By Chika Abanobi
I want to say that this piece is not going to end the raging controversy that exists over the three-part documentary run by the British Broadcasting Service (BBC) on the personality and ministry of Prophet TB Joshua. It was a documentary meant to ‘expose’ him as fake both in his private capacity and his public posturing as a miracle worker and a prophet. But in this article, I want to look at the issue from three perspectives:
The mistakes that BBC made
To start with, the BBC documentary is said to have been put together over two years. But it raised more questions than it set out to answer. This is because the documentary seemed to have been skewered to impugn the personal integrity of TB Joshua. This is particularly so on the allegation that healings, miracles, and deliverances under his ministry were all faked or prearranged.
Well, a good number of people, including Nigeria’s actress, Iyaba Ojo, have come out to debunk such a view and to insist that the miracles either they or their relatives received were not faked, even if faking of miracles happened to be the norm at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN).
The reliability of eyewitness account
Yet, one cannot authoritatively dismiss the assertions of the former members of the church particularly when they confessed to having participated in such deception. In journalism, eyewitnesses account of an event or incident ranks high in the search for truth. This is why we watch television or listen to radio news: we want to hear from the eyewitnesses to make some sense of what happened.
But in gathering eyewitnesses on this score, BBC, a highly reputed news medium seemed to have shot itself in the foot by leaving out circumstances that seemed to cast some doubts on the claims made by the two former disciples, Bisola and Agomoh.
Instances of genuine miracles
The truth is, there were instances where people were genuinely healed or delivered while watching Emmanuel TV from faraway places outside the Synagogue where TB Joshua is said to be busy doing his own thing. How do we account for that? Was it Joshua that did it or the mercy of God? Interestingly, out of the 25 eyewitnesses interviewed for the documentary, only two, Bisola and Agomoh, made the allegation about fake miracles. The rest 23 did not say anything about it. This could be because they were not involved in the emergency services as Bisola and Agomoh were.
All the same, there were situations and incidents that, when looked at critically and dispassionately, seem to cast some doubts on the veracity of the BBC report. If the correspondents and their producers had been a bit more conscientious in doing a rigorous work by talking to important personalities who claimed to have been healed, that would have helped.
Nothing stops BBC from doing a thorough medical investigation that would have either authenticated their claims or else faulted them. But because the broadcast body was out to prove a point, they neglected some areas that would have cast them in the eyes of the listening or viewing public as unbiased.
The paternity of Ajoke
Take, for instance, the issue of Ajoke, the alleged daughter of Prophet TB Joshua. No attempt was made to ascertain whether she was truly his daughter. Who was her mother? How did she become TB Joshua’s daughter? Nobody asked her that question. Nobody bothered to find out. The documentary rather gave the impression that TB Joshua must have had a love child outside wedlock, from another woman somewhere whose identity he didn’t want the public to know. And, till the day of his death, he succeeded in shielding her true identity from members of the public.
But the truth that emerged later showed that the Ajoke of a person was an adopted child who was allegedly picked up somewhere around Idimu in 1995 by a police officer. It was after that, that Joshua, out of sympathy, decided to adopt her. Yet these facts were hidden from the public by the BBC ‘African Eye’.
Evidence of poor investigation
One would have expected an investigation which is said to have been carried out over two years by a team of seasoned journalists to be more thorough than we were being fed. One is not surprised therefore to see some viewers, particularly members and sympathizers of SCOAN accuse the BBC of bias and of having a secret agenda to pull ‘the man of God’ down. Although evidence seems to point in that direction, I see it as one of those professional indiscretions that we get into as journalists when our emotions seem to overwhelm our reasoning faculty.
That Synagogue’s complaint and late reaction
But in all fairness to BBC, attempts were made by the broadcasting corporation to get reactions from SCOAN before it put out the documentary for public viewing. As it is common with most Nigerians, that golden opportunity to address the issues raised in the documentary was spurned by the church.
Yet, they turned around to accuse the same BBC of being biased in their reports by not hearing and reflecting their side of the story. The question is, how do you get the view of a man who has refused to talk or address a matter, a man who believes that if he does not speak the matter will die a natural death? So, I see the church’s attempt to cast aspersion on the poorly done BBC report as a classic case of bellyaching. Their latter reactions remind one of the lines from Birago Diop’s famous poem “Vanity,”
If we tell, gently, gently
All that we shall one day have to tell
Who then will hear our voices without laughter?
Sad complaining voices of beggars
Who indeed will hear them without laughter?
If we cry roughly of our torments
Ever increasing from the start of things
What eyes will watch our large mouths
Shaped by the laughter of big children
What eyes will watch our large mouths?
What hearts will listen to our clamouring?
What ear to our pitiful anger?
Which grows in us like a tumor.
The mistakes the Synagogue members/sympathisers make
The part of the documentary that rankles most with members of the Synagogue church and some sympathizers is the part that portrays TB Joshua as a serial sexual predator and rapist. Some people cannot simply wrap their heads around that. Since the airing of the documentary, feeble attempts have been made to debunk that view.
Some of the defenders point to TB Joshua’s humble character and philanthropic works which even the eyewitnesses themselves attested to. But the problem is, how do his humble disposition and philanthropic works exonerate him from those damming allegations from the female members interviewed? And, to worsen the matter, the eyewitnesses cut across tribe or race.
I don’t see any of those interviewed unseating the legacies built over the years simply by making unfounded allegations of sexual impropriety against TB Joshua. I don’t see them working their way into the minds of people like Joshua did and taking over his church. So? It is either their allegations are true or they are not. If, as some people claim, the eyewitnesses were paid by some enemies to tarnish the image and integrity of the man of God with such wild allegations, the question is, who paid them? I don’t see anybody having more money than TB Joshua had to buy and retain the loyalty of people if he wanted to.
TB Joshua’s philanthropy and sexual accusations
Some other defenders liken the kind of false allegations made against him to those made against the Lord Jesus by the Sadducees and Pharisees. But the truth is, although the religious authorities of Jesus’s earthly day made unfounded allegations against Him, none accused Him of sleeping with a woman. Neither did any of the women that Jesus associated with while on earth accused Him of sleeping with them or asking them to undress. It follows therefore that if allegations of sexual impropriety are being made against TB Joshua, it should be something of a big concern to the church.
Trying to defend him while we don’t live or sleep with him is, to me, the height of hypocrisy. Wiseman Harry of Thessalonica, Greece put out a video in which he tried to debunk the accusation by noting that they, the Wisemen, used to stay next door to TB Joshua and would have known if there was something like that going on.
Well, the kind of women that said the kind of things that were said in the video, up to the point of describing intimate details about the late Prophet, would either be psychopaths and somnambulists of the first order or humiliated, aggrieved women with some bottled-up emotions seeking some healing by letting it all out in the manner they did.
Holiness and healing
The mistake that all of us make is, to assume that if someone is truly immoral as some people claim, he cannot perform miracles, healing, and deliverances. To this end, we attribute our ability to perform extraordinary things to purity and holiness. We say and think that there’s no way that someone can do the kind of things that TB Joshua did while alive if he was not living a holy life, We cite the story of the sons of Sceva who were attacked while trying to deliver a man in the name of Jesus whom Paul was preaching.(Acts 19:13-17) to buttress our point that the manifestation of supernatural power is proof of someone’s purity.
Well, the Bible, in many places, disagrees with such a view (Matthew 7: 21-23; 24: 11, 24, 25; Acts 8:9-23). The case of David (and other men of God such as Rev. Jim Jones of the Guyana mass suicide, David Koresh, of the Branch Davidians shows that sexual predators do everything within their power, including killing if they can, to suppress information they feel will damage their reputation in the eyes of the public. But whether their attempts to cover up or our attempts to defend them will save them at the judgement seat of God is quite another thing.
Solomon, David, and manifestation of God’s power
Think about Solomon. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:). Yet, he was not only the wisest man that ever lived, if you are a Christian, you can’t do without the books he wrote: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Songs of Solomon. Think about David his father. He had many wives and concubines or side chicks (2 Samuel 5:13; 15:16; 19:5; 20:3). He later committed adultery with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife.
As if that was not enough evil, he had the woman’s husband killed, in a bid to cover up his deed (2 Samuel 11:1-27). Yet, he wrote the psalms which we all use today to fight and pray against our enemies. They work, don’t they? So? God may use you to do miracles, to heal people, to deliver them, or to see into their future. But that does not mean that the reason you are being used to do all those wonderful things is because you are pure or holy.
How the church failed TB Joshua
The Bible indeed asked us not to suddenly lay hand on any man or be a partaker in other men’s sin (1 Timothy 5:22). it indeed said not to associate with anybody who is immoral (1 Corinthian 5:11). But let the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) look inward.
Many of its members had been accused of the same sin of immorality that TB Joshua is being accused of today. Yet, they have continued to remain members of the two bodies. Some are suspected of using the power of Beelzebub or Ogun to do miracles, to heal the sick, and to raise the dead. Yet, they continued to be members of these two bodies.
The question is, in light of all these, why did we decide to throw Prophet TB Joshua under the bus? If we had made some efforts to bring him into our fold as Pastor Christ Oyakhilome of Christ Embassy tried to do some years ago before he was run out of town, maybe we would have been in a position to help him,
The case of Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila
What did I hear you say? TB Joshua would have used the two Christian bodies to burnish his public image and continue in his pernicious ways. Well, Apollos was an eloquent man who knew only the gospel of John the Baptist (Acts 18:24-28).
But when Priscilla and Aquila perceived that he could be useful in the hands of God, they took him and taught him the Word of God perfectly. May God give the church understanding and caring fathers and mothers of the faith like Priscilla and Aquila who will take up the work of nurturing to fruition those of us who do not understand this way and this work perfectly,
Looking back at the BBC documentary, the Bible says: “Some people lead sinful lives and everyone knows they will be judged. But there are others whose sin will not be revealed until later”(1 Timothy 5:24, New Living Translation, NLT). In John chapter 8, a woman was caught in adultery, in the very act of it, and people were not only excited about it but also prepared to despatch her to hell by having her stoned. Jesus said: “All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!” (John 8:7, NLT).
Abanobi, Christian journalist, was a pioneer Staff Writer, Weekend Concord, and formerly Associate Editor, The Sun, Lagos.