Writing By Gordon Anderson
On Saturday 10thAugust 2019, I read a report in Zimbabwe’s Herald Newspaper alleging the Southern African nation’s Belgium-based football captain Knowledge Musona was set to undergo surgery for a nagging ankle injury that has dogged his career for several years. My attention was drawn because headlines were rife several months earlier of Musona’s public testimony in The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) in which he stated this ankle injury was healed after prayer at the well-known ministry of T.B. Joshua. Skeptics and cynics understandably capitalized on the news of his ‘impending operation’ to tout their adverse assertions about ‘miracles’ and paint Joshua’s ministry in a condescending light.
Merely hours later however, a fuming Musona took to his Twitter account to debunk the story, reaffirm his good health and decry the lies being unrepentantly peddled in the media. “I am not having ankle problems and I am not having an operation on my ankle! Please get your facts right first and stop writing false articles about me,” he angrily wrote to Robson Sharuko, the article’s author. However, reading between the lines, Knowledge was not the target of this flagrant falsehood – T.B. Joshua was. Musona’s story is just one of countless examples where the media have grossly misrepresented the cleric, choosing sensationalism over soundness, fiction over fact and bigotry over reality.
Last month, I saw a scandalous headline on Google News: ‘How Pastor TB Joshua Raped Me – Another Nigerian Woman Speaks’. The source was PM News, a Nigerian evening newspaper turned online outfit. A quick read revealed a clearly malicious attempt to drag Joshua’s name into the current quagmire of prominent pastors accused of sexual misconduct. The lady in question did not directly mention T.B. Joshua’s name and earlier articles suggested her sexual predator was actually a ‘prophet’ from the Celestial Church.
Merely hours later, PM News retracted their initial story and issued an apology, stating: “The reference to TB Joshua is regretted.” Shortly afterwards, the lady at the center of the scandal, Vicki Royce, tweeted: “Please media, stop accusing pastors. TB Joshua is NOT THE ONE!” She later admitted – after tales of her ‘running mad’ surfaced on social media – that she was ‘paid’ to formulate the story against the Nigerian cleric. But the ‘damage’ had been done. Casual observers glancing at headlines had already formulated ill-informed conclusions and multiple blogs had reposted the initial story with all defamatory details in place. Shortly afterwards, more Nigerian media jumped on the bandwagon to propagate wild claims of a lady named Bisola who made similarly brazen allegations – despite video evidence she previously apologized for her ‘lies’ against Joshua and admitted to mental instability.
Late in June, a work colleague sent me reports from Nigerian media – Premium Times and Sahara Reporters to be precise – that T.B. Joshua’s visit to Nazareth had been stopped due to the volume of local protests by religious figures. Despite this online furore and supposed protestations, I personally watched Joshua’s two-day revival at the Amphitheatre of Mount Precipice live on Emmanuel TV. The meetings were safe, successful and well-attended, receiving even favourable reportage in The New York Times and Reuters. The Nigerian media which trumpeted the apparent cancellation were conspicuously silent.
I equally recall the time media erroneously shouted T.B. Joshua’s name as one of those involved in the Panama Papers scandal that toppled heads of state and prominent figures worldwide. After all the ‘noise’, the exposé was itself exposed and the attendant racket simmered into insignificance. What about the horrific incident in which over 100 lives were lost during the collapse of a building at The SCOAN in September 2014? The media – especially in South Africa – quickly painted the cleric black, propagating a one-sided narrative that the structure was shoddily built and blithely ignoring the existential evidence of external interference. The case has been in court for five years and the legal quagmire drags on till date.
Examples validating this opinion literally abound – from Kenyan media linking Joshua to a gruesome murder case to Ghanaian media claiming he was ‘spiritually manipulating’ their elections to Zimbabwean media erroneously attributing to him prophetic messages he never uttered to UK media accusing him of contributing to those who died with HIV/AIDS after prayer despite no demonstrable link to the individuals involved. I once even heard that a Nigerian journalist at The National Mirror was sacked for writing a favourable report about The SCOAN, contrary to the biddings of his paymaster! But the question remains – what does the media have against the unusual enigma of T.B. Joshua? Why would they willfully engage in propagating or promoting defamatory or derogatory accounts? Why do reports presenting the positives appear so overwhelmingly underwhelming?
Despite his enormous reach and teeming supporters worldwide (records reveal he attracts sixty percent of foreign tourism to Nigeria), the truth is that Joshua still remains a mysterious, misunderstood, misrepresented figure. Even his clerical colleagues who’d you expect to rally around him amidst media attacks – including the likes of Enoch Adeboye, Matthew Ashimolowo and Paul Adefarasin – are among his fiercest detractors. Intriguingly, the cleric himself has chosen the ‘loud path’ of silence, unprovoked and unperturbed by the deluge of disparagements.
While I don’t really understand why Joshua is the subject of such media disdain, let me end by quoting a parable he once used himself in a sermon: “No matter how long a lie is sustained, the truth will someday prevail. No matter how fast a lie runs, the truth will someday overtake it.” I am personally convinced history will paint a truer picture of Joshua’s credibility and consistency, not the jaded pages of fading newspapers.
Gordon Anderson is a writer based in London, United Kingdom. He is an expert on African religious affairs and paid a visit to The SCOAN in 2013.