Four factors caused the highly popular cleric to stand out from the crowd: his prophecies, his healing ministry, his philanthropy, and the controversies that dogged him.
Prophet Joshua’s prophecies included deaths of political leaders, air crashes, national disasters, and winners of electoral contests in Africa, Europe, and America. His spiritual healing techniques raised eyebrows in several quarters but they were very effective, drawing thousands of miracle-seekers from across the globe to SCOAN’s sprawling international headquarters at Ikotun, a suburb of Lagos.
The diverse miracles he wrought were positively complemented by his equally great philanthropic acts. A Forbes blogger estimated that he spent about $20million on education, healthcare, and rehabilitation schemes for Niger Delta militants. It was also reported that he has spent millions – if not billions – of naira on multitudes of students from primary to tertiary education since the programme commenced nearly two decades ago.
And what still remains to be said about his highly celebrated rescue and recovery missions both at home and abroad – the Haiti earthquake disaster and the Philippine tsaunami, among so many others. In quite a number of them, an agency of his ministry was among the first responders on the ground.
And then the litany of controversies that dogged his life and ministry. The spiff between him and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) was most virulent when Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor held sway as the national president.
Who can easily forget the two famous questions the CAN president kept urging concerned Nigerians to demand answers from Prophet Joshua: (1) What is his born-again testimony? (2) Which Bible school did he attend/where did he receive formal training as a member of the Clergy?
But Prophet Joshua remained as silent as the grave throughout the period, preferring instead to let his work do the talking for him. During the same period, any minister of the Gospel that had an amiable working relationship with Prophet Joshua was equally tackled by the CAN high command and denominational head pastors aligned with their stance.
Most Nigerians would easily recall the gripping in-your-face spat on national TV between the two Chrises – Rev. Chris of the Household of God, a tag team member of CAN, and Pastor Chris of Christ Embassy, a latter-day ally of Prophet Joshua, although it was also being rumoured that the real cause of the altercations centred on an ownership struggle over a posh plot of real estate in their Ikeja precincts.
Unlike Pastor Oritsejafor, I never thought any less of Prophet Joshua on account of his not attending a Bible/theological school because the likes of Apostle Paul never did, yet see the impact he made on Christendom.
Be that as it may, it was still very hard for me to rid my memory of several of the seemingly unorthodox practices and rituals Prophet Joshua engaged in as he started his ministry work on a sand-filled plot of land along the Igando/Iyana-Oba expressway.
A controversy arose early in his ministry when it was alleged that Prophet Joshua was preaching that Jesus wasn’t the son of God, but a prophet and a special messenger – a view very much in sync with Koranic teaching. This possibly raised question marks over his true Christian state as the divinity of Jesus as the second person in the Trinity or Godhead is a sacrosanct Christian doctrine.
The allegation – if indeed it was true – may possibly explain why he was initially calling himself Emmanuel in a manner that allowed his followers to deify him as Jesus Christ. And on the number of times he was asked point-blank if he was Jesus, he simply parleyed the question and refrained from unambiguously answering it and clearing the air.
In 2014, a high rise building within the complex collapsed, killing at least 115 persons, mostly foreigners. But the caustic reaction by the South African government – majority of victims were South Africans – did very little to stem the traffic to Nigeria.
Prophet Joshua notably refused to appear before the panel established by the Lagos State Government to probe the calamity – not even the threats of the coroner to throw the full weight of the law at him caused a change of attitude.
A great iroko tree has indeed transited and only God knows how crestfallen the vast majority of SCOAN members around the globe – particularly in East and South Africa, the Caribbeans, Eastern Europe, and Latin America – must be.
Prophet Joshua was a worthy successor to Archbishop Benson Idahosa as the greatest televangelist Nigeria has ever produced. He did far more to propagate Nigeria in positive light than any other individual or organization.
Foreigners were pouring into Nigeria in droves on account of religious pilgrimage-cum-tourism, generating substantial amounts of foreign exchange to the national coffers. He even converted the swampy morass at Ikotun into a wonderland on the scale of Disney theme parks.
According to Scriptures, “A tree is known by its fruits…A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things.” So let it be with Prophet Joshua.
Irrespective of the fact that he had already received a national honour, I very strongly appeal to the Buhari administration would quickly move to confer a posthumous high national honour – not less than Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) – on Prophet Joshua for “highly meritous services rendered to the nation and humanity.”
May Almighty God grant his family, SCOAN members, as well as the government and citizens of Nigeria, in particular, and Christendom in general, the fortitude and wisdom to bear the irreparable loss.
Prophet TB, you were humble in life but proudly triumphant in death. May your soul rest in perfect peace and your memory continue to be a huge blessing to all you left behind until Resurrection morning in Jesus name.