n social media recently, a video appeared that credited worshippers’ bank accounts with money from churches in Nigeria and the United States. In the video, Omega Fire Ministries’ Apostle Johnson Suleman prophesied that angels would deposit money in the bank accounts of those who were there as well as spectators at home. Shortly after, several members of the congregation announced that they had received credit alerts and rushed to the pulpit to relate their stories.
In an odd turn of events, Israel Balogun of the Wholeness Africa Initiatives, who questioned the reality of the “miracle money” video, was summoned by the police and charged with defaming the Apostle. Why would an omnipotent God have to pay the cops to deal with a doubting Thomas like Balogun if He could make his angels deposit money in people’s bank accounts?
The Pentecostal occult economy – in short, the belief that money can be magically made – is keeping up with the Nigerian ecology of wireless cash transactions, if the “miracle money” video teaches us anything. Years ago, I heard a sermon by a well-known Nigerian Pentecostal preacher who claimed that God rained down cash from heaven and filled his hotel room in response to his request. Pastors can now sophisticatedly construct miracle money thanks to mobile technology and seamless money transfers of our everyday practice of sending out one’s bank account number and receiving fast credit “alerts.”
It is no longer fashionable to suggest that God showers down tangible money now that various apps [ applications] can genuinely generate “miracle money” through cash transfers. It is significantly easier to gain access to electronic technology’s sorcery, which can already make money “magically” appear in one’s bank account with just a few taps on a cell phone. Except that Suleman appears to have forgotten that the same inventor who invented the technology that enables miracle money also invented social media technology, which can be fully disproved by Twitter skeptics. These skeptics have made it their mission to dissect even miraculous acts, and they will not even give the preacher a chance to shine at all!
First and foremost, the police should cease their so-called inquiry into this matter as a probable case of “criminal defamation” and “cyberstalking.” Getting entangled over someone who made accurate insights is nothing short of a fool’s errand. How did the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Yusuf Abubakar, who signed the letter requesting that Balogun be interviewed for the investigation, come up with the concept of “defamation and cyberstalking” in the first place? Abubakar, did he think this through, or did he already have a template of offenses from which he picks and chooses as he pleases? Should not a police officer, if someone reports someone who has disproved their claims to generate “magic money,” question the complaint about the financial system’s rationale before starting an investigation? Did the angels look up people’s 10-digit account numbers in the bank database? Was the “miracle money” vaulted before it was deposited into the accounts of OFM (Omega Fire Ministries) followers?
Instead of becoming a convenient tool of power abuse, a police officer should ask critical and reasonable inquiries. How can you start looking into a case of criminal defamation on behalf of someone who claims he made money appear out of nowhere? That kind of assertion may make sense to superstitious people who have spent the last decade viewing abstruse so-called Nigerian home movies, but it is self-defamatory to a reasonable mind. Members of the Nigeria Police Force should sit down and ask one another, at some point, whose interests they are genuinely serving when they indulge in such nonsense. Who are they siding with?
Second, I believe that religious leaders, such as Apostle Suleman, must accept the realities of today’s world. Pastors no longer have the luxury of making wild claims about supernatural abilities without being challenged. We live in a time when social media’s power to connect people across time and space has broadened the church’s reach and transformed its membership into a diverse group. Whatever you say in your church – or even in your mosque – will not be remembered. It could some day make its way onto social media, where it could be contested by anybody with a smartphone and access to the Internet. Those who do not want a cheap take down of their authority will have to learn to create incontrovertible miracles and offer their sermons with watertight argumentation or impenetrable reasoning. We live in a world where the proliferation of communication devices means that no religious or governmental authority can exert control over narratives. The world has changed, and those who refuse to change will be washed away by reality’s flow. Either accept the changes brought about by contemporary technology or continue to fight the pricks.
Third, people like Balogun should not be intimidated or threatened into not questioning false narratives. One of the ways the Nigerian film industry created a generation of people in modern society who believe “money ritual” is achievable is through a lack of critical separation between imagination and actuality. Some individuals believe that supernatural forces can bring them actual money because Nollywood presented the occult economy so uncritically. One of the reasons Africa remains in a constant condition of economic and social retardation is our excessive investment in fictional myths like these. We have been conditioned to believe in the supernatural’s disproportionate influence on human events.
Both the pastor who claims to be able to make “miracle money” appear in your account and the chief priest who claims to be able to conjure wealth through “money rituals” provided you offer him human body parts, follow a logic of monetary rewards that is unrelated to constructive work. The problem with this type of deception is that it pervades society to the point where people expect things to be accomplished without any effort. People will spend their entire lives searching for what was never lost because the logical chain between what they want and the likelihood of obtaining it is abbreviated by assertions of magical possibilities.
Finally, even if it were true that angels may put money in bank accounts, what difference does it make? Is that to say that Jesus Christ was crucified for the sake of a single day’s crumb appearing in your bank account? What will happen the next day and the day after that? Will the bank of heaven set up a recurrent transfer of “miracle money”? Where is the “miracle” when you still have to hunt for survival in Nigeria’s ever-depressing economy the next day? What long-term opportunities for societal development do angels depositing money ensure? Will those angels stick around to assist us in repairing our public infrastructure? Will they be able to stop our inept politicians from robbing us blind? Is miracle money capable of resolving our long-standing economic problems or even combating climate change? Why settle for little sums of money when we might ask them to remove insecurity in Nigeria, as the video suggests, if true angels can make things happen? Why not ask them to assist Africa research vaccines or treat COVID-19? During the lockdown, why did angels not send the so-called “miracle money” to our bank account leaving people to die in large number as a result of hunger but not as a result of the epidemic.
Apostle Suleman’s use of secular authority – attorneys and the law enforcement agency – to address a seemingly spiritual situation demonstrates mysticism’s actual limitations. As Africans, we must learn the futility of believing in a supernatural force that exists some place to solve problems that other humans have already solved scientifically. We must commit ourselves to studying the rules of nature through a thorough study of science and technology if we are to prosper, rather than converting what other scientifically advanced societies have given us into amazing spectacles.
There is no such thing as a God, angels, or specters who can magically make money materialize. Those seeking financial gain should seek employment, get something doing after leaving their churches or mosques. God, or any other supernatural being, will not perform for humans what humans are capable of doing for themselves.