THE charismatic preacher and founder of the Household of God Ministries, Reverend Christopher Akpobrorie Okotie was outside the country in far away United States with his newly wedded beau, Stephanie.
On the third leg their honeymoon there, the Office of the President announced the names of the recipients of the latest batch of national honours.
The erstwhile presidential candidate of Fresh Democratic Party, FDP, who is still harbours the hope of ruling Nigeria returned to the country few days after the award ceremony in Abuja, seething that one of the recipients was a man he loves to hate(?), Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, (often called T.B. Joshua).
When our reporter asked him of his though for the New Year, he exploded, accusing the nationâ€™s leaders of rewarding mediocrity and charlatans.
What does he mean? Why would nations like Nigeria, the giant of Africa, a nation that many other nations are looking up to, bestow a national honour on T.B. Joshua? Who is he and which constituency does he represent? Who recommended him? Certainly, not the Church; because he is not a Christian, in the first place?, he bellowed.
But every attempt to ask him of his marriage experience did not yield anything. But he managed to say, â€œWe just came back from the last leg of our honeymoon. We went to New York City. It was freezing cold out there. But we had a good time.â€
Do you have any moment yet to regret the decision? â€œHow can? What I have been looking forward to all my life? I think it is a little late. I should have done it much earlier, so I can spend a longer time with her.â€
It was obvious he was not comfortable with the drift; especially because he was on his way to the Lekki area of Lagos for a scheduled appointment that Sunday afternoon.
His wife was already waiting in the red sedan Mercedes Benz car outside. Every journalist who knows Rev. Okotie well will tell you that he is not a one-sentence subject. At that point, the reporter tried another line which he thought could throw him back to life but NO!
As a man of God, he wanted him to assess the fading year and project into the new year, 2009, especially the recent Yarâ€™Adua victory at the Supreme Court.
And some thing woke up in him which was not there, originally. â€œWell I am not surprised. If you remember very well, I had mentioned that it came from the grapevine that this was the arrangement and that the AC thing in Edo State was a calculated attempt to mitigate the gravity of what they were going to do; so that it will look as if there was something.
Thatâ€™s what we heard, and like I said, the Supreme Court would have to confirm those rumours or not. So, we were not surprised. In the history of Nigeria, no court has done otherwise. So, they just followed precedence.â€
The president recently honoured certain Nigerian individuals. Were you surprised at the list of the awardees and why?
OKotie readjusted himself on the white settee in his church office, where he sat with the reporter for the brief chat. He cleared his throat and began.
â€œYou know we have said that if you re-christen mediocrity, it will prove itself that it is a misnomer and that you should allow it to show itself. I think thatâ€™s what PDP has tried to do. They tried to camouflage the things that they do under some nationalistic sentiment. But it always shows how hypocritical they are.
Number one, I think that President Yarâ€™Adua does not have the competence to determine who to receive an award in the Body of Christ. He is not a Christian. He does not understand the complexity of the spiritual organism that is called the Church.
And for him to veer out of state matters and delve into matters that have to do with celestial issues, to my mind, is the height of presumptions. Number two, to give an award to a man like Joshua, who is possessed with the malevolent philanthropic spirit, who has shown himself as a Shaman is to endorse Shamanism and occultism. And as far as I am concerned he has positioned himself diametrically against the Lord Jesus Christ.â€
And the way out? â€œI would advise him (Yarâ€™Adua) to apologise to the Church for his own sake. He might not know what he has done and he might not understand that fact that Joshua is not a believer; and that he is an occultist who is masquerading under the habiliment of Christianity. But a responsible government will consult and find out from either PFN or CAN what the position is concerning this man.
Itâ€™s like giving an award to a charlatan who is not a qualified lawyer, and expect the NBA to applaud. Or giving an award to a quack who is not a qualified medical doctor and expect the medical association to applaud.
There are responsible steps to be taken. We are very disappointed. We feel that it is a direct affront to the Church! This government has destroyed itself by that singular action,â€ he replied.
He may have been nominated by his state governor…
In what capacity? Joshua is not a statesman, neither is he a politician. The only thing that Joshua does is his false Christianity. He is hardly educated enough to do anything else. And we know him because he has been at loggerheads with the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN.
I had mentioned to you that our president, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor had written to us officially asking us to confront TBN to stop his programme on television because he is a danger, a threat to the stability of the Church.
I mean, a man who calls himself God, who calls himself Jesus, who feels he is Emmanuel and pretends not to know what that means, to my mind it is the climax of absurdity for a government of any kind to recognise such a person who is a threat to this nation as far as I am concerned. He will exacerbate religious tension. Just recently, we were involved in a major palaver with him.
I am very disappointed but I am not surprised because this is the height of governmental irresponsibility and insensitivity which is the hallmark of the PDP.
I am not surprised that the government did what it did, because everything they do is politics of adhocism. They never had the time to consult with the people and to find time to identify with the people.
Itâ€™s always so impromptu. Somebody might have just suggested his name without thorough investigation. They will just go ahead and decide that they want to honour him on the national stage.
And I think that before you can bring anybody to the national podium, a thorough investigation must be done, so that he does not missfire.
Why has the Church itself not responded to this aberration? â€œI asked him and his response was sharp as always but with a tinge of disappointment that his colleagues on the pulpit were not asserting their authority.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ he began. â€œI have never waited for my colleagues to speak up before I speak up for the truth. That is my responsibility and as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, I defend the gospel. And we had this issue with Joshua. It was something that I did because the Word of God compelled me to do it and I am saying it very clearly.
And just in case President Yarâ€™Adua reads this article, he should understand that. I understand that he is not a Christian; but I hold him responsible because it his government and heâ€™s the head of that government.
And he should steer clear of religious matters; because Nigeria has been too heated in that area. We donâ€™t want to be dealing with parojenic issues that are over heated and can explode and cause all kinds of misfortune to our people like what happened in Jos recently.
So, I would expect that, after what happened in Jos, that before you would enter into this kind of thing, you would consult.
But as usual, they feel because they are in government now, they feel that they own this country. Man is transient and so is power.
Whe way out of this logjam? Without wasting any time his reply came very explosive too!
â€œFirst, they should apologise to the Church and then withdraw the award; because Joshua does not qualify, by any criteria whatsoever, to receive an award on the platform of Christianity! Or any work he does at that level; because he is not a Christian.
He is a charlatan! He is a Shaman! He is a magician and we all know that. He might fool the people he wants to fool but we know clearly. We know his background.
And Mallam Nuhu Ribadu ?
Responding, Rev. Okotie said, â€œAgain, it doesnâ€™t surprise me; because what you are seeing here is a clandestine operation of the government that lacks credibility and does not want anything that will establish their lack of credibility—their perfidy and their mendacity.
Nuhu Ribadu is a threat to them because righteousness and darkness cannot co-habit. And since he had vanguarded the war against corruption, he is been a threat to many. So what they have just done is to give a dog a bad name so that they can hang him.
But Nigerians are not fooled by that. I keep telling people that power is transient and that those who are there today will not be there tomorrow. So, they might do what they want to do now. But they will give an account to him who is ready to judge both the living and the dead.
What is the implication of his dismissal internationally?
â€œThere is no doubt they have just again rubbished our image in the international community. They have shown clearly that Nigeria is still too immature to fight corruption. And that we cannot run a government of transparency, or responsibility or accountability. That is what they are saying, and it is such a tragedy because this is something that Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s predecessor established.
A man like Obasanjo, after many years in service, has established a format for progress, and this man just keeps rubbishing all the blueprints that we have. And I just donâ€™t understand what has possessed everyone of them. I really donâ€™t know. I would imagine that government again will apologise because you know what they usually do… .
They will say that the Presidency did not know. A government that is not aware of what is going on within its own system, to my mind, demonstrates great ineptitude and I mean him no disrespect. I just wish he would be more understanding of the responsibility of being head of state.
Itâ€™s just a pity! I have told Nigerians not to look forward to this government. This government has nothing to offer. The 7-point agenda is much ado about nothing. They shouldnâ€™t waste their time! There is only one who can salvage this country and that is God, and that is why I am offended that this government will spite God so blatantly by what they have done with Joshua.
The controversy surrounding Prophet T.B. Joshua some years ago created a rift in the large Pentecostal community and raised questions among secular observers about the legitimacy of divine healing.
The furore revolved around the unorthodox prophet and his imposing church in Ikotun area of Lagos, The Synagogue of All Nations.
The critical unacceptable doctrines employed by the prophet included the fact that he quotes the Bible and laced his sermons with references to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, he routinely employs unorthodox methods of spiritual healing that resemble shamanism. He often scribbles â€œsupernatural writingâ€ and gives the messages to his followers, instructing them to post the pieces of paper on walls in order to obtain healing.
But Okotie said Joshua practsies false Christianity and calls himself God and Jesus and feels he is emmanuel and pretends not to know what that means. Okotie said itwas a â€œclimax of stuopidityâ€.
Joshua was born in a village called Arigidi, an agrarian community in the town of Ikare-Akoko, Ondo State, an area predominant with the Islamic religion. Unconfirmed record about his education reveals that he attended St. Stephenâ€™s Anglican Primary School, Arigidi (1971-1976).
In a magazine interview, the prophet himself claimed that miracles accompanied his birth in 1963, and he has used only one of the seven special powers given to him by God.
The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, under the leadership of Bishop Mike Okonkwo, denounced Joshua as an imposter.
In a statement, the PFN said the group had for years warned of â€œthe dangers of infiltrators who have modernized cultism by injecting the name of Jesus Christ into their largely unbiblical practices. It is necessary that we reiterate this position that the Synagogue [of All Nations] falls into this category.â€
The controversy intensified when Rev. Okotie, a former pop star who now pastors the Household of God Church, Lagos, accused another prominent Nigerian evangelist, Rev. Chris Oyakhilome of secretly joining Joshuaâ€™s movement.
The furore erupted after a newspaper published a photograph of Oyakhilome and Joshua praying for a man in a wheelchair.
After warning Oyakhilome in a letter that he must renounce all ties with Joshua, Okotie appeared on national television and announced that Oyakhilome had sold out to the devil by accepting money from Joshua to buy TV air time.
Pentecostal leaders in the country expressed fears that the ugly public scandal could tarnish their reputation in a country that struggles with corruption at all levels of society.
* T.B. Joshua is not a Christian, Okotie,
* Yarâ€™Adua, withdraw the national honour,
* I am a Christian, Joshua replies,
* Religious secrets behind Millsâ€™ electoral victory