The stampede occurred when the excited crowd rushed forward for the church’s signature 'holy water' which is believed to cure ailments as well as offer relief from all manner of ills; from business problems to interpersonal issues.
We take a closer look at Temitope Balogun Joshua the charismatic leader of The Synagogue, Church of All Nations (SCOAN).
He has amassed a massive fortune
According to a BBC report in September 2012 Joshua is thought to be worth in the region of $10 - 15 million. The same number was quoted by Forbes when they compiled a list of the wealthiest pastors in Nigeria. The source of this income is unconfirmed, but with several products for sale through SCOAN it is fair to say that the pastor is doing well.
He has several high profile fans
Several world leaders have visited the prophet. In their 50 most influential Africans feature, the BBC reported 'Ghana's President John Atta Mills, Zimbabwe's prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Nigeria's first lady Patience Jonathan are just a few of the political heavyweights who have patronised his church'. Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife and high-profile struggle veteran Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is also known to have visited the pastor.
He claims to be a prophet
Joshua claims to be able to predict the future. This 'gift' extends from minor predictions such as football results, to his (now debunked) prediction that Boko Haram would be history by 2012. The most famous of Joshua’s predictions came in February 2012 when he predicted that an elderly African leader would soon pass away. Later he narrowed it down, by saying the leader was not in West Africa. In April Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika suddenly passed away, and the internet exploded with followers of the Nigerian prophet claiming it was evidence of his status as a prophet. Naysayers claimed it was a coincidence or clever use of the Forer effect (a technique used by con artist that gets people to fill in the missing details of a vague statement without realising it); while others went even further and hinted that there may have been a political conspiracy at play.
His Anointing Water
The Anointing Water, now in its third manifestation, is believed by the SCOAN faithful to cure all manner of ills - from the physical to the spiritual. The latest version of the water claims to be 'The Blood of Christ' on the bottle. It is this water which caused the stampede in Accra which resulted in the deaths of four people. A post on the official TB Joshua Ministries Facebook page on 16 May 2013 read: “Right now we are seeing a testimony on Emmanuel TV of Mr. Echu, a man who came to The SCOAN with the incurable disease of HIV/AIDS. After receiving prayer at The SCOAN he received his healing and went back to the same hospital where he had gotten his positive medical report and after testing his blood, it came out negative to HIV/AIDS.” Much of the church’s literature and activity online is made up of testimonials about the effectiveness of the water in curing diseases and ailments.
His Ministry is international
He has millions of followers worldwide, with branches in Nigeria, London, South Africa, Greece and Ghana. The popularity of the church in these far-flung locations is most likely a result of the spread of the large Nigerian and Ghanaian diaspora worldwide. The next international branch will likely be in the United States, although if that is the case Joshua should be prepared to face tough competition from home-grown televangelists.
He is a philanthropist
According to a Forbes report on Nigeria’s richest pastors, he has given away roughly $20 million in the past three years. His favoured causes include healthcare, education and the rehabilitation of former Niger Delta militants. According to New African Magazine Joshua received the 'National Honour of OFR from the Nigerian government' for his charitable work.
He has vociferous critics
Joshua has gained the ire of a vocal minority. Some of his critics are other charismatic pastors who are in direct competition with him. Yet others have no competitive motivation for their critique, but find they are compelled to point out the inconsistencies in his prophecies and conduct. One such critic is the author of the blog TB Joshua watch, who claims, 'We’re not writing to mock a self-proclaimed prophet whose “prophecies” really don’t stand up to scrutiny. No, we’re writing because we’re angry. We’re angry that someone representing Christianity is using a tragedy for self-promotion. We’re angry that what he claims was a prophecy was useless for anything except giving him bragging rights.' The site's 'about' section claims the motivation for the blog is, 'to critically examine the ministry of Nigerian mega-pastor TB Joshua and attempt to separate truth from lies. “ The site then goes on to mention testimony from former church members who make claims of cult-like behaviour and also reference abuses committed by the church.
His television station
What’s a televangelist without his own TV station? The television station Emmanuel TV has its headquarters in Lagos and the channel broadcasts 24/7. Established in 2006, the channel now broadcasts church services as well as programming about the church’s charitable activities and youth and children's programming.
He claims he spent 15 months in utero
According to the biography of the pastor, his mother carried him for more than a year before she gave birth. His extended biography on the SCOAN website reads, 'Significantly, almost a hundred years prior to his birth, it had been prophesied that a young man would emerge from the poor Oosin quarters and that God would use him mightily.' The website also claims that three days after his birth, during a ceremony, he narrowly missed death when a stone flew through the roof of the building he was in and landed near the vulnerable baby.
Actors and Artists in Nigeria and Ghana are fans
Nollywood actress Tontoh Dikeh said she was able to break a 14-year smoking habit as a result of SCOAN. Another Nollywood actress Camilla Mberekpe is also a vocal fan, saying she was ‘delivered’ thanks to the church. Denise Williams, a popular Ghanaian musician, credits the church with freeing her from a demonic possession that caused her suicidal thoughts and resulted in a drug addiction.
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