To many, Temitope Balogun Joshua, popularly known as TB Joshua, was a prophet who could reveal events of the future to the world —but the prophet, it seems, did not see his own death coming, or did he?
The Moment Nigeria reports that on Saturday, the founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) kissed the world goodbye — just days before his 58th birthday.
In a recent video, Joshua was seen explaining that it would not be easy for him to celebrate his coming birthday owing to the pandemic. He asked that his birthday be instead, celebrated with prayer and fasting.
“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,” he had said.
“Therefore, let us dedicate this day to prayer and fasting. Don’t forget the needy. By the grave of God, more birthdays are ahead. God bless you Emmanuel. Happy birthday.”
Alas! What many did not know was that the prophet himself would not be alive to ‘pray and fast’ on the anniversary of his birth. The charismatic preacher drew his last breath on Saturday after one of his evening services. Although the cause of his death is yet unknown, we understands he had suffered stroke two months ago was flown by air ambulance to Turkey for treatment.
Born in ‘unusual circumstances
Joshua wrote in his official biography that the circumstances surrounding his birth were unusual. As he put it, on June 12, 1963, in the small village of Arigidi in Akoko, Ondo state, ”Baby Joshua” breathe air for the first time after 15 months in his mother’s womb — almost double the usual gestation period.
Seven days after, he narrowly escaped death after a quarry explosion near the family house sent rocks rolling through the roof. It is also said his birth was prophesied 100 years ago.
He had an interesting childhood, earning the name “small pastor” in primary school because of how much he loved the Bible. That was at St. Stephen’s Anglican Primary School in Arigifu Akoko, between 1971 and 1977.
His secondary education in the following years was cut short as he had to take up casual jobs for survival. He kept in touch with the Bible nonetheless; organised Bible study classes for children in his community, and attended evening classes as well.
Growing his church from eight members
The SCOAN was supposedly founded with just eight members in 1987. According to the church, it now attracts 50,000 worshippers each week, with many travelling from far-off countries just to see the preacher in the flesh and perhaps, touch the hem of his garment.
During his usually televised church programmes on Emmanuel TV, hundreds of thousands tune in from across the world, especially on special occasions such as crusades.
Miracles were also a key part of Joshua’s ministry, little wonder many continued to flock the church — even on Sunday morning when the news of his death broke.
The church website is littered with videos of testimonies from church members concerning all kinds of healings, from the casting out of demons to financial prosperity and to healing from incurable diseases.
A number of those testifying claimed to have been healed by the prophet’s ‘anointing water’. He made headlines when he claimed that the anointing water could cure Ebola and even sent bottles of the water to Sierra Leone which was battling an outbreak of the disease.
Joshua was known to have prophesied the occurrence of a number world events, among which are reported to include the death of Michael Jackson, the shooting down of MH17 in Russian airspace, the November 2015 attacks in Paris and the outcome of two African Cup of Nations (AFCON) final matches, which were won by Zambia and Nigeria respectively.
His prophecy about the impending death of an unnamed African president also made waves in the media — it turned out to be Former Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died in 2012.
In 2015, the late pastor also said he told former President Goodluck Jonathan that the March 28 presidential election would not end in his favour and that he had advised him to accept defeat. Jonathan was eventually defeated by Muhammadu Buhari.
But it was not a smooth ride all through as some of Joshua’s prophecies never came to pass. One of such instances was the US presidential election of 2016 which he had predicted that Hillary Clinton would win.
He had said: “10 days ago, I saw the new president of America with a narrow win. The new president will be facing several challenges over many issues, including: passing bills, attempts to possibly pass a vote of no confidence on the new president. The boat of the new president will be rocked. By the way, in order not to keep you in suspense, what I frankly saw is a woman.”
The results turned out to be the exact opposite as Donald Trump was declared winner of the election.
Joshua later explained that he meant Clinton was going to win by ‘popular vote’. He also accused his critics of not understanding the things of God and later said Clinton lost because a lot of Americans prayed against it.
In 2020, during a church sermon, he revealed that the pandemic will be over by the end of March.
“This month, 27th, it will be over, by the end of this month, whether we like it or not, no matter the medicine they have produced to cure whatever, it will go the way it came,” he had said.
Hours to the day Joshua predicted that the pandemic would be over, Nigerians on social media platforms began a countdown to mock the failed prophecy.
In 2014, a building within the headquarters of his church collapsed, killing at least 115 people — mostly foreigners.
Amid criticisms, the late pastor claimed the incident was a terrorist attack targeted at him, and vowed that those behind the attack would be exposed.
The Lagos state government set up an inquest over the incident, but Joshua refused to make an appearance during the proceedings — a move that was seen as an affront to the panel.
Attempts to make him testify did not yield any positive result — not even an ultimatum from Oyetade Komolafe, the coroner, made him change his mind. He later asked the court to determine whether the witness summons served on him to appear before the coroner did not constitute an infringement on his rights to fair hearing.
In yet another unfortunate incident two years later, three worshippers lost their lives in a stampede at the church as they struggled with a crowd to see Joshua during a special healing service.
With Joshua’s popularity came controversies. In 2019, Bisola Johnson, an activist, alleged that she was raped by the pastor. Johnson claimed she was trapped in Joshua’s church for 14 years before “the Lord set me free”. However, he never reacted publicly to the accusation.
In clips posted via his Twitter handle in late 2020, the pastor was seen sweating profusely on a mountain where he said he was praying for God to heal the world of COVID-19. Many took a jab at him for seeking divine help for a pandemic he had prophesied would end months earlier.
The Emmmanuel TV youtube channel with over 1.8 million subscribers and 600 million views belonging to Joshua, was recently suspended for allegedly propagating hate speech.
The church had published a video titled ‘The spirit of man is tormenting you’. It contained the pastor’s prophecy about Chetanna Nwabuwa, a Nigerian in Ghana who was allegedly possessed by a strange spirit.
Defending his church’s sermons, Joshua had said: “Our mission is to share the love of God with everyone – irrespective of race or religion – and we strongly oppose all forms of hate speech!
“We have had a long and fruitful relationship with YouTube and believe the decision was made in haste.”
Helper of the helpless
The popular preacher was not just all about prophesies and controversies. A Forbes blogger estimated that Joshua spent $20 million on education, healthcare and rehabilitation programmes for former Niger Delta militants.
The SCOAN also reportedly has a scholarship programme which caters for the academic needs of ‘thousands’ of students from primary to tertiary education. In 2009, Joshua started a football club, My people FC, as part of efforts to help the youth.
Also, in his philanthropic manner, after the Haiti earthquake of 2010, Joshua was said to have sent a team of medical personnel and humanitarian workers to the affected area and established a field hospital called Clinique Emmanuel.
He has also been recognised for his humanitarian activities. In 2008, he was awarded a national honor by the Nigerian government and has also received a letter of appreciation from many countries. He was recognised with an ‘award of excellence’ by ZAKA, Israel’s primary rescue and recovery voluntary service.
On Sunday morning, hundreds of his worshippers thronged his church and cried over the news of his death. Some recounted how he fed and clothed them, others spoke about how they made a living with the help of the church’s activities.
He was adored by many presidents and politicians.
He will be sorely missed by all, but most importantly, by Evelyn, his wife, and three children.