Monday, January 27, 2020 4:10 am
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
Predictions, well, some call it prophecies, are not an exact science. Is it an art? Or a spiritual gift? Albert Einstein once said that ‘occurrences in this domain are beyond the reach of exact prediction because of the variety of factors in operation, not because of any lack of order in nature’. Predictions are somewhat fluid, capable of being interpreted and misinterpreted. As a result, some ‘prophets’ easily play politics with prophecies and predictions. In other words, they employ vague expressions that can yield different meanings. But a correct prediction is easily recognised, sometimes in a general sense and sometimes too in a specific sense. Stargazers, crystal ball readers, and ‘prophets’ sometimes play politics with predictions. Some family members are also ‘dangerous dreamers’ because whatever they see in a dream comes true with 100% accuracy. So, when such people have a dream, everyone takes notice. They go into prayers to avert incoming disaster. One of the serious questions in Christendom is whether dreams as a source of revelations come from God. Is the Joseph the dreamer model still extant in the 21st century? In one of my plays, I made a character say: ‘Let the prophet speak; let the poet speak. He whose words come to pass is our prophet!
In Nigeria, as a year comes to an end, all kinds of predictions are thrown into the public space. The two words -prediction and prophecy – are often used as synonyms. While a prophecy is a ‘message that is claimed by a prophet to have been communicated to them by a deity, a prediction is a forecast, not necessarily of divine origins. Closely akin to this is visions, where a person gets a revelation through some means. Some pastors, self-styled prophets and so-called men of God often have afield day giving prophecies of doom. There was once a Professor Okunzua who made predictions about the new year. What about Prophet Olabayo? Some will argue that heavenly forces reveal things to them. Yet we know that sometimes some study the physical world – politics, elections, capability of teams – to make a prediction. Politicians and powerful people, sometimes out of desperation, often want to know their future; so, they consult some of these so-called men of God. Not to disappoint the ‘powerful’ men, they volunteer stuff.
‘A prominent politician from Lagbaja State will die! A very safe ‘prophecy’, if you ask me! Or, ‘there will be an earthquake in one of the Southern States’. Or, ‘a senior judge from Mumu State should watch his health! Or, ‘the value of the naira will appreciate’. Yet another could be ‘Biafra will go without a shot being fired’. Often, by the time the new year comes to an end, Nigerians would have forgotten whatever predictions were made. And some charlatans return to the public arena to make more ‘prophecies! Our memory is short. We forgive monsters of the public space all too easily. Else, some of those clowns who made failed ‘prophecies’ the year before should not show their faces at all in the new year!
The character of Macbeth in Shakespeare’s eponymous drama centres on witches and the power of predictions and how a prophecy unleashed the evil ambitions of an otherwise great General. Another major Shakespearean character Julius Caesar had no respect for predictions, though he lost his life in the process. When Saul in the bible fell from God’s favour he went to the witch of Endor in order to see into things and was finally banished from positive forces. Ronald Reagan 40th President of America also got entangled with predictions. Joan Beck observed that ‘the most powerful man (Reagan) in the world was constantly manipulated by an opinionated astrologer through his anxiety-prone wife for most of his two terms as president’. Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada who served as president of that country from 1971 to 1979 patronised witches and wizards. President Museveni also practised witchcraft during ‘the liberation struggle’. In his days as Head of State, General Sanni Abacha made use of marabout to see into things and guarantee security. Reuben Abati once alluded to the practice of burying live cows in Aso Rock by staffers at the presidency! Powerful people are often powerless when it comes to the art of predictions! Ricard Branson observes that on one of his last days in school, ‘the headmaster said I would either end up in prison or become a millionaire. That was quite a startling prediction, but in some respects, he was right on both counts!
Being in power creates its own uncertainties, its own fears and worries. The powerful, a powerful man also knows how limited his power is over control of the future. No one who is in power wants to fall or leave in disgrace. So, they seek for voices. Voices apparently from the other world. Voices powerful and potent. Secure from treachery of subordinates and rivals. Secure from imaginary foes too! The powerful man becomes a victim, a prisoner of sorts to witchcraft and superstition. And because these men cannot accurately predict truth all the time, they then begin to use their own machinations to ‘reveal’ things of the future. Often, they are wrong. Some powerful people then employ the services of more than one ‘prophet’ to whom they pay lots of money!
Indeed, when some of these ‘prophets’ make screaming headlines through doomsday prophecies, it is to catch the attention of politicians and big businessmen and powerful people. The prophets thrive on the innate fears of the powerful. They sell a dummy that that which has been foreseen can be averted through burying live cows or slaughtering virgins or sacrificing their beloved ones or some equally spurious requirement. Whether prophecies or predictions, no one can live forever. What will be will be. Some of the things meant for the future cannot be seen by any eyes. If seen they would be dark, incomprehensible. Not everything is revealed.
No one should tie their lives to the predictions of pastors or prophets, whether in Christianity or Islam or any other religion. There are too many scientific methods to help true leaders evaluate the medium term and long-term effects of policy implementation. Predictions are often a guide, not a proclamation. Prophecies given by God always come to pass though. But there are too many false prophets these days who say what God did not tell them. It is true that there are some predictions from other ‘sources of power’ that come true; it is true that some miss the target completely. The import of this is that we should guide our affairs with utmost care and prayer and not depend on the whimsical fancies of some deluded being who parades the power of prophecy! It is for this reason perhaps that Warren Ellis says that ‘I try not to get involved in the business of prediction, it’s a quick way to look like an idiot!