That Fr Mbaka’s New Year Oracle against President Goodluck’s bid for a Second term has attracted so much national interest reveals the far reaches of the influence of this richly blessed and gifted man of God. It is also significant that the two most senior Catholic clerics in Nigeria—our beloved Cardinal Onaiyekan and our irrepressible Archbishop Kaigama—have come out publicly and quickly to distance the Nigerian Catholic Church from Mbaka’s oracles. Mbaka, however, has never pretended to be the official mouthpiece of the Catholic Church in Nigeria. His messages are addressed to all people irrespective of denomination, religion or sect. But what do we make of such oracles as Mbaka’s especially if his recent New Year Oracle contradicts his previous message given three weeks before this one?
Prophets free themselves from attachment to the things of the world, money, power, ego etc in order to be possessed by God; they open themselves to the experience of being converted, to the experience of being broken, humbled by divine love, and totally consumed by a single vocation of being used by God for realizing the divine purposes in the life of God’s people. Prophets, according to Congar, listen to the Word of God in multiple places and they allow the Word of God to dwell in them so that they can undergo a second conversion from self to God in order to better serve the community. (iii) The prophet dedicates himself or herself to completing the demands made on him or her by God.
Mbaka is part of a growing number of priests, preachers, and ‘big men of the big God’ who have not only become powerful in Nigeria, but also command enormous following beyond Nigeria. These ‘men and women of God’ have assumed—for better or for worse—legendary and mythical status and inhabit hallowed sacred chambers with their miraculous powers, inspired and hope-filled messages, spiritual claims and their famed and unusual mysterious encounters with God. This is not unexpected in a country with no critical culture, blind faith, and often shallow catechetical formation. Such men and women of God like Mbaka command a strong following because gullibility have added to the vulnerability imposed on the masses of our people by poverty, inexcusable and worsening socio-cultural conditions. Like many other prophets and preachers in Nigeria with his kind of gifts, Mbaka is ministering hope to the hoi polloi who are latching on to anything which offers them a semblance of solidity and reliability as guide and source of consolation where other things, people, and institutional religions are failing them.
What is however worrisome to me is his constant incursion into politics and especially the partisanship which Mbaka brings to his prophetic messages. Eight years ago Mbaka endorsed my good friend and town’s man, Aka Nso, to be the governor of Enugu state and this did not come to pass. I thought Mbaka’s credibility was in tatters but his followers still stuck to him because there is something about him which goes beyond his mistaken and unfortunate forays into politics. There are many other unfortunate examples which do not bear repeating here. But it is important that preachers and ministers be guided in their utterances by the Word and deeds of the Lord Jesus Christ and the wisdom of our Mother Church.
We need maverick preachers and prophets like Mbaka in Nigeria today who will dare to challenge the status quo even though he appears to do so in an unorthodox and confusing way. Mbaka can be helped not by sanctions or interdicts which often shut down the voice of prophets in the church, but rather he needs a community of discernment around him. It could be made up of preachers, religious and laity with whom he can share the word of prophecy and discern collectively what God is saying before sharing it with the wider audience. He also needs help on method and needs to focus on what his vocation is through the Adoration Ministry. He cannot be all things to all; he will flounder overtime if he does not stick to one model of ministry. He needs a community so that he can be lifted above being a lone-ranger or a spiritual sole administrator or a daddy who listens only to himself and the adulation of followers. This could lead to pride of self and ultimately lead one away from God and the community.
I will like to add by way of conclusion that Mbaka’s changing prophetic oracles reflect the changing landscape of Nigerian politics and religion where nothing seems to stay the same. The Nigerian prophets are the product of the Nigerian culture. Nigerians move from one church to another and from one religion to another and one party to another and from one prophetic oracle to another based on economic interest, needs and other selfish reasons
It is not enough to condemn Mbaka for daring to be prophetic. Many people might claim that Mbaka has an inadequate grasp of the gift and content of authentic biblical prophecy needed for our troubled times in Nigeria. However, one may ask what alternative voices do we have from our churches who have dared to challenge whatever government in power whether at state, local or federal levels? Is it not true that most of our church leaders across denominational lines have been too acquiescent to the powers that be and have received so much monetary, car, plane, or land donations from those in power that they can no longer speak up for the suffering masses or condemn the failed ruling class who are responsible for the suffering and pain of most Nigerians.
What Mbaka says of the ruling party at the federal level is true! It is only in Nigeria that $20 billion will disappear from the national treasury and go unaccounted for and the people will be dancing on the street for leaders who preside over this rot. It is only in Nigeria that 100,000 barrels of our oil wealth will be stolen everyday for the last ten years totaling a loss of over 35 billion dollars and people will be praising the ruling party. It is only in Nigeria that military barracks will be sacked by insurgents and hundreds of our boys and girls are being kidnapped, killed, and married away and people pretend that all is well. It is only in Nigeria that the unemployment rate of Nigerians under 30 years of age will reach 50% and we are claiming that we have a democracy or a government.
Our country is very sick and we need prophets like Mbaka to remind us of how sick we are just in case our social conscience have been dulled by the tokens which we receive from governments in election years. As a prophet, Mbaka should simply read the signs of the times and proclaim as he has done that the present situation in Nigeria today is not from God and needs to be changed. However, whether the PDP or APC can change this unacceptable situation is an open question because we have a deficit of leadership, character, vision, and integrity across both aisles? Nigeria has an unworkable and deadening dysfunctional moral and spiritual deficit and it is a serious albatross to us all whether at home or abroad. No prophet has a mandate to compel the conscience of the people; prophets can only stir the conscience and steer the wills of the people to embrace the ways of God by by rejecting anything in their lives and societies—economic, governmental, religious, cultural or social—which is contrary to the reign of God.
Professor Stan Chu Ilo is a Research Fellow at the Center for World Catholicism and Inter-Cultural theology, of DePaul University, in Chicago, USA.