By Alao Abiodun, Osagie Otabor, Akure; Oyebola Owolabi and Chimaobim Ihedi-Obi
The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) founder Prophet TB Joshua’s death has triggered tears and tributes.
He died at 57, one week to his 58th birthday.
He was one of the most controversial and “enigmatic’’ Nigerian pastors of our time, especially with his preaching style and records of miracle performances.
Kinsmen, Obas mourn
The televangelist’s kinsmen in Arigidi-Akoko, Akoko Northwest Local Government Area of Ondo State are in a mournful mood over his demise.
Obas in Akokoland expressed shock over his sudden death.
The Zaki of Arigidi, Oba Yisa Olanipekun, in a telephone chat, said the community was still in disbelief over the news.
Oba Olanipekun said people had been coming to his palace to confirm the news as well as make arrangements to travel to Lagos where he died.
He said several Obas across Akokoland have been calling him because of the goodwill of the late T.B Joshua extended to sons and daughters of Akokoland.
According to him, “We are going to Lagos to know what really happened. It was shocking news. I have not slept since 1 am when I was informed about the death.
“We are very sad here in Arigidi and the entire Akokoland. Joshua was a good man to everybody. He has been helping everybody.”
The monarch said T.B Joshua must be buried in Arigidi.
“We will bring him for burial. They must bring him here.”
The Chief Imam of Arigidi-Akoko, Alhaji Salisu Musa, an uncle to late T.B Joshua, said the preacher died without any prior sickness.
The Oba, in a statement, said: “I am hereby making a demand that his body must be preserved intact until arrangements are made to examine and/or certify the cause of his death and the body is moved to Arigidi for final burial rights to be announced at a later date.
“On behalf of the Zaki-in-Council, the High Chiefs, the Elders and immediate family members of our late son, I commiserate with the President, the Governor of Ondo State, my beloved people of Arigidi and the people of Nigeria in general for the loss of our illustrious son. I pray that God, in His infinite mercies, will wipe off our tears.”
Ondo State Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu said the deceased was a philanthropist whose exit would be missed by many.
Akeredolu, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Olatunde Richard, said the renowned man of God was a blessing to humanity and a great ambassador of the state.
“Undoubtedly, Pastor Joshua’s demise came as a rude shock. The pains are not mere emotional flashes; they are indeed piercing. The Ondo-born Pastor and televangelist was a “Pastor Joshua was committed to giving and was more often, inexorably imbued with calmness while lifting the downtrodden. As a televangelist, he did not just win souls for Christ, he was passionate about changing lives.
“He demonstrated timelessly, an alluring service to humanity and compassion by assisting not only his home local government, Akoko North West. Other adjoining local governments in Akoko land benefitted from his large heart of benevolence.
“Of significant note too, Pastor Joshua never hesitated to assist in whatever manner the Ondo State Government desired such. To us in Ondo State, we consider this a personal loss. He was a pride to the Sunshine State.
“Not only Africa is hit hard; this is a great global knock as his Pastor TB Joshua’s ministry attracted immeasurable foreign followership. Christendom has lost a giant.
“The reality of the finality of death truly hurts the heart. But for TB Joshua, he had played his own part of the endless life orchestra; he has departed. We must take solace in his good deeds while here. He is now Heaven’s gain. The people have lost a committed giver. We shall continue to remember his contributions to the development of our State.”
Flags lowered at Synagogue Church on prophet’s death
Many members of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) broke down and cried uncontrollably on Sunday in Lagos as they struggled to come to terms with the galling reality that they would never see or hear the voice of the founder, Prophet T. B. Joshua, again.
Some of the members could not utter anything audible as tears enveloped their faces each time they tried to say something.
Some of them, who were barely able to speak, told NAN that his death was unfortunate, especially at a time the nation was in need of strong voices to unite it and entrench love and genuine spirituality.
They said that he committed his time on earth to serve God and humanity.
Others, amidst tears, wondered what their lives would be like, in his absence, as he was their saviour in time of material need and in prayer.
The man and his ways
The late TB Joshua was born on June 12, 1963 in Ondo State. He was said to have stayed 15 months in his mother’s womb before he was given birth to.
According to the SCOAN website, Joshua attended the St. Stephen’s Anglican Primary School (Ikare-Akoko, Nigeria, 1971-1977).
He had only one year of secondary education before he left to work on a poultry farm.
While in school, he was known as a ‘small pastor’ because of his love for the scriptures and gift to predict things that would happen in his community; he was also said to have been the leader of ‘Scripture Union’ while in school.
He had taught children at evening classes and done some menial jobs before he had a revelation to set up a ministry while on a 40-day fast.
In 1987, TB Joshua founded the Synagogue, Church of All Nations under the bridge that links Ejigbo and Egbe in Lagos State with just a few members.
The church later grew to have a large number of members within and outside Nigeria, Africa and Latin America.
He later established the Emmanuel TV television station from Lagos which has wide viewership especially as it is on cable TV.
TB Joshua was a known philanthropist and noted for helping the needy and sponsoring persons.
‘My People FC’, a football club he started in 2009, was part of his efforts to help the youth and two members of the team, Sani Emmanuel and Ogenyi Onazi, played for Nigeria Golden Eaglets in the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Also, three players of the club were sponsored abroad to play professional football for Sweden.
The WBO International Light Middleweight boxing champion King, Davidson Emenogu, had said Joshua financially supported him throughout his career.
A man of many clouts, Forbes in 2011 wrote that Joshua was the third-richest pastor in Nigeria with an estimated net worth of between $10 million and $15 million.
He was so popular that Wikipedia documented his social media presence to be massive with no fewer than 3.5 million fans on Facebook.
“His YouTube channel, Emmanuel TV, has over one million YouTube subscribers. He was the world’s most viewed Christian ministry on the platform before it was suspended. He was described as the “Oprah of Evangelism” and “YouTube’s most popular Pastor”.
Like many influential men, TB Joshua was not without controversies.
On Sept 12, 2014, a guesthouse collapsed in the SCOAN’s premises in Lagos, killing no fewer than 115 people.
Speculations continued to trail the circumstances that led to the collapse, with the former Nigerian Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, alleging that “Nigeria’s intelligence agencies ‘blew up the building’’.
Also, his relationship with other clerics was not smooth and it was publicly criticised. The public also questioned the miracles that occurred in his church.
Yet, TB Joshua was unperturbed and in a 2006 book, “The Mirror”, he said: “Whatever I am today is a product of the conviction that victory through Christ Jesus is victory indeed”; “The rest is history.”
Nevertheless, Joshua made an impact in education, healthcare, peace and reconciliation, among others.
A Forbes blogger said that it was estimated that Joshua spent $20 million on “education, healthcare and rehabilitation programmes for former Niger Delta militants”.
He was receptive to repentant persons who cut across all walks of life including rehabilitation of repentant militants, armed robbers and sex workers who came to the church for ‘deliverance’.
The SCOAN has a scholarship programme that sponsors many students in the primary, secondary and even tertiary institutions.
In 2012, it was widely reported that Joshua sponsored a Nigerian student doing a PhD in the U.K.
His humanitarian relief involvement was outstanding as Joshua supported efforts in the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and April 2016 in Ecuador, where he gave humanitarian aid worth over $500,000.
In Ecuador, he funded the rebuilding of a rural school destroyed during the earthquake.
Joshua had sent a team of medical personnel and humanitarian workers to the affected area in Haiti and also instituted a field hospital called ‘Clinique Emmanuel’.
He also supported several groups of Nigerian returnees to settle back into the country, following their attempt to travel illegally to Europe.
One of his most significant reconciliatory efforts was his involvement in the meeting of the family of the late President of Liberia, Samuel Doe, with the former warlord Yormie Johnson, who was responsible for Doe’s death.
The Nigerian government in recognition of his humanitarian activities, gave him a National Honour, Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) in 2008.
The United Nations also gave him a letter of appreciation.
The Arewa Youth Forum, the predominantly Muslim organisation, recognised him as Ambassador of Peace and ZAKA, Israel’s primary rescue and recovery voluntary service, gave him an ‘award of excellence.
Until his death on Saturday after one of his evening services, Joshua was married to Evelyn Joshua and had three children.
Prophet TB Joshua’s last words in public were “Watch and pray.” “One life for Christ is all we have; one life for Christ is so dear”.
Mr Kunle Olowoopejo, the Executive Chairman, Egbe-Idimu Local Council Development Area (LCDA) in Lagos, described TB Joshua as a complete definition of what humanity should be.
One of the mourners kept screaming that God should have taken her, instead of Joshua.
Mrs Melinda Soares, a member of SCOAN, who came in from Seme, said “Baba”, as Joshua was fondly called by his followers, died for Nigeria.
“Baba has finally died for Nigeria! This has always been his wish. I have never seen a man of God like him. He does what he says and says what he does.
“He still said the same thing yesterday on the mountain where we went. His death is a pointer to the fact that God’s will for Nigeria is finally coming to pass,” Soares said.
Mr Perter Lucas, another member, said God took Joshua at a very early age so that, through him, there would be peace in Nigeria.
Mrs Ifeoma Cherechi, a member of the Church, said Joshua had been her helper over the years.
“Now that he is gone, I am at a loss. Without him, I would not have known Lagos State.
“God, please bring Baba back and take us. He should not die. Let it be that you called him to give him a message to us.
“He has been a good father to me, my landlord and my children, both financially, spiritually and physically. He has always been there for me. What will be my worth now? How will my life and that of my family be?” she cried.
Members who came to worship but couldn’t gain access to the Church auditorium continued to praise and worship at the Church entrance.
They prayed for the repose of Joshua’s soul and prayed that God would bring him back to life.
Adams: Joshua’s death an eclipse in God’s vineyard
The Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams, described Joshua’s death as an eclipse in God’s vineyard.
A statement yesterday by his media aide, Kehinde Aderemi, reads: “It is devastating to hear such sad news breaking like a wildfire. Prophet TB Joshua was an Iroko tree, an abode for many souls.
“The man of God has found favour in spreading the Gospel of God through his ministry. And according to the word of God, ‘The Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets’.
“It is very difficult for me to come to terms with the reality of his death. Prophet T.B Joshua lived and died for God. His life was a complete definition of God’s generosity and philosophy. He was very humble, gentle and generous to a fault. His large-heartedness knows no tribe, colour, ethnicity, language or religion. He was simply a winner of souls, even spreading beyond the shores of Nigeria.
“He opened a new vista in religious tourism, and Nigeria earned a lot of foreign exchange from his accommodating spirit. With his death, there has been an eclipse in God’s vineyard.
“I pray God to grant the family, kinsmen, church and the country the fortitude to bear the loss.”
‘He attracted the highest number of tourists to Nigeria’
A former National Secretary of the Labour Party (LP), Dr Kayode Ajulo, said the cleric attracted the largest number of tourists to the country.
“His death is a huge loss to Ondo State, Nigeria and Africa. He attracted so many tourists to the state, the country and Africa,” Ajulo said in a statement in Lagos.
He described Joshua’s death as “shocking”, adding that his exit represented an irreparable loss to Nigeria.
The human rights Lawyer also described Joshua as a “very compassionate and gold-hearted Religious leader”.
“With the shocking demise of Prophet T. B. Joshua, Nigeria has lost a religious leader whose numerous activities have positively influenced the nation, the downtrodden and his followers,” he said.
Ajulo recounted how he had offered to give the late Prophet a huge parcel of land to relocate his Church to Ifira-Akoko, Ondo State, in the wake of the controversies that surrounded the death of worshippers at his Church.
“I offered him a huge piece of land to relocate, but the man of God rejected the offer. He, instead, offered to make a huge donation to the entire Akoko kingdom.”
He said that Joshua was also building a big University in Akoko and had also initiated the Akoko Mega City Project, a project which was expected to place Akoko on the world map, opening it for more economic opportunities.
He prayed to God to give his immediate family, people of Akoko, his worshippers and Africa in general, the fortitude to bear his demise.