By Enyeribe Ejiogu, Cosmas Omegoh, Christy Anyanwu, Olakunle Olafioye and Agatha Emeadi
This is, indeed, a moment of mourning for members of Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), in Ikotun, a Lagos suburb.
The church’s founder and charismatic preacher, Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, popularly called Prophet TB Joshua, died on June 5, at the age of 57.
No one saw his death coming. As no one expected that unfortunate twist, death strolled in like a thief in the night and took away the televangelist who amply used the Emmanuel Television he birthed to spread the Gospel.
But, according to an Emmanuel TV release, it appeared Prophet TB Joshua had a premonition of his homecall.
The statement revealed: “On Saturday, June 5, 2021, just one week short of his 58th birthday, in a final prophecy, Prophet TB Joshua said: ‘There is time for everything. Time to come here, and time to return home after service.’”
He harped on his favourite quote: “The greatest way to use life is to spend it on something that will outlive it.”
The release added: “The international preacher, televangelist and philanthropist Temitope Balogun Joshua passed on to glory after ministering live at the Emmanuel TV Partners Meeting, which took place at the SCOAN Prayer Mountain.
“His last moments were spent the way he always willed it – in God’s service. He was often quoted as saying, ‘this is what I was born for, I am living for, and I am going to die for.’”
Right now, his family members and followers are in distraught mode. The reality of his departure is beginning to sink. That is the telling reality.
When the Sunday Sun crew visited SCOAN last week, the air around the church was simply sombre.
The moment you pull up at the Synagogue bus stop on the Ikotun-Egbe Road, you are greeted by this imposing church edifice which rises as high as five floors or more up. On approach, the front view of the church building is unmistakable. Its left wing stretches more that 200 metres into Segun Irefin Street, giving the structure an impressive “L” shape.
The building’s intricately sculptured outer walls bear a certain choice golden-black hue that majestically gives it a certain air of beauty, royalty and awe. The front side of the building stands in majesty, encased by huge fence pillars with designer security railings – every aspect of that shares similar coat of colours. The arena is imposing, breathtaking. That is the gargantuan edifice where the late prophet once held sway as evangelist, teacher, pastor and manager of men, mega-money and materials. That is the earthly space he will miss forever because he is no more – gone without saying goodbye to his worldwide congregation, gone to his maker and keeper, gone to give accounts after his fulfilling earthly odyssey.
As you inch towards the well paved Segun Irefin Street, the church’s security officials watch your steps. Some will approach you to find out your mission.
If you are unaware of the news of the prophet’s passing, numerous flags of various countries – apparently where SCOAN has branches – are there to tell you. Each one of them beginning with Nigeria’s green-white-and-green flag kept fluttering in the wind at half mast. Behind each of them stands a well appointed flowering palm tree, reaching as high as a two-storey building, seemingly a standing guard. They compliment the spectacle which the SCOAN building is.
Then, right there at the entrance of the second gate, a near life portrait of Prophet TB Joshua stood on a decorated table smiling at everyone. Over 200 guests and worshipers – men and women – lined up, taking their turns to sign a condolence register in his honour. They all stood patiently waiting to just tell their late mentor how much they loved him and would miss him. Not one of them was talking, not even in hushed tones. Sitting near the closed entrances into the church auditorium were women in their large numbers. All around them was this seeming avalanche of quietude hanging thickly in the air; everyone was stricken and appeared hit by a certain unseen force. Silence was the common rule. You could hear the sound of a pin fall on the ground. Only what could be heard on the occasion was a power generation set steadily roaring at a factory afar off.
All over were grief-stricken worshipers, wearing long sad faces; they were clearly mourning in their hearts, but it also showed on their faces; they were simply, firmly in the grip of grief. The thought on their minds seemed to be “where do we go from here?” As the Good Book puts it, strike the shepherd and the flock shall scatter.
Church closed since COVID-19 lockdown
The Sunday Sun crew was told that at the height of COVID-19, the late Prophet TB Joshua closed the church. No physical church service was held. It was all virtual.
A source at SCOAN told our reporters that because of COVID-19, the church was yet to be reopened for normal Sunday worship sessions.
“Baba was not in a haste to open the church. He foresaw what would happen; he spoke about all these two years ago.
“He told us that a time would come when the gate of churches will not be opened; therefore, he enjoined us to hold God firmly and not depend on him. He encouraged us to have personal relationship with God and not put our trust and hope in him, a mortal body.
“All the women who flocked the premises when the church was locked, Baba would tell them to go home, read their bible and put their trust only in God,” he said.
Mum over his burial
When Sunday Sun crew tried to seek audience with some of his followers, none of them was in the mood to speak. It seemed to be an order handed down from above. Not even the security would allow you talk to anyone about that. That is a no-go-area for now.
Even members of the church’s media desk were not forthcoming with any information. But a close family member said there was information to black out for now. He, however, gave a hint that a date would be announced in a matter of days, adding that everything about the prophet’s burial would be the exclusive decision of the family.
A source at the church who preferred anonymity admitted that there was nothing on the ground for now regarding his burial, promising that such information would be announced through Emmanuel TV, the inhouse television channel of the church and press releases.
Fight over TB Joshua’s body
According to a source in SCOAN, “Baba’s magnanimity and acceptance worldwide had made his death a world affair. If not, the church or family members would have sat down to plan and strategise for the burial arrangement.
“He was an international figure. Nations are interested in his burial. We are not sure where the burial would take place, whether in Nigeria or outside Nigeria because as it is right now, many nations have indicated interest to have him buried in their country.”
In the meantime, his kith and kin in Arigidi-Akoko in Ondo State were said to be demanding that his remains be brought home to rest with his ancestors. But his family and the church have not spoken. A war of wits seems to be going on. But for now, none has had the final say.
The prophet’s family
Ask many around, perhaps not one of them can tell if Prophet TB Joshua had a family. Not much has been heard about his wife and children. That contrasts sharply with many churches’ general overseers of his clout and class, whose wives were always in the public space as Mummy GOs. The prophet’s wife, Mrs Evelyn Joshua, was always there in the background providing him with the energy he needed to soldier on.
Mrs Joshua, many didn’t know is the daughter of Mr and Mrs Nicholas Akabude of Okala Okpuno community in Oshimili North Local Government of Delta State. She had three children for the late prophet.
When officials of the Lagos State government came on a condolence visit on Wednesday, Mrs Joshua had appealed to the Lagos State governor for the government’s active participation in the prophet’s burial, while describing her husband’s death as an act of God.
“What happened is an act of God. There is a time for everything. It didn’t come to me as a surprise,” she said.
Fraudsters seeking to profit from prophet’s death
While the world grimaces following the prophet’s death, fraudsters were said to have gone on the rampage, desperate to profit from his exit.
A family source disclosed that fraudsters had created as many as seven fake social media accounts of Mrs Joshua purportedly soliciting help to bury her husband. He warned members of the public to beware.
“Mrs. Evelyn TB Joshua, wife of late Pastor TB Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, does not have or operate any social media handle or account.
“She has never owned or operated one. Kindly disregard any of such handles and accounts purportedly from her and have nothing to do with them as their activities do not represent her or her family,” the source warned.
According to him, “the underlisted Twitter handle and Facebook accounts (and any other) are owned and operated by fraudsters: @Mama_Evelyn, Prophetess Evelyn Joshua, Prophetess Evelyn Joshua Breakthrough Prayer, Evelyn Balogun Joshua Page, Rev. Evelyn T.B. Joshua, Prophetess Evelyn Balogun Joshua Prayer Room and Prophetess Evelyn Joshua Prayer Ministry.”
Anxiety over succession
With COVID-19 threat gradually easing and the church looking to return to physical prayer meetings, what is up on the card right now is who will succeed the departed prophet? Who will step into the big shoes he left behind?
Observers are waiting to see if history will repeat itself. Recall that years ago, when late Bishop Victor Iloputaife of Victory Christian Church, Lagos was killed by suspected assassins, his wife, Rev. Nkechi Iloputaife, took over the reins of the church. But some of the late bishop’s followers were vexed; they had thought of succeeding him. This triggered crisis that led to members pulling out to found their own churches.
Again, when Archbishop Benson Idahosa, founder of Church of God Mission International Incorporated, based in Benin City, died in March 1998, leaving behind his wife, Margaret Idahosa and four children, there was controversy over who would succeed him. The wife was later ordained to take over, leading to crisis which saw members jumping ship.
With speculation over who succeeds Prophet TB Joshua in the air, a trader and member of SCOAN, Nnamdi Ogbulie, was asked if there was an anointed servant who would take over from where TB Joshua stopped and he said: “Well, the church has not been into full-force since the outbreak of Coronavirus last year, but with time, all that would be sorted out.”
When asked whether Mrs Joshua would take over, a source close to the church told our reporters: “I doubt if she is an evangelist. But she is a member of the church management team. I cannot tell whether she would be in-charge going forward
“But surely, the church has a structure; a board of trustees and other decision-making arms. I think after the burial, they will sit down to see the best way forward for them.”
TB Joshua’s feat, miracles
Emmanuel TV in its release had described SCOAN as “Nigeria’s biggest tourist attraction and the most visited destination by religious tourists in West Africa.”
It claimed that “figures released by the Nigerian Immigration Service indicate that six out of every 10 foreign travellers came to Nigeria to see Prophet TB Joshua.
“Emmanuel TV, the broadcast arm of his ministry is the most viewed Christian channel in the world. His YouTube subscriber base was in excess of about 1.8 million with more than 1 billion video views in multiple languages, and more than 5,700,000 active followers on Facebook.
“TB Joshua also held several high-profile international events filling stadiums in Mexico, Indonesia, Dominican Republic, Botswana, Peru, Colombia, Korea, Singapore, Australia, Paraguay and more recently the United Kingdom and Israel.
“The historic ‘Nazareth Meeting With TB Joshua’ was held at Mount Precipice, Nazareth, Israel, where for the first time in thousands of years, miracles, signs and wonders were wrought in the name of Jesus, in His home town.
“TB Joshua is known for being a man of the people and his organisation is equally known for its engagement in a wide range of humanitarian projects around the world. Under the prophet’s direct leadership, the Emmanuel TV Team and Partners reach out to a troubled world regardless of continent, nationality, religion, race, tongue or tribe with outreaches in so many countries such as Colombia, Mexico, Pakistan, Indonesia, Russia, UK, USA, Haiti, the Philippines, India, Ecuador, South Africa, Botswana and Israel, among others.
“More recently the focus has been on COVID-19 relief in countries all over the world hard hit by the virus and consequential economic impact.
“Seeing these times as an opportunity to prove that God is more powerful in distance, Prophet TB Joshua launched ‘The Distance Is Not A Barrier Interactive Prayer Sessions.’ Since 2020, thousands have connected from their homes in every corner of the globe via video call to the Emmanuel TV Studios in Lagos, Nigeria, West Africa and received healing and deliverance. “Among the countless testimonies that followed these programmes were those of patients in isolation centres in Honduras who recently received prayer from Prophet TB Joshua from the Emmanuel TV Studios in Nigeria.
“Two days before God took him home, on Thursday, June 3, 2021, Prophet TB Joshua prayed for patients in an isolation centre in India during an interactive prayer session. After the prayer, all the patients testified that they had been healed by the power of God.
“Recognised as one of Africa’s 50 Most Influential People, Prophet TB Joshua is the recipient of various international accolades for philanthropic activities notably, Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) by the Nigerian Government in 2008, Yoruba Man of the Decade and Order of Merit from the Government of Paraguay in 2017.
“Prophet TB Joshua gave countless prophecies that he lived to see come to pass. Among many other world topics, he prophesied about the outcome of the 2020 US election, the passing of Michael Jackson and Diana, the princess of Wales.”
What SCOAN members say about TB Joshua
While some followers are still in doubt about the death of their Papa, some are celebrating his philanthropy and charity deeds.
Ogbulie who said he became a member of the church when he relocated from Sokoto, noted that he first became curious after watching Emmanuel TV from his base up north. Each time he was in Lagos for his business, he always worshiped with them at the Ikotun headquarters.
“When I was in Sokoto 15 years ago, I used to watch Emmanuel TV and attended the church services when I was in Lagos.
“I happened to know the late TB Joshua as a real man of God and child of God. He was a philanthropist, the voice of the voiceless and helper of the needy. He was a servant of God.”
Asked if he ever had a one-on-one with him, he said no.
“I only attend the church and pray with the wise men. When I started praying along with him, my spiritual life changed because he made me to understand that Jesus is all about Christianity and vice versa. He led people to Christ because he preached about salvation. Whatever rumour mongers are peddling about him I do not know; all I know is that he preached Jesus Christ,” Ogbulie said while admitting that he never benefited from his charitable deeds.
A lady trader at Ikotun market and an ardent follower of TB Joshua has his enlarged photograph hanging on the wall of her shop just as she wears an insignia of the late prophet.
She said: “I have been with him since 1982; he was my father in life and spirit; but he did not permit me to talk about him to anybody; so I cannot talk to you. Not even my children would make me talk about my Papa since he did not authorise me to do so.”
She opened her android phone to show with gladness a photo she took with the late prophet which serves as her screen saver.
All efforts to get the woman say a word about the late prophet yielded no fruit even when she was asked to talk about the man’s kind deeds.
Another worshiper, Ikechukwu Obia, from Delta State, said that he worshiped at SCOAN for months, but later stopped because for one to sit in the auditorium, they must leave home as early as 5:00a.m so as to get a card that would allow them inside the hall.
“I tried it for some months and asked myself, if anything should happen to me this early, what would become of my young family; that was why I stopped.”
Talking about late prophet’s fortune, Obia said: “The money he spent was not contributed by Nigerians in local currency; it was brought by foreigners. His state-of-the-art house was cast on the waters. He had apartments at the Synagogue Church and in Agodo Egbe area. He built two houses estimated at N150 million and N90 million .”
Neighbours speak about prophet’s humility, magnanimity
Magdalene Ikejiogu, resides near SCOAN.
She said: “I am very sad about his death. I am not a member of his church. As I came back from Mass that Sunday morning, I logged into my Facebook account and saw it. I said this is a very fat lie. I live on the same street where the church is and you are not even residing in Lagos, yet you are posting rubbish,’ I told my friend.
“When I scrolled a bit further, I saw the news on other newspapers’ platforms. That was when I started screaming, Jesus! Jesus!! Jesus!!! Throughout that day, I wasn’t myself.
“I have never met him before, but his good works speak for him. He helped the aged, especially with foodstuff. He sent so many people abroad. Even the power we are enjoying on this street 24/7 is because of him. He is a humanitarian; he did a lot for people.
“But he is human anyway; may God forgive him and grant him eternal rest. May the good works he did on earth for the young and old speak for him. I saw so many women crying because to them, there’s no hope anymore. He was their messiah, their helper.”
A shop owner on the church street who lives in the same neighbourhood with TB Joshua told Sunday Sun: “His plane takes off and lands there. He had a company and a large number of staff working there. I really don’t know what they manufacture, but he used to call us to come around to get firewood for cooking. He used to give us money, not only residents of our street, but those living on adjoining streets; they got similar favour from him. At Christmas, he gave out money, rice and other assistance.”
Another resident, Peju Thompson, said: “I’m not happy. I cried and cried last Sunday. That man was a very good man. He helped so many souls, and healed people. I did not met him one-on-one. I was even planning to attend the church next Sunday not knowing he would die. Only God knows why. I still have faith that whenever I watched him online, I will be healed.”
Sussin Vasna, from Nepal resides in one of the hotels on the street. He told our reporter that the death of the cleric was unbelievable.
“I’m very sad,” he said, adding that four of them were recruited in Nepal 18 months ago to run the Bista Bakery based in Ipaja, Lagos.
“I will go back next month to see my family and will still come back.”
At the cleric’s residence, two uniformed security men sat at the gate, mournful. They said there was nothing happening at the place; information could only be obtained from the church.
A landlord in the area a.k.a “Go-on-Soun” said: “When I lost my dad years back, he gave the family N100, 000. The first car he used, a blue Santana car, was always parked at this particular spot you are standing. He was a very respectful man, always greeting you saying ‘Sir, Ma.’ His elder brother (Blessing) and I are friends. Every Christmas, he gave each local government 100 bags of rice to share to mark the celebration.”
Some youths in the area, Alhaji Wasiu Abanise, Alhaji Sikiru Akirogun of Agodo and Mr. Olarenwaju Aimasiko, also spoke nice words about him.
“He used to give us surplus rice during Christmas, about 500 bags of rice and also N500,000 or N1 million every year to organise end-of-the-year party. He also extended the cash to the landlords’ association. We always distributed the rice to people living in this community. But we didn’t share the cash with anybody because that was what we used to organise end-of-the-year party.
The house opposite us was where he started life as a teacher. He was squatting there before he moved to a one-room apartment, also in this vicinity. We have not seen someone that would replace TB Joshua. He is irreplaceable. We cannot question God. It would take another century to see a man like TB or God might not even produce his kind anymore.
“Towards December, this community was always busy with trailers offloading rice. We, the youths were the organisers; we usually held a meeting inside the compound; when he came around he would ask us what we wanted him to do for us. Aside rice and money, whether we wanted a cow? He would tell us to be mindful of hoodlums during the Christmas carnival; he gave us security also to secure the occasion. He never minded if you were a Muslim or a traditionalist; he helped everybody.
“With all his wealth, he didn’t ride a luxury car. The biggest car I saw him riding was a Hilux, or coaster/hummer bus often used by policemen. Lately, he bought an helicopter.
“Sometimes, around 3,000 people would be waiting at his residence in the morning before he left. Some of them always came for one form of assistance or the other, while others were workers. Maybe the administrator of the church sacked them; so they stormed the house to inform the Man of God about their plight. That was what he faced every day.
“I’m sure that was why he bought an helicopter. He was always taking off from his compound. He bought the helicopter about two years ago. Even at that, he still used to stroll down the street without guards.
“Sometimes, when we gathered at this junction discussing and he came around, he would wrap his hand around our necks. We quickly prostrated before him. But he would ask us not to do that. If he promised us that he was coming to see us at 7:00a.m, he would do that. He never disappointed. At his residence right now, there are about 50 traditional rulers from Ekiti and Ondo states debating on where he should be buried because the Lagos State governor wants him buried in Lagos State. Even, Israel is demanding to have his body. This particular spot (pointing at a place) was where he sat on Saturday when the ambulance took him away.
“Iya Sarah, his wife was sitting in front of the ambulance. He was taken to a hospital at Hostel bus stop. Then he was rushed to another hospital.
“But to be candid, by that time, the Man of God was ready to go.
“God wanted him back. If not, in his church, they are many qualified doctors that would have attended to him. He died at 6:30 p.m on Saturday.
“He said he would not celebrate his birthday because of the current situation in Nigeria. He said we should all pray and keep watching. That was his sermon the day the incident happened. There is so much propaganda on social media about the Man of God, but the truth remains that till date some still criticise Jesus Christ and even Mohammed.
“He lived in one room at Abati, (close by). He married his wife in that one room and had their daughter Sarah there. Apart from his home town, this is where he started life and became what he became today. He was very humble. Even some of our childhood friends that we had forgotten, he would come around to ask us, ‘where they are now, how is Toyin, Segun etc?’
“He was also our teacher back then; so he knew virtually everyone of us. There’s no pastor like him, no sympathiser like him in Nigeria among the men of God we have in this generation. We need just five of TB Joshua in Nigeria and no one will suffer in this country. He never campaigned as a councilor, but what he did, no president in this country will ever do that. He gave food to everyone.”
T.B Joshua’s life and church
The widespread shock that greeted Prophet T.B Joshua’s sudden demise is not inexplicable. His life, though dogged by controversies – as he often admitted himself – many believe, was an epitome of service to God and humanity. Testimonies from his church members and numerous beneficiaries from his Arigidi-Akoko hometown in Ondo State where he was born some 57 years ago before coming to Lagos where he started and nurtured his Christian ministry, continue to speak volumes of a man whose humanitarian, philanthropic and spiritual impact was felt not only in Africa, but also in almost every continent of the world.
His birth was not less a mystery just as his lifetime. Born on June 12, 1963, the revered man of God once revealed that instead of the usual nine months, his mother carried his pregnancy for 15 months before he was eventually born.
Prophet T.B Joshua did not have the luxury of bountiful formal education as he was said to have only had the privilege of spending one year in secondary school upon the completion of his primary education at St. Stephen’s Anglican Primary School, Ikare-Akoko, between 1971 and 1977.
T.B Joshua began to show glimpses of what lay ahead of him right from his school days when he was said to have attracted the sobriquet, “Small Pastor” because of his love for teaching his fellow pupils the word of God. Besides his love for the teaching of the bible, he was equally said to have demonstrated his gift of clairvoyance by predicting events that would happen in his community right from his early days. These events would later set the stage for a 25-year Christian ministry that transformed and catapulted the cleric to a global Christian figure.
Later in life, Prophet T.B Joshua claimed to have seen a vision in which popular biblical figures commissioned him to preach and perform miracles. His church, the Synagogue Church of All Nations then started off, though rather modestly in 1987 under the bridge linking Ejigbo and Egbe in Lagos State, with eight members. As the population of members at his church grew with the physical expansion reaching its limit, the late T.B Joshua, in 1994, moved from the makeshift location to the current location which houses his church building at Ikotun, Lagos. The church which lies on a massive expanse of land has since become a Mecca of sort as people from countries across the world throng the church daily largely seeking spiritual helps for their diverse challenges.
TB Joshua later established the Emmanuel TV station in Lagos from where services taking place in his church are beamed for wide viewership on cable TV. Many believe the SCOAN thrived largely on the strength of the innumerable miracles performed his lifetime. This perhaps informs the fear many have expressed over the future of the church since the shocking demise of its founder penultimate.
Besides his claims of miracles, the cleric was equally known for his predictions. Notable among his predictions were the death of Michael Jackson and the disappearance of the Malaysian plane MH370.
TB Joshua’s critics were always quick to dismiss his claims of miracles and prophecies and would describe them as vague. This, however, did not deter the thousands of followers who throng his church services.
His influence attracted not only the low, but the mighty who besieged his church. The South African politician, Julius Malema, Malawi’s former President Joyce Banda, Zimbabwean politician, Morgan Tsvangirai, and the former president of Ghana, the late John Atta Mills, are among the prominent Africans who at one time or the other paid homage to the Man of God during his lifetime.
While the ministry was believed to have flourished more on the strengths of the prophecies he gave, and the miracles he reportedly performed, his likeable personality which endeared him to millions of non-members of his church was perhaps his uncommon disposition to the works of charity.
The late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua awarded him the Order of the Federal Republic, one of the country’s highest national honours in recognition of his philanthropy.
Prophet TB Joshua was a philanthropist and allegedly one of Nigeria’s millionaire pastors who flew private jets. He also devoted his time to writing books.