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What’s behind Affrica’s alarming rise in fake prophets?



What’s behind Affrica’s alarming rise in fake prophets? 45



Sapeiman is a regular African tropical settlement. The wind is cosy, land fertile and inhabitants extremely naive. Without the usual buzz of the urban centres, the lifestyle there is modest. You could literally walk the streets naked, unharmed every time, all day. Despite the obvious lack of basic amenities, they live with contempt.

Poverty dwells among them. It has room in every home. Agriculture is the only means of recovering their space from an unwanted visitor. Hence they scrape the barrels to make a living. The natives till the soil day and night. Others take to the marines. While those allergic to both habitats, find solace in the wildlife.

Sapeiman is just a few kilometres on the outskirts of Nsawam in Ghana’s Eastern region. It parasites their big neighbours for market space, health care and education. Still, this diminutive ghost village is a tourist destination for nomads from far beyond the old Gold Coast. Not for its ancient landscape. Certainly not the rich culture and probity. But for a certain witch-doctor.

Whenever Sapeiman, by extension Nsawam is mentioned, Nana Kwaku Bonsam immediately jumps out. He is similar to the biblical tale of Jesus Christ who was inseparable from his birthplace, Nazareth. The much-dreaded Bonsam is famed for his shrine, spiritual deeds and extravagant lifestyle in the poverty-stricken settlement.

Bonsam is backed by certain mythical powers. He calls his god ‘Kofi-Kofi’. Top African leaders, influential businessmen and self-acclaimed clergymen are his major clients. The fetish priests once bragged that no fewer than 1700 “men of God” from different parts of Africa have approached him for powers to perform miracles as well as prophesy.

As revealed by Ghanaian media, part of his rituals, he hangs a cat alive and slaughters several fowls, white dove, pigeons and goats. He then spills the blood on his god. The inner shrine is packed with several other gods and cartons of talcum powder, bibles, razor-sharp machetes hung around the room, a rifle, golden rings, money, padlocks, calabashes and many other items which are veiled.

“I’m a fetish priest; a powerful one of course, and I use my powers to heal the sick, help people who want to travel abroad, help traders get better sales, protect people from fraudsters, disempower witches and wizards or help people who have one problem or the other,“ he bragged.

“I give powers to perform miracles to a lot of pastors. Currently, I have over 1,700 and something pastors; I might need to look into my register for the figure. When they come to me I give golden rings to some of them after taking them through a ritual bath. I give them the ring and a Bible and the power I want them to get is what I put in the ring.

“I give some the power to heal, others to see into the future and or the past, or do anything I want them to do. It helps their churches get more members who always want to see signs and wonders. I am only against those false pastors who have come to me for powers and yet are not keeping their mouths shut but rather making provocative statements.”

The attractive Nigerian market for false prophets

Nigeria is ranked the world’s 24th most religious nation by World Atlas. With almost 100 million, the West African nation has the sixth-most Christian population behind the United States, Brazil, Russia, Mexico and the Philippines. It’s unmatched on the continent. The Nigerian Christian population outnumbers Ghana, Serra Leone, Gambia and Liberia combined.

This perhaps explains the alarming surge in the number of worship centres across the country. Nigeria has the highest number of churches, with approximately 200,000 different religious gatherings. You can barely thrust a cat without hitting one, especially in the South. Port Harcourt and Aba, in particular.

Judging by the huge market, it won’t be a surprise that over 50 per cent of Bonsam clients were Nigerians. Others, who aren’t, still practise their craft in the country. The aforementioned cities used to be the target. Nowadays, it’s the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

By their fruits, you shall know them – Matthew 7:16

Abuja is the new hub for these false teachers. They come with the aim to penetrate into the city centre after some time in in the suburbs. Due to the rigours in land ownership, some settle for mushroom hotels and event centres. All they are after is an exotic lifestyle.

They lead their congregation to believe that God wants them to be happy and wealthy. Some teachers even take it further, and declare that if a Christian isn’t financially rich or isn’t emotionally and relationally prosperous, they just “aren’t praying hard enough” or “need to increase their giving”.

They don’t like to offend anyone, so they gloss over sin in order to keep their fans happy. They often do this by stating a particular controversial sin such as homosexuality, fornication, adultery, gluttony or greed isn’t a sin after all, so there’s no need to worry or change. They don’t realize that by condoning sin, they’re leading their congregation—happy as they might be—straight to hell.

A common coy among these hustlers is false accusations. A man in Gwarinpa narrated how a self-styled prophet and head of a church brought trouble into a once peaceful home: “My family was about the most peaceful until our father died in 2015. Not too long after, my younger brother brought in a woman he chose to call his wife. I am not worried that this woman, who from all indications, is a good example of a woman married by hire purchase, dragged my brother into one of these new testament churches.

“Before I knew what was happening, the prophet of the new church accused us of being largely responsible for his poor economic status. My wife and I were also accused of changing the sex of the babies in his wife’s womb. They bought the prophecy totally and since then, the family has never known peace.”

There is also a general overseer of a church along Kubwa axis who invites all manner of sick persons to his church for prayers and claims to have powers of healing. But when he took ill, he quickly rushed to South Africa for treatment.

Just recently, the timely intervention of operatives of Niger State Vigilante Service saved 28-year old Blessing Okechukwu who claimed to be a pastor. He would have been summarily lynched by angry mob for wreaking havoc in a family.

Okechukwu, a native of Mgboko in Obingwa local government area of Abia state, claimed to be superintending over Divine Church located in Suleja. He had allegedly gone to Zuba on a “deliverance mission.” The trip turned sour when he tried to outwit his host family but was caught in the act.

Stories had it that the self-styled pastor went to the Agomuo family home to remove “an evil charm” he claimed was buried in one corner of the compound, but ended up trying to plant a charm in the hole he and his accomplices had dug.

In the course of digging the hole, the fake pastor smartly brought out a padlock carefully wrapped in a piece of cloth from his pocket and threw it into the hole he and his fake prayer warriors had painstakingly dug with clinical finesse. His game plan was that he would carefully bring out “the exhibit” after muttering some incantations.

Nemesis, however, caught up with him as unknown to the fake pastor, a member of the family, Engr. Chinedu Agomuo, was watching the “religious drama” as it unfolded, while other members of the family were engrossed in the anticipated outcome of the deliverance.

Chinedu was said to be one man that is not very pleased with the antics of new testament pastors and prophets. As soon as the fake pastor had dropped the padlock, Chinedu quickly disrupted proceedings.

The confrontation started as a slow-motion picture but later gathered speed. Voices were angrily raised and when the fake pastor realized that his game was up, he capitulated and brought out the padlock he had wrapped carefully. The singing and speaking in tongues stopped abruptly.

According to Engr. Agomuo, the fake pastor would have succeeded in creating a serious crisis in the family if not for his vigilance.

“The fake pastor would have possibly ended up accusing a member of the family of burying the alleged charm. This would have instigated the family members against each other and permanently created a gulf amongst brothers,” Engr. Agomuo fumed.

One around Nyanya axis ran out of luck after paying a man to pose as a dead man in a coffin with the bid of raising him from the dead.

Some even bring entertainers to their place of worship in order to attract a mammoth crowd who will, in turn, sow mightily after their displays. These false prophets have several rehearsed methods of cajoling their members.

These kind are everywhere, be watchful.