Recently, when the Supreme Court sacked Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party as the governor of Imo State and declared Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress as the winner of the March 2019 governorship election in the state, Rev Father Ejike Mbaka trended online. Mbaka, an Enugu-based Catholic priest, had on New Year’s Eve prophesied that Uzodinma would emerge as the governor of Imo and that Ihedioha was going to be removed from office. He has described the development as proof that he is truly an anointed man of God. GBENRO ADEOYE talks to the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Movement, Mr Leo Igwe, to get his view about prophecies and other issues regarding faith What does it mean to be a humanist? To be a humanist is to draw your sense of morality, sense of commitment and meaning from the human, evidential, natural and from the world. It means just as we found ourselves here, you try to draw meanings from it. In drawing meaning from it, it could be something which at the end of the day you might call religious. As a humanist, I think religion is a human phenomenon. Humanists have issues with religion when they start saying there is an entity that is higher, better and more powerful than human beings; that is where many humanists have a problem with established religion. As a humanist, nothing that is human could be alien to me, including religion. In other words, you can bring a human perceptive to it. For me, religious institutions are human institutions and when you view them that way, you can make sense of their shortcomings and limitations. The challenge is when you start looking at them as superhuman. Like when they said the hostel belonging to T. B. Joshua’s church in Lagos collapsed. You ask yourself, how could the building of a person who has supernatural powers, heals people and casts away demons, collapse? But if you look at T.B. Joshua’s synagogue as a human institution, it is capable of all those shortcomings, just like every other building that can collapse. What is the difference between an atheist and a humanist? This is a debate that has been going on and on and is still going on till today. You find out that the notion of God was brought by certain people and they went around propagating those beliefs and at the end of the day, there are people who do not subscribe to that idea and they call them atheists. There are people who will tell you the idea of God does not make sense or they don’t see evidence of a supreme being waiting for us to die to take us to heaven or hell. And they go about their lives. Humanism has a way of saying ‘since there is no God, where do we draw our morality from? This is one of the major debates between atheists and theists because theists will ask atheists, where do you get your morality from? People will say ‘yes, there is no deity, we draw morality from ourselves’. And they try to make the human or the world the centre point. It is in the quest of trying to make a case for a moral atheism that you can now have humanism. Father Ejike Mbaka had on New Year’s Eve prophesied that Hope Uzodinma would emerge as governor in 2020, a prophecy which came to pass when the Supreme Court sacked Governor Emeka Ihedioha and named Uzodinma as the duly elected governor of Imo State. What are your views about prophesies? I want to give you a background as regards Mbaka; he was my contemporary at the Seat of Wisdom Seminary, Owerri, Imo State but he was a year ahead of me, so I know Mbaka personally. I must tell you that people who make this kind of expressions are not reckoned with very much in the seminary because the training there is highly intellectualised and based on academic rigours. Even within the seminary, nobody took Mbaka seriously. I don’t, but I know the Nigerian public does, especially in the light of politics. Mbaka has always been trending; he visited Muhammadu Buhari at a time. We saw him in a video with the Peoples Democratic Party vice presidential candidate, Peter Obi, where he was almost begging and trying to extort money. There were reports that he was queried. As far as I’m concerned, Mbaka is an unserious priest who has been playing to the gallery by dabbling into political permutations in order to achieve some certain things for himself. Let us go to the meaning of prophesy: it means divination, prediction, or fortune-telling. It should not surprise anyone that Mbaka has become a political priest, dabbling into making political permutations and aligning with people in power in order to achieve certain things for himself. Prophesy in history has been proved to be about making a blind guess and saying this is what will happen, which sometimes may or may not happen. Or they (people making prophecies) are very fraudulent and corrupt because they sometimes get some information from insiders or make predictions along the line of what people are saying. The judgment that was given would have been written for some time. And because of the nature of the government, the party in power, and the way Mbaka has politicised his ministry, it will not surprise me that somebody must have told him what was going to happen and he presented it to Nigerians as a prophecy. As far as I’m concerned, Mbaka thrives on petty political predictions. Many pastors actually prophesy, are you saying there is nothing like prophesy? I’m not speaking on behalf of the Humanist Movement. I’m giving you my view as a humanist, sceptic and rationalist. I can predict here now that the APC will still be the dominant party in 2023 by just looking at the situation. Prophecy sometimes doesn’t require any mental rigour and that is why you see a lot of people around making prophecies. If making prophecies required a lot of mental rigour, the likes of Mbaka would not be there. If they require intellectual and mental rigour, the likes of Mbaka would not be involved. It is important for Nigerians to wake up and understand that those who are making prophecies are leveraging their ignorance and inability to commit themselves to knowledge drawn from rigorous debates. And that is why I said it takes a fraudster to make a prophecy. Let me tell you why; if you get information from an insider that Uzodinma would be declared as governor, you dont need to put it as a prophecy. You just need to say from information reaching me now, this will happen. You may decide not to tell us the source. That is why during an academic argument, they will ask for your source. Ask Mbaka what his source is, he will say God. Now, God does not speak. So why didn’t God say this even before Uzodinma got nominated as the APC candidate? Why did it come at a time when there was uncertainty and the whole thing had gone to the Supreme Court? Did the prophetic power have network problems? What I am trying to make you understand is that it takes a smart, crooked and fraudulent person to leverage this kind of political uncertainty by telling us that information he must have got from some insiders is a prophecy? He is trying to make us think he is somebody with an extraordinary power. He doesn’t have any extraordinary power; he only has extraordinary facility to access information secretly and bring it out in public and claim it is a prophecy. Does it mean there are no real prophecies? That is what I am telling you. I am telling you that the APC will still be a dominant party in 2023 and win. You don’t want to take note of that and bring me money (laughs). I’m also telling you that Nigeria is increasingly being ‘northernised’ and that Buhari only cares about what happens in the South and not in the North, be it Amotekun or Biafra or whatever. These are people who pose security risks; nobody in the North poses any security risk. Fulani herdsmen don’t pose security risks because they are cattle rearers; it is Amotekun that poses a security risk. So what is so special about prophets? Tell me. They say they hear from God… Now, the question is who is God? If God is an entity that communicates, why was that entity waiting till when the case had gone to the Supreme Court, in the case of Mbaka? He would have told Ihedioha not to waste his money back then. Do you want to tell me that the entity had a network problem or knowledge gap such that he couldn’t communicate this important message that would have saved Ihedioha time and money if he was willing to listen? Look, religion mines the unknown by claiming to have a special access to the unknown. And by so doing, it is used to extort money from people. Mbaka is a businessman. Even if there is God, why is that God communicating now? Now, that God should tell us who will be the next President? Tell us their name, local government area, where the person is now, how many children they have and what the President will be wearing on that day. 2023 is almost here and nobody knows what will happen, whether (the National Leader of the APC) Ahmed Tinubu or (Kaduna State Governor) Nasir el-Rufai will contest. Nobody knows if the South-East will produce the President. It is now we need the prophets, where are they? Not when votes have been cast and manipulations are ongoing. For me, prophesy and religion are human phenomenons and have nothing to do with a Supreme Being.