It is said that when beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes. The late Prophet T. B. Joshua may not have been a prince, but he was royalty in every ramification, reaching out to the lowly and mighty, as he grew his ministry of love, healing and philanthropy. Gboyega Alaka captures the mood of his faithful and beneficiaries during the week-long burial celebration which climaxed yesterday.
It was a carnival probably never witnessed before in this part of the world, as the late founder of the Synagogue Church of All nations (SCOAN), Prophet T. B. Joshua, was laid to rest in the premises of the massive worship edifice, yesterday. Name it: Republic of Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote d’ivoire, Malawi, South Africa, Southern Sudan, to the remotest parts of the world like Hawaii, Haiti, Dominican Republic, The Bahamas and as far flung as Australia, Indonesia, South Korea, Argentina, Russia and Jamaica, were all represented.
The carnival played out both within and outside the huge Synagogue Church auditorium. Citizens of various countries proudly waved their national flags and flaunted their cultural identities in their manner of dressing. For those who have been on pilgrimage to Mecca or perhaps Jerusalem, their-in lie the closest comparison.
Even neighbours and all groups of people who benefited from the philanthropist preacher took turns to demonstrate their appreciation, some carrying banners with his picture and message of appreciation and drumming and dancing. For them, it was celebration of a life well-spent
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu probably captured it most succinctly, when he described the scenario at his funeral yesterday just before he was interred, as the greatest congregation of world citizens in one place.
“I am not too sure we have had the world congregate in this number on account of any one man. Probably that of Nelson n Mandela, but the world is even more represented here than when Nelson Mandela was buried. Indeed he was and is being globally acknowledged today.”
He cited the example of the Argentinean priest, Bishop Williamson from The Bahamas who officiated before he mounted the stage, President of the Economic Centre for Peace in the world all the way from Isreal, Ayoub Karo and several others from all over the world and concluded that “though he was from Arigidi Akoko in Ondo State, Nigeria, the late Prophet T. B. Joshua was a global citizen.”
It is for this reason that the governor said he pleaded with the paramount ruler of Joshua’s hometown, who for minutes, appealed to him to help prevail on the family and church to bury the remains of the prophet in his home-town, to which he told His majesty that the matter was beyond him, even as a governor.
Extolling the virtues of the late Man of God, Akeredolu said, “He contributed greatly in emancipating the downtrodden, widows, orphans and special people. He touched their lives economically and spiritually.”
The governor however stirred a thunderous applause from the global audience, when he said the late Man of God not only showed love to the less-privileged but also to the privileged, proceeding to share his personal experience.
“Even those of us who are privileged also benefited from his love. I can testify personally to the good things I benefitted from him. When I won election to be governor of Ondo state, Prophet T. B. Joshua drove all the way to my hometown in Owoh to congratulate me.
“He said he had come to wish me well, prayed for me; and when he was leaving, he put something in my pocket. I won’t tell you how much he put in my pocket but it was a great thing he put in my pocket. He said, ‘As governor, you will need to entertain people, take.’ I’m privileged, so it is not only the privileged he extended his generosity to.
“Not only that, my wife was not around, but he said ‘she would also need to entertain people, give this to her.’
The governor finished off the story with a funny line: “I can tell you, I delivered it, you can ask her.”, drawing a roaring laughter and applause from the well entertained audience.
That account, he said, underlined another reason why he had to be present at his burial, aside from being governor of his home state. ‘I owe him,’ he said.
He went further to speak about his numerous scholarships to students, youth empowerment, settling electricity bills owed by four local governments, buying them transformers and ensuring that they are connected to the national grid.
He also talked about his support for the police and even Amotekun, the Southwest security outfit.
“As I speak with you, Arigidi Akoko where he is from and Ondo State people will not forget his goodies which he brings to them every year.
“He was not born with silver spoon, but from what I heard from his pears, he was a special child. … He was one who would tell a player ‘don’t go and play because you can break your leg;’ and if such kid proceeds to play, he would indeed come back with a broken leg. So he is special. “
Akeredolu was not alone in such testimonies. Several top dignitaries and celebrities, including former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani Kayode, civil liberties activist and former Edo State Attorney-General, Osagie Obayuwana, Aare Ona kakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams, who is also from Joshua’s hometown, King Mswati Gomani from Malawi, representatives of former president of Ghana, John Mahama, Ovation Chairman, Dele Momodu, crossover Nollywood actor, Femi Branch, Ojo Arowosafe popularly known as Fadeyi Oloro, Jumoke George, Ronke ‘Oshodi Oke’ Ojo.
Aside himself, a large contingent of Ondo State government, including the deputy governor were also present.
Fani-Kayode at the All-day tribute on Tuesday, spoke about how the man of God reached out to him on phone while he was in incarceration, praying for him, offering him words of encouragement and prophesying that he would be released in three days. Indeed he was released three days after that phone conversation.
Obayuwana spoke about how he also supported the civil rights movement, stating that the group was actually there to pay their last respect to a man who reached out to the common man.
Speaking at the funeral, Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, represented by his Commissioner for Home Affairs, Anofi Elegushi said “his demise will certainly be remembered in the chronicles of the Synagogue Church of All Nations… We celebrate the life of this global evangelist who fought the good fight of faith, a visionary prophet and a General of God’s army.
He went further to say that “His love for God and humanity made the difference. He lived with the common man but became an uncommon minister. He was a man with humble beginnings who never forgot his roots. Even after he became a renowned preacher and global evangelist, he still identified with the poor, fed the widows and played the role of a father to the orphans.”
Wife of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Olori Naomi Silekunola representing His Majesty brought the audience ‘greetings from the throne of Oduduwa’.
She said, “It is my prayer, standing here to commiserate with the family that the lesson his life has taught us will also bring out the good seeds in every one of us.
“We will keep talking about him. It’s a privilege to have come from Ondo State, same as this great man. He’s a true son of the soil.
He was a true reflection of the life Christ led–Nollywood stars
Nollywood actor, Femi Branch, leading three other actors, Ojo Arowosafe (Fadeyi Oloro), Jumoke George and Ronke Oshodi Oke, said they had no choice but to be present to pay their last respect.
Said Branch: “The Bible said Jesus Christ who is the template of Christianity went about doing good and healing those who were sick. How many of those who are labelling and demonising him did any of such? Rather they were buying mansions, wearing designer outfits and building universities their church members could not attend.”
He went on to say that though he never benefited from him directly, he could not deny the generosity he had seen and heard the late prophet exhibit.
Ojo Arowosafe, who was almost in tears, spoke of a relationship that dates back over 30 years and how he once lived with Joshua, who was his boss, Jimoh Aliu’s friend in Ikare, Ondo State.
“Because we look alike, many would even see me, as his popularity grew, and call me T. B Joshua. Even when he moved to the first sight of his church, I used to visit him; even in this Synagogue, and he would always pray for my success.”
As for Jumoke George, who said she, along with some of her colleagues, saw Joshua the very night he passed on, “If I don’t come and pay my last respect, I would not forgive myself. What pained me was that I saw the prophet the very last day he exited this world. It was Sokoti who called me, ‘Jummy, they said the prophet we went to visit yesterday is dead.’
“My first thought was, ‘Is this a kind of expensive joke?’ However, when the reality dawned on me, I was shattered and completely broken. But for the understanding of the producers on the set I had gone to Lekki, I would have flopped.