• Shocked worshipper relives last moment before collapse
• Buhari, governors, church leaders mourn
• Losing a loved one is never easy, wife mourns
A carnival was expected this weekend on Nigeria’s Democracy Day, June 12, to celebrate the 58th birthday of Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua against his wish, but in a twist of fate, the ‘Man’ in the Synagogue breathed his last on Saturday night, seven days to his birthday.
It was a throng of shocked worshippers and well-wishers who gathered yesterday, at the Ikotun location of the sprawling Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), where they stood nonplussed, gazing into space. Some, finding it hard to absorb the news knelt at the entrance to the church in silent prayers as many others betrayed emotions and wept uncontrollably.
The news of the popular televangelist’s death had filtered in at midnight and by dawn of yesterday, the church in a Facebook post said: “God has taken his servant Prophet TB Joshua home – as it should be by divine will. His last moments on earth were spent in the service of God. This is what he was born for, lived for and died for. His last moments on earth were spent in the service of God,” the church wrote without giving further details.
The charismatic pastor and philanthropist died moments after speaking to members of his Emmnauel TV Partners during a prayer meeting and anointing service at the SCOAN prayer mountain located on Ajisegiri Street in Agodo, Egbe-Idimu Local Development Area (LCDA) of Lagos.
It was gathered that Joshua fell moments after he had finished speaking at the meeting that started at about 6:00p.m. which was incidentally broadcasted live via his Emmanuel TV channel.
According to a source who pleaded for anonymity, the cleric had urged members and indeed all Nigerians to pray for the country, especially as the country moves towards the 2023 general elections.
The source said: “He asked the church and indeed Nigerians to pray. According to him, politicians have plotted some evil plans ahead of the elections. He gave series of prophecies. At some point, he started speaking in parables. The message he preached was centered on time, and he took his Bible reading from Ecclesiastes 3, noting that there was time for everything – ‘time to come here for prayer and time to return home after the service.’ It was as if he knew he will die.”
The source continued: “When he finished speaking, he handed the microphone to one of the Wisemen (ministers) and started walking out of the venue. He had barely taken a few steps when he fell and was immediately rushed by some of the Wisemen. The next news was his death.”
To some people, the preacher perhaps saw his death coming when in a video he shared days ago about his birthday, said: “Happy birthday viewers all over the world, June 12 is around the corner. As you know, I am a man of the people. So, the wound of one is the wound of all.
“As things stand, you may have realised it will not be easy for me to celebrate my birthday under the present circumstances. Some of the people who want to come are troubled by the situation all over the world. We see their fear and their worry. I feel their pain; I feel their worry.
“Therefore, let us dedicate this day to prayer and fasting. Don’t forget the needy. By the grace of God, more birthdays are ahead. God bless you! Emmanuel. Jesus is Lord! Happy birthday!”
IN his lifetime, the preacher had attracted many dignitaries and pilgrims from all over the world, including political leaders, to the rustic Ikotun community, mainly due to his famed healing powers.
The father of three was one of Africa’s most influential preachers with millions of television and social media followers. More than 15,000 people from Nigeria and abroad attend his Sunday services.
For most visitors arriving Lagos State through Murtala Mohammed International Airport, two main destinations are uppermost: Ikoyi/Victoria Island/Lekki or Ikotun. While the allure of affluent neighbourhood, opulent homes, and luxurious hotels drive most foreigners to the Island, the Synagogue Church in Ikotun, weekly attracts visitors from outside the country in their hundreds.
In 2019, the Nigeria Immigration Service has said of every 10 international visitors entering Lagos, six are heading to SCOAN for religious tourism, attracting more weekly attendees than the combined number of visitors to Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London.
SCOAN’s popular services had also resulted in an enormous boost for local businesses and hoteliers in the Ikotun-Egbe neighbourhood.
TB Joshua was largely popular across Africa and South America, and his social media pages, with 3,500,000 fans on Facebook, 421,000 followers on Twitter and over 1 million subscribers to his Emmanuel TV YouTube channel made him the world’s most viewed Christian ministry on the platform before it was suspended in April. He was described as the “Oprah of Evangelism” and “YouTube’s most popular Pastor”.
In an interview with The Guardian, he was asked who is T.B. Joshua? To which he replied: “Joshua is a man like you. I am like anybody on the street; the only difference in my life is the grace of God. That is the difference and that is what separates me from the man on the street.
“But with that, because I am a man who has known what it is to lack, I do not close my eyes to the needy. Because I am somebody who has experienced what it is to be poor and without money, I give of what I have to help the poor, because I am a man who knows what it is to be hungry, I give food to feed the poor and those who are hungry, as a way of appreciating the grace of God upon my life because if not for the grace of God, I would be like any other man on the street.”
On what attracts visitors to the church, he said: “It is because their needs are met. People will always be attracted to wherever their needs will be met; and the needs of men vary. What I want and like might be different from what you want; so, you will always go to where your needs are met. It is not in my power, it is God, who is answering the needs of his people.
“Even in the Bible, people travel far and wide to where their needs will be met. Also, the work of God is like honey. Wherever honey is, insects seek and find it. When God is doing a new thing in a place, people are attracted there. So, these presidents and other foreign nationals come to the church, because of what God is doing here.”
EVELYN Joshua, wife of the deceased preacher, has broken her silence since the news of her husband’s death. Evelyn took to social media to express ocean-deep emotions over the loss of her husband.
Amid the ban by the Federal Government on the usage of popular micro-blogging platform,Twitter, in Nigeria, Evelyn took to her official Twitter handle, @Mama_Evelyn, and wrote a short message.
She said: “Losing a loved one is never easy; whether sudden or foreseen. It is always heart-breaking. Grief can wreak havoc on our overall wellbeing. That’s why it’s important to stay rooted to the Almighty. Only He can lessen our heartache and comfort us in these times. Seek refuge in him.”
When The Guardian visited his residence located inside the prayer mountain at Ajisegiri Street in Agodo, officers of the Nigeria Police barricaded the entrance and restrained movement within and outside the area. Worshippers were also prevented from gaining access into the church’s auditorium at Ikotun.
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has commiserated with the family and members of SCOAN on the passing of their father and founder, TB Joshua. The President noted that the renowned televangelist will be missed by his followers all over the world not only for his spiritual contributions, but for touching many lives through philanthropic gestures.
President Buhari urged Joshua’s followers to take solace in the knowledge that life is not measured and defined by chronological longevity but by enduring legacies and lives touched positively. In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, on Sunday, the President also condoled with the government and people of Ondo State and prayed that God will accept the soul of the departed pastor.
Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, described Joshua’s death as a rude shock, receiving it with a heavy heart. This was contained in the condolence message jointly made available to journalists in Akure yesterday by the governor and the Zaki of Arigidi Akoko, Oba Yisa Olanipekun.
Governor Akeredolu said the renowned preacher was a blessing to humanity and a great ambassador of the Sunshine State, whose ministry was noted for charity.
“The pains of his death are not mere emotional flashes; they are indeed piercing. The Ondo-born pastor was a philanthropist whose exit will be sorely missed by many. Pastor Joshua was committed to giving and was more often, inexorably imbued with calmness while lifting the downtrodden. As a televangelist, he did not just win souls for Christ, he was passionate about changing lives.”
He added: “He demonstrated timelessly, an alluring service to humanity and compassion by assisting not only his home local government, Akoko North West. Other adjoining local governments in Akoko land benefitted from his large heart of benevolence. To us in Ondo, we consider this a personal loss. He was a pride to the Sunshine State.”
Oba Olanipekun, who hails from same town with the departed clergy, described the deceased as a peace lover who had put the town’s name on the global map.
He said: “A delegation from SCOAN is presently headed for Arigidi to make announcement and submit factual report of the devastating incident. Pending their arrival, I solicit the full co-operation of SCOAN members and other Nigerians to allow the immediate family and the Arigidi community mourn this painful loss without further distraction.
“I am hereby making a demand that his body must be preserved intact until arrangements are made to examine and/or certify the cause of his death and the body is moved to Arigidi for final burial rights to be announced at a later date.”
BENUE State Governor, Samuel Ortom, also extended his condolences over the death of Joshua. In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, he described the sudden demise of the renowned preacher as shocking and unfortunate. The Governor prayed that God grants the soul of Prophet Joshua eternal rest and his family and members of his church the strength to bear the loss.
Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, also mourned the passing of Joshua. In a statement, the governor said he was saddened by the pastor’s death, noting that the deceased impacted the lives of millions of people across the world.
“Pastor Joshua deployed his gift of delivering the Word of God in relatable terms to advance the church of Christ and brought laughter, solace and comfort to many with Christ’s message of love.”
He added: “The Synagogue Church of All Nations, which Pastor Joshua superintended, was a home of refuge for those desirous of God’s word and also for the desolate, providing a beacon of hope to many worshippers from across the globe.
THE national body of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and its Lagos State chapter have mourned the death of Joshua. In an interview with the CAN President, Dr. Samson Ayokunle, he said: “CAN commiserates with the family and members of the church and prayed that God would give them the fortitude to bear the loss.
“I also use the opportunity to tell everyone to prepare for the inevitable, because we don’t know the day and time when the end will come. But the time, we have should be well spent for the Lord and impact positively upon our generation.”
The Guardian enquired if CAN would be part of his burial, Ayokunle said: “the family and his church will make available what they want to do concerning his burial.”
Speaking with The Guardian, CAN Chairman, Lagos State, Bishop Stephen Adegbite, described the late Joshua as a man who served his maker and humanity. He said the Synagogue founder relieved hope, love and restoration to ordinary citizens. “I passed through his church just a week ago, that was on Sunday and I saw the magnificent building where he worshipped God and where he had been enjoying his work.”
The World Bishops Council in Nigeria and the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Osun State have also mourned Joshua’s death.
While Osun CAN described his demise as a reminder to all that death is inevitable, the Council of Bishops said the televangelist has left big shoes for his successor and that his charities and assistance to the needy and downtrodden would be greatly missed.