From Oluseye Ojo, who was in Arigidi-Akoko
Arigidi-Akoko, in Akoko North West Local Government Area of Ondo State, is in mourning mood. And it is not unexpected.
Arigidi-Akoko is the hometown of Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, the late founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Ikotun Egbe, Lagos.
Daily Sun can confirm that Joshua’s kinsmen are yet to come to terms with the demise of the cleric. They displayed this when this reporter visited the town at the weekend. No single person in the community said anything negative about the deceased.
It was gathered that he attended St. Stephen’s Primary School, Imo Agbaluku, Arigidi-Akoko, and AUD Secondary School, Ikare. He lived at Agbaluku in his brother’s house.
The Zaki of Arigidi-Akoko, Oba Yisa Olanipekun, said Joshua told the community that he wanted to build a tertiary institution in Arigidi. The community, he said, donated hectares of land for the project.
The monarch, however, lamented that death did not allow Joshua to complete the project before taking him away. Efforts by this reporter to get to the site of the project proved abortive, as residents and commercial motorcyclists contacted by this reporter for assistance to the site refused to help.
According to them, robberies were rampant on the road leading to the site, which made government to deploy soldiers to the area. They said people going to that area might be flogged by soldiers and, anyway, one could not go to the site without permission.
This reporter, however, went to the palace of the traditional ruler of Arigidi-Akoko with a view to obtaining help to access the project site. However, the king was not around.
The chiefs at the palace said they could not give such permission because the monarch did not tell them to do so. Some of them said, to access the place, the monarch might have to call T.B. Joshua’s wife, so that she would call the soldiers to allow access to the place.
Mr. Akinwumi Komolafe, vice-principal in a school in Arigidi-Akoko, is a kinsman to the late Prophet T.B. Joshua. During an encounter with Daily Sun, he stated that the first time Joshua said he wanted to build a university in Arigidi-Akoko was about 14 years ago. According to him, the cleric mentioned it in his presence.
“The Osin community in Arigidi-Akoko, with many families, actually donated hectares of land to him for the project. I am from the community and Joshua was also from the same Osin community. We believed that the project would bring development to Arigidi and Ondo State in general.
“But, along the line, it was like he changed his mind. He was involved in a bigger project. He planned to build a city like Redemption Camp and Canaanland, where the university would also be.
“He had built some structures on the site. I know that he built a zoo in the place and animals like donkeys, horses, tortoise and so on are there. He was also building a dam in the city and it’s still under construction. The site is between Arigidi and Oke-Agbo.
“During his lifetime, he visited the site regularly. But one thing that I can point out is that he used to come by road to Arigidi and many people would come from different parts of Akoko to get gifts from him, which he would give generously. He used to sleep in his house that he built at Agbaluku, Arigidi-Akoko.
“You would recall that a part of his church collapsed some years ago in Lagos. After the incident, often he would not come by road the way he used to do. He would fly directly in an helicopter to the site, and from there he would fly back to Lagos. Still, he would come once in a while. But he would not fail to give gifts to different categories of people during festivals and when there were no celebrations.”
Arigidi-Akoko, and the whole of Akokoland in general, would not forget how the intervention of Joshua resolved a face-off between the people of Akoko North-West and Akoko North-East on one hand with the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) on the other hand sometime ago.
As gathered, the people of Akokoland had epileptic power supply and, at times, power outage lingered for two weeks and estimated bills would still be brought at the end of the month for residents to pay for power they did not consume. The epileptic power, according to residents of Arigidi-Akoko, continued for three months unabated.
A middle-aged woman, who introduced herself as Mrs. Olayemi Ibidapo, told this reporter: “The people of Akoko North-West and Akoko North-East protested and drove away BEDC when they brought bills to the areas, including this Arigidi.”
The development made the BEDC to cut off power supply to the whole of Akokoland indefinitely. The development was said to have lasted nine months.
The monarchs in Akokoland and the people reportedly sent a delgation to Mrs. Funke Oshibodu, who was in charge of BEDC during the total blackout. The residents stated further that some community leaders also paid for jingles on radio and television, appealing to BEDC to restore power supply to Akokoland. But the efforts did not yield positive results until Prophet T.B. Joshua intervened.
“When the community eventually brokered peace with BEDC, the leadership of the company gave a bill of N45 million to Akokoland as a pre-condition for the power restoration to the Akoko zone of Ondo State. Then the leaders of Akokoland met Prophet T.B. Joshua and he released the whole N45 million, which was paid to the BEDC. Thereafter, power supply was restored to Akokoland.
“But I must state that the total blackout of Akokoland was with the exception of Ikaram community. The Ikaram mobilised their illustrious sons and successful daughters. They contributed and settled BEDC, and their power supply was restored almost immediately after the supply was cut off. The blackout was during the first term of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu. The governor too was not happy about the blackout. I think there was nothing he could do then.
“Prophet T.B. Joshua also donated many transformers to Arigidi-Akoko and also bought many electric poles for us. He really tried for us,” Mr. Akinwumi Komolafe, Joshua’s kinsman, said.
The whole of Arigidi-Akoko has not recovered from the death of Prophet Joshua, who was a collosus in the area of poverty alleviation. He was acclaimed to have carried out philanthropic gestures through the cable television network of his church, Emmanuel TV.
A random opinion poll conducted by this reporter in Arigidi-Akoko revealed that T.B. Joshua was an immense channel of blessings to his people during festivals celebrated by Muslims and Christians in the community. He also gave monetary and material gifts during the yam festival (Odun Ijesu) as well as age-grade festival (Ibegbe) in the community.
“He would donate 500 bags of rice on each festival and he would also donate about 20 cows. When there is no festival, he would also send bags of rice to the people in Arigidi-Akoko. He wanted to ensure that everybody in the community had something to eat.”
“It got to a time that many people began to criticise him that he was breeding lazy people in Arigidi-Akoko because of the philanthropy. Many people did not want to work anymore, as they we’re always waiting for largesse from Prophet T.B. Joshua. Some also alleged that he was taking away the glory of people with the gifts. But they did not stop collecting them from him.
“He also gave millions of naira to women in Osin Quarters to form a cooperative society so that they would not always run out of cash to run their trades. He gave many cars to many people in Arigidi-Akoko. I cannot put a number to the cars he gave out to people in this community. But they were good cars such as Toyota Camry, Space Wagon, Mercedes Benz and so on.
“About eight years ago, he gave N7 million out to some of his family members in Osin Quarters as empowerment programme. These are people that did not have much to do then. Some of the beneficiaries bought mini-buses for commercial transportation, which they are still doing till date,” Komolafe said.
Around 2004, he also did something very significant. It was the time telecommunication companies erected their masts in different areas of Nigeria, including Akure, the Ondo State capital. But there was no mast in Akokoland, which made people in the four local government areas of Akokoland to be denied the use of mobile phones.
Again, Prophet T.B. Joshua came to the rescue of the people. He erreced a mast in his house at Agbaluku Junction in Arigidi-Akoko. According to residents of the community, many people would come from the four local government areas of Akokoland to make or receive calls in the area.
As gathered, lecturers from Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba (AAUA), also came to Joshua’s house to receive or make calls. There were always long queues in the place, but the queues disappeared when telecommunication companies erected masts in different areas of Akokoland.
Allegations of using charms to do god’s work
There have been wars on the social media among some people over claims that Joshua used metaphysical powers to do God’s work during his lifetime. The allegations were also vehemently debunked by many people who said he was a true man of God that gave what he had to assist the underprivileged in different communities in Nigeria and beyond.
Some of the townspeople that spoke to this reporter on the allegations in Arigidi-Akoko, however, stated that some people on his maternal side were prophets and they laid a solid foundation for him to become a prophet.
They recalled that, during the regime of military head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha, Joshua was accused of dealing in prohibited drugs. He was arrested and taken to Panti in Lagos. From there, he did not know how he got to Aso Rock, Abuja, and he met face-to-face with Abacha then.
“At that time, he had become a popular prophet in Lagos. And he was patronised by top politicians and their wives too. I think Abacha knew that Joshua had power and that was why the drug allegation was levelled against him. Thereafter, nothing came out of the arrest, except that Abacha liked him.
“Even when the Chief Security Officer for Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, got out of prison many years after his incarceration, I think the first place he went to was Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), in Ikotun Egbe, Lagos. There must have been something strong between T.B. Joshua, Al-Mustapha and Abacha.
“Joshua himself told us in Arigidi-Akoko that when he met face-to-face with Abacha, he told him that the greatest mistake he made was the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa. He prayed for Abacha. He said Abacha gave him a lot of money. But he did not disclose the amount. Later, some people said it was N50 million, but I cannot confirm it. That was around 1994. And people that witnessed the era of Abacha would tell you that he believed in marabouts and spiritualists.
“After Joshua’s meeting with Abacha, transformation started in his church. I think that encounter marked the beginning of real financial breakthrough for him in the ministry. So, I don’t think that he used metaphysical powers as being alleged,” a man who introduced himself Israel Balogun stated.
There is an annual age-grade festival in Arigidi-Akoko known as Ibegbe or Areso, and it is described as the greatest festival in Arigidi-Akoko. Prophet Joshua reportedly supported the festival each year.
Vice-principal of a school in the community, Akinwumi Komolafe, said there was a time that Joshua gave about 100 people that were involved in the festival N20,000 each, while some other persons received N30,000 each before the programme for preparation.
“He also gave us many bags of rice. He came to attend the festival via helicopter. He also spent money for us and people in the community during and after the festival.”
Care for the aged
If there are people that would miss T.B. Joshua, they are the senior citizens in Arigidi-Akoko. He had placed many of them on salaries for life. Also, he reportedly employed caregivers for old people that could not walk anymore.
Chief Imam of Gbaluku Central Mosque, Arigidi-Akoko, Sheikh Salis Musa Imam, said, in December 2020, T.B. Joshua gave N300,000 each to at least 15 elderly people that were above 100 years in Arigidi-Akoko, with additional five bags of rice each.
T.B. Joshua and Muslim community
Sheikh Salis Musa Imam also said: “I am T.B. Joshua’s cousin from the mother’s side. I was very close to him and I learnt a lot of lessons from him. He made me to understand that love is what God is using to hold the world together. He was a Christian and I am a Muslim. But I can say that the Muslims in Arigidi-Akoko were the ones that benefited most from him in this community.
“For every festival, whether Eid-el-Kabir or Eid-el-Fitr, he would give our mosque 500 bags of rice and N500,000. If he did not do it in one year, he would double the gifts during the next festival by giving 1,000 bags of rice and N1 million.
“He would have sent me to Mecca in 2020 but for the coronavirus pandemic. The same thing this year. I was pained that he died now. He was a real man of God.
“He gave me the Toyota Camry (Big Daddy) that I am driving now. I also built my house from the money he used to give me. I told him I was not the only Imam in Arigidi-Akoko and that he should give the other person a car too. Then he gave the Chief Imam of Ansarudeen Central Mosque, Ijaja, Arigidi-Akoko, Alhaji Jimoh Balogun, a Camry like my own, but in a different colour.
“For this year’s Eid-el-Kabir, he would have sent 500 bags of rice and N500,000 to us. He was also generous to the Central Mosque, Ikare. He would give them 1,000 bags of rice and N2 milion. Ikare is a neighbouring community, sharing boundary with Arigidi-Akoko.
“He also sank many boreholes and donated many transformers. We do not known who would replace him. We always called on him for our needs and he responded positively. Some people that storm blew off the roofs of their houses would call on him for help and he would help them.
“He played a major role in the building of Agbaluku Central Mosque and, in fact, he had the lion’s share of the donations.
“About 10 years ago, he gave Agbaluku N5 million to build a market and another N5 million to Esi Arigidi community as well as N7 million to Ijaja Arigidi-Akoko community. He rehabilitated Okota High School with N27 million. He also donated a Hummer bus to Mount Carmel Girls’ School.”
Joshua’s house in Arigidi-Akoko
The late prophet also has a massive five-storey circular building at Agbaluku Junction, Arigidi-Akoko. The house has not been completed. He used to sleep in the house whenever he came to the community.
Sheikh Salis Musa Imam said he was with him eight days before his death and Joshua told him he wanted to turn the building to a shopping complex. But there is a bungalow beside the house, where he stayed with his brother during his primary and secondary school days in Arigidi-Akoko.
T.B. Joshua planned to become a soldier
One of his kinsmen, Akinwumi Komolafe, said, after Joshua completed his secondary education, he wanted to be a soldier: “He loved to wear sleeveless military camouflage when he was about 20 years old. He told me he wanted to join the Nigerian Army. He said he had tried many times to enter the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna. But he was not admitted. Later, he told me that he had a connection that would make him enter NDA and that was around 1987.
“Then, he relocated to Lagos in the early 1990s. Thereafter, he would come home with an entourage. He was assuming a status. He would come in quietly from Lagos to Arigidi and also go back after some days. He would come in a Mercedes Benz car and he would be accompanied by two or three persons.”