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Opinions of Sunday, 10 July 2011

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Under the Siege of Prophetic Trance

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong

Ghanaians appear to be under the clench of prophetic spell. It is as if Ghanaians are hooked on some prophetic drug and find it difficult to rehabilitate them. This has put Ghanaians are on some sort of permanent prophetic high. It has become a real development threat, making the prophetic genie hard to be put back in the bottle.

The prophets virtually control the thinking of Ghanaians – from the Prof. John Atta Mills’ presidency to the petty roadside seller. This has raised the concerns of the Asantehene (King of the Asantes), Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11, and veteran journalist and politician, Elizabeth Ohene (of the British Broadcasting Corporation), who would normally not comment on prophetic issues.

Prophets and their religions are private matter, Ghanaian laws say. Today, the private and the public are indistinct. But in the face of hopeless poverty, ignorance, and some aspects of the Ghanaian culture that’s deeply mired in false notions, prophets are having a field day, not only milking Ghanaians heavily but also bewildering them and endangering the growth of their rationality.

Recently, people at a spiritual retreat at Asante-Mampong most of the congregation said their diverse illnesses have been healed. Charity Amenya, 35, a teacher, said she had received divine healing and that the fibroid she had lived with for the past 7 years has vanished, making her registration for surgical operation unnecessary.

People testified they have seen visions. Others said they have received inner peace for their souls. But a Dr. Samuel Adjei, Afigya-Sekyere District Director of Health Services, a member of the church, advised that while miracles might have taken place, they should to go for medical check-up to ascertain whether they have actually been healed. A conundrum!!! In country of such disturbing superstitious judgments how do you balance the supernatural with the scientific? How do you balance the truth from the falsehood?

In a Ghana where poverty is substantial, the deep believe in prophets and the growing hope for miracles to cure diseases and other existential distresses are high, bordering on the fanatical. The believe in prophets and miracles are legendary. Overnight, most parts of Ghana sound like giant church with loud preaching, screams, deafening music and people speaking-in-tongues. This affects the sleep of most Ghanaians and the degree of their productivity the next day. Irrationally, the prophets do not think in such terms and Ghana is the looser.

In Ghana, some people attend churches 24 hours a day throughout the week with the anticipation of getting visions and miracles to tackle their existential challenges. Aside from the spiritual churches and the old, tied orthodox churches, juju and marabou mediums and witchdoctors abound, attracting miracle and vision seekers. The whole spiritual fields appear bemused by the prophets.

Miracle is invariably proportional to the nature of superstitious believes in a society, the more traditional the society is, such as Ghana, the more the believe in miracles and visions. The more modernized the society is, such as Canada, the less the believe in prophets, miracles, witchcraft, evil spirits and demons as the cause of existential problems.

Lance Morrow, formerly a journalism professor at Boston University and the New York-based Time magazine, explains that, “the realm of the miraculous sometimes lies just across the border from the fanatical or the tacky … the territory of the miraculous” are “approached carefully, by stages, passing from the gaudiest, shabbiest outer display toward what may, occasionally, turn out to be a deeper truth. … A miracle is a wonder, a beam of supernatural power injected into history. Up There descends Down Here for an instant. The world connects to a mystery - a happening that cannot be explained in terms of ordinary life.” Morrow asks whether miracle is “an external event occurring in the real, objective world? Or is it a sort of hallucination, an event of the imagination?

Either in Kumasi Central Market or Makola Market, most miracles induced by the prophets can just be a street-side entertainment scene, drawing the unemployed, busybodies or the curious who are too weak to think and explain their daily tribulations in clear rational terms. The booms in spiritual churches have seen the commercialization of prophets and miracles, making them unsacred and undermining their divine nature. Stories of prophets raping women, swindling their congregation, aiding criminals, among others, are daily tabloid diet.
Yet, either from educated Ghanaians or illiterate ones, the prophetic grip over Ghanaians is overwhelming. For the past two-and-half-years of his presidency, President Atta Mills, with a PHD in Law and former lecturer at the University of Ghana, has projected the overpowering grasp of the prophets on Ghanaians elites. This threatens the wobbly development process that should be directed by very rational elites against the backdrop of Ghana’s history and culture parts of which are mired in cavernous supernatural believes. The Nigerian prophet T. S. Joshua has immense influence over President Mills.
President Mills is talked about in Ghanaian chatting circles as surrounding himself with prophets of all shades. Mills is reported to have organized a “Ghana in prophecy” conference recently. All kinds of perverted prophecies were revealed. One of the prophets, a Emmanuel Kwaku Atta Kakra, prophesied atrociously that God has destined “President Mills to rule, not only Ghana for a second term, but the entire world till eternity.”
Some Ghanaian parliamentarians and politicians aren’t different from President Mills’ prophetic thinking. They re dazed in the prophetic smoke. Parliament as the center for high rational debates was caught spinning mid-air recently when the chair of the Minority leader was planted with scary juju ritualistic accoutrements. The idea was to use the spiritual trappings, prepared by some of the prophets, to influence the Minority National Patriotic Party (NPP), in a hung-parliament, to do the bidding of the Majority governing National Democratic Congress without any questions being asked.

In 2009, press reports revealed how a Member of Parliament nearly went mad for violating the spiritual instructions of juju prophet. In May this year, Hon. Dominic Nitiwul, LLM, MBA, BED (Science) and the NPP Member of Parliament for the Bimbilla Constituency, scandalously alleged that President Mills was helped spiritually to win the presidency by a "magic ring" he wore during the 2008 elections.

From the traditional to the modern, mixtures of prophets and miracles have been a daily spiritual diet of most Ghanaians. The Ghanaian culture has high in-built supernatural believes that are subjugated by the prophets. In a stage-by-stage preparation towards the commanding of a Golden Stool from the sky to unite the disparaging Asantes, the legendary traditional prophet, Okomfo Anokye observed the deep disunity among the Asantes. He assembled slaves, families, clans and tribes, cut their fingernails, smoulder them, mixed the ashes with some herbs and uttered some incantations. A miracle: a Golden Stool came down from the sky and it was used as a unifier among what is now called the Asantes. The result is the Asante ethnic group, one of the largest in the world.

Despite authentic miracles such as Okomfo Anokye’s, experts in divinity and theology caution against miracles or too much believe in prophets, more so in a Ghanaian society where poverty is weakening rationality and some aspects of the culture entrapped in high senselessness. The prophets and juju-marabou mediums that helped the various coup makers topple democratically elected governments in Ghana/Africa will tell you they are miracle makers. To the prophets, there is nothing like law and order. They are part of the disorders in Africa.

To curtail such unprogressive prophets on Ghana’s advancement, Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11, among other high-profile opinion-makers concerned about the menacing prophets, has recommended to Church leaders to develop self-governing devices to contain the activities of the dominant prophets.

For Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11, this is to “protect the sanctity and image of priesthood.” Still, for Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11, the prophetic siege on Ghanaians are “deeply worrying,” exploiting the “ignorance and the fear of insecurity” of Ghanaians in order to “dupe them,” and using “false doctrines and spurious prophecies to achieve self-serving agenda.” Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11 warns that “fraudsters parading as priests must be exposed and shamed to restore credibility and public confidence in the Church.”