Monday, March 1, 2021 7:58 pm
By Bamidele Johnson
Over a decade ago, a reporter asked Pastor EA Adeboye, arguably the Most Valuable Player (MVP) on the Nigerian Pentecostal landscape, what he thought of Prophets TB Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations and Samson Ayorinde of the World Evangelism Bible Church. Both men, along with Christ Embassy’s Chris Oyakhilome, were-and still are-deemed bad news by the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) of which Adeboye remains a prominent member.
The reporter, who was of The Nation titles, wanted to know why the three men were frozen out of the PFN, which sort of advertises itself as the Pentecostal clearing house.
Sensing that the reporter wanted him to shoot darts at the three preachers, Adeboye, a very measured man, steered the conversation towards some other thing I cannot readily recall. The interview progressed and, I guess, Adeboye believed that he had successfully thrown the reporter off.
The guy waited until the interview was about to end to pose the question in another way, asking if Adeboye would honour any of them with his presence if invited to preach in their churches. An emphatic “no” was his response. He also took time to explain why, presumably in his characteristic drawl, saying he did not know who their spiritual fathers/mentors were. This was a barely disguised indication that he considered their spiritual roots as wonky. Between then and now, the Pentecostal landscape has seen the rise to prominence of other preachers, including Omega Fire Ministries’ Apostle Johnson Suleiman, whose demented cat mannerism is thought to make him worthy of the “fiery” tag. Suleiman is mightily proud of his association with Adeboye and never fails to advertise himself as having a spiritual father/son relationship with the tranquil Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) leader.
Such relationships are rife on the Pentecostal circuit where younger and B-tier preachers aiming for the big time hungrily milk the reputation of the big hitters by claiming to be of the same DNA. Suleiman’s trick is posting-on social media platforms- photos of himself visiting the Redemption Camp and being “blessed” by Adeboye and wife. Those photos, especially of his visits in 2017 and 2019, made his followers delirious.
That delirium must have ebbed a bit, following Adeboye’s failure to honour an invitation to be speaker and spiritual father at Omega Fire Ministries’ annual thanksgiving and 17th anniversary programme, which held between 9 and 14 February. No reason has been given for his failure to turn up, but media speculations attribute it to the latest instalment of sex scandal involving the balding Auchi-based preacher. It is safe, I believe, to assume he accepted the invitation before the pre-event publicity and announcement of his name. Suleiman was the subject of a sex scandal in 2017, a year Adeboye hosted him before doing so again in 2019, the reason I am taking the current sex scandal a limp excuse- not made by Adeboye-for staying away from the event to which he was invited as speaker.
This piece is not about the sex scandals, for which no evidence (let alone proof) of Suleiman’s involvement has been provided. It is about Suleiman’s vulgarly pulpit conduct, complete with breath-taking pomposity, generous dose of narcissism and relentless lying. Credit where due, though: Suleiman, typical of the modern Pentecostal preacher, has succeeded in identifying things that register on his followers’ emotional spectrum and uses such well. I have seen many videos of his teachings and observed that he avoids, very studiously, topics about the judgment day. His modus operandi is incessant self-promotion, talking non-stop about his own achievements in fixing followers’ broken lives and flaunting anything with the potential to bring him adulation.
I will provide three examples. In one video, he narrated a story-clearly confected-of one of his pastors in Germany. The dude was scheduled to travel to France, according to Suleiman, to plant a church. But there was a mile-high odd: He had no passport, no flight ticket let alone a visa. No single document, claimed Suleiman. So, the guy, who never wondered how he has lived in Germany without even a passport, started wondering how he would get to France. Suleiman’s god, clearly a fan of illegal residency and chaotic lord of disorder, told the travelling pastor to head to the airport where he got on the queue of travellers and was the seventh person to the immigration desk before being seized by the fear of being caught.
The fear heightened when he was sixth to the desk. Suleiman’s god told the pastor go into the restroom to pray and speak in tongues. I thought a pastor would know when to pray without being told by God, with whom he had been in constant communication, and that speaking in tongues was spontaneous.
Suleiman’s god, however, appears to prefer bawling out orders to his worshippers to pray and speak in tongues. Long story short, Suleiman’s god told the travelling pastor to walk out of the restroom. Pronto! He found himself on walking out the restroom of an airport in France. The event, according to Suleiman, was not the premiere of international travel via a bidet, urinal or water closet. He concluded his story by telling his audience of children in adult bodies that people like him are used to such.
“You know your problem” he told his audience. “What you have not experienced looks somehow to you. But to those of us who have been privileged to experience a dimension of it, it is natural. You can disappear,” he said to the lusty cheers of his audience.
All well and good. But should that claim not entitle him to be asked why he just acquired a third private jet? Why spend enormous sums to buy private jets and maintain them when it is “natural” to travel through lavatories. Can he not just drink water from his cistern and appear in Canada?
In another video, which recently surfaced online, Suleiman could be heard bragging that he bought his third private jet during the lockdown imposed to curtail the spread of Corona Virus.
“In COVID, I bought a jet. I have three; my third one. I was praying for COVID not to end. While people were complaining, I was resting. My wife was asking: ‘Can life be this sweet?’ When you speak in tongues, you are printing money,” he told the cheering platoons of idiots he had for audience. Some of them stood in wonderment, tongues hanging out of their mouths like those of thirsty German shepherds.
Suleiman is a grotesque character for wishing for an elongation of a period of great distress for humanity because, as he claimed, he bought a third private jet. His followers are of the same character hue. It is curious that he is the only one in his church that his god chose to bless with private jets. The others worship his god to remain, eternally, tiers below him in terms of munificence provided by an obviously segregationist god.
In yet another video available online, Suleiman told his followers, who clearly have the intelligence of a traffic cone, that a wealthy and influential Nigerian bought him a wristwatch worth £250,000 at a London airport shop. So dazed was the owner of three private jets that he waited for the gift buyer to leave the airport before returning to the shop to persuade the shop attendant to let him have a refund. The attendant, obviously a man/with the authority to make refund to an account from which the money did not originate, granted his request. To show gratitude, Suleiman claimed to have asked what the attendant earns monthly and the reply was £1, 500! After the refund, he gave the attendant £10,000 in appreciation.
As always, he was cheered lustily by his audience, who saw the wristwatch purchase as God’s work. Suleiman had claimed that God had used him to bless the man.
His stories are usually badly carpentered fiction; the type of tripe nine-year olds tell on school playgrounds.
So, back to Adeboye, who would have nothing to do with TB Joshua, Oyakhilome and the hardly sighted-these days- Samson Ayorinde. What does he think of Suleiman, who tells lies for fun at the top of his voice and craze-eyed demeanour? The three gentlemen who, in their own right are accomplished confectioners of divine blessings, are treated as pariahs by members of the same guild? Are they cut from a cloth different from what Adeboye and his presumably anointed friends are? Adeboye himself has form in this regard, having once claimed to have driven over 200 kilometres on an empty tank. Why does he see Suleiman as kosher and the three gentlemen as treif? Is Suleiman any different from the other chaps? I wish I knew, but something does not seem right.
-Bamidele Johnson, journalist, public relations consultant and public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos.