By Sam Eyoboka & Luminous Jannamike
DR Emmah Gospel Isong, presiding bishop/General Overseer of Calabar-based Christian Central Chapel International, with apostolic, prophet and evangelistic mantle on his head, didn’t exude the bishopric mien as he presented the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, statement on the rape allegations against the founder/presiding pastor of Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, COZA, Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo.
That PFN returned an inconclusive verdict following the probe by its five-man panel on the rape allegations made by Mrs Busola Dakolo because Fatoyinbo snubbed the panel was not entirely unexpected.
But the author of “Cheerfulness in storms” and “Sayings of a prophet” didn’t exude the bishopric confidence associated with those who have served as ushers under the tutelage of the late Archbishop Benson Andrew Idahosa reputed for saying it prophetically without let as he parried further questions on what was the next line of action.
Isong, the National Publicity Secretary of PFN, who was with the National Administrative Secretary of the Fellowship, Pastor Damilare Akinwale Akinola, said the body set up a panel to meet with Dakolo who raised the allegations and Fatoyinbo who initially supported the idea of intervention by the PFN.
According to him, the panel had several meetings within the one month time-frame to interface with several parties connected with the matter, but “unfortunately, several attempts to meet Pastor Fatoyinbo, who is one of the important parties in the matter, have failed despite several efforts by the fact-finding panel to get his attention or appearance.”
Isong appreciated the respect Mrs. Busola Dakolo gave in her personal appearance together with her husband, Timi Dakolo, to state her side of the story.
“Arising from this, the PFN unfortunately wishes to announce our inability to come into conclusion on this matter,” the spokesperson said, adding that Nigerians and well-meaning people would bear witness that they (PFN) had fulfilled scriptural, public and moral expectations as a reasonable and legal organisation on the matter.
Answering a reporter’s question on efforts made to reach Fatoyinbo, the National Publicity Secretary said “within the one month of the panel’s meetings, several efforts were made, several teams were advanced, several calls were made and several invitations were made to Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo…some through his proxies.”
He pointed out that PFN didn’t just come into the matter because of Fatoyinbo’s membership of PFN but because
of the “request by Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo himself to our National President, Rev. Felix Omobude, requesting us to intervene in this matter, unfortunately this our result….There’s no proof of his membership of the Fellowship in the Abuja branch but based on popular demand of Nigerians, we came into the matter.”
Why I stayed away – Fatoyinbo
Meanwhile, Fatoyinbo said he did not honour the invitation to appear before the PFN panel because of the advice he received from his legal team.
According to him, appearing before the PFN panel had the potential of jeopardising ongoing police investigation into the Mrs. Dakolo’s rape allegations.
In a statement by his Executive Assistant, Pastor Ademola Adetuberu, the COZA Senior Pastor expressed doubts in PFN’s capacity to conduct an unbiased investigation into the matter.
The religious leader explained that though no formal invitation was extended to him to appear before the probe panel outside of a telephone call by PFN’s National Administrative Secretary, Akinola, saying his legal team had explained to the Fellowship why he would not appear before its panel.
The statement said in part: “The legal advice was also premised on the press statement issued and personally signed by the PFN President, Bishop Felix Omobude, where our pastor was publicly disowned.
“Based on the foregoing, we are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the PFN was already prejudiced and may not conduct an impartial session.
“According to the report, Rev. Omobude, whom we hold in high esteem, went further to crucify our pastor without seeking to know his side of the story on the matter. With all due respect, we consider this a prejudicial position in dispensing justice and fairness.
“Even our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was given an opportunity for fair hearing by the Kangaroo Panel set up with the prime motive of condemning Him to death.
“Up till today, there was never any written invitation from the panel or the PFN leadership, apart from the telephone call during which we explained why our pastor could not come.
“A few days ago, a National Officer of the PFN, who spoke to our Senior Lawyer, was informed of the basis why Pastor Fatoyinbo was advised not to appear before the PFN’s panel until the police investigation into the matter was concluded.
“Once the police investigation is over, our pastor is ready to honour the invitation.
“We have also been legally advised to deploy judicial intervention to clear our pastor as soon as possible, and the process has commenced in earnest. We appreciate those who stood and still standing by us. It is our hope that the truth shall prevail at the end.”
Reacting to the development, the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in 19 Northern States and Abuja, Rev. Yakubu Pam, sued for tact and divine wisdom to address the issue, arguing that Faboyinbo missed a golden opportunity to give his own side of the story.
Pam was not happy that Fatoyinbo could not attend the fact-finding panel even if the body had earlier dissociated him from the Fellowship on account of the fact he was not registered with it.
“It would have been a fitting opportunity to regularise all issues regarding his membership and what have you because no man is an island”, he said.
“You are operating a Pentecostal Church and it stands to reason that you identify with the umbrella body that supervises activities of operators in that group”.
Rev. Francis Akin-John, President, International Church Growth Ministry, who specializes on empowering church leaders and church workers to grow healthier churches and ministries, was of the opinion that most Nigerian pastors’ bid for independence is what is responsible for what is being witnessed within the Church environment today.
“I have noticed that even branch pastors of a standing church are often unwilling to be accountable to the parent church and we have seen the conflict that often generates,” he said, noting that PFN lacked the capacity to address the issue at hand for obvious reasons.
Nevertheless, Akin-John does not see the rational for Fatoyinbo to snub the fact-finding panel by the body which he earlier called for.