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UNILORIN don canvasses ‘critical prophecy’ to tackle societal ills



A Professor of Christian Theology in the University of Ilorin, Pius Oyeniran Abioje, has advocated what he termed ‘critical prophecy’ in order to ensure a politically and economically just society. He also urged Nigerians to become critical prophets to speak up against the social evils of injustice, marginalization, oppression and exploitation.

Prof. Abioje, who is the Head of the Department of Religions, Faculty of Arts, made this submission while delivering the 167th Inaugural Lecture of the University, entitled “Christian Prophets and Other Prophets in Nigeria.”

The Inaugural Lecturer explained that “critical prophecy, as opposed to the divinatory/esoteric fortune-and-future telling type, makes a religion to contribute meaningfully to social justice, which can engender progress, socio-politically and economically, when prophets are vigilant and critical of inhuman conducts.”

He added that it was also capable of ensuring that the dividends of science and technology were equitably distributed.

While noting that African leaders are knowledgeable and possessed epistemological resources, Prof. Abioje said, “…Africa should have no excuse not to have developed highly after several decades of achieving political independence from foreign colonialists, but for the selfish mien of those who assume her leadership positions.”

According to him, not many of the leaders “have the patriotic/prophetic zeal to use their positions to move the continent forward.”

The don said, “For instance, the late Chief Abdul-Ganiyu (popularly called “Gani”) Fawehinmi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who died on September 5, 2009, was a modern prophet. He was an outspoken social critic and conscience of society, and was seriously victimized and persecuted for that, as happens to many, if not all genuine prophets.”

“I am not thereby equating anybody with Jesus Christ or Prophet Muhammad, but whoever is an outspoken social critic and conscience of society, condemning inhumanity of human beings to human beings, and trying to avoid inhumanity himself or herself, is a critical prophet in the understanding of this Lecture, particularly if such a person exemplifies what he or she is advocating. Some of such persons cut across religion, race, and ethnic affiliation”, he maintained.

Prof. Abioje, who observed that the “history of the Christian prophetic movement in Africa is characterised by burning of magical objects and claims of casting out evil spirits, rather than engagement in issues of social justice”, asked, “Why do many titular Christian prophets avoid social and ethical issues and focus basically on divinatory/esoteric aspects of prophecy?”

He further asked, “Could that be because the church leaders crave patronage of political office-holders and so would not want to criticise those in political authorities?”

Noting that “all of that are merely speculative,” the don pointed out that “what is incontrovertible, however, is that divinatory/esoteric prophecy has potentiality for economic benefit than critical prophecy which may import persecution and death, such as happened to Jesus himself. It is another question whether many Christian prophets are ready and striving to emulate Jesus, but that is beyond the scope of this Lecture”.

While noting that religion could be divisive, Prof. Abioje in his recommendations, enjoined respective adherents of African Traditional Religions, Christianity and Islam to prioritise the role of prophets as agents of God, rather than being agents of their own religions.

He said, “Many Nigerians are indoctrinated to feel that they belong to one religion or the other, rather than to God per se; Genuine prophets speak for God and not religion as such.”

Prof. Abioje, further said: “Academic programmes should include introduction to critical prophecy, which makes a person to be committed to advocacy in Godly words and action, even as medical doctors, engineers, architects, lawyers, and so on, and not only as clergy men and women”.

He stress that virtue, for which critical prophets strive, is unarguably the key to individual and social progress, even when truth can be very bitter.”

The Inaugural Lecturer urged Nigerians to see “critical prophets as friends of society, and pardon them whenever they happen to err, since no human being is infallible”.

He enjoined “people in positions of authority to see critical prophets as partners in progress, towards human edification and not as adversaries.”

Prof. Abioje further charged divinatory/esoteric prophets to shun fraudulent acts, adding that, “they should see their divinatory knowledge as divine endowment to be used altruistically; not for exploitation.”

“People who consult esoteric prophets should be discerning, and not gullible. They should avoid frequent recourse to divinatory prophecy, to avoid mediumistic psychosis” he advised.

He noted that “Critical prophets should anticipate opposition and conspiracy from unexpected quarters”, pointing out that “the conspiracy that killed Jesus came from the milieu of the chief priests and the political elite.”

“Regrettably, the interpretation by many Christians is that God wanted Jesus to die so as to save the world. Yet, the world continues to persecute innocent critical prophets. Why can’t Christians emphasize that Jesus was killed by haters of truth; the religio-political powers that be, particularly since the world is still seeking redemption?” Prof. Abioje asked rhetorically.

The religious scholar enjoined university communities to “do more in cherishing and protecting the critical scrutiny embedded in the “ivory tower” mantra”, adding that “university administrators should not criminalise nor persecute but appreciate and protect, to the best of their abilities, critical individuals who mean well, even when, like all human beings, they are not infallible; anybody can err”, he opined.

Prof. Abioje expressed the conviction that “the provident God endows humanity with both divinatory/esoteric and critical prophetic potentialities”, pointing out however that “Nigeria is yet to experience adequate positive effects of such virtues; she needs many more critical prophets”

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