from Africa in Transition

The Prophecy of Nigeria’s TB Joshua

December 14, 2016

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Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria

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Nigerians like to say that they are the happiest people in the world and the most religious. Public events commonly open and close with prayer. Causation of events, big or small is routinely ascribed to the divine. The population appears to be more-or-less evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. Among Christians, estimates are more than half of its adherents are Anglicans and Roman Catholics. But, there are a large number of other denominations independent of any of the more common faith traditions. They are particularly associated with televangelism and mega churches.

TB Joshua, born in 1963, is one of the most successful of the independent preachers. His place of worship, The Synagogue, Church of All nations, attracts thousands of worshippers each Sunday. His Emmanuel TV station, based in Lagos, may be Nigeria’s largest in terms of viewers. Forbes claims he is the “third richest” pastor in Nigeria, which he denies. (Estimates of his personal wealth are in the range of ten to fifteen million U.S. dollars.) He regularly claims to work healing miracles and to prophesize. He is also regularly denounced by other Christian leaders from across the denominational spectrum, including pentecostals whom he sometimes superficially resembles.

Among his prophesies was that Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as did much of the Nigerian media. Posted prominently on his website, Joshua’s prophesy was withdrawn shortly after the elections but later it was reinstated. In response to mocking criticism, Joshua is now arguing that his prophesy was correct–that Hillary Clinton won the most votes and therefore “won” the election. Joshua and his seemingly failed Clinton prophesy has been a focus of Nigerian media attention, especially in the south. It is an illustration of the importance that religion, and religiosity, plays in public life. But, the episode should not be taken as a rejection of the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s presidency because it will be achieved by the vote of the electoral college. For some or many Nigerians, Trump’s presidency, like much else, reflects the will of God.

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