Columns

January 27, 2024

Gods of Men as Men Of God, by Muyiwa Adetiba

Gods of Men as Men Of God, by Muyiwa Adetiba

Muyiwa Adetiba

I have neither the means nor the inclination to verify the contents in the said three-part BBC documentary on Pastor T.B Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations. But the allegations of rape, wanton sex, manipulation, intimidation bothering on blackmail against the late Pastor which had been carried in snippets across various social media platforms, are familiar to me; so distressingly familiar, that I believe almost every big ‘one-man church’ has elements of these malfeasances in varying degrees if one looked closely enough. This is not a wild belief. It is a belief backed by my experiences in the past.

Some forty odd years ago, Prime People, a human interest Magazine, ran  a lead story on a man who claimed to be God. It was a sell out as many of his flower carrying devotees scrambled to get at least a copy each. At the time, this soft spoken man with a quiet confidence and an Asian sounding name, stayed in Festac Town while he and his devotees were developing a large piece of land off the Lagos-Ibadan express road which they later occupied.

A couple of years later, we were quietly minding our business when a disillusioned devotee came to us with horror tales of happenings at the ‘camp’. Apparently, hidden from prying eyes by those exotic flowers and trees which surrounded the ‘camp’, and disguised by the billboards on the express road which professed all sorts of positive things, were stories of brutality and dehumanization within. It seemed life in the camp was an extreme opposite of the idyllic life portrayed to the outside world through propaganda.

We secured some interviews and carried the story. Instead of adulation like the earlier story, this story earned us court summons and the wrath of the man of God who vowed to deal with the Publisher, the Editor and the Writer of the story spiritually. We had a SAN to defend us at a time Silks were still very few in the country. That might have helped as the court appearances eased. But not the threat.

Then in the late 80s and early 90s, another man of God was making waves in Lagos. Known for the accuracy of some of his New Year predictions, most publications, including ours, carried his New Year messages religiously – excuse the pun. Again, we were quietly minding our business when one of his ‘elders’ came to tell us that this prophet had taken over his bed. He was more than willing to be interviewed and provide evidence. Given the ‘rumours’ we had heard about the man’s sexual indiscretions, we decided to work on the story. In researching the story, we found other unsettling incidents.

We reached him to refute the allegations and give his own version of the story. To my surprise, I got calls instead from three powerful Nigerians whom I respected very much begging me to drop the story. One of them was a Muslim Senator from the North. I humbly explained to them that it would be a perversion of justice to drop a story simply because the victim was a powerful, well connected person who in this case,was alleged to have abused his position. Secondly, that I would lose the respect of my staff and the ‘elder’ who brought the story because they would believe I had been ‘reached and compromised’.

Finally, I promised a balanced, non-sensationalized story. I wish the whole thing ended there because it didn’t. The Chairman of the church who happened to be an acquaintance came to my office and made an offer to buy every copy of the publication. I simply told him he was insulting me and should please drop the offer. This man of God took the whole thing badly and told people known to me that he had always been well disposed towards me and so couldn’t understand why I chose to destroy him and vowed to retaliate. It was typical that he couldn’t see beyond his own hurt to the hurt and disillusionment he caused those whose trust and vulnerability the likes of him abuse constantly.

Apart from these personal experiences, there are enough indications that a lot of mind games go on in some of these churches. There were some video clips last year of some of these manipulations. One showed a man of God sucking demons out through the breasts of the devotees. One caned the devil through the backs of devotees. One ‘lay’ on each female devotee on a special bed in public. A seemingly bizarre one was a female Pastor who bared her breasts for male devotees to suck one after the other as spiritual nourishment. They all provide some comic relief to the unwary and we wonder at the imbecility of these worshipers.

Some of us would also have seen the funny side in the video clip showing some church goers who marked this year’s cross-over by crawling under the raised leg of their Pastor.They all seem disparate but are actually more connected than we realise. It is also a mistake to think these devotees are illiterates or simpletons. Some of them are educated and accomplished individuals who have been pushed by the vagaries of life to seek spiritual help. I know of a female chartered accountant who, desperate for a child, virtually became a slave to an illiterate man of God. She was made to go through all sorts of rituals including of course, sexual intimacy.I don’t believe she did them with all her senses intact.

  The happenings in some of these churches are dark, spiritual and troubling.    From buying handkerchiefs, to touching the garment of pastors, to touching private parts, the main purpose is to control the ‘mind and body’ of the devotees. All bets are off towards achieving this purpose. They will coerce, intimidate, employ the occult, play on primordial spiritual fears of enemies within and without, manipulate miracles, indulge in sexual activities including rape if necessary. These are people seeking to be gods of men by pretending to be men of God. The ultimate accomplishment is when they can control the spiritual and material resources of their devotees. And we underestimate their ability to ‘control’ at our peril.

I think government can nip these cult-like activities in the bud by sending undercover agents to some of these spiritual houses called churches from time to time. They would be surprised at what can be unearthed. This could help the mental health of people who have become ‘captives’ and also stop crimes of various kinds before they are committed.