The Reign of The False Prophets 

By Akin Osuntokun 

One of the central contradictions of social life in contemporary Nigeria is the application and applicability of religion. Like many other socioeconomic indices in Nigeria, the utility of religion is observed in the breach rather than the rule. It has increasingly become dysfunctional and perverted. The dysfunction is illustrated in the positive correlation between escalating corruption and religiosity. The more Nigeria becomes corrupt, the greater the nominal increase in the number of adherents of Christianity and Islam. As a matter of fact, religion has become an enabler of corruption in Nigeria. 

Churches and Mosques are implicated in money laundering scams and a significant number of those who ran the banking industry aground some years back were Pastors of the Pentecostal churches. It is a platitude to suggest that corruption has become endemic in this country, and it is often the underlying motif of the relationship between the Nigerian state and the Nigerian public including the intramural relations within the Nigerian public itself. They all culminate in what Emilie Durkeim calls normlessness, a state of anomie. 

When Karl Marx characterised religion as the opium of the masses he was alluding to the capacity of religion to foster sugar-high situational suspension of our thinking faculties and escapism from a tormenting reality, with particular regards to the downtrodden. On the occasions I have attended large gatherings of Pentecostal worshippers I have witnessed the exhibition of robotic behaviours that border on imbecility. For instance, the Pastor makes an altar call that there are ten people here who ‘ritually feast on human blood’ every night. They are then directed to come forward or face dire spiritual consequences if they chose otherwise. In response, thousands of worshippers aimlessly surged forward to answer the call. How does a message directed at a few blood sucking vampires such a multitude of claimants? According to laws of supply and demand, whereever there is a prevalent and perverse demand (for religious attention) of this nature, there are bound to be corresponding demagogues who step in to fill the role vacuum. 

I had another iconic experience. After office hours I was trying to catch a thousand winks in the early evening when my effort was disrupted by thunderous shouts of hallelujah nearby. I was irritated because the din has thwarted my drift into wonderland. Out of curiosity and rather than stay at home pining away, I decided to go and partake of the outreach. I went and got more than what I bargained for. The Pastor was in a foul mood. He quieted the church and burst forth “I’m disappointed that many of you have not donated to the church building fund. Afterall I have been praying for you to make money and you have been making money. On top of it all, some of you have the effrontery to ask me to render an account of what has been collected. If anyone dares to make any such request again, I will slap the person!!! At which point I quietly tip-toed out of the charged gathering. 

There is the category of the loaded conspicuous consumption congregants whose religious commitment does not go beyond the aspiration to whitewash a life of relentless sin, who, in a manner of speaking, seek to bribe God. It is a renewal of the Catholic absolution doctrine (the act of the priest whereby, in the Sacrament of Penance, he frees man from sin) that provoked and preceded the Martin Luther led Protestant Reformation. Within the general maxim of see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil, the dubious front pew privileged plutocrats are exculpated and ‘restored to grace’ under the dispensation of the gospel of prosperity. 

I have searched in vain for the scriptures where God promised untold riches and wealth to genuine believers. Rather than godliness with contentment being great gain (1 Tim. 6:6), this false gospel presents material possessions as our ultimate hope and proof of God’s favour. Matthew 6:21 added “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourself treasures in heaven where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,”

Philippians 4:6-7 elaborates on the legitimate expectations of  Christians “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”. The promise of God in all situations of anxiety and aspirations is clearly stated here as “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding…”, not billions of dollars. In so far as God promises prosperity as the heritage of his children, it was in the context of what Jesus said in John.14 Verses 1 to 6  “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you”.

One of the personifications of Pentecostal Christian impunity and degeneration in Nigeria today who has more than earned the appellation of a false prophet is a certain narcissistic Pastor Chris Oyakhilome. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 says  how can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken”. 

As told in Jeremiah 14 :14 Such prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds’”

‘By definition then, a false prophet is one who presents themselves as speaking on behalf of the Lord, however instead of speaking truth, they speak lies. The false prophet often has the ability to manipulate the thinking of those who are under their control. This is like a drug for the false prophet because it feeds their ego’.

According to Julius Ogunro “The descent of Pastor Chris into the orbit of conspiracy theories began around 2020 with the advent of the pandemic. He became the conduit for the silliest and easily disprovable conspiracies. Such as his claim that the lockdowns in Lagos and Abuja were enforced in order for the government to lay 5G cables. 5G, he asserted, was responsible for the pandemic and not the coronavirus”.

“I told you,’’ Pastor Chris said in a clip played in the programme, “climate change was a hoax, a deception, from A to Z”.“The unrepentant perpetrators want us to believe they are trying to save the planet. They are not trying to save anything, but the plan is to recolonise the world”. “There was never a proof that vaccines ever worked”. It is “an evil agenda that has been long in the making”.He also falsely said that “malaria was never a problem to those in Africa”.

On account of this impunity, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), UK’s broadcasting regulatory authority, has placed a fine of £125,000 on Loveworld Television Network, a station owned by the church overseen by Oyakhilome which featured inaccurate and potentially harmful claims about the Coronavirus.

I made the acquitance and friendship of the late Herbert Wigwe as a regular at the nightly dinner time parley at Aliko Dangote’s residence. The relationship between the two was that of a mentor and protégé. I had also known and struck up friendship with the late Abimbola Ogunbanjo who shared the same tragic fate with Herbert. Thus, for me personally, it was a double barrel attack. On account of which, on hearing the news, my agony was quite acute. 

As a student of comparative religion, I have also grown quite skeptical of the tendentious reality-denying culture of the Pentecostals and evangelicals. I live not far from the City of David parish of the RCCG which had become synonymous with the Iluyomade couple, Pastors Idowu Iluyomade and Sijuade Iluyomade. I’m generally not a fan of ostentatious living which appears to be the signature of the COD parish and so I kept my distance. From what I have read and heard of the couple, especially the wife, their vision of a church is that of a social status symbol. 

Where Pastors flaunt jewellery, sundry costumes and ornaments is not my idea of a place of religious worship, whether it be that of Christianity, buddhism or the temple of Orunmila. It is bad enough that a Pastor will deem it fit to hold a 60th birthday celebration in the loud and lavish jet set manner with which Mrs Iluyomade chose to mark her birthday. It bespeaks of an inner craving and hankering after wordly banality rather than the self-disciplined disposition of a Christian role model. It becomes an outright scandal and disavowal of christian charity to choose to go ahead with the fanfare within weeks of the cruel passage of a church member (including his wife and son) who had been most instrumental to the growth of the parish.

How do we reconcile the Iluyomade behaviour (with the high ranking member of the decalogue) that you should love your neighbour as you love yourself ? I had anticipated a righteous indignation fuelled backlash of massive desertion of the church. If there is anything worse than the profanity of the Iluyomades, it is to be spared a commensurate punishment for their immorality. To the contrary, the membership largely remained intact and thereby pass a vote of confidence on the erring couple regardless of their terrible malfeasance (I have momentarily forgotten that this is Nigeria). 

Alas! Both the leadership and followership of church remained accord. As it is said in 2 Timothy 4:3). “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths”. Nonetheless, If the report making the rounds that Iluyomade had been suspended for three months and repatriated to the Ebute meta parish as Pastor in charge of the elders is true it is a just dessert for a couple who had soughy to redefine christianity as show business. 

Related Articles