During a press conference that was organized to give updates on the burial arrangements for Prophet TB Joshua, Founder of The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) who died on June 5, the church elders debunked the news making the rounds that his wife, Evelyn, has been appointed to replace him as the General Overseer of the church.
Dr. Gary Tonge Freng, spokesman of the church Board of Trustees, and who sources say is the European fundraiser for the church, noted that no one has been appointed to lead the affairs of the church at the moment. Asked if there is someone in the church to take over the miracles performed by the late televangelist, Freng, a Briton, flanked by other church elders like Colonel Andy Aniboh, Ayodeji Olabiwonnu and Dr Ugochi Aluka, noted that the decision is a spiritual matter and not an administrative one.
“It’s not about machinery,” he said. “It is about suitable people, and it’s about the move of the Holy Spirit. So there is simply no administrative answer to the question because it is not an administrative issue.”
But in an interview with Saturday Sun, Patrick Iwelunmor, former media aide to TB Joshua, and currently the editor of PharmaNews, Nigeria’s leading health journal, gave an insight into his likely successors, without rooting for anyone. He also talked about his experiences working under the late founder of The Synagogue.
Talking about TB Joshua’s successor, what are the church hierarchies that can help to determine who succeeds him, and who does not?
That area is a knotty issue. I have read all sorts of things in the media. From what I heard, anything about the succession plans will have to be looked into after his burial. People say TB Joshua has not groomed a successor. I don’t know why they say so. If a man has more than 100 evangelists and anytime you listen to them preach, you will know that he has really trained them, I don’t know why they keep saying that he did not groom successors. For instance, there is this Briton, Chris Tonge (he is the son of Dr. Gary Tonge). He was specifically trained as a prophet. There is also his wife, Evelyn. She is one of those I should say fits the bill. She is very much involved in the administrative aspect of the church. But you see, what I am saying are just mere suggestions. I am not God or the Holy Spirit to make the final selection. So, if it is not his wife, then it could be anyone. What I am saying is that, contrary to media reports, TB Joshua has groomed successors.
While alive, how did he relate with his associates, especially those of them who left to found their own churches?
There is Wiseman Raccine Bousso from Senegal. There is also Wiseman Daniel Emelandu. Last time, he held a very big crusade in Abuja. He has started his ministry and he is doing very well. Wiseman Christopher Orji also started his ministry somewhere in Enugu and he is doing very well. Working with the prophet is not like working with a government official. He did everything by divine directives. These people left when they felt it was time. If he didn’t believe they could stand and man their own ministries I don’t think he would have allowed them to go. They are doing well. In fact, when TB Joshua died, they paid tributes to him. I watched them on Youtube. I think he had a very cordial relationship with them. People should learn. If a prophet grooms you, you can’t just break away like that. You need his blessings to prosper. So, I am sure that he must have blessed them before they left. There were others who later left, people like Wiseman John Chi Meh from Cameroon. He too is doing very well. There is also Wiseman Harry who is in Thessalonica, Greece. There might have been one or two areas of misunderstanding before they left but the fact that all of them paid their tributes shows the kind of regard they have for him.
How did you come to work with him?
I was actually working with the DBN Television (Degue Broadcasting Network) before I joined his media department. The owner had issues. Around that time, the man came up with the Nigerian Anglican magazine. Since it was also media-related, I was asked to manage it.
Was it owned by the Anglicans?
The owner is a staunch Anglican. So, he decided to float the magazine. While I was managing that magazine, I came in contact with a very good friend, Femi Oyewole, publisher of Sahara Weekly. He introduced me to the SCOAN. I met the Prophet one-on-one. Immediately, I was asked to start work.
Before you met him were you a member of his church?
No, no, no.
Which church were you attending or worshipping with?
I am a Catholic
Even while you were working there?
Of course! That’s one thing with Prophet TB Joshua; he does not discriminate. He is somebody who believes in religious freedom. I can tell you that I met people from other Pentecostal denominations working in the church. He does not discriminate when it comes to employing people, as long as you know your onions.
Do you mean that while you were there, you were still attending Catholic Church?
Of course, I was.
How practicable is that? I ask this question, because if you were in his media department, obviously you needed to know what was happening before you could function effectively at your duty post. And, you couldn’t have known that by worshipping with another church.
There were some Sundays if we had very important things to do at The Synagogue I obviously had to worship there. On such Sundays, I might not attend the Catholic Church. I just had to be there.
But ordinarily, you worshipped with the Catholic Church?
And, he didn’t have any problem with that?
Not at all. He didn’t disturb anybody.
Before you met him, did you hear about him?
Could you describe for us your first impression of him the day you finally met him?
Let me just present a preamble to my workdays at The Synagogue. Before I met him, I have heard a lot of negative things about the man. I was scared I must tell you the truth.
Ah, because of the impression that people gave about him…that the man belonged to a cult. He is this, he is that. I heard many things about him. In fact, the day I was to see him I even had a plan to go with someone in case I didn’t come out alive. This is because people who learned that I was going there said, ah, he might use you for a power-seeking ritual. In fact, all sorts of things were being said about him. But, surprisingly, the man I met was the complete opposite of what people had been saying. I met a very humble person. He was putting on three-quarters shorts with a polo shirt on top of it. Meeting him for the first time doused a lot of tension going on within me.
But he might as well have been acting the part just to win your confidence and make you drop your guard. Or you didn’t think so?
You are right. But subsequent interactions and relationships with him after I had got the job showed that he was not. He was real.
So, on the first day that you met with him, how did it go?
The first question he asked me was: how is your wife?
How come? Did you tell him you were married?
I did not tell him anything. When he asked me: “how is your wife?” I said she is fine. Then he asked me how much I would like to take as salary. He didn’t talk much. I just told him how much I wanted. He said, ok, I would pay. Before then my friend, Oyewole had submitted to him my publications. I am sure he must have discussed with him my professional competence.
As you started working with him, how often did you get to see him one-on-one?
He was somebody that I saw every other day unless he was out of the country. TB Joshua had serious respect for the media. Any time he left the ‘Mountain’ site where he usually went to pray, he made it a point of duty to always come to our office to look at the newspaper headlines. I mean all the dailies. Sometimes he turns it into some interactive sessions and would want to know what we felt or thought about the headlines. He engaged us. If there were issues of national topical importance, he would always want to discuss with us and seek our opinions.
Could that be how he was able to get the knowledge about some of the national and international issues or figures that he prophesied about?
I wouldn’t know. He was a prophet. I am not. In talking about things that have to do with the Divinity, one has to be careful. I give him that respect as a prophet but I cannot tell where his inspirations for his prophecies came from. But what I do know is that he was a very informed Nigerian. Besides his prophetic calling, he was very interested in the goings-on in his country and elsewhere. He was a very current person. There was a man called Baba Press. He buys the newspapers. So, whenever TB Joshua was coming from the Mountain, he knew, of course, that that was where the papers were kept. But later on, Baba Press would take the papers to him upstairs and spend hours with him. I want to believe that the reason he came to our office first was to interact with us to know what our opinions are. He was very serious with information and very meticulous with details. If he made a statement, he would get many people to look at it before pushing it out to the public. He paid much attention to detail. He always wanted the best. That is an area where I see him as a mysterious person. I doubt if he slept for two hours every day. Despite his heavy engagements, I would always see him in the studio, maybe coming to check one of his sermons that have been edited or worked on before it was pushed out for public consumption. He had to give final approval. He was involved in everything.
What and what did you observe within those four years that you worked with him?
Like I told you, I came to the place with some fears. I was even told that within that Mountain side, there was a pond where he groomed crocodiles, that, sometimes if you misbehave they will just throw you into the place. But here I am. My life was better off after four years with Synagogue.
In what ways, spiritually or financially?
Morally speaking. I was a better person because he taught me humility. He also made me understand that certain attitudes are not ordinary. Take, for instance, somebody who has the propensity for stealing, jealousy, lying, or anger. Oftentimes, those things are not ordinary. It was at The Synagogue that I began to have a deeper understanding concerning vices. It was there that I understood that serious commitment to prayers could help one overcome the spirits or demons responsible for such vices in one’s life.
How many were you witnesses to, that is, of people who were made free of such vices, through prayers?
I cannot count them. I was the one who usually wrote the testimonies. So, I met them one-on-one. We had a blog. I met not only people who were delivered from the spirits inducing these vices but also people who were healed of various diseases. I met them in my office. I interviewed them before turning their testimonies into stories, to encourage others. They are innumerable. I cannot count them. Many of them did not even come to the church but prayed and touched the screen of Emmanuel TV in their homes, sometimes in faraway countries outside Nigeria. So, if there was any hanky-panky game involved, the Prophet couldn’t have gone to these countries to enact that.
Source: Sun News