By Obadiah Mailafia
Last week, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, raised a lot of eyebrows when he advocated the use of prayers and “spiritual warfare” in the war against terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP). Interestingly enough, “spiritual warfare” was not on the curriculum of the Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA) when cadet Tukur Buratai went there in 1981 as a member of the 29th Regular Combatant Course. And I doubt if it ever featured in the staff college and other prestigious training courses that he might have undergone at home and abroad.
Some of the most important things in life are never taught at Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, Stanford or MIT. No university ever teaches you how to become a great success in life. Same goes for war-making. I spent some of my formative years working on the economics and politics of defence and strategy at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru. I have studied the classics of military warfare from Alexander the Great and Napoleon to Sun Tzu, Carl von Clausewitz, Georgy Zhukov and Erwin Rommel. From ancient to the modern times, spiritual warfare has never been a part of training for the military high command. The fact that such things were never taught, however, does not mean they are never important.
I am a social scientist. I believe in the canonical supremacy of the scientific method. I have studied epistemology and appreciate the intricacies of the philosophy of mind. My intellectual interests cover cosmology and quantum physics. I know that the human mind is a powerful magnet and that human nature is far more complex than we ordinarily imagine. This is probably why some of the greatest scientists and inventors like Sir Isaac Newton, Pierre and Marie Curie, Wolfgang Pauli, Carl Linnaeus, Nikola Tesla and Carl Jung were into occultism. One of the greatest savants of all time, Emmanuel Swedenborg, was also a seer and prophet for whom the world of the spirit was as vivid as daylight.
I have studied the intellectual history of Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Islamic metaphysics. I have studied the Kabbalah and Jewish and Gnostic mysticism, but I am not an occultist. I am a Christian and my spiritual commitments forbid me to dabble in the occult. But it would be foolish to deny that such things exist. An objective and detached scientific mindset would dictate that we simply keep an open mind. The only requirement is that we always insist on rigorous and infallible proofs.
History provides us with ample evidence of the existence and efficacy of spiritual warfare. In the Old Testament Bible, the Red Sea parted while the children of Israel crossed it. But when the Pharaoh’s chariots tried to cross the dry ground, the river reunited and swept them away. This feat could only have been accomplished through spiritual warfare. We also read in Exodus during the war with the Amalekites, Aaron and Hur held up the hand of Moses. Each time they did so, the children of Israel made progress in war; but whenever they stopped, the tide of war changed against Israel.
The survival of the modern state of Israel since 1948 is in itself a miracle. It is a small country of nine million people surrounded by 300 million hostile Arabs. And yet, in all the wars that have been fought since 1948, the Jewish state not only prevailed but also gained more territory. Israel today has the greatest war-making machinery in the Middle East; with some of the most fearsome warlords since the ancient Greek city state of Sparta. They include such legendary names as Meir Har-Zion, Jonathan Yoni Netanyahu, Yigal Allon, Ariel Sharon, Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin and Haim Bar-Lev.
When you read the war memoirs of Israeli commanders, you hear tales of extraordinary events. According to one account, during the 1967 war, angels literally gathered in their millions over an overcast sky. One young Israeli paratrooper recounted an incident when their unit was about to be wiped out by the Arabs. He started reciting Psalms 91. He was the only one that came back to tell the tale.
There is no doubt that the Israeli military-intelligence establishment deploys spiritual resources in its existential conflict with the Arabs. I once met Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz when he came to address the Oxford Union. He is widely regarded as the greatest living genius on earth. A grandmaster of Kabbalah, his wisdom and counsel are widely sought by succeeding generations of Israeli leaders.
The young French teenager, Joan of Arc (1412-1431), was a great heroine who led the French army into several successful battles against the English. She claimed that she received messages directly from angels who guided her in her successful battles. She was later captured, tried and burnt at the stakes in Rouen, Normandy, on 30 May 1431. But she has been canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church and goes down as one of the greatest legends of the French nation. Her compatriot, Napoleon Bonaparte, was one of the greatest warlords in modern history. What few realize is that he was also a master occultist who deployed the dark arts in his military campaigns. It is said that he was able to trans-locate his spirit into the position of the enemy where he received details about their position and how to defeat them.
It is well known fact that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were occultists. In his famous memoirs, The Gathering Storm, Winston Churchill opined that Hitler had “conjured up the fearful idol of an all-devouring Moloch of which he was the priest and incarnation”. When the German forces laid the infamous 900-day Siege of Leningrad (1941-1944), Soviet strongman Joseph Stalin reportedly brought back the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church from his near-banishment in Siberia.
Some of the most powerful intelligence services in the world today employ psychics as part of their arsenals. Israel’s Mossad used to employ the psychic Yuri Geller, a former paratrooper, in their various spy missions. I suspect that their interest in having Prophet T. B. Joshua relocate to Israel is partly because they see him as a potentially huge intelligence asset.
We in Africa have vast untapped spiritual forces. A fortnight ago, some 36 cows were killed by a mysterious lightning in the sleepy village of Ijare in Ifedoro Local Government of Ondo State. The traditional ruler, Oba Adebamigbe Oluwagbemigun, had warned that the herdsmen had crossed the boundaries of the forbidden. There are communities throughout our country that are custodians of potent spiritual warfare forces. My paternal grandfather was a legend of his time. He gave the British a hard time, but no chains or prison gates could keep him. The wily British decided to make him a police officer. In 1914, they sent him to quench a riot in Lafia, capital of present day Nasarawa State. When news came that his wife had put to bed and he was now the father of a bouncing baby boy, he sent back a message, “His name shall be Mailafia”.
I strenuously encourage our military and intelligence communities to set up a research centre for the scientific study of the spiritual warfare potential of our indigenous communities, including such groups as traditional hunters and practitioners of Ifa. Former Beninois president Nicéphore Soglo declared recently that Boko Haram is being sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Our enemies are both domestic and foreign, but the truth is that the giant has feet of clay. He will be defeated if only we put our hearts and minds to it. All is fair in love and war.
Mailafia is a newspaper columnist.