June 12 is a famous date in Nigeria’s history. It has now become the country’s Democracy Day, in commemoration of the June 12 1993 elections widely adjudged to have been won by MKO Abiola, but annulled by then military president Ibrahim Babangida.
June 12 is also the birthday of Prophet T.B. Joshua, founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, who died last Sunday aged 57. In fact he would have been 58 today, Saturday June 12, 2021, having been born in Ondo on 12th June 1963.
If Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua was controversial in his life time, I do not think his controversy rivaled that of many other pastors and ‘Men of God’ who ply their trade across Nigeria and beyond. He was more quiet than most.
This is why I am surprised at the behaviour of several of his erstwhile colleagues who have chosen to judge the man after his demise and even visit their hatred on the immediate family of the late founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, who died last Sunday aged 57. In fact he would have been 58 today, Saturday June 12, 2021, having been born in Ondo on 12th June 1963.
Surprisingly, it is the same MOGs who are making disparaging comments about Joshua that will quickly quote from the Gospel of St. Luke in the Bible when the Apostle said, inter alia in Chapter 6, Verse 37 to 42 that we should not judge so that we will not be judged. In effect, judgment belongs to God.
Apart from the Bible, African tradition abhors talking ill of the dead. But this custom seems to have been thrown to the dogs in the case of those condemning TB Joshua.
One of the first to publicly come up with his continuous enmity even in death is Rev. Kris Okotie, who is Founder of the Household of God Church. Okotie posted on his social media page when news of Joshua’s death was announced that, “Joshua had been consumed by the wrath of God while his disciples bewail his ignominious exit”. It is true that there has been no love lost between the two men for a number of years, but no one called on Kris Okotie for a condolence message. Would it not have been more prudent to keep quiet, instead of his display of opprobrium and controversy?
Then came a screaming headline – “TB Joshua: Obaseki Reveals Why CAN, PFN Failed to Send Condolence Messages”, with a report quoting Benin-based Pastor P. Obaseki, saying that the Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), refused to send their condolence messages to the family of late T. B. Joshua because they didn’t believe in his style of ministry.
The two bodies were said to have maintained that Joshua did not attend their meetings and they therefore did not consider him as part of them.
However, as we were digesting the accusations and counter-accusations of the dead, news came more than 72 hours after the man’s death that the Christian Association of Nigeria on Tuesday has finally expressed condolences to his family and SCOAN. The condolence which observers believed was belated came following unease about CAN’s silence since the man’s passing.
CAN President Samson Ayokunle, in his message, described T.B. Joshua as “one of the foremost Nigerian charismatic pastors, televangelists, and philanthropists who devoted his entire lifetime to the propagation of the gospel.”
From what one read from various media platforms, Ayokunle may not have been wrong with the adjectives he used to describe the late SCOAN founder, but was the message it to fulfill all righteousness? Does a man of Joshua’s statute need to belong to a particular group before his family can be condoled when he dies?
Condolence messages have come from Nigeria and other parts of the world, including from President Muhammadu Buhari and State Governors, with the Nigerian Senate even observing a one-minute silence in his honour.
There is no doubt that T.B. Joshua’s style was different from those of some of his mainstream colleagues, but it certainly was not right to condemn the man – in life or in death – when what the same Christian leaders are preaching is, “Judge not and you will not be judged”.
Some individuals took the judgment of the man well past the realm of human thoughtfulness to the family of the deceased, by continuing to pour invectives on the man, as if they met him physically and he was personally responsible for whatever misfortunes they had in life. Many of these armchair critics made tongue-in-cheek remarks about pastors who raised the dead, made the blind see and the lame to walk, but yet could not even see ahead to when they will answer the final call. This, to me, is quite heartless.
I never met one-on-one with T.B. Joshua. The nearest I probably saw of him would be in his photographs in the media or on his Emmanuel TV, which is sometimes in the TV bouquet of some hotels where I have stayed. I did not bother to access the station on home cable TV since there were other stations to spend time on.
However, in death, a lot of information has surfaced on Joshua’s activities while alive and some of those activities are pleasantly surprising.
He was born a Muslim; his uncle is even a Chief Imam, but he chose his path and set up his own Christian ministry. He was also married and had three biological children and several adopted children, but his wife, who is from a different part of Nigeria, more or less remained in the background, contrary to how others would have expected. He was also said to be detribalized and he embraced many Nigerians, no matter where they came from. He was an international personality whose activities took him round the world and brought adherents from every part of the globe to Nigeria to seek his message and whatever else he had to offer.
My friend, Ramon Nasir, who met Prophet Joshua, felt deeply touched when he learnt of his demise.
I am a Muslim. However, Pastor TB Joshua had always fascinated me. Once in a while, I sat to watch Emmanuel TV not because I was looking for any miracle (Though I will gladly embrace one if I see) but the softness of his words and candor and humility he brought to serving his God. My admiration became more telling on Kenya Airways flight from Nairobi to Lagos 3 years ago when I realized that half of the passengers in that big plane were on religious visit to Synagogue of All Nation. Out of curiosity, I engaged few of them. It was then I got to realize how big the Pastor was in East Africa and across the big continent. Pilgrims to his church were virtually from all part of the globe. An airline attendant working for an East African airline later told me that the church remained their biggest market in Nigeria. I believe our country has lost a good Ambassador. I never felt of death like Pastor Joshua’s death hit me yesterday. With their sagacity, I always believed some humans transcend death. Again, I am wrong! Last year, a publisher of a religious leaning magazine visited me in my office, and our discussion touched on the Pastor. He narrated how the man had touched many people beyond healing he professed. I am most humble by his death but I am most captured by his last words “Watch and Pray”. Again, our dear country has lost a great man, an Ambassador and a Proud Nigerian. To his wife, who we never knew until of recent, and the leaders in that church, I would like to plead that you make the man proud all the time. Avoid crisis and rancorous situations that often bring the end to virile organization after the death of the founder. May the Almighty repose his souls and forgive all his shortcomings. Adieu Pastor TB Joshua. You lived a good life.
There is no doubt there are many other people who feel as Ramon feels about T.B. Joshua’s death. Even the traditional ruler of Arigidi Akoko in Akoko North-West Local Government Area of Ondo State, where Joshua hailed from, Oba Yisa Olanipekun, is asking for the late prophet to be brought home for burial, saying Joshua had so much love for his people and hometown.
That he was a humble personality seems to buttress comments of different groups and individuals, but he was not immune to the allegations against many pastors of ostentatious living, occasioned by purchase of expensive assets, including private jets and yachts.
But note – those pointing one finger should know that the other four are pointing at themselves. Therefore, it is good to remove the log from your own eyes before pointing at the speck in another person’s eye.
Prophet T.B. Joshua has run his race. We should let God be the judge of whether he ran it according to His commandments. We also hope and pray that his death will not mean the end of whatever was good in what he built while alive.
IMAGE CREDIT: ARDUA VERITATEM
Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist, writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.