established their own political party, rather than serving as a branch or unit of the major political parties or popular candidates. Without any significant impact on our humanity and morality, the level of ethnic division and religious incursion is annoying. It is worrisome that the moral fabrics of our society have since been shredded to pieces. The boundary between right and wrong, decency and indecency has been cast to the dogs, and the number of models worthy of emulation is fast decreasing in our county. How sad!
- Adeosun writes from Abuja