Prophecies, prophets and nation-building

Tony Afejuku

(A speech delivered on Saturday, 24 February, 2018 on the occasion of the ‘’Fourth Theophilus Oluwasanu Olabayo Colloquium 2018’’ at The Evangelical Church of Yaweh, Maryland, Lagos)

When you habitually make a strong impression on people’s minds they always want you around them. I believe that this is the reason why I am being invited to speak on this occasion of the “Fourth Theophilus Oluwasanu Olabayo Colloquium 2018.” But I must amend my opening sentence. Primate Olabayo has habitually made a strong impression on my mind hence I always want to be around him and his congregation anytime I have the time. Even when I don’t have the time, I try to carve out a piece of it (as on this occasion) to fire my way to his dazzling spiritual presence. Clearly, what I understand myself to be saying or doing is this: I am giving due regard to the code of this occasion by expressing my gratitude to Primate Olabayo for inspiring me to be here again at the headquarters of the Evangelical Church of Yahweh, Maryland, Lagos. I also express my gratitude to the organizers of the colloquium, who have found me an extremely important speaker to speak on the theme of “Prophecies, Prophets and Nation-building.”

This topic is a dazzling one. In fact, it is as dazzling as the dazzling Prophet Olabayo. Thus I wish to dwell on it with pleasure. But I have one regret: I am not on the shore of a fine river or stream on which the brightness of morning dazzles my imagination, and transports it to a mountain-top where it can capture collections of pictures of prophecies relating to our dear country. Only Prophet Olabayo in his “Taborah” can do as I desire here.

Now let me earnestly impose myself on my topic without any absurd hint at introductory quibbles or theoretical quiddities or speculative haecceities. Prophecy is a spiritual art which we can look at from different ways. If one is in touch, through their books, with outstanding literary or creative personalities such as William Blake (of England) Mohandas K. Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore (both of India), our own Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, JP Clark and Christopher Okigbo, and Ayi Kwei Armah (of Ghana) one will accept their insights as spiritual prophecies rather than as literary creations. In their respective books and works these outstanding literary personages prophesied the fates and destinies of their nations and of their countries. In Achebe’s novel A Man of the People, for instance, the novelist prophesied the first (1966 January) military coup in our country. Christopher Okigbo also offered almost the same prophecy in his great poem “Path of Thunder” of Labyrinths. Of course, Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, his highly prophetic novel about his country, Ghana (and other pertinently morally and spiritually rotten African countries of the nineteen sixties) is still as relevant today as it was then in the nineteen sixties and beyond. In all the cited writers’ works, various incidents were foreshadowing of what would happen later on in their countries (and elsewhere). Indeed, JP Clark’s America, Their America, first published in the early nineteen sixties, precisely in 1964, foreshadowed American Trump-ism of the current time. And Wole Soyinka, in his prison notes, The Man Died, released to the public in the early nineteen seventies, prophesied a Third Force which ex-president Obasanjo and his fellow like-minded political ex-rulers are currently miscopying to achieve a hidden agenda not in conformity with Soyinka’s (or mine as captured in a Guardian interview I granted a couple of years back). Unfortunately, indeed, the respective political leaders never heeded our writers’ prophecies or presciences probably because the writers were not and never acknowledged as conventional religious prophets. Their literary creations were seen as mere works of artistic contemplation devoid of the moral and spiritual authority of the likes of Prophet Olabayo and company. Clearly, many political leaders did not even bother to read the works of the writers whose writings would have enlightened the political leaders to consider rightly and objectively the problems confronting them and their countries.

It is even more astonishing that the political leaders and their myriad of followers don’t heed the warnings and admonitions handed down to them time after time as prophecies by conventional prophets of the Most High. Dapo F. Asaju’s Olabayo: Life and Ministry of an African Prophet is a significant book every Nigerian Christian and non-Christian should possess and read. It will enlighten the growing numbers of readers in our country whom Prophet Olabayo holds under his sway. In reading the book the reader will know Olabayo better and be close to the prophet’s best insights into how prophecies can mold, shape and prosper nations. In fact, political leaders in Nigeria and elsewhere should read the book in which the author sets forth with clarity and persuasiveness to illustrate the immense contribution of Prophet Olabayo to “Christian evangelism, national stability and the good of mankind, through the medium of Christian prophetic ministry.”

I have, because I am myriad-minded, been following prophecies of Nigerian prophets (including metaphysicians such as the late Dr. Gabriel Okonzua) for a pretty long time. Primate Olabayo strikes me as the glamorously prominent prophetic admonisher-in-chief. He is also the illustrious prophetic lasher-in-chief and the indisputable courageous enfant terrible of our polity – religion-wise. Latter-day enfants terribles such as Reverend Father Mbaka, the Enugu State-based Catholic prophet, for instance, pervade the land. But none of them seems to have buckets of guts that Olabayo has. All it takes to have buckets of guts is courage. And Olabayo has genuine courage that is divine, which is to say, divine courage that makes it hard for both military and civilian leaders of our country to haunt him over the years. They never doubted his prophesies meant to steer our country to the promised land in spite of their self-seeking political and economic calculations.

As I deliver this speech I cannot but recall Primate Olabayo’s prophecy when the current pity-less regime came into power. I related part of the prophecy in my Nigerian Tribune column of Monday, 7 December, 2015:
“In the mighty name of the one and only Lord, in the mighty name of Jesus and as revealed to me to say, I speak thus: Nigerians should prepare for worse days than now. We have seen nothing yet. We must pray: suffering, poverty and famine are on the way. They are here. This regime is not the regime to make Nigerians smile…. Nigerians will soon be trekking stretches of miles. And many and many people will abandon their vehicles as petroleum problem eases and escalates. And people will withdraw their children and wards from school …. There shall be visible hunger in the land, I mean real hunger, and there shall be sicknesses and diseases resulting from the pains caused by this regime…. I say it loud and clear: Buhari is not the messiah. He is sitting on a keg of gun-powder. We have seen nothing yet.”

With what we are witnessing so far who will still consciously doubt our patriotic prophet in our dream and yearning for progressive nationhood? But I must end this enterprise by quoting myself:

“May this writing not cause you a resentment that is motivated by loyalty to the dupes of change, who dupe change that is keen on change, the change that will change significantly everybody’s life for the better and glory of our beloved country currently bleeding.’’

Our damned presidencinologists will spurn this charge ad nauseam, and to their peril. Yet we must let them know that prophets of the Lord are as useful to the building and development of a nation as professors, medical doctors, teachers, scientists, technologists, engineers, journalists, soldiers, lawyers, carpenters, drivers, street-sweepers and gardeners are. Our prophets are among those in the forefront to bring about moral and spiritual change in our country, our own lives and communities.

But a poser for Prophet Olabayo: When will come our messiah and redeemer to re-build our nation in conformity with God’s destiny for our nation? When will the Primate lead other prophets of the same divine mind to give us our divine destiny? These are not baffling or insoluble questions.

Thank you for your rapt attention.

* Afejuku, a poetical writer, is a radical Professor of English and Literature and Creative Writing, University of Benin, Benin City.

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