The internet on Thursday was all about Timi Dakolo spilling some tea on his Instagram, wherein he called out a certain pastor for ”leaving a trail of broken women, sexually abused and mentally strangled in any city he visits.” The church, in question, is the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA), a vibrant, youth-leaning megachurch headed by Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo, who is an avatar of youth and vibrancy but also has a litany of sexual harassment and abuse stories that has trailed after him for some time.
The 2013 Ese Walter sex scandal is still a huge footnote in Pastor Fatoyinbo’s predatory behaviour towards female members of his congregation. And there has been no accountability, no taking of responsibility or response to these stories that have continued to waft around the church. Shortly after Dakolo’s Instagram exposè, he received backlash from COZA members – a nauseating, hyper-religious swathe that routinely referenced the scriptural ”Touch not my anointed.” Some even went on to blame the women for allowing themselves to be exploited by Fatoyinbo, and thus unwittingly revealing that their pastor is a sexual predator and manipulator.
This collective complicity is gross – the idea that spiritual leaders can’t be reprimanded or called to order when they do questionable things. Churches in Nigeria have largely peddled prosperity and wealth sermons to members, a voguish pentecostal wave that revolves around private jets and luxurious properties and how much you are able to ”sow” in the church. As such, it’s easy to forget that the church constitutes flesh-and-blood people – the broken, the poor, the marginalised (LGBTQ), the sexually abused etc.
The #MeToo movement is still yet to penetrate Nigerian churches because of the internal resistance and the institutional cover up. What this means is sexual harassment and rape can happen within the church and it would be business as usual. A pastor can be accused of sexually exploiting a member of his congregation but he or she receives immunity by virtue of their power. Since yesterday, a couple of women have been speaking about their ordeal with Pastor Fatoyinbo, or a spiritual leader to whom they trusted. Here’s what Dakolo posted on his Instagram today, a private message from a woman that was raped but had to live through it.
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PLEASE READ: I KNOW THERE ARE A LOT OF BROKEN,CRUSHED AND ABUSE WOMEN LIKE THIS LADY OUT THERE,THEIR INNOCENCE STOLEN AND THEIR WORTH SNATCHED,I PROMISE YOU,YOU ARE NOT ALONE.YOU ARE WORTHY OF GOOD THINGS IN THIS LIFE.IT WASN’T YOUR FAULT THAT YOU GOT RAPED AND ABUSED BY A BEAST AND A MONSTER,YOU DIDN’T ASK TO BE RAPED.I KNOW YOU ARE BITTER AND FEEL GOD IS A LIE,NO HE ISN’T.I MAY NOT BE ABLE TO HIDE THE SCARS OR MAKE THEM GO AWAY.I KNOW MOST OF YOU ARE TERRIFIED AND AFRAID.THEN,YOU DIDN’T HAVE ANYBODY TO HELP YOU SPEAK YOUR TRUTH BUT YOU NOW HAVE ME AND A LOT OF PEOPLE WITH GODLY CONSCIENCE.YOU DESERVE TO HEAL AND LIVE A HAPPY LIFE.WE ALREADY HAVE PEOPLE LIKE YOU TALKING TO EXPERTS HELPING THEM BACK INTO HEALING AND SELF WORTH. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. #youarenotalone #rapeisacrime
If churches weren’t protecting pastors accused of rape, imagine the stories we would have from victims who are still hurting from their trauma, imagine that accountability that would have taken place. At the moment, the Church is still impeding this from happening. Also, a question I have been thinking about: will the body of Christ survive #MeToo?