African viewpoint: Prophesying the truth?

A man in Malawi reads from a bible Prophets are popular in many African countries

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, writer Sola Odunfa explores the rising popularity of prophecy-making.

Some years ago a man knocked on the door of the first-floor apartment of a seemingly lonely elderly woman in the city of Ibadan, about 120km (75 miles) from Lagos.

From the corridor he introduced himself as a prophet - "a messenger of God" is the phrase he used.

That introduction was the magic key.

The woman opened the door and invited the man in the flowing white cassock into her living room.

She was happy - not only to have a companion who was not in a hurry to leave but also to share religious knowledge with an anointed person.

'Divine message'

About an hour into their discussion, the prophet introduced what must have motivated his visit.

He told the woman that he had a divine message for her.

Her first son could die before his 40th birthday, which was about five years away - unless she prayed fervently.

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Where in the civilized world would anyone raise a storm with a prophecy that one prominent politician will die of sickness this year? ”

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The mother was badly shaken.

She went into a prayer session with the man - and at the end she made a handsome financial donation towards his ministry.

Several prayer sessions with the prophet and nearly a month later, she had the courage to tell her son the "prophecy".

She was shocked by his reaction.

"Mama," he told her, "I've warned you against all these crooks who introduce themselves to you as prophets and end up taking your money.

"Next time he comes, tell him I will not only clock 40 but I will also celebrate 70 - and all in good health."

The next weekend, the son went back to his mother's house - and there was the prophet.

The man did not know what fell on him when the young man rushed at him and physically threw him out of the house.

Nigerian women in deep prayer Many Nigerians regulate their lives through miracles and prophecies

Needless to say, that was the prophet's last call there.

I know the story very well - because it happened within my family.

The prophet had made a serious mistake.

He could have milked the woman much longer - if only he had not been so specific in his "prophecy" but rather kept it vague, saying that one of her children may be approached by death.

Anyway, the story ended well - and that young man is planning his 70th birthday party.

I dare say that Nigerians are no strangers to prophets.

Until a few years ago, television stations across the country were filled with their miracles and prophecies of doom.

But a public uproar forced Nigeria's National Broadcasting Commission to ban the broadcasts - under threat of criminal prosecution.

'Sharp Boy'

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If he dies, it is because the prophet said so - and if he doesn't, it was because the prophet's prayers saved him”

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Where in the civilized world would anyone raise a storm with a prophecy that "one prominent politician will die of sickness this year"?

To me such a statement is like those astrology columns in newspapers - harmless fun.

That is my personal opinion.

Those Nigerians who believe in - and regulate their lives with miracles and prophecies - are free to do so.

It is their life - although now they have to leave our national TV stations and go on the internet to shop for their Aids-healing prophets.

One of Africa's more famous - and controversial - "prophet personalities" is Temitope Balogun Joshua, commonly known as as TB Joshua.

The 48-year-old Nigerian is the head of The Synagogue, Church of All Nations, one of the biggest in Lagos, which operates a TV station streamed on the internet.

A recent surge in his popularity, mainly in southern Africa, is said to be because of his February "prophecy" in which he said:

The coffin of President Bingu wa Mutharika Did TB Joshua prophesy the death of Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika?

"We should pray for one African head of state - president - against sickness that will likely take life.

"It is a sickness for a long time - being kept in the body for a long time.

"God showed me the country and the place but I am not here to say anything like that.

"I am still praying to God to deliver the president concerned."

How clever. And deliberately vague. There is no name, no country - so it cannot be wrong.

There were at least six ageing leaders, not counting Nelson Mandela.

Surely at least one of them was likely to die naturally.

If he died, it was because the prophet said so - and if he did not, it was because the prophet's prayers saved him.

In Lagos, we call a person who would make such a prophecy, "Sharp Boy".

If you would like to comment on Sola Odunfa's latest column, please use the form below.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    U can guess or permutate about sickening African presidents but u can't guess the exact date. TB Joshua did mention dat d president concerned wud die on Thursday, mentioning d exact date. Shola, how about Zambia's triumph at d AFCON? He permutated too..Super Eagles non-qualificatn wen he said dat d country that score 1st will carry d day, he guessed too. I think ur immaginatn is deluding u, Shola.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    God is the judge of all,critising T B Joshua is not the best, he is the best among other prophets and pastors i have heard of,i am not in Nigeria and i have not been to his church but his Godly works speaks for itself,i do watch emmanuel T V,he uses what he got to help the poor without going for fleet of jets like others.A prophet is not known in his country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Performing Miracles does not qualify a man to be "Man of God" else astrologers, palm readers and psychics will be Men of God! In Nigeria we have a lot of "fake" prophets and Miracle workers, telling lies and doing Tricks all in the name of Prophecy & Miracles. As much as you will hate to hear this, T.B Joshua is one of the many tricksters we have in Nigeria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    .. this is a junk publication, baseless and demonic. a cloak in Nigeria's wheel of progress,instead of re branding Nigeria's name,you a rubbishing t. I pray u change 4 better, possibly u go 4 deliverance. let m tell Nigerians one thing; CAN shd ensue Love within her organisation, carry along all churches including SCOAN and Christ Embassy, collective prayers to save Nigeria frm bh,God must ans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Russell Grant would be a god there, like a camper C3P0

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    If they're not charlatans, they're insane.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Isn't is funny seeing how some people try to defend these charlatan acts? For TB Joshua, surely, if he was that visionary, he ought to have known better than to contest and lose Nigeria's last election as a VP candidate. Asian Tigers (inc China) do not waste their time with miracle pastors / casting out evil spirits. If Africa is to lift millions out of poverty, it needs fewer 'miracle workers'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Sola Odunfa, why not tell people about the numerous good works that God is doing using prophet tb joshua at synagogue church of all nations lagos nigeria. it will be better for if u, if u stop blaspheming against the spirit of God working in him. but thank God today for that brought tb joshua's ministry out of all ur name calling & destructive remarks. guys join us at (

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Luke 13:28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Sola Odunfa, i dont know if you are a christian or not. but whatever take the holy bible and read it carefuly under the influence of the holy spirit, you will believe with me that TB Joshua is indeed genuine man of God then you will start telling people about the comfirmed prophecies like the death of Diana of london, kim jong-il,Lech Kaczynski & the charity work, stop fighting God but glorify him

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Sola Odunfa, i think it's high time you hands up the annointed servant of God prophet TB Joshua because you are not doing your self any good ok. you have wage this media war against the man of God for over 25yrs with out any benefit as you can see the more you try to pull him down, the more God lifts him high

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    The ignorance of the likes of Foutadjallon- #1 never ceases to amaze! According to his myopic views, you have to be a Nigerian to be a fraudster. Thank goodness for fora such as this. It allows everyone to see how shallow your views are!

    Man up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    As my friend Dela says, perhaps these prophets can "predict" which African country is going to strike oil or gold next so we can move there ahead of everyone. We will make large donations to their church

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Trading in God's name.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I am worried! Christianity is now being marketed like a profit making product. In my country Zimbabwe, to be a prophet is like being in a lucrative industry. I agree there are few genuine prophets out there, but for the majority it is a matter of Prophets and Profits. I think proceeds from prophecy must be taxed for the betterment of all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    If people could really predict the future/heal the sick, they would be being used by governments.

    So obviously a fraud.

    And even countries like the USA have them. Just think TV evangelism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Stop being ridiculous (@foutadjallon). Since when has being Nigerian = being a 'fraudster'? Your ethnocentric ideals do not negate the fact that people- yes, even in the Western world, that face $ hardships commit crimes. Further,(@Lemog) should I remind you of the Salem witch trials, Waco, Texas, and the many other cults that practice much worse? Point is: Liars are everywhere- not only Africa!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    "These people are harmless"
    "These things don't happen in the civilized world"
    Did he forget the pastor in the US that predicted twice the end of the world last year? How many people went broke because thinking their lives were ending gave away everything?
    Do we have to consider gullibility a weakness or something that deserves to be exploited and punished?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    They are divinely inspired. God in this instance could be money. nothing
    wrong. More ethical than to murder some one in the street or enslave and wipe out entire people and nations. L.Ron Hubbard said," If you really want to make money start your own religion".

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I am not African; so please pardon any cultural mistakes that I may make.
    I believe that Africans have always been deeply spiritual, which I believe results from their closeness to Mother Nature. So, they were easy targets for Christian proselytization, & now for charlatan profiteers. Africa must try not to drift because Africa was right in first place: Nature is God; God is nature. All is one.


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