“Why are people attacking me? Why do they hate me? What have I done wrong?” Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, the founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), asked me, raising his hands helplessly.
I smiled, looked at him straight in the face and asked: “You preach in the name of Jesus Christ?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“If you preach in the name of Jesus and Jesus in whose name you preach was hated and attacked, why should your case be different?”
He took a deep breath, sighed and looked at the floor. I knew he was touched by my comment.
The above conversation took place in his office in 2010, but before I continue this piece, a brief background.
How I met him
By 2010, this reporter was the head of news and politics desk at the Saturday Sun. On that faithful day, the head of security came into the office with a man and a woman. He told me the duo had a story and he felt either the deputy editor or I should handle the story. I nodded, looked around and asked a reporter, Gilbert Ekezie, to handle the story.
About 10 minutes later, my editor, Mr Onuoha Ukeh, came in. I soon joined him in his office for the usual briefing. “Who are the people out there?” he asked. I told him they are from TB Joshua’s church.
“Go and handle the story yourself. Don’t leave it to a reporter,” he directed.
The following day, Gilbert and I headed to the headquarters of the church located at Ikotun Egbe, Lagos. We were there between the hours of 10am and 6:30pm when we eventually met Joshua.
After reading two stories I wrote about him, he must have been impressed. He personally called me whenever he wanted a story published.
Thus began what some regarded as close relationship between TB Joshua and I. This reporter is not a member of SCOAN. I attended SCOAN Sunday service only once at his invitation. Even then, he chided me for coming late after the service. “I saw you when the girl brought you to the front row. I told you to come at 8 am and you came at 9:30,” were his exact words.
In my interaction with him, he told me some things and I noticed many things that may be of interest to his admirers and foes alike.
TB Joshua as I knew him
Joshua turned out to be one the simplest personalities I have ever met. The man I used to meet in his private office at SCOAN is not the same man the world used to watch on Emmanuel Television.
In the first place, except for the first meeting when Gilbert and one of his aides were present, we were never interrupted after I have been ushered into his office. The only interruptions were important calls by personalities such as presidents, sitting or former governors, ministers and others. One of the girls in the outer office would knock, come in and tell him the personality calling. He would do one of two things: Wave the girl away or beckon for the girl to bring the hand set.
Secondly, you would be disappointed if you think you would sit on a luxurious cushion chair or any chair at all in his private office. He was always standing behind what seemed to me like a counter. I can’t remember Joshua sitting down. He did his private work standing and pressing a button to summon his assistants. Even when ministering in the church, he was always on his feet.
Thirdly, the most conspicuous things in his office were more than half a dozen large television screens hanging on the wall and they all functioned at the same time. There was the BBC, SKY News, NTA and many other local and international reputable television stations. I never asked why or how he managed to watch all the stations at the same time. What occurred to me was that Prophet Joshua kept himself informed with the latest news in the world.
Fourthly, he was always in T shirt and shot. Sometimes, he wouldn’t dress better than a peasant farmer. You could call him Mr. Humility.
His peculiar qualities
His greatest asset was his uncommon native intelligence and his ability to take quick decisions. That he was clairvoyant and that he performed miracles are known facts throughout the world. His spiritual antenna also seemed to be permanently at alert. While chatting with him, he would suddenly make a sound ‘hun’ with a little jack of the head. It is a sign that he saw or heard something in the spiritual realm. He might say it or remained silent about it.
Few examples will be necessary for these assertions. I was with Pa Reuben Fasoranti, the leader of Afenifere in Akure, Ondo state, when his call came through and it was on a Saturday. He requested I should come on Monday since I was to return to Lagos on Sunday. From his tone, I knew something important was up.
It turned out that the South African government officially invited him to attend the 2010 football fiesta as a special guest. The letter stated clearly that very few personalities were invited by the state. He was expected to attend with specified number of aides at the expense of the state. The state was to provide transportation, accommodation and feeding.
He asked me if the invitation could make the lead story in Saturday Sun. I told him that as the man in charge of news, I could ensure stories of interest were published in the paper, but only the editor could determine stories that make the front page, I could only make recommendations.
What he did next was to bring out a copy of the Sun newspaper. Spreading it on the counter, he pointed to the lead story and asked, “Can it appear like this?”
I shook my head and said the editor had the power to make it the lead story, but the MD and management would not allow him or he would be queried.
He wanted to know how it could be used and I pointed at one of the front page stories. It was at this stage that his ingenuity came into the fore.
He had said: “I will have to talk to the editor then. Let us do it like this: You will give me his number and I will call him. I will tell him to send you to me. When he calls, you will tell him you are somewhere around Ikotun.”
It turned out exactly as he predicted. When I later told Mr. Onuoah what transpired, he roared with laughter. The story made front page, but the editor told me some members of management told him it shouldn’t have made front page at their meeting the following Monday. Prophet Joshua however told me the day after the publication that the Sun publisher, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, was the first person to call and congratulate him in the morning.
On the spiritual, I never mentioned my personal problems to him because I don’t subscribe to the idea of people going about whimpering and whining about their private problems before servants of God. It is a sign of spiritual weakness. We all have access to our creator.
But he convinced me on two occasions that he was a prophet. First, his two hands on the counter while chatting with me, he suddenly said, “Let us pray,” and held my right hand with his left hand. I closed my eyes and he said the shortest prayer I have ever heard. It was a one sentence prayer.
“God, I thank you for protecting your son and I pray you will continue to protect him, amen.” That was the end of the prayer. I looked at him expecting some prophesies. But that was how it ended.
He was dead right. A book can be written on that one sentence. Yorubas who know the meaning of Durojaiye, my name, and the circumstance of my birth will appreciate what he said. Five of those who passed through the same womb before me died between the ages of 8 and 12. A healthy child would be playing with his or her mates at school or at home and he or she will suddenly collapse and die. It was much later in life that I realised I was expected to suffer the same fate.
On another occasion, he asked me to see him the following day and I did not want to tell him I was ill. As we started talking, there was that sign, ‘hun’ with a little jack of the head. He told me to go with a girl to deliverance ground where prayer was going on. He assured me the girl would bring me back after the prayer session. I did not argue. By the following morning, I realised my illness had disappeared.
His attitude to national honours
One of the few things he mentioned to me was the national honour bestowed on him by the federal government when late Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua was president.
It turned out that President Yar’Adua was surprised when the president of a neghbouring country informed him as demanded by protocol that he was visiting Nigeria for tourism. The visiting president made it clear that SCOAN headed by Prophet Joshua was his destination. The respected president of the respected neighbouring country paid Yar’Adua a courtesy call at State House Abuja before going to SCOAN in Lagos.
When another president informed President Yar’Adua of his intention to visit the country for the same purpose, he was bewildered. Consequently, he made inquiries and discovered that Prophet Joshua was the individual attracting foreigners to the country on tourism. He decided to confer on him the national honour of Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR).
Prophet Joshua said he was glad that a president who was a Muslim recognised him. He however felt he should have been conferred with a higher honour than OFR.
He had said: “That was why I decided to send my wife to collect the award.”
As if to back up his position, two countries later honoured him with their highest national award in August and November 2017. República del Paragua, a country in South America and Dominican Republic, a Caribbean nation, bestowed on him their highest national award for his ‘immense contributions to the growth and development of humanity.”
The citation while bestowing the honour on him reads in part: “His wonderful and relentless social work which he had tirelessly extended to impoverished regions of the world, his large donations to help widows, orphans, the destitute, the elderly and the physically challenged. . .”
To the best of my knowledge, Prophet Joshua had turned out to be the only Nigerian so far honoured with a national award in his country and two other countries in his life time mainly for being a minister of God. That however does not translate to mean that his traducers are jealous of him. Some of them are known internationally.
What I did not tell Joshua about his traducers
Since he used to speak little and preferred to act, I decided not to expatiate on his critics when he privately complained. Prophet Joshua was deep. He would have interpreted my simple comment correctly.
The answers to those who attacked him and made disparaging comment about him are all in the Bible. What Prophet Joshua went through was also experienced by Jesus Christ in whose name all Christian ministers preach.
Matthew 12: 24 reads in part: “But when the Pharisees heard it, they said this fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devil.”
In Matthew 12: 27, Jesus replied: “And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges.”
Those who criticised Jesus Christ when he performed miracles, cast out demons and preached the word were identified as the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Scribes (Lawyers). These were the elites of the time.
The question to ask is: Who are the elites of Christendom of today? Who are the people that attacked and hauled abuses at Prophet Joshua? You know the answer.
Jesus said do not judge so you will not be judged. Let leaders of different Christian denominations henceforth maintain their lanes without crossing to other people’s lanes. Yoruba says Orunmila (only heaven knows who would be saved).
Adeseko writes from Lagos