June 13, (THEWILL)- Some people choose the way they live and exit the stage on their own terms. When the Founder of The Synagogue Church of All Nations, Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua died on Saturday, June 5 he took the members of his church by surprise. Even his wife, Evelyn, was dumbstruck.
Speaking on his death, Mrs Joshua said, “He ended the race prayerfully. He spent about three hours in prayers before the last service on the mountain and was looking very healthy. He never showed any sign of illness or worry…Afterward, he came up to shower. Few minutes later, he stepped out for ministration. While ministering, he spoke about a time to come and time to leave and suddenly, he left the stage and went to his inner chambers.
“I waited a few minutes and thereafter, I decided to check on him. I met him sitting on the chair like someone reflecting but unconscious. His disciples came and tried to revive him to no avail.”
A fellow prophet, Apostle Iginla, said he had many visions of Joshua’s death long ago and told him. But Joshua waved him aside, saying he was ready anytime the Lord chose to call him home.
The man had his ways, wrote his script and performed it to the letter, regardless of what others thought of him or felt about his mission.
Prophet Joshua took the country and indeed, Christendom by storm when he began his evangelism in the early 1990s. Instant miracles and cure for all kinds of ailments and the casting out of demons were advertised on radio and TV sets hoisted aloft planks in his then ramshackle church building, which paled in comparison to the magnificent edifice that now stands on the same plot of land a few years after.
Testimonies after testimonies of his feat spread across the country in leaps and bounds. Soon enough, his fame also spread across the globe. And the high and low, the mighty and the weak flocked to Egbe-Ikotun on the outskirts of Lagos, where his church is located. World leaders, such as late John Evans Atta-Mills of Ghana; late Zimbabwean Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangira; Winnie Mandela; ex-First Lady, Patience Goodluck Jonathan and former President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, were among his patrons. So too were many football and movie stars, politicians and businessmen and women too numerous to name.
At a time, the Church became a Mecca for many Europeans and Americans in a way that exemplified one of the best examples of medical tourism the country has ever witnessed. Many came with X-rays showing degrees of terminal diseases they wanted cured by Joshua. As a result, business boomed for many hotels in Lagos, just as much-needed foreign exchange poured into the Lagos economy.
Opinion is still divided whether any cure or healing actually took place, but the crowds of people seeking solutions to their problems never waned; it increased instead.
Faith was at work, as many were wont to say. Until misfortune struck the Church in September, 2014 when a building under construction collapsed, killing almost 100 persons, many of whom were visitors from South Africa.
Apart from his spirituality, Joshua was also known for his legendary philanthropy. He gave to the needy warm-heartedly, although with some ostentation. At times, he was said to send for beggars and hosted them to feasts. Scholarships were offered to members of the church and their children and others who requested for help. Again, fault finders never, for once, thought he was doing these things for free.
Mr Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu, a senior journalist and currently Media Adviser to founder of United Nigeria Airlines, aptly captures these opposite views, on his Facebook wall, recently.
He wrote, “Never met Prophet T B Joshua personally, though I felt the impact of his humanness. I lived in Agodo-Egbe, close to him. I noticed that every December, he would send in earthmovers to grade the streets bordering his.
“On this particular Christmas Eve, TB sent in four bags of rice to the compound where I lived like he did to all houses on the streets around him. We had four flats and it was a bag per flat. I am Catholic. The other neighbours were Apostolic, Deeper Life and Christ Embassy. To my surprise, they all rejected the bags of rice on the argument that TB was into occultism and that the rice was a bait. I laughed… don’t ask me what happened to the other three bags. The Christmas was finer. Relax in Peace, TB.”
According to Forbes Magazine, Joshua gave away $20m in three years before his death.
In this age of the three dominant strands of the Christian religion, namely orthodox, protestant and pentecostal churches alongside new age thought, ruled by gurus and their do-it-yourself meditation techniques, it may be hard to place the SCOAN.
Joshua’s method and practices were more of a syncretic nature that appealed to the core of the African and like minds who believe every life challenge is “spiritual” and must be exorcised for a breakthrough.
Indeed, a man with such strange ways as Joshua was bound to invoke strong, even extreme passions, particularly of envy and love. Some pastors saw him as a worker for the devil, while many, especially those he solved their spiritual and financial problems, saw him as God sent. And these many others on a global scale comprised Europeans, Americans and continental Africans, who flocked to his church for redemption.
Commenting on how other pastors saw him, Senior Pastor of Benin-City based Divine Grace of Glory Church International, Pastor Peter Israel Obaseki, said,
“Why I think he has not been in CAN or in PFN is because, many of the Christian bodies have not believed in his ministry.
“We have not seen him in CAN meetings, PFN meetings and other Christian bodies, but he is a man that stands on his own. That makes his ministry to be different and because of that difference, many people misconstrued him, not believing him because the way God manifested through him became what many Christian bodies were doubting and this caused a lot of issues.
“It is now that many people are trying to understand his ministry. Many of those who criticised him in the past are beginning to understand that he was truly a man of God and not as they thought. Many of them have called him an antichrist and a false prophet in the past, but he never paid them attention. He stayed focused on the area that God called him.”
Even so, it was a measure of Joshua’s national reputation that the Senate on Tuesday observed a minute’s silence in his honour. This was sequel to the adoption of Order 43 raised by the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Ajayi Borroffice, over his death in Lagos.
Later, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, called for a minute’s silence to honour the late cleric. He also commiserated with the deceased’s family over the irreparable loss of their bread winner.
Earlier, President Muhamadu Buhari had condoled with the members of SCOAN and late Joshua’s family, saying, “that life is not measured and defined by chronological longevity, but by enduring legacies and lives touched positively.” His immediate predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan said, “As a Christian leader, TB Joshua and his ministry exemplified Christ in faith, love and charity; positively impacting the lives of many Nigerians, Africans and millions of people across the world.” Many state governors and businessmen have spoken in similar vein.
A day after Joshua passed on, the traditional ruler of his hometown in Ondo State, Arigidi Akoko, Oba Yisa Olanipekun, said he would like Joshua’s burial take place in the community so as to ensure that his philanthropic legacy remained in the heart of the people.
“He would bring rice to the people whenever we requested. He hated to see people go hungry. He was instrumental to the electrification of many communities in Akoko land after years of darkness,” the monarch said.
In 2008, TB Joshua was honoured with the title of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) by the then Federal Government led by late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Surely, T. B Joshua may have meant different things to different people, but this prophet was with honour in his own country.