Sunday, January 14, 2024 2:31 pm
‘Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath they are ravenous wolves’ (Matthew 7:15)
I arrived Lagos from Abuja around 10am one morning in February 2011. Shortly after I arrived, I got a phone call from a former colleague of mine in Accra, let me call her Mary. Her twenty-eight-year-old daughter, Tina, had terminal breast cancer.
She had received treatment in both Accra and London. After they had tried everything, they could, the doctors in London advised them to go back home. Mary told me over the phone that she was in Lagos. Really? I asked excitedly. ‘What brings you here?’ ‘I was advised to bring Tina to see Pastor T.B Joshua. He is well known for performing miracles, so I hoped that he could help her’. I shuddered and took a deep breath, trying to keep the dismay I was feeling out of my voice. ‘So, Tina is with you?’ I asked. Yes, she replied. Based on the updates she had been giving me, I knew Tina was in no shape to travel around. ‘How can I help?’ I asked her. It turned out that she had been in the neighbourhood of the Synagogue for two days, with her very sick daughter, and they had not been allowed to see the Prophet yet.
They had filled forms and spoken to someone who spoke to someone who spoke to someone, but they were still staying in the guest house that she was paying for.
I had a feeling that Mary did not tell me before she left Accra because she knew I would try to discourage her, and in a way, I am glad she did not, because I would not want to be blamed for being the one who deprived her of a much-needed miracle.
Mary called me that morning because Tina had taken a turn for the worse. She couldn’t talk and she had difficulties breathing. I told her that she needed to get Tina to a medical facility immediately. When I hung up, I called an Oncologist in Lagos, who at the time was treating a close friend of mine for Breast Cancer. I described the situation to him, and as soon as I mentioned the fact that she had been brought to the Synagogue from Ghana, he exclaimed, ‘Oh my God, not again!’.
It turned out that he had received several cases from the Synagogue and similar establishments, patients who should have been receiving chemotherapy before it was too late, but they were at these religious places, being ferried back and forth by their desperate families. They would usually bring them to his clinic when there was nothing that could be done for them. I met up with them at the clinic, and even without medical training, a look at Tina was enough to let me know that she did not have long. We all agreed that it was best to try and stabilize her so she could make the trip back to Accra. Even that was not to be because she passed away in the clinic two days later.
Till this day, my friend Mary is thankful that her daughter at least had some dignity in death, and did not pass away in a guest house in a remote part of Lagos while waiting in vain for an elusive miracle-working Prophet.
The BBC recently released a three-part documentary called Disciples: The Cult of TB Joshua. The documentary featured several former members of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) who were all Disciples, Pastor TB Joshua’s trusted workers, some of them part of his inner circle. Their stories were all the same, and painfully familiar, if you have heard accounts of survivors from similar places. Mass illusion, fake miracles, manipulation, dark arts, televised philanthropy, economic exploitation, rape and sexual abuse, physical torture, intimidation and threats, incarceration, separation from family and loved ones, the list of human rights abuses and deprivations is a long one.
There has been a raging debate since the documentary aired. Many have asked why all these allegations are coming to light after the sudden death of Pastor Joshua on June 5th 2021. These recent revelations are bound to be met with scepticism, since the accused is conveniently no longer around to defend himself. Others are insisting that the BBC documentary is part of a broader agenda to hit back at his widow, Prophetess Evelyn Joshua who is now the head of SCOAN. Prophetess Joshua had to fight off a group of local and foreign church members in order to gain control of the church founded by her late husband.
The foreign church leaders opposed to the new leadership found themselves at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, with one-way tickets back to their home countries.
I watched the BBC documentary. The anger, pain and frustration I felt at the end was not directed at TB Joshua. Even when he was alive, I knew that beneath all his charisma, smiles, generosity, rock-star global standing and the vast network of very important people around the world who trusted him and hung on his every word, things were not all they appeared to be. The stories of his alleged rape and sexual abuse of women have been narrated long before he passed away, but nothing happened. He allegedly sexually abused three teenage sisters who were left in his custody by their naïve mother, the widow of one of his benefactors. The case went to court, but what happened? Nothing.
One of his close disciples, Bisola Johnson, who was also featured in the BBC documentary has been speaking non-stop about her fourteen years at TB Joshua’s side. Her description of her own experience of sexual abuse and that of other vulnerable young women was painfully detailed. Nothing happened. Former church members, other men of God, families of victims and journalists have spoken up. Nothing happened.
Now, we have all these allegations and much more in the BBC documentary. What happens now? I felt a range of emotions as I watched the documentary, but shock or surprise were not included. My anger is directed at us, we gullible sheep who keep trotting off to dubious places of worship to place our heads under the unholy hands of wolves. To make matters worse, we act as enablers in the abuse of our own children as we place them firmly in harm’s way. It hurts to see so many lives ruined, with many of the survivors battling varying degrees of mental health challenges.
I am furious with our law enforcement officers who receive complaints and reports and look the other way because they are either too scared, uninterested or compromised. I am saddened that rather than insist on models of good practice in religious institutions that can prevent human rights abuses, our leaders are more interested in saving their political skins and propping up their spiritual parents. No, I am not angry with the late Pastor T.B Joshua, it is totally unnecessary. My ire is reserved for those who are still alive and well, who know that these things have happened, are still happening and will continue to happen.
Those who have the power to end all this but the smell of the millions of Dollars, Pounds, Euros and Naira is too intoxicating to care about anything else.
I wish the survivors of SCOAN could get their act together and file a class action suit against the estate of the late T.B Joshua. Madam Evelyn Joshua has demonstrated a steely resolve in claiming ownership of the legacy of her late husband. It is now time for her to deploy this to addressing these allegations, not through the usual gaslighting strategy that has already been put in place, but through a genuine commitment to addressing the wrongs of the past. If she and the current leadership are unable or unwilling to do this, then they should be prepared to accept that T.B Joshua’s legacy will forever be heavily tainted.