Temitope Balogun Joshua commonly referred to as T. B. Joshua, was a Nigerian charismatic pastor, televangelist and philanthropist. He was the leader and founder of The Synagogue, Church of All Nations (SCOAN), a Christian megachurch that runs the Emmanuel TV television station from Lagos.
Joshua was known for his popularity across Africa and Latin America and his social media presence with 3,500,000 fans on Facebook. His YouTube channel, Emmanuel TV, had over 1,000,000 YouTube subscribers and was the world’s most viewed Christian ministry on the platform before it was suspended. He was described as the “Oprah of Evangelism” and “YouTube’s most popular Pastor”.
He was awarded various accolades, notably receiving the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) by the Nigerian government in 2008 and being voted the Yoruba man of the decade by Pan-Yoruba media outlet Irohin-Odua. He was called one of Africa’s 50 most influential people by Pan-African magazines The Africa Report and New African Magazine.
As of 2011, according to Forbes, Joshua was Nigeria’s third-richest pastor, although the claim was immediately denied in a statement by the church. He was known to be controversial, and was even ‘blacklisted’ by the government of Cameroon in 2010.
unusual circumstances surrounded his birth. He said that he spent 15 months in his mother’s womb and narrowly avoided death after a quarry explosion near his house sent rocks through its roof just seven days after his birth. It is also alleged that Joshua’s birth was ‘prophesied’ 100 years prior.
Joshua, then known as Balogun Francis, attended St. Stephen’s Anglican Primary School in Arigidi Akoko, Nigeria, between 1971 and 1977, but failed to complete one year of secondary school education. In school, he was known as “small pastor” because of his love for the Bible. He worked in various casual jobs after his schooling had ended, including carrying chicken waste at a poultry farm. He organised Bible studies for local children and attended evening school during this period. Joshua attempted to join the Nigerian military but was thwarted due to a train breakdown that left him stranded en route to the military academy. He died on 5th of June in his home in Lagos shortly after his Saturday night teaching.
Joshua wrote that in a heavenly vision he had received divine anointing and a covenant from God to start his ministry. Following this, Joshua founded the ministry organisation The Synagogue, Church of All Nations (SCOAN). According to the organisation, more than 15,000 members attend its weekly Sunday service; visitors from outside Nigeria are accommodated in the accommodation blocks constructed at the church.
The Guardian reported that The SCOAN attracts more weekly attendees than the combined number of visitors to Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London. The SCOAN’s popular services have also resulted in an enormous boost for local businesses and hoteliers.
Despite Joshua’s popularity, the church only has a branch in Ghana, Joshua stating that “it is not yet time” for him to have branches worldwide as “it will be too much for my character”.
The SCOAN has been described as “Nigeria’s biggest tourist attraction” and “the most visited destination by religious tourists in West Africa,” with thousands of foreigners flocking to attend the church’s weekly services. Figures released by the Nigerian Immigration Service indicated that six out of every ten foreign travellers coming into Nigeria are bound for The SCOAN, a fact discussed in Zimbabwean parliament when addressing the economic potentials of religious tourism.
This Day newspapers reported that “about two million local and inbound tourists” visit The SCOAN annually. The church’s popularity has led to an increase in flight routes to Lagos from several African countries in 2013.
SCOAN claims regular occurrences of divine miracles. Several hundred Nigerians and international visitors come to the SCOAN each week to register for the prayer lines where the visitors are prayed over by Joshua. SCOAN has published numerous videos claiming to document the healing of incurable disabilities and illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, blindness and open wounds.
Spiritual healing at The SCOAN has been the subject of several media reports, including a mention in Time Magazine, an Associated Press interview and an article by Foreign Policy detailing the tendency of Nigerians to seek ‘spiritual’ help due to insufficient medical facilities.
A huge debate was stirred within Nigeria when the father of abducted school girl Ese Oruru stated his intention to take his daughter to T.B. Joshua for ‘prayers’ following her release. Similarly, a leaked report stating the intention of Nigeria’s embattled former petroleum minister Diezani Alison-Madueke to visit Joshua for ‘spiritual support’ in her battle against breast cancer elicited controversy.
Many have also claimed to be healed through ‘anointing water’ that has been prayed over by Joshua and given to those who are unable to physically attend his church in Lagos. Others claim they were protected from deadly incidents because they had the water with them.
In 2013, four people died in a stampede in Joshua’s Ghanaian branch when an unadvertised service where it was being distributed drew huge crowds far beyond the church’s capacity, bringing Ghana’s capital city Accra almost to a standstill.
Joshua also made headlines when he claimed his anointing water could cure the deadly disease Ebola. He subsequently sent 4,000 bottles of the water alongside a cash gift of $50,000 to the Ebola-stricken nation of Sierra Leone. This came after Lagos State Health officials visited Joshua, requesting he publicly discourage Ebola victims from visiting his church for prayers. A Sierra Leonean politician later claimed the water helped stop the spread of the disease and cured several Ebola victims.
SCOAN is also known for the purported “deliverance” of those allegedly possessed by evil spirits during its services. Strange occurrences have been reported during these deliverance prayers, including the case of a South African girl who allegedly ‘cried blood’ and a Liberian man who began behaving ‘like a dog’. A young man allegedly delivered from a ‘homosexual demon’ at The SCOAN also attracted widespread media attention, as did the ‘transformation’ of a Paraguayan transvestite.
After ‘deliverance’, those involved often confess the atrocities which the ‘evil spirit’ allegedly pushed them to engage in, such as prostitution, armed robbery, internet fraud and human trafficking.
Ghanaian human rights lawyer Kwabla Senanu claimed that he was delivered from a spiritual problem. Similarly, Ghanaian musician Denise Williams said she was delivered from a demon that had pushed her to become a drug addict and suicidal.
Veteran Nigerian Nollywood actress Camilla Mberekpe was also said to have been delivered at The SCOAN. Popular Nollywood actor Jim Iyke also said he received deliverance at The SCOAN, the video of the event subsequently going viral.
A video of Kenyan Olympic athlete Mercy Cherono receiving ‘deliverance’ through Joshua’s prayers attracted widespread attention in Kenya. She subsequently testified in the company of her husband how the ‘evil spirit’ had negatively affected her young marriage and career.
He travelled to Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Paraguay to hold ‘crusades’. He also visited Israel to receive a humanitarian award from ZAKA and visit biblical sites. His ‘Miracle Crusade’ in Cali, Colombia in July 2014 was allegedly attended by 100,000 people and held in the Estadio Olímpico Pascual Guerrero. He travelled to the iconic Estadio Azteca in Mexico which was allegedly attended by 200,000 people over two days in May 2015. Joshua’s two-day visit to Estadio Monumental “U” in Lima, Peru, attracted nearly 100,000 in September 2016, making headlines in local Peruvian media.
In August 2017, Joshua held a Crusade in Paraguay at Estadio Defensores del Chaco. His visit caused a media storm when the Paraguayan parliament approved that the cleric be awarded with the ‘National Order of Merit’, the countries highest honour usually reserved only for its own citizens. Testimonies from those who alleged they were healed through Joshua’s prayers at the crusade made headlines in local media.
In June 2019, Joshua held a two-day event at the Amphitheatre of Mount Precipice in Nazareth, Israel – the historic hometown of Jesus Christ. The event was the subject of intense media scrutiny. Local religious officials told their followers to boycott the event and several small protests were held calling for its cancellation. However, an estimated 15,000 travelled from over 50 nations to attend the event, significantly boosting local tourism