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Prophets Without Honour: African Apostles of Modernity in the Nineteenth Century

Olufemi Taiwo


Five years ago, I published a paper titled “On the Misadventures of National Consciousness: A Retrospect on Frantz Fanon’s Gift of Prophecy”, in which I explored the interface between the biblical idea of prophecy and social science predictions. I said there: There are three attributes shared by a social scientific model and a jeremiad: description, explanation, and prediction. In ways that mirror social scientific models, there is a description, in a jeremiad, of what is wrong in the community. For example, biblical prophets gave stark descriptions of the many sins and transgression prevalent in their community, the corruption and debaucheries of the rulers, the absence of righteousness and upstandingness among their fellows. Secondly, the explanation of the misfortunes of the community was that the people had strayed from the path of righteousness laid out for them by the divine authority. Finally, in the prophecy, there was a warning that unless the divine word was heeded, dire consequences would follow. But there is at least one clear difference between biblical prophecy and good social science: in social scientific models, the “Thus saith the Lord” of a prophecy is replaced with the authority of analysis, theoretical paradigms, and empirical investigations. Nonetheless, in the same way that failure to heed the word of the Lord will mean perdition, so will failure to heed the warning in social scientific prophecy lead to social dislocation and crisis in the community.

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West Africa Review. ISSN: 1525-4488 (online).
Editors: Adeleke Adeeko, Nkiru Nzegwu, and Olufemi Taiwo.

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