Assisted by a team of talented lawyers, Nigerian preacher Temitope Balogun (TB) Joshua managed to avoid appearing before a Lagos court on charges of “criminal negligence” and “involuntary homicide” all the way through to his death.
Though he liked to brag about his power to resurrect members of his church flock, he wasn’t able to prevent his own “heavenly departure”, which occurred on “Saturday [5 June] after his evening programme”. No information about the cause of death has been released.
Mr Joshua’s scandal-plagued career has been full of intrigue from the get-go: there’s lots of money, claims of miracles, legal drama, conspiracy theories – the whole shebang. The neo-Pentecostal pastor reportedly “spent 15 months in his mother’s womb and narrowly avoided death after a quarry explosion near his house sent rocks through its roof just seven days after his birth”. His followers even claimed that his arrival on Earth had been prophesied 100 years earlier.
A savvy communicator
Mr Joshua’s miraculous origin story allowed him to cash in on a megachurch business that attracted an enthusiastic following, but not without ruffling a few feathers.
The savvy communicator founded and led the Lagos-based Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), taking credit for performing many “miracles”, including resurrections and curing worshippers of AIDS. His fans included many African sport stars, politicians and entertainment celebrities. In 2011, Forbes estimated Mr Joshua’s net worth at between $10m and $15m.
After sparking several controversies over videos he posted online, his presence on popular websites began to peter out. YouTube shut down his channel, which had 1.8m subscribers, while Facebook removed several videos showing his “cures” from his page – with 5.7 million followers – on the social network.
Referred to by his churchgoers as “the man of God” or “the Prophet”, his most controversial – and homophobic – video featured a woman being hit violently in an attempt to rid her of “the demon of homosexuality”. The video was viewed more than 1.5 million times.
‘Christendom has lost a giant’
Mr Joshua’s biggest scandal took him all the way to court when a guesthouse hosting some of his church followers collapsed in 2014.
Extra floors had been added to the structure, but those responsible for its construction never obtained the required building permits or considered the risk of structural failure. The tragedy claimed 116 lives and a court recommended prosecuting the preacher along with two structural engineers. Mr Joshua maintained that it was an act of “sabotage”.
According to his version of the incident, a mysterious plane attacked and destroyed the building. In the end, his trial was postponed on several occasions and the case was ongoing at the time of his death. The governor of Ondo State, the south-western region from which Mr Joshua hailed, said that “Christendom has lost a giant”.
“Not only Africa is hit hard; this is a great global knock as his Pastor TB Joshua's ministry attracted an immeasurable foreign followership. Christendom has lost a giant.
— Ondo State APC (@OndoAPC) June 6, 2021
Nigeria has no shortage of famous, guru-like pastors: there’s David Oyedepo, the millionaire presiding bishop of Living Faith Church Worldwide; Reverend Essa Ogorry, who refused to marry a young couple after they arrived a few minutes late to their wedding; and Michael Oluronbi, a Nigerian-born pastor with a church in Birmingham, England, who was sentenced to 34 years in prison after being convicted of sexual abuse.
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