TB Joshua was no stranger to controversy. Allegations of drawing from the powers of the occult courted his ministry. Before he died, other pastors and churches treated him as a pariah given his unconventional style of performing miracles. But it seemed he cared less about meaningless fraternising because pound for pound, no other pastor matched his fame and acclaim. In his Ikotun enclave, he turned the Synagogue Church of all Nations (SCOAN) into a Mecca of sorts. It is truly impressive how he achieved global prominence despite being ostracised and the never-ending rumours of using dark powers.
Presidents and plenipotentiaries frequented his church. He once mediated between warring Sudan and South Sudan. Like a touring superstar, he held sold-out crusades around the world. He gave prophecies about football matches and elections, performed miracles often involving people rolling on the floor or vomiting, and cast out demons from the possessed. He even once had a verbal exchange with Lucifer – no kidding. And then he gave to the poor. A short anecdote: when I was in senior secondary school, a blind man once came to my school to beg for alms. I surprisingly would see him some months later on TV among other blind and disabled people receiving cash gifts from TB Joshua. I recall asking myself why couldn’t TB Joshua simply just pray for all of them to get healed. That perhaps formed the basis of my scepticism for claims of the miraculous today. But I digress.
Yet again, T.B Joshua has been “exposed”, this time in a documentary by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). We thought we had made peace with his controversial career. And instead of enjoying posthumous bliss, the BBC has decided to revisit the allegations in a three-part documentary. I have to say that I was disappointed in the BBC for essentially giving screen time to Joshua’s former disciples without presenting much evidence to back up their claims. So much for an exposé. Knowing the man is not here to defend himself, the BBC claimed he died shortly after they finished filming the documentary. I’m not sure what to make of that, honestly.
But I must confess, the documentary is damning. It shows a narcissist, psychopath, Machiavellian, and sadist who embodied the Dark Tetrad traits to the fullest extent. He used these personality traits to manipulate people into cult-like subservience. He swindled his congregation of their money and fealty even to the point of sexually assaulting underaged virgins who were scouted by one of his disciples. He inflicted physical pain on anyone who disobeyed his bidding or was not being obsequious enough in his presence. Preaching and praying against the spirit of lust was his shtick. But that didn’t stop him from impregnating the young girls he slept with every night. The woman who scouted the girls for him recalled they performed many abortions she couldn’t possibly count.
Read Also: 2023 Election Prophecies are Snake Oil
For the avoidance of doubt, I was never a fan of TB Joshua. And while I’ve tried to be objective with the allegations that have been made against him over the years, I wish he spends his afterlife in the hottest cubicle in hell if he is so much as guilty of any of the allegations made in the documentary. He is dead and I can only be sentimental in wishing he rots in hell because sometimes, evil people escape justice here on earth.
It is hard to give TB Joshua the presumption of innocence not because he continues to court controversy even in death, but because the documentary is a jolting reminder that religion is the hub of con artistry and snake oil. As a disaffected Christian-turned-agnostic, it infuriates me when I see how pastors continue to manipulate poor and desperate people for selfish gains. They are no different from heartless Yahoo boys who swindle foreigners of their life savings. Pastors are more powerful than political leaders in the sense that they have absolute control without having to use the instrumentality of the state. They don’t win elections. All they have is divine imprimatur that confers on them immunity from the standards, expectations, and failings of being human. And even when they obviously fail, they can always count on their followers to readily forgive them by quoting one or two Bible stories. You know you are a deity in your own right when you can get away with anything in the name of religion. And the axiom of absolute power corrupting absolutely becomes your reality. Nothing trumps religion in this regard and for these reasons, it’s hard to presume the dead prophet innocent.
For T.B. Joshua’s defenders, it is interesting they are asking for evidence. I see them trying to poke holes (which they should) in the testimonies of the interviewees in the documentary. How convenient. They never liked it when his critics demanded proof he was a man of God beyond the theatrics of people rolling on the floor and foaming in their mouths. I did a street debate sometime last year where I asked Nigerians if they believe money ritual is real. One of my respondents who believes it’s real based his logic on the fact that many mouths that tell the same tale don’t lie. And that’s how many Nigerians approach religion. To them, the popularity of a belief trumps scientific evidence to substantiate how true or real it is. Interestingly, no pastor has had so many allegations and controversies as T.B. Joshua, in life and death. Yet, for the same people who see him as a true prophet on account of the many unproven testimonies people gave in his church are now demanding evidence from his former disciples. It is interesting how people change their standards depending on where the pendulum swings.
The documentary scores high on serving as a reminder that he did not answer for the 2014 SCOAN building collapse that led to the death of over 100 people of mostly South African nationality though the coroner’s report found him guilty. As a defence, he went conspiratorial by showing ridiculous CCTV footage of a plane flying over the building twice within 30 minutes before it collapsed. According to him, the building was bombed by his enemies who wanted to get to him. Of course, his followers believed that nonsense without question. He got away with a crime against humanity for no other reason than being a powerful pastor. He gave hush money to the families of the victims and even made threats if they rejected it and demanded justice for their loved ones. Dead bodies were reportedly retrieved from the debris and transported under the cover of darkness. It was a clean cover-up. He would return after a few months as if a tragedy had not happened. Yet, there are families who continue to mourn their loved ones for a tragedy that happened because of someone’s insistence on going against the structural integrity of a building. I hope he burns in the hottest cubicle in hell.
More than ever before, critical thinking is needed in society. We need a healthy dose of scepticism as a remedy to mass gullibility to spiritual gimmickry. Africa is backwards today largely because of the overwhelming influence of religion. The poorer we become the richer pastors and churches become. They thrive in selling delusions and illusions to vulnerable people. And in that vulnerability, common sense and pragmatism are lost. I hope for more investigative stories into the atrocities done in churches, but this time with incontrovertible evidence. The more of these con artists we expose, perhaps the more the likelihood of achieving a much-needed renaissance.