Nigeria’s disgraced televangelist TB Joshua

TB Joshua attending to a follower
Image caption,TB Joshua preached across the world

Before his death in 2021 at the age of 57, TB Joshua was one of Africa’s most influential televangelists.

The Christian preacher attracted followers from all over the world by claiming to perform miracles, like curing blindness and HIV.

However, an investigation by the BBC has uncovered more than a decade of allegations of rape and torture by him inside his compound in Lagos.

Joshua amassed great wealth throughout his career, possessing a fleet of cars and travelling via private jet.

But his beginnings were far more humble. Born Temitope Balogun Joshua to a poor family on 12 June 1963, he was raised by a Muslim uncle after his Christian father died.

One of the claims he made was that he had been in his mother’s womb for 15 months.

He also said that during his early days, he experienced a three-day trance in which he was called to serve God.

“I am your God. I am giving you a divine commission to go and carry out the work of the heavenly father,” Joshua declared.

It was then that he started the Synagogue, Church of All Nations (Scoan), with eight members.

Joshua and Scoan rose to prominence in the late 1990s, amid an explosion of “miracle” programmes performed by pastors on Nigerian TV.

Tens of thousands of followers from Nigeria and around the world would regularly attend his services in Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city, in an attempt to be healed and hear the preacher’s “prophecies”.

Joshua also took his ministry on tour, visiting other African countries, the UK, US, and nations in South America.

Nigerian man lies on ground during healing session in Lagos in undated picture.
Image caption,Men and women used to fall during “healing” sessions at the Synagogue Church of All Nations

In testament to his vast reach, the Lagos state government turned to Joshua in an effort to control the spread of Ebola during the 2014 outbreak in other West African countries.

Officials asked Joshua to tell infected followers in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – the worst affected countries – not to travel to Joshua’s Lagos church for healing.

He agreed to suspend some of the church’s healing programmes but is also said to have sent 4,000 bottles of “anointing water” to Sierra Leone, falsely claiming they could cure the disease.

Joshua’s anointing water was always in high demand – in 2013 a rush for the bottles at his church in Ghana led to the death of four people in a stampede.

Many criticised the preacher following the incident but police in Ghana said it was difficult to apportion blame.

In an even deadlier case the following year, one of Joshua’s churches collapsed in Lagos, killing at least 116 people.

The preacher never faced charges, despite a coroner in a Lagos court saying that “the church was culpable because of criminal negligence”.

Although thousands packed his churches, Joshua always struggled to be accepted by his peers.

Ostracised by both the Christian Association of Nigeria (Can) and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), he was described as an “impostor” who belonged to a group of “occults” that had infiltrated Christianity.

“He was rough. He was crude. His methods were unorthodox,” Abimbola Adelakun, assistant professor in the African Studies Department at the University of Texas, told the BBC in 2021.

While the growth of the internet and social media helped him spread his message, it also revealed increasing opposition to Joshua and other wealthy mega-church pastors.

Some critics took issue with Joshua – known as “the prophet” by his followers – claiming to have predicted numerous events, from the death of Michael Jackson, to the disappearance of the Malaysian plane MH370 in 2014.

Before Jackson’s death in 2009, TB Joshua told his congregation : “In his own area he is famous. He is known everywhere. Great. Too great. Because I see something will begin to happen to that star and that will likely end in him to pack his load and go to the journey of no return but I don’t know when that journey [is].”

Six months later, Joshua used the star’s shock death as proof that he could supposedly see the future.

Despite making such outlandish claims, Joshua had numerous high-profile followers.

South African politician Julius Malema, Malawi’s former President Joyce Banda, long-time Zimbabwe opposition leader, the late Morgan Tsvangirai and the former president of Ghana, the late John Atta Mills, are among the prominent Africans who paid homage to Joshua while he was alive.

Worshippers of the Nigerian Pentecostal church Salvation Ministries attend the 5th Sunday service at their church headquarters in Port Harcourt, southern Nigeria, on February 24, 2019
Image caption,Joshua’s followers used to call him “the prophet”

Joshua career really took off when he began preaching on Emmanuel TV, a television station run by Scoan.

Along with being a platform for his sermons, the station broadcast accounts of people who said their lives were changed for the better because of the preacher’s ministry.

Testimonies included stories about financial prosperity, inexplicable recoveries from illness and even people supposedly being awakened from the dead.

Joshua was also known for his charity work, for which Nigeria’s former president, the late Umaru Yar’Adua, awarded him the Order of the Federal Republic, one of the country’s highest honours.

When the preacher died – of a cause that was never made public – mourners travelled from across the globe to Lagos for his burial service.

His wife, Evelyn Joshua, took over as head of the the church. They had three children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *