by Japheth Omojuwa
“Now read my lips, I know there are people here that are not part of our church, read my lips, we are going to speak but we are consulting to come out with a robust reply.”
“When we asked God, God said be quiet.” Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo in his
non robust reply to the Ese Walter accusations on Sunday 25th August 2013.
One shouldn’t need a robust reply to say “I didn’t do it!” but I digress. The Miss Ese Walter – Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo affair has since come and for many, who’d rather the truth be buried, should be gone by now. Unfortunately, this will not go yet. The reason is simple; pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo just has to speak up. This was my initial take on the issue and you may need to read it to understand where this writer is coming from. If you haven’t read that, you’d not understand my mind with respect to how, no matter what we think or assume, we should never judge until all sides are heard. I now know more than I did from that last time and all sides have had at least 3 weeks to be heard.
Before I continue, let me address the men worshippers who go to church on Sundays and during the week sincerely believing they are worshipping God but in reality are bowing to the carnal desires of fellow men. My last year in Nigeria saw me spend more time in Abuja than any other Nigerian city. Anytime I found myself in Abuja, I’d always attend the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) or on select occasions The Everlasting Arms Parish (TEAP) of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. My Lagos church has no branch. COZA was convenient for me for many reasons but the most appealing part was the fact that it was a church I could go without being treated specially. Yes, a few people would know and notice me but I’d largely be just another member of the congregation and my life needed just that. I was not just attending COZA though; I truly liked the church. I was committed to the church financially. I may be did not give as much as many people but I at least gave enough to receive a gracious call from Pastor Fatoyinbo himself. I am yet to give anyone – including my mother – as much of my resources as I have given to COZA. More often than not my donations were in hard currency. Given a chance, I’d do this again. Giving is my culture anyway. This point needs to be made because some hypocrites will come up here to pretend they love the church more than people they’d consider evil like myself because one has chosen to ask questions. I don’t know how else to prove one’s love for where one’s heart is without spending one’s money on same. I gave not because I was moved by words but because I was impressed by the church’s dedication to excellence. Hate him or love him, pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo was a man driven by excellence. I was impressed because after each journey away from Nigeria, I’d visit COZA to see the aesthetics have been improved upon markedly. I was just impressed and I was even more impressed because being a man driven by excellence myself, it was great to see it in display in a Nigerian organization. That mattered to me because Nigerian positive outliers gain my attention for obvious reasons – excellence remains a scarce commodity in here.
I saw pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo for the first time in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria, I think in 2007 when he came to preach at The Father’s House where I worshipped at the time. His depth impressed me. Again, hate him or love him, he knew his word. He knew (knows) the bible and he had – of course still has – the God given ability to not just preach the word but to teach it and impact people. His strongest attribute for me though would be his vocals. I don’t think there is a better singer than the man in COZA!
I have made all the above points because some would come here, not to read this or in search for the truth, but to defend their illusion and the lie they want protected in their hearts. I have said the above to let you know if you love the man, I love him too and if you love the church I do too. Unfortunately, I love the truth more and that was the reason I opened myself up to hearing the experiences of the many people who reached me after this article. I exchanged emails with Ese Walter – she had reached out to me to encourage me during my Arik matter but I didn’t know that until after I sent an email to her to say to be strong – I was speaking from my understanding of what being in the media storm is. I received a call from an Abuja based counselor and had exchanges with people who had worshipped at pastor Fatoyinbo’s church in Ilorin. I did not reach out to any of these people myself; they sought me out themselves.
Loyalty is a necessity in every relationship. There must be a purpose and truth behind it. Should one remain loyal when one discovers that, that loyalty was pledged on the wrong premise? Every loyalty has a foundation and once that foundation is destroyed, loyalty must find a new shelter.
The Nigerian society is what it is because we do not care about the truth as a people, we only care about our interests. People think they care about the truth when the truth does not affect them, as soon as the table turns; their only care is about the protection of their own kind of truth or their own interest. It is the reason the same people say to you one day, “I love the way you write and focus on issues and the fact that you are unbiased” and the next time they go “what’s your interest in this? What is the point? I used to be your fan but not anymore!” I am so used to this yo-yoing from readers I never care about fans, friends or foes, I just care to put the word out based on what I think is right only being at peace with my conscience and my God. I don’t care to be loved or hated. I think I can do without caring for people whose feelings change at the direction of whether the matter affects them directly rather than whether the matter deserves one’s sincerity. This will open me to abuse but who cares about people whose lives and souls are subjected to what fellow men feel rather than what God cares about?
We may not be acutely aware of this as Nigerian Christians but while a man of God is truly a man of God, he becomes just another man when it comes to his own failings and addictions. A man of God who is addicted to drugs for instance is not addicted to drugs as a man of God, he is addicted to drugs as a man. The same thing goes for sex, stealing, adultery and all the other vices listed by the bible and our understanding of morality. When a man of God who is not married to you touches your breast, he touches it as a real man not as a real man of God. The hardness that comes with it is of his own blood, no matter what you want to assume.
Of course men of God have a special kind of grace, a certain level of Grace, but that grace has its purposive boundaries. You can have grace to pull 100,000 people into a stadium as a preacher but that grace may not be available to you if, say you invited people a year after to come hear you declare yourself to run for a public office. Every form of Grace has a purpose and a place for it. Will Pastor E.A. Adeboye gather as much people in Redeem Camp if the event was his declaration to run for a political office? I have gone at length to make this point about grace because as Christians in Nigeria, some of us have become passionate church going zombies! My words sound harsh but think mot juste – it is what it is. As long as pastor says it, it is right. As long as pastor does it, it is right. So then, pastor is always right. Our thin line between pastor and God, which was supposed to be a clearly marked reality, has since become eroded. Pastors have indeed become our gods! We literally worship them now. My last service at COZA on the 25th of August showed this a lot. It was the loudest I had heard the church and trust me, COZA on a regular day is loud. On this day, I sat there in church and asked myself sincere questions;
Why is this church overly loud today, is it because of God or because of man? The extraordinary praise and worship session – which I really danced to because of my weakness for praises – and the loud cheers and applauses had a note to them that never used to be there. This was no longer about God, it had become about “our pastor.” I ordinarily would not tweet during a church service but I did on this day because I was so sure in my mind I was no longer in church. I realized I was in a theatre. Everything was a show and it was at best a world-class show. It was no longer about God, it was about “our church, our pastor” and you are sure to see that put up here in the comments. Why have we suddenly assumed and believed that defending our pastors mean defending God? Who told us that when our pastors fall God will fall? Are we mad or are we just spiritually insane? Our Christianity is no longer about God, it has since become about pastors and our church’s brand. We are more obsessed with what people perceive of our church’s reality than what God cares about. Even the most seemingly independent minded among us lose their ability to rationalize anything as long as it is about defending these pastors and their increasingly way ward ways. In our usual way, we misinterpret the bible for our end, saying for instance “touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm.” I leave you with thisWhat does it really mean when it says not to touch the anointed? article. This is our way of putting pastors above board, beyond questions and their actions protected inside our common ignorance of God’s word. People continue to perish for lack of knowledge. And you better not think this is a Pentecostal thing, it is as ubiquitous as you’d find religions. There is a fake version of anything that is original. If your religion has no fake version of its good leaders, your religion itself is fake!
There are of course true men of God and real churches dedicated not just to getting men and women focused on God and the things of God, but contributing extensively to the development of men, women and families including underprivileged in the society. The existence of a fake thing is proof there is an original. I work with some men of God fully committed to this and the works of the likes of Daystar and the Elevation Church in Lagos inspired this piece on what the church can do about poverty in Nigeria . I think pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo is a real man of God but he is a real man too; much more real a man than a god at least. And when these realities come clashing, we must not treat these separate phenomena as one. You can tear yourself to pieces over these questions as one of these folks with suspended minds, but he really needs to answer them or just let silence do the talking.
These are questions for the real man in pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo to answer:
Did he do what Ese Walter accused him of doing? When she came back to Nigeria and asked that he needed to step away from the pulpit, did he meet up with her, even tried to kiss her again and later called her to say he forgot something in her car after he left? Did the thing he forgot turn out to be N500,000 cash! Was this part of his personal earnings in church or was it part of the church’s income? Did they meet at another hotel – not in England – where he tried to pay for his own accommodation and had his cash refused because the hotel wouldn’t take cash so Ese had to pay with her card? Does he use an aphrodisiac perfume? Is that for the fun of it or for some kind of fun? Did he insist Ese Walter stay back in London after she came back to Nigeria defying his earlier demand? Ese Walter might have held back many details in her blog because no one gets to write it all on matters like that, but will the real man please stand up and say something? Oh, and our ultra-super-religious-and-spiritual-we-are-all-clean society has crucified Ese Walter, making sure others like her never dare come out to cast other pastors again. And trust me, there are other named ones. You see, we think we are a free people but we are not. The person whose body is shackled is freer than the person whose mind is. We have been manipulated to assume certain things. It is so bad it has become so tough to confront falsehood in our society. In contrast, it has become the norm to confront those who dare ask questions around such. We remember the Bible verses that justify our ways as though even the devil doesn’t quote the Bible for his own end. Here is one thing you should take home; “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15).
The sheer number of women who cannot speak up on their experiences like these shows how much the society condemns the brave and gives the halo of holiness to their mental oppressors. This is not limited to pastors, leaders of other religions are very much involved in immoralities with wives and daughters of trusted members but this is a mirror for my home. I ignored my Muslim followers who insisted I speak about their own leaders for obvious reasons. This remains Nigeria. I know they will have fearless people who will show them their mirror too. Some even already started with tweets on those yesterday.
One thing appeared constant in all the other alleged affairs; the pastor always used disparaging words for his wife, telling the other women his wife is “pretty on the outside, empty upstairs,” a theme that appeared in all the stories. This set me off over and again, hearing it from people who even as I write have never met themselves. Did the real man in pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo tell these women his wife is too fat and tried for years to lose weight but just couldn’t; and to think that the woman in question is not fat. There is more on this but better to reserve some questions. Is it true the wife is aware of the pastor’s issues to the point she makes sure to regularly keep tabs on him with phone calls? Is it true some of the pastors are well aware of this? Are they party to it like some of the women in this loop suggest?
What about these other stories?
One of the women – who admitted she was seeking counseling not because she felt abused by the pastor but because she felt used and dumped, because the pastor had abandoned her – had much to say. She said that it started when she went for counseling with pastor Fatoyinbo. That, they exchanged numbers and they started calling each other at odd hours. It went from phone sex to the bedroom. There is no need to give the graphic details of the wildness she said transpired. The second story as relayed by the Abuja counselor was exactly like the first, from marital counseling to wild sex. This second person is actually married, and remains married. One of the ladies admitted she was so addicted to him she threw all caution to the wind. The money according to them was another attraction they’d not deny. They didn’t say they were abused, they said they felt used and dumped. She said the pastor has a huge appetite for sex but gets bored easily and this explains his constant change of girls.
Hard to believe, but these stories from Ilorin make the hardness go a bit softer. Had an Ilorin student, who lived off campus, who was at the time his member, ever drive out pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo out of her room? Did he ask her to sit on his laps? Did he try to touch her breasts? Did he try harder until she threatened to shout? Would the pastor remember if I added he used to visit the family, that they used to push his car at the time? Did any pastor at the time reprimand pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo after the lady in question had reported him? Does he still remember the words that man of God told him? Did the lady continue to come to church after the incident? She left the church eventually when she couldn’t stand seeing the pastor preach. People know about this, families know about this. These are open secrets.
What about this other girl pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo allegedly dated in Ilorin? She admitted they had a steady relationship, and that he would tell her how his wife was not homely, how his wife couldn’t cook. Pastor Biodun, according to her would tell her how he felt very homely and welcomed around her, how she was just like a mother. She admitted she dated the pastor for a very long time and even got pregnant and aborted for the man of God. People say there can be no smoke without fire but I don’t even agree with that because I know at least one gas that produces smoke without fire. Unfortunately, this is beyond the smoke of a gas, this is a thick, fat, carbon soaked smoke with burning flames that can only be associated with fire! Like Moses’ burning bush, something is wrong somewhere and silence will not help on this one.
Silence can be beautiful, silence can be ugly, silence can be so subtle no ones hears it and silence can be so loud it screams “guilty!” I defended pastor Fatoyinbo’s rights to be heard and I still do but I cannot defend his long silence. This silence is so loud it is too distracting. This silence is too robust to be ignored. Anyone who says it is better for the pastor to remain silent at this time is not only a hypocrite but also a church zombie. This is not me being abusive, this is me saying it as it is. Just look out for the meaning of the word.
When God created things, he said it was good, after God created man He said it was very good. God did not do all that so that we’d suspend our ability to think when it comes to matters of our pastors or anyone for that matter. Even God called out to Adam after he committed the first sin. God did not convict him, he gave him a chance to defend himself and Adam did present his case.
You see, after all said and done, we all like Adam, we fall short. King David fell short and prophet Nathan told him to his face. We all know what he did and the price he paid for that but we all know that several millennia after, King David remains an iconic figure in Israel. Israel’s flag and major national symbols bear his insignia to this day! King David said “hata al-Yahweh” (Hebrew for “I have sinned against God”) and his admission of his own human failings is the reason we can all read Psalm 51 today and raise our heads knowing God is able and willing to forgive us. God of course did forgive David but he never let go of the consequence of that sin. His life was spared – against the Law of Moses, which at the time meant David himself should have died – but he lost the child born by Bathsheba. Of course we never read of David committing that sort of sin again because the chastisements of God helped clean him like David himself wrote in Psalm 51.
Talking about Joseph; is this what the pastor says Joseph did not defend himself for? Would Joseph have defended himself if he was offered the chance and he lived in the society as a free man and not the slave he was? How did Moses write the account of what happened inside a room between Joseph and Potiphar’s wife if Joseph never made a point to defend himself at one time or the other? Would Joseph have kept quiet if he had a congregation to account to? How come a young lady in Abuja who had been in the COZA Ilorin choir knew Joseph was going to form part of the message on Sunday the 25th of August even before the pastor came on the pulpit? Had this happened in Ilorin and pastor Fatoyinbo had to offer the same “the people who lived in Joseph’s time did not know he did not do what he was accused of, we are the ones that know” excuse? Should we forget these questions and wait for those who will be on earth in 5000 years time to know all these were supernatural co-incidental lies or would it be better for pastor Fatoyinbo to accept he is a real man of God yes but he is indeed a real man with flesh, with the ability to indeed fail? Can pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo do what David did and admit his wrong to his congregation and let those who will stay, stay and those who will leave, leave? Is it better for the church members to know exactly what they are getting or should they all just continue to live a lie or in-between a lie and confusion? Sir, can we even just let go of the robust response and just say “I never did what Ese Walter accused me of,” because you were true to your conscience enough on Sunday the 25th of August not to deny it happened. I remembered clearly no words were said to that effect. If indeed it did not happen, can we get an “I did not do it” short, simple and direct response before this robust reply is ready for our consumption? How can all sides be heard if one side decides silence should do the talking?
At least no one can say I wrote this because of the new COZA land or building project because I worked for the money I contributed to it. And I hope to visit when this project is completed. But our Christianity needs to rise above this carnality and obsession with buildings and what toilets and church seats should look like. These are all cool and I’d always be likely to worship in a church that pays attention to all these but at the end of the day, this is not what Christianity is about. Our faith is about Christ and we were called Christians at Antioch for the first time not because of how beautiful our churches looked or how well our pastors/apostles spoke, it was because of our Christ-like attitude. Is this what the Nigerian church is about today or should we forget this question was ever asked? Are we still worshipping The Way, The Truth and The Life or have we redefined God? We need to ask these questions and more about our Christianity. Let us even for a while forget what others think or say about us, who really are we? Now let the abuses rain on me. I need to shower myself. May the peace of the Lord be upon His church!
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.